Those of you who know us well have probably heard us complain about our apartment quite a bit. Moving to Spring Ridge Apartments in Durham this summer was definitely an adventure, and not one that we were expecting. When we found out we were pregnant in March, we realized we were going to have to move out of the apartment complex in Chapel Hill we lived in, both for financial reasons (we always knew I would be staying home to raise our children whenever the time came) and for space (we would need a nursery and Jordan needs an office for his work). We only had about 2 months to find a new place before our lease ended. We chose Spring Ridge because we could move into a spacious 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath, 2 story apartment and save hundreds of dollars each month! After spending tiring weeks looking at many different apartments and coming close to our deadline, we looked at Spring Ridge on the last day of a deal where if you signed a lease you would have free water/sewage for a year. Excited about the amount of space we would have and the price we would be paying, we signed the lease that day. We didn’t read apartment reviews ahead of time, and didn’t think that the distance from Jordan’s work and our church community (25-30 minutes, depending on traffic) would be a big deal.
Our move in date was May 30th and to give you a brief summary of our “journey,” they did not have our apartment ready on our move in day, we had to convince them to let us move into another unit, the air conditioning didn’t work, the water wasn’t working (we had to stay with friends that first night for those reasons), cabinets and the refrigerator door were on backwards, a back door that didn’t lock, bedroom windows that were painted shut, there were bug problems, a leak from the washer and dryer upstairs flooded our kitchen and all of these things were only matched by management that didn’t seem to care and maintenance workers that never got around to helping us out (or at least not until months later, after asking them several times).
Rolling our eyes and grunting, we would vent about these things to whoever would listen to us. We decided quickly that we would move as soon as our lease ended next May, and often viewed the rest of our time here as an inconvenience that we simply have to put up with and get through.
When we had first signed our lease, we were excited that this was an ethnically diverse community and prayed for good relationships with our neighbors. But since we moved in, we’ve cared very little about getting to know our neighbors as we’ve been counting the months until we can move out. In the meantime, I have become obsessed with coveting houses that other people have, and have been grumpy in my heart about the fact that we are about to have a child and live in an apartment. When Jordan and I were engaged I remember saying to him once, “promise me that we will never live lives that seek out the American Dream.” Ironic how consumed I’ve become with that dream in the past several months, at times even thinking, “My husband has a degree in political science and was once considering going to law school. If we pursued that instead of ministry, we could have these things.” Or sometimes thinking that although I have dreamed of being a stay at home mom all my life and feel convicted to do so, maybe I should just forget it and get a good paying job so that we can afford nicer things. I have this pretty little picture in my head of what a family should look like, and that doesn’t include having to cut coupons or say “no” to certain things in order to cut costs and pay the bills.
Well in the past couple of days God has really been working on my heart and changing my perspective. First of all, let me take a second to praise Him for the ways He has answered prayer in the improvements that have been taking place in the Spring Ridge community! For one, they hired all new management and maintenance and they have been super nice, helpful and on top of things. In the past 2 weeks when we’ve needed a couple of repairs, they’ve been here within an hour of asking! It has made an incredible difference in the quality of living here. But secondly, God has been showing me that Spring Ridge is not the only thing that needs reworking and renovating, my heart is right up there with it.
Last night Jordan and I started talking about a counter-cultural idea: What if our home/living situation is not about us or for us, but for others? If we believe what the Bible teaches (which we do), that our real home is an eternity with our Heavenly Father, and our lives are but a vapor, then it makes more sense that where we live during our short time on earth should be seen as an opportunity to show Christ to those who live around us than it being for our own personal pleasure. I become so consumed thinking about how I don’t like the color of our carpet or I wish there were more windows and natural light in here that I fail to be sobered by some of the things happening in this community around us and recognize that it is not by accident that we live here and we have an opportunity to love and pray for our neighbors.
At one point last year as Jordan and I were evaluating our life, we realized that where we lived, worked, worshiped, went on the weekends, etc. were all filled with white people, which we believe is depriving us from the colorful, multiethnic experience that God desires for us to live. Every ethnicity reflects God in a different way, and when we just stay in our homogeneous ethnic bubble we are sorely missing out in learning new and wonderful things about our Creator. So Jordan and I said that we needed to be more intentional about inserting ourselves into situations where we will meet people who are not just like us. (Let me pause with a disclaimer that my husband is half Lebanese, so I want to be careful to just classify us as “white.”) One of the things we decided is that we would eventually like to live in a more diverse community. Well, easier said than done. We’ve had to face our hypocrisy since living in Spring Ridge when we realize how uncomfortable it feels to be the minority. It’s much easier to stick to our own quiet lives, going from our apartment to our car, than it is to step into a place where we stand out as different.
Well as of last night, Jordan and I have realized that we think God has more in store for us than that. We think God may want to use this community to bless us, grow us, and teach us more about Himself and that He wants to use us to bless this community as well. Want to hear something shocking? We’re even praying about the possibility of staying here past our lease in May. Gasp! Not only have things improved around here, but we’ve realized that some of the families in our church that we’ve enjoyed getting to know better live less than 5 minutes away- so we are close to community! And our church has recently gotten involved in helping refugees in the Durham area, so we can see that there would be cool opportunities for us to serve in this city.
I’ll leave you with this passage of scripture that I came across and prayed through today:
“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” -Jeremiah 29:7
God says this to Israel after instructing them to settle down where he has led them.
I don’t know what the verdict will be for our living situation come May, but I do know that right now we are here in Spring Ridge, so I’m praying that we would settle down and seek the welfare of this community, praying on it’s behalf. It is not in nice carpet, bigger windows, or a house where we will find our welfare, but in the welfare of the places God sends us to show His grace and love.