A sojourner’s home is in heaven

We’ve been traveling, so I missed last week’s post. Today’s is late, and I didn’t record the audio this week either. We were camping last week and the weekend before we visited Hailey, ID with friends. The guys rode their motorcycles and took a scenic route while my girlfriend and I drove a car and brought mountain bikes. I loved the little town, and it made me miss living in Lake Tahoe.

But there are drawbacks to living in a resort town. Sometimes the part-timers act like they have more claim on the area than the locals. People who work and support many of the scenic Idaho towns can’t afford to live there since the mass exodus during the pandemic.

Years ago, I felt irritated too, when we couldn’t afford to stay in our community because second home owners pushed us out. We knew people who lived in tents to save money or stay in the area during that time. It happened in the mid to late nineties when it seemed everyone in the lower elevations who’d caught the wave of web design bought a vacation home in Tahoe. It doesn’t take long in a housing shortage for rent cost to exceed mortgages, and if you don’t own a home, your monthly obligation climbs as much as your options plummet. We were getting poorer every month.

Owning a home became my greatest desire. Maybe my only desire.

Our church was in Truckee, California, and I would have been happy with either Truckee or Tahoe. Through a friend from church, we found the perfect home. It was small, but sweet. Exactly what I had dreamed of. The owner had built it himself and raised his family there. He and his wife needed to move to a lower elevation for the last season of their life.

We met with the couple and spoke about our intention to purchase the house. However, we never shook hands or signed anything. Within a week, the same friends told us that the owner had gone to the grocery store right after he met with us. He’d mentioned his home and the price while checking out. The man behind him in line offered cash well above our price, followed him home, and wrote a check.

One of my jobs at the time was working with professional chefs to serve in homes or cater for private events. I was circling a table, filling glasses for guests while they sought their seats. One woman at the table began orating about the “little-nothing of a house” they got for a steal while visiting last. They were going to fix it up and make a killing on it. Such a killing. This was before house flipping TV shows, so the concept wasn’t common.

I tried to ignore the conversation, wished briefly that I could find a “little-nothing for a steal” and moved around the table to fill the glass of the woman speaking. Someone asked her the address.

Yes. It was the home we wanted to buy, and I had considered my “dream home.” After a flash vision of dumping the water pitcher on her lap, I understood God was telling me something. It was too much of a coincidence that I filled her glass the moment she announced the address. I scooted along the conversations of second homes and investments, and disappeared like professional wait staff. My main thought, though, was about how we were losing our rental because the owner intended to sell and we had nowhere to move. We couldn’t afford to settle in the community she was exploiting.

Owning a home had become an idol, but God was also just saying “no” to me. Several years and several moves followed, each time a little further away from our family and community. We couldn’t afford to live where we wanted.

God had a different community planned for us. But in my pain, I couldn’t see how wise he was.

In 2003, we landed almost on our feet in southern Idaho. My husband had taken a job in ministry. At the time, I would say California kicked us out. But we brought a little California mentality with us. For example, two strenuous car payments which seemed necessary before we came to Idaho. When we realized how few people drove new cars, it was a relief to sell one and acclimate to the area. You don’t realize how much you think is normal and you bring with you when you move to a new culture.

Five years later, we moved again. This was one of our first intentional moves and partly because of the cost-of-living ratio in Boise. We’ve moved unwillingly and in crisis, but in reality, every move has still been in hope of a better life. During the 2008 recession, we bought a home which was more than I could have dreamed. After a few years, suburbs in the treasure valley started receiving “Best place” for heath, or to live, retire, and play awards. We were already in place by accident.

But the traffic patterns shifted because the streets weren’t built for the influx that followed. Suddenly, people didn’t full stop at stop signs or drive slow enough to wave at neighbors. An overcrowded city mentality emerged as transplants started changing the culture.

One day in Costco, a frustrated older man threw his single item up in front of my face with huffs and exasperated hand motions. He was indicating (without his words) that he shouldn’t have to wait in line behind me. I held my hand out with a smirk and a little dip of my head. He proceeded to berate the cashier because he had been told that you could buy property up here for a song and retire in financial bliss. He couldn’t retire because he couldn’t afford anything. It was “all bought up,” and he hated it here because it was just as expensive as Modesto! I smiled at the cashier after he stomped away and tried to be extra kind. I’d like to say I empathize with him because I knew what it felt like when a state didn’t want you—but I was kind of glad there wasn’t room for him here.

Wherever you live, if you’ve had explosive growth, most people are probably transplants during the last generation. Since the pandemic, so many people can work from home, wherever that home is, and everyone is shifting to where they can find housing. (Although interest rates are currently affecting the landscape of home buying and selling.) Now, it’s as hard to live here as in all the neighboring states.

We wished we had an extra house to sell last year. We couldn’t sell the one we lived in because there was nowhere to go. Someday I’d welcome the opportunity for a second home or investment property, but it would have to be low risk. Basically, it would have to be a steal. I’ll probably have to look in a community that hasn’t yet realized its value.

I think it’s important to know when you move to an area which costs less that it’s a little like gentrification and can push out those who are almost, but not quite, making it. Housing was one of the contributing factors that prompted two of our kids to move out of state. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t move. Just know why it can be difficult for the community you descend upon to welcome you.

I hear laments (often from non Idahoans) that our culture is shifting here. More than just selfish drivers, people are bringing carpet-baggage from their state’s broken economy. Pretty soon, you’re going to have to lock your car doors when you leave your purse on the seat. Biblically, I see no reason to fight it. God didn’t die on the cross so we could build prevent others from seeking refuge or a better life. We don’t have a scriptural right to protect our culture. We are to “be ye separate” amid the world.

However, if you look for instances of “sojourner,” or “foreigner” you will find a surprising number of mandates to welcome, protect, and provide for them.

And in the New Testament, you’ll find out that you are a foreign sojourner yourself, not a resident of your city/state/country.

I talked about this with a friend of ours who is a native Hawaiian. He said that outsiders arriving to exploit your home was built into the Hawaiian experience. But he also said it was one of the beautiful freedoms of living in America. You can move anywhere in search of a better life for your family.

And when so many people move to your area that is pushes others out, know that searching for a “better life,” even in the form of making a killing off the house you wanted, can still be part of God’s overall plan for you, and for them.

One thought on “A sojourner’s home is in heaven

  1. Letty says:

    “Owning a home became my greatest desire. Maybe my only desire.”

    I can also relate to this desire, at one point it was so strong in my husband’s heart, he became engulfed in over working. When he finally realized that was not what God had intended in our lives and surrendered the desire to our Lord, we agrees in prayer and bought our first home in 2005. This past year we paid it off 🙌 and give God praise. We moved to a little quiet farm in Kuna and are now praying over what God’s desire is for us in this 40 acres of land.

Please share your heart. We learn from each other.