I never wanted to live here. Colorado? Yes. Boulder? Absolutely! In the family dorms on campus behind the football field? Definitely not the dream.
We had a deal. My husband received a sweet fellowship to follow his dream of working in Physics research. I was supposed to get a cute little house on a tree-lined street in the suburbs where I would stay home with my babies.
Except the boss moved the research lab to Michigan. So the house fell through. And suddenly we found ourselves thousands of miles from anything we knew with no place to call our own and an uncertain professional future.
Well, not no place. The university housing office offered us a spot, 840 square feet of linoleum floors and concrete walls with neighbors on every side. I knew I should be thankful. There was the nagging voice in my head, reminding me that our new home on campus was more than enough to meet our needs, more than many have the world over.
But I’d been telling myself a story. After living in dorms and apartments for nearly 15 years, I wanted a home. I wanted paint chips and flooring samples. I wanted space for a piano and room to entertain. I’d convinced myself I deserved those things.
It’s a spiritually dangerous place, living as though you’re owed something.
As I settled into our little spot on campus, I began to see how not getting what I wanted was turning into a sweet mercy. Sure, we couldn’t invite more than 3 people over at a time without taking turns standing. And there was no space for the cushy L-shaped sectional sofa of my dreams. But there were new neighbors from around the world who understood what it’s like to start over in a new place with tiny children. We found a church a few blocks away where I connected deeply and ultimately was asked to come on staff. Evenings weren’t spent commuting to the suburbs or completing home improvement projects, instead we ended each day with walks by the creek, dinners together around our fits-just-right card table, time for cuddles and stories.
God, in His grace, turned my bitterness and disappointment into gratitude and joy as I learned to love these concrete walls and linoleum floors and all they represented.
It’s been nearly two years since we hung our first picture in this little dorm apartment. Somehow it’s become home in ways I didn’t think possible when we were bringing in our suitcases that first day. My family has grown here, literally – adding a new baby last month, and physically, relationally, spiritually, each of us and all together. More than anything, I’ve seen how surrendering my dream in order to embrace God’s unexpected provision has been delightful, surprising, and, I can see now, better than the things I thought I needed to be happy.
This time next month, we’ll be gone.
Seeing the truth written there, that sentence in black and white brings tears to my eyes. Our family’s headed north to Michigan, as my husband continues his Physics research. Even though I didn’t think I wanted this campus apartment behind the football field, now it’s hard to imagine giving it up, saying goodbye to what’s become a beloved home to us.
I couldn’t have imagined how much I’d come to love this place that’s held us as we launched fully into our years of raising young children. I’m a big boo-hooey mess when I think about closing that big metal door, hearing it echo for the last time, and turning in the keys. I think that sadness tells me that this place mattered.
I never wanted to live here.
I’m so glad I was wrong.
Lindsey Smallwood works and writes in Boulder, Colorado where she hopes to leave a legacy of good relationships and bad dance moves. After careers in campus ministry, special education, and circus arts, she’s currently chasing her little boys and serving on staff at her local church. Read more by Lindsey at http://songbirdandanerd.com, including a sample chapter from her latest book, Ecclesiastes: Life in Full Color, an eight-week study for small groups.