I got the idea on the airplane to Chicago, reading Dubus’ Townie. He’d lived in a winter rental in a local beach community, and it dawned on me as I sailed through the sky:
Oh my gosh. I should buy a beach house.
If you know me – if you know my job and my life situation – you’re probably smiling and shaking your head, “There she goes again, too enthusiastic and a little bit crazy.” Because I teach at a Christian school. Because I’m only 25. Because FILL IN THE BLANK.
But really, I convinced myself (and my father, and my sister, and whoever else would listen to my rationale) that this was the way to do it. Buy a house that would help pay for itself. Get a roommate or two, rent it out for a month in the summer, and before you know it, you’ll own your home. I envisioned traipsing in the house after a long walk on the beach, me curled up reading in the sunlit evening, my sister (who, of course, would be buying the house with me) baking me delicious brownies, a glass of red wine in my hand.
I had it all planned out.
And when we found a three-bedroom house with a garden and brick walkways, an arbor, a loft (what?! are you kidding me? this is perfection.), and even a laundry chute, I let myself actually think it could happen.
I planned out a budget. I examined my finances and looked at my savings and promised myself “No more Starbucks!!!”.
I got a realtor, we got pre-approved for a mortgage, and then we looked into…flood insurance.
Ever heard of it? It’s this dreaded thing that, when you live in a small island community below sea level, threatens to destroy morale and your wallet.
The total was more than we would pay in taxes and it would only go up, my realtor said. It would be extremely hard to sell, and in one conversation the red wine I imagined sipping was dried up and my sister burned the brownies.
I got off the phone. I was at work when I called the realtor, and I was standing in the hot sun. My hair was on fire. I walked over to my friend who was eating lunch and told her what happened.
“I felt a lot of fear about it,” I said, “but usually my response to fear is ‘Get over it.'”
She laughed and gave me those eyes that mean: You’re psycho.
“Maybe this time it meant it wasn’t for me,” I finished, putting my head on the picnic table.
I am grateful when I’m told “no.” This has been a long time coming, and it’s not a lesson I want to keep learning. Excitement fills my body so fully I can feel my skin tingling and I’m sure This is it! whether it be buying a house, moving across the country, dating a great guy, or applying for my dream job.
This is it! my body says, but circumstances and Jesus say differently.
I don’t blame God for good and bad in my life, at least not all the time. Sometimes, I do think things “just happen” and God makes good out of those things, too. But there have definitely been times when I’ve felt Him say, “No, Catherine, not this time, not this job, not this person.”
This time, it was “not this house,” and I am grateful in some ways.
I won’t be saddled with a mortgage.
I won’t have to leave my new flock of chickens.
I won’t have a longer commute.
I won’t have to live off oatmeal and yogurt for the next fifteen years.
I can still buy a bottle of wine, and my mom makes more than decent brownies.
There’s no denying, though, that there was a little loft in my would-be-bedroom with a brown ladder. That the tiny window let in sunshine, and I would’ve sat there drinking tea and dreaming, tucked away where no one would find me unless they knew where to look.