i see the rooms in my house and i remember birthday parties and family dinners and late night talks. i remember bella learning to ride her bike down our driveway on mother’s day and tyler coming home last year proud, with his high school diploma in hand. i remember packing up connor and sarah for summer camp and sending emily off to college. i remember rejoicing in a good grade or a piece of good news and i remember comforting my husband when he lost both of his parents in the same year. when i look at my house i see a mother who has stood at the stove making a thousand dinners and kids who have waited impatiently at the counter asking a thousand times, “when will dinner be ready?”
and, in the midst of my memories, this allowing someone through the front door of our house to tell me what is wrong or what it’s really worth — well, let's face it, this can be hard.oh, the unsettling scrutiny of it all.
it’s no secret, we’ve moved a lot and every time we have gone to do this, i have left the experience feeling at least a little bit fragile and frustrated: don’t tell me what’s wrong, tell me what is wonderful! don’t tell me why you are leery of my home, but, instead, tell me why you are in love! please people, can we all just keep this positive? it’s so much better that way, right?
i know. jody, come on, that’s only in fairytales. in reality we have to think about stucco bonds and termite letters and HVAC systems and the age of our roof. and, oh goodness, trust me, i get it. we all want to know. we want to be wise. we want to make an educated decision. of course we do. i don’t blame anyone who looks into every aspect of our abode. we do the same. it’s being smart and a good steward of the gifts God has given.
anyway, of course in our recent house sale it’s been much the same: we got the report and we got busy figuring out what it all meant and what the inspector was saying. like most people, we don’t enjoy having our problems pointed out. we’ll never be the kind to deny that we’ve got our flaws. oh gosh, we’ve got them. we won’t flaunt them, but neither will we hide them. they come with the territory—homes and humans—none of us flawless.
so, this week we had our favorite electrician, nehi, come and take a look at some of the questions on the inspection report. i wanted him to explain a few of the things which were pointed out as being in need of attention. nothing too major, just some things we needed to better understand.
well, i’m happy to report, nehi and i have moved on. he wasn’t offended or, for that matter, even flattered. he said it happens more than i’d think. and now, when i have to text him i'm careful to stick to only the alphabet.
regardless, he has always been an awesome electrician and does his best to respond quickly. so within 24 hours he was standing in my kitchen and giving me his professional opinion on our inspection report.
and this is where the story truly begins---
see, this blog post isn’t about a house sale or an inspection report or even any electrical issues, it's about the stories of others. stories which come to us like unexpected gifts when we interact with people; when we take time to ask them questions and hear what they actually have to say.
after filling me in on my electrical concerns—which weren’t really all that concerning, praise Jesus—nehi began to tell me his story. i’m not sure if it was something i asked or just something he offered, but, little by little, he began to talk.
he’s a young guy, somewhere in his mid-thirties. though a lot younger than me, we both have five kids. and, sometimes, that’s all that is needed is a tiny piece of common ground, right? from first glance you might wonder what a middle-aged, suburban housewife like me might have in common with a young, african-american male electrician like him? what could we possibly stand in my kitchen and talk about other than electrical issues or non-issues?
but nehi started to tell me how he and his wife married young—at age 19. they rushed into marriage and then rushed into children having twin babies right away. another baby came soon after and then somewhere in the blur two more arrived. five kids. and remember, nehi was just in his twenties: a young guy trying to figure out who he was and what he wanted to do in life; a young man with a wife and a whole bunch of kids and bills to pay.
“those were hard years.” he told me. “i would work all day and take classes at night and then work a second job all weekend.” he explained how he would come home to his little, two bedroom apartment and his wife and his babies and how he would feel overwhelmed by it all. they struggled to pay the rent, they struggled to buy the food, they struggled to care for the kids and themselves and their marriage. bottom line: they just struggled. "it was incredibly hard." he said.
he became depressed. day after day after day … the same thing. nothing easy and no end in sight. and for a couple of years he battled depression and the desire to escape. nehi told me how even a few times he sat in the parking lot of a bar and considered going in and drowning his sorrows in booze. it seemed a simple way to get some relief or respite from all this suffocating responsibility. any of us can imagine. some of us probably have.
and though he sat there thinking about it, he never went in. he never got involved in alcohol or in drugs. he told me what kept him clean and on track was this—his parents and his church. he would sit in that parking lot and think about how overwhelmed he felt as a young man with too much on his shoulders, but always his thoughts would then turn to those who loved him so well. he would think about how his parents always believed in him and how his church always encouraged him. and he would drive his car away from that bar and go home to his young family. and though he might struggle some more, ultimately, he would fight to survive.
yesterday, all because of an inspection report, our electrician stood in my kitchen and told me what made the difference when he was desperate and depressed was his relationship with this parents and his God.and now he is years past all that. i don’t know exactly how easy nehi’s life is today, but he told me he now has even had the chance to share about this time in his life with church youth groups. his message to young kids is, “take your time.” nehi tells these teens who are all a-hurry to get on with their lives, “i don’t regret getting married and having my kids, but i want you to know there’s no rush. wait for the right timing. don’t grow up too fast. you have your whole life ahead of you. don’t be so quick to grow up and get on with life. there's time.”
seriously, i don’t know what prompted that entire story to come out on a thursday afternoon at my countertop. nehi has worked on several projects in our home over the past year or so. he’s mentioned his wife and kids and i had a pretty good hunch he owned his faith, but it wasn’t until yesterday that i got to hear the whole story. and, in the middle of a day where i was feeling a little stressed over the details of a house sale, his story was exactly what i needed. it got my attention.
the house we give our kids is so not the focus. our square footage and number of bathrooms matter little. whether we have a swimming pool in our backyard or an extra acre of property out our backdoor doesn’t come close in competing with the importance of giving our kids our consistent, unconditional love and pointing them toward God’s never ending love. (not that i have anything against swimming pools or extra acres, mind you).
because when our kids are older, and maybe even someday sitting in the parking lot of a local bar considering the cost of escaping their struggles, they probably won’t think about that swimming pool or extra acre. what will matter most is what we’ve taught and treasured in these years while they live under our roof. wherever that might be.and, in the middle of a month where i’ve been slightly (okay, more than slightly) obsessing over house stuff — nehi’s story arrived, a sweet and timely reminder of what is truly most important.
“start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” ~ proverbs 22:6