Tuesday, July 6, 2010


This blog post will be chock full of confessions. Sadly, these confessions are pretty boring. Sigh. I'd love to be an international woman of mystery, but I am simply a chubby middle aged Episcopal priest, and all of those words in that sentence are about all of the mystery I can handle. I sort of remember becoming an Episcopal priest but when did I get to be chubby and almost 48? Wow. But I digress.

First confession, I like country music. A lot. I like other music too. I like Michael Franti and Spearhead, I like Kings of Leon, I like opera, preached about that one day. And I even like rapper Flo Rida...OK..let me rephrase that...I like the stuff he can perform on the Today show which is probably about .1 of his actual repertoire, and I think if you use words like repertoire and rapper in the same sentence you are clearly middle aged and not cool. But back to country music.

There's a very touching song by Miranda Lambert called, "The House that Built Me". It's about her journey back to her childhood home and her desire to "take only a memory" from the place. The song recounts the places in the home where she did her homework, learned to play a guitar in a back bedroom, and buried a beloved childhood pet in the backyard. It's a really poignant song, and it's been on my mind a lot.

My dear husband Rob and I are moving from Houston to College Station (insert Aggie jokes here). We close on our new house in the middle of July. I am almost 48 years old (I know I told you that already, but see I forget things). This is the first house I have ever purchased. (OK there was that one time that I helped someone buy a very small very cheap $80,000 house outside of Austin and yes it was a huge mistake and I lost a lot of money so be careful before you do that with someone).

I have been so caught off guard by the emotions brought on by buying this house. It's been nerve wracking of course. I think we have signed a literal ton of paperwork. It's like going to the financial gynecologist to get a mortgage these days (unless you are a Russian spy then it's really easy). Every dollar we have ever spent, every dip in a salary, every increase in a salary, every credit card bill (gulp) everything is under such scrutiny. I knew all of that would be weird and hard. But I get a lump in my throat thinking about owning this house. And getting to own it with my beloved.

My house growing up was not a house of peace. There was violence and alcohol and fear. There were times of joy too, but the noise of fear and sadness still rings most loudly when I think about that house on 11th street in a small town in west Texas. So I don't really long to go back there. That house doesn't ground me the way the house in Miranda Lambert's song grounds her. I did drive by it one weekend went I went to my 20th high school reunion. ( o Good Lord..I just realized the 30th reunion is this summer!)

That childhood house is smaller than I remember because like all kids things seemed so much bigger than they were. I drove by our church having remembered that there were hundreds of steps leading up to the front door. I think really there were 30. It's a funny thing about our memories of home. We can romanticize them or over dramatize them. I think it's hard to remember things exactly as they were in many cases. We can't help but remember things through the lenses we now wear.

But the house where I grew up did shape me even if it doesn't function as a touchstone for me now. The people and events that took place in that house, I am convinced, make me a better priest and a better wife. I heard a wonderfully wise priest say once that "an awful lot of good has been done in the world because of my (his) dysfunction". Amen to that!

This house in College Station is beautiful...I mean really and truly...not just through a biased mortgage holder's eyes...but it's beautiful beyond the aesthetic. This house feels like the home I've always wanted. If the previous eight years of marriage are an indicator (and Dr. Phil says that past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior) then this house will be a house of peace. I think this is the house that I'll long to return to when the day comes that we leave College Station. I feel like I'm getting a giant "do-over" on the home front, and I am so deeply grateful.

I know that millions of people in the world will never be able to own a home so owning this one (even with all this debt) renews my enthusiasm for work like Habitat for Humanity and Episcopal Relief and Development. There are lots of statistics available about how much better children fare when their parents own a home. It's amazing what truth there is in the old cliche about the pride of home ownership. We have been so grateful to live in church owned housing our whole married life. It has enabled us to save a lot of money and retire some (yes, only some) of our debt (and by our I mean mine).

But there is something in owning this home that has given me a sense of freedom. I know you are thinking, just wait until you try and sell it. And I'm sure there are many headaches associated on that end. But for now, I feel like Rob and I are home in a way that I have never experienced. Ever. And that is so grounding that it makes me want to crank up the car radio and really belt out right along with Miranda. I probably won't bury a pet (what with the asthma and all...Rob would be burying me in the backyard if we had a pet), and I'm pretty sure I won't learn to play guitar in the "back bedroom". But I know that I will make memories in this new house in this new city and at this new church.

I am grateful for all that has gone before. I stand a much better chance of not taking one single light bulb or one single dinner for granted. Thanks be to God.