Thursday, April 10, 2008

What You Can Learn about Life from Selling Your House

Buying a house is a lot more fun than selling one. When buying a house I get to be chauffeured from house to house in someone else’s car, envisioning how lovely I, my things, and my life will be in each one. Ah, suddenly there I am in my fuzzy robe, curled up with my Bible and morning coffee in that cozy den. A glance at one lush and green backyard, and my dog and I are playing fetch together there amid the cheerful tunes of singing birds on a sunny afternoon. I envision guests sleeping peacefully in that spacious guest room or sitting at the expansive bar with glasses of wine, laughing and chatting while I whip up a delicious dinner in the updated kitchen. Oh yes, buying is fun.

Looking at houses to buy also gets me a boatload of free decorating DOs and DON’Ts. The good ones I mentally file for later use. The bad ones allow me to utter catty comments with impunity about ugly colors and tacky furnishings, which is somehow cathartic for me. Go figure. Buying is indeed more fun than selling.

Now, however, I am selling my own house. Now it’s my turn to clean up, clean out and stage. How well I do that will determine whether my home becomes the source of someone’s daydreams (and sells) or of their catty comments (and doesn’t sell). The tables have turned, and now I fight off panic.

It started with that representative from the architectural committee of the homeowners’ association who came over to approve stain colors for my fence.

“It’s a terrible time to sell!” she reminds me. “You’ll probably lose a lot of money.”

Great.

Next comes the realtor.

“The market really isn’t that bad,” she assures me. “In fact, with a little luck, you may even break even. Now, here are your top seventeen competitors in the neighborhood. . . .”

I feel better already. NOT.

Then comes the stager. This is the person who tells you everything you need to change or get rid of to make your home attractive to buyers. For most mere mortals, the stager’s visit would be a source of anxiety. Not for me. I watch HGTV’s Designed to Sell at least three times a week. I know the drill: get rid of all the personal photos and chotchke, clear off all surfaces, de-clutter, remove excess furniture, yada, yada, yada.

So, for three days of my spring break I packed, cleaned, rearranged, and ruthlessly rid myself of all that was unnecessary, while generous friends painted some rooms. Then, aching and exhausted, I sit back to admire my streamlined home, smugly thinking how impressed the stager will be on the morrow.

The appointed time arrives. In walks the stager and glances around the room. “The first thing you’ll want to do,” she says, “is de-clutter.”

I smile and nod, but inside I’m screaming, “what? de-clutter? what do you think i’ve been doing here for the past three days, anYway?”

It went downhill from there. She told me I need to thoroughly clean some things. Imagine, suggesting that I don’t keep my house clean! Didn’t I just clean those dusty blinds, uh, a year ago? Later, she sent me an eleven-page list of things to do to get my house ready to sell. Eleven pages. She did soften the blow by saying that I have a lovely home on a lovely street. She probably says that to everyone, but it still made me feel better.

To add insult to injury, as the stager was leaving, she suddenly looked down at the outside wall near the front door. I followed her gaze and saw what she saw—TERMITES! In that weak moment of panic I thought to myself, “what’s next? a plague of locusts?”

Later that day, after praying a lot, I regained my perspective and sense of humor about it all. While buying a house is much more fun than selling one, selling gives us a chance to evaluate, clean out, and get a clearer view of our homes through a fresh, objective set of eyes. What happens in our houses is so similar to what happens in our own hearts and souls. Over time, junk and dust can accumulate there, but living in the midst of it, we can’t see it. This stuff can range from excess baggage we simply don’t need to carry that weighs us down, such as taking on false responsibility for someone else’s life, to truly toxic attitudes and thought patterns that threaten the health of our souls, like unforgiveness.

Good clues that we need some personal de-cluttering may be that sense that we’re in a rut, a lack of joy and peace, heaviness or depression, or a lack of forward momentum in life. Periodically, it’s helpful to invite a trusted friend or pastor to help us see what we cannot see for ourselves. Most of us are like my home as described by the stager: lovely, but in need of some basic cleaning and de-cluttering. Having the courage to hear an honest friend’s evaluation of our lives can help us to spiritually de-clutter and lighten our load.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go talk with the exterminator.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

UNITY: Deeper than "Can't We All Just Get Along?"

Wow. I just picked up an old notebook to look for a phone number and unearthed a treasure trove of notes about how we forge Christian unity and illustrates what it really is. There is no date on them and I can't tell whether they were from a book or sermon, or whether they came out of my own pure brain. Whatever, the ideas are so good that I wanted to share them with you, dear reader. I'll just list them as bullet points as they are in my notebook, and then perhaps make some comments.
  • Unity can only be forged in the furnace of affliction, in the clash of conflict and the muck of misunderstanding.
  • Unity grows out of covenant. First, there must be a decision to be committed to it, no matter what the cost.
  • Unity grows and takes shape each time we:
  • Determine to think the best of and trust the motives of someone who has hurt us.
  • Clash head on in disagreement, but talk and pray through to understanding and agreement.
  • Risk conflict to speak the truth in love
  • Receive correction, regardless of how it is delivered, choosing to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and not the voice of the speaker.
  • Rejoice with those who seem to be more blessed than we are.
  • Accept the faults of those God with whom God has put us in relationship, even when they affect us personally, without judging them, knowing that we have equally grievous faults, just different ones.
  • Refuse to take up the offenses of others.
  • Refuse to judge people or situations until all the facts are known (believing the best and reminding ourselves that one is innocent until proven guilty).
  • Believe what God's Word says about a brother or sister as we believe it for ourselves, even when apparent evidence contradicts.
  • Every time we do these things, it makes an indelible stamp on our character and we are forever changed a bit more into the image of Christ, who prayed that we might all be one as He and the Father are one, that the world might believe (John 17:20-23).
I don't think I'll make any comments. What else could I say?

Places to See