We walked in the door, arms full of duffel bags and pillows, eyes full of disbelief. “This is it? This is really...it? We’re supposed to live here?” We could see the entirety of what the tiny little house had to “offer” without ever having to take a step. What was advertised to us on the internet as 600 square feet was really a (very generous) 350. As we unpacked, I held back tired, exhausted, and disappointed tears. We quickly learned that only one of us could stand in the kitchen at a time, the refrigerator was covered in rust, and the bathroom had bugs making their way indoors from a hole in the window’s broken glass. My husband laughed at the imperfections and made the best of it; he chose to see joy and adventure in our new start. I, on the other hand, could only see everything that was wrong; everything that we lacked.
Just when we brought the final bag inside, the skies turned an eerie gray, the palm trees swayed violently. This? This was what we had left everything behind, driven 3,000 miles, and moved across the country for? For this smaller than small, old, run-down house and for pouring rain?
Don’t we deserve more than this?
After that first night, our first week here in San Diego was full of beauty and adventure and wonder. Trips to the beach, sneaking into a park to view the downtown skyline at midnight, concerts and ice cream sandwiches and farmer’s markets and dog parks. We hardly spent anytime in the house, but whenever we were home for a few minutes in between explorations, I complained. For those first few days, I was ungrateful for what we were given, and I was jealous over what we lacked. I focused on the pictures in my head of gallery walls and perfectly coordinated throw pillows, of ample table space and perfectly put together dinner parties. I was bitter that we would never have space for any of that.
The very worst thing, though, worse than ungratefulness, and bitterness, and jealousy - was that I thought that we deserved better. I thought that because we had gotten married, worked hard, and saved, and had owned a nicer, bigger, newer home before - that we were better than this. I thought we deserved comfort, style, more cabinet space, a dishwasher, and flawless dinner parties.
And then, one night, in the middle of my bitterness and discomfort, our sleep was interrupted and my heart was humbled. We laid quietly in bed, as I thought: “I can’t live here...I just can’t...maybe tomorrow, we’ll ask about getting out of our lease early”... and we heard the rustling noise of our trash can opening, boxes ripping, and bottles clanging, just outside our bedroom window. A homeless man, one of the many that frequent our little beach town, was digging through our trash. As we were laying down in our cozy bed, he was looking for refuge, for hope, for food, for anything... in the middle of the night. I jumped and panicked, feeling threatened and unsafe. My husband looked out the window, saw the man shuffling along to the next trash can, and said “He’s not going to hurt us. He’s just trying to survive.”
I’ll never forget those words, or the sting of the shame and remorse that I felt after fully realizing the selfishness of the way I had been acting since we opened the door to our humble little duplex. Our door. Our duplex. Our home. We had been given a home, and not just a home, but a home three blocks from the beach, with palm trees in the front yard, with a sweet and welcoming neighbor, with coffee shops and libraries and sunset piers all within walking distance. We had been given so much, and yet I couldn’t see it in my selfish, sinful human nature. I cried with despair and shame and begged for forgiveness. I cried a little for the homeless man, but mostly for myself - for realizing that even though he carried all of his possessions on his back, that his heart was surely far richer than mine.
My discontentment started because I thought that we deserved more. I thought that I deserved the Instagram worthy walls, the Magnolia-inspired decor; I thought that I deserved more space for more stuff. The truth is, it’s only because of God’s sweet, mysterious grace beyond my comprehension that I’m not the homeless one, digging through someone’s trash.
The truth is, I’ve been given so much in life, and I’ve never really deserved any of it.
Since that night, I’ve started adoring our little home. Yes, there are teeny tiny bugs that sometimes get through the windows. But that’s because we have food on our table that they’re drawn to, and because it’s so beautiful outside, that our windows are open 24/7. Yes, we have a small living room, with no TV and not even room for a coffee table. But the lack of TV means more reading, and more meaningful conversations with my husband. Instead of a coffee table, I laid down a yoga mat, and I’m encouraged to practice and find peace there more than ever before. Yes, there is only room for one of us in the kitchen...but the small space strangely made me want to be a better servant - to joyfully be the one cooking dinner, to do our dishes the old fashioned way, without resentment or complaint. Now, when I turn the key into the door of our humble little duplex, I feel joy, I feel peace, I feel weight lifted - a sense so sweet, it can only be the beauty of coming home.
The other day, I heard someone describe finding Jesus as coming home. Finding a home and resting in the comfort and shelter of a Savior who loves us far beyond what we deserve.
The next time you find yourself like me, ungrateful for what you’ve been given and unhappy until you cross the next home improvement task or DIY decor project off your list - please, friend, please stop in your tracks and remember my selfishness, remember my mess. Remember the man who found refuge in our trash. Take your eyes off of where you’d rather be and savor where you are.
Say thank you for the gift you have been given, say thank you for the life you don’t deserve.
Remember what it feels like to come home.
Reader submission by Charlotte Agostinelli