On our drive to breakfast today, Bruce and I played a game we’ve played for most of our marriage. I say most, because we’ve always dreamed about places to live and what they would be like, but usually we didn’t have the means to make those dreams come true. Today was really no different. The game starts with this:
Me: “Wow, look at this neighborhood! I didn’t know these houses were here, aren’t they great (beautiful, big, gorgeous, cute, friendly, sweet, fantastic-depending on the ‘hood and the houses)?”
Bruce: “Yeah, they look great, but I don’t want to live on this side of Western.”
And the game continues with our reasons for/against whichever neighborhood or area we are in. We also play it with property,
Both: “Wow, wouldn’t you love to live here with this view? At this ocean? At this mountain? In this valley?”
Most of those questions happen on vacations, which leverages the game to a completely different universe. On vacation we imagine ourselves starting new businesses, living on the beach, in the mountains, small towns, opening farms, growing flowers, building a B&B, opening a retreat, and so on and so on and so on…
We’ve always been dreamers. Sometimes we even explore the tangible possibilities of making them come true, Zillow and Realtor.com are willing accomplices. Before they existed I picked up free real estate magazines from local grocery stores.
They were newspaper booklets with hundreds of listings from local realtors. Usually the homes were sold before the booklets were printed. I’d read them prior to home shopping to gauge the market, then double check them afterward so I could reassure myself that we got the bargain I wanted. At one point, Bruce physically took them away from me. In his economy, we got the house we wanted for the price we were willing to pay, nothing else was required. But my thrifty heart wanted to know FOR SURE, that we got a deal.
Back to our game…
It’s a fun game and takes us places we’d never go otherwise. Imagining ourselves in houses with amenities we don’t currently have, (but wish we did) is a pastime that sings. Every place we’ve lived in I’ve mentally remodeled, even the rentals. Improving houses is an eternal sport, one I play willingly.
Last winter Bruce was offered the opportunity to leave Illinois at his company’s expense. They would allow him move any place he wanted to and work from home, as long as it had a major airport and was commutable to their corporate offices which were moving to Nashville TN.
It was a sweet (and tempting) offer
We explored it for months. I was online daily, researching cities and towns that had dream homes with beautiful yards, less winter, more summer, low taxes and parking. It was my daily coping habit to get through last winter. Finally, after our appetites were engaged, God said,
We were (and are) content to let our dream of more convenience, space and lower costs die. Over time, as we continued to root ourselves here, God established a love for Chicago that we have no explanation for. It’s considered the most corrupt city in the country, (determined by the number of former politicians who’ve served prison sentences). There is violence, immorality, pain and really high taxes. It makes no financial sense to live here. But we’ve been gifted with an extremely rich life experience, one that defies reason.
And while our church is the vehicle that got us to Chicago, it’s not the only thing we’ve grown to love about it. We experience things daily that enrich and challenge us. Things that only people who live in big cities experience. For example,
I swim with women who are from Poland, Romania, Belize, Palestine, and various forms of Judaism. I even met one lady who is 90, and born in Chicago! She’s lived her entire life here and never driven a car. She had relatives from Europe who died in Nazi camps, but she was blessed to have been born in America.
Chicago has a large working class population and their work ethics and family values are a breath of fresh air.
We have world class health care.
My grocery shopping is extraordinary, often it happens to salsa music.
Our auto repairman lives on our corner and is a Christian. He came to the house to start my car once-no charge. He gets Christmas candy…
We have the world’s best landlords, in fact, we offered to buy the building once, mostly so we would never have to move again.
I frequent a more affordable nail salon where I’m known by name inside or outside of it. The owner saw me once at a store, and greeted me by name. She’s from Viet Nam and her immigration story is poignant.
Our dining is fabulous. There is never a lack of choice, even when it comes to delivery which is huge in winter. Summer sidewalk dining is on our list of favorite things.
Loads of culture, and in summer it’s outside and free. Concerts, plays, festivals and markets. You can’t beat summer in Chicago.
Now I’m bragging, but you get the idea. Along with our church our lives have expanded in ways we never dreamed, and we can dream! Yes, its inconvenient, (my biggest hiccup) but even that has benefits. Managing stairs, walking and reading directions keeps me more fit and mentally sharp. Running a home in Chicago demands that I be organized. You don’t go out for milk or ice cream as easily as you would in the suburbs.
This morning as we played our game, we were sharing all of the things we wouldn’t do. What streets weren’t acceptable, which neighborhoods we didn’t like, which place was too busy, to hectic, too far…. Eventually though, we both said,
“You know we’ll live wherever God wants”
There is no place more satisfying than to be smack dab in the middle of whatever it is God wants you to do and be. People in mansions can be miserable while people in huts are content. Often, the more you have the more you want. It’s always been true for us. But when we surrender our dreams to those of the creator, an overwhelming peace infuses our minds. It sets the boundaries of our dreams in sweet places.
God’s provision is a gift and I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit scared to complain about a gift from God… In America where abundance flows, contentment is scarce. I’m learning new levels of contentment and even the inconveniences don’t seem as inconvenient as they once did.
We’ll probably never stop playing our game, but being content with what God has provided is more than enough, and it brings us incredible joy.