Wednesday, September 26

Dissection of a Decision

Hello Friends,

Ben asked me (Lisa) to write about our decision to stay at our apartment in Houston. This decision is on the "Top Five Most Difficult & Time-Consuming Decisions for Lisa" list!

By nature I tend to seek and enjoy small, creative changes, one at a time, but only make large changes if there seems to be a problem or if I'm forced. Most large decisions before I married were based on choosing the most clear and obvious path, or slowly testing an idea until I saw at least some of the implications. The two most difficult decisions were deciding where to attend college, and deciding to date and marry Ben - difficult because I couldn't test or predict the outcomes.

And after marriage? Well, one way that Ben and I are a team is that he is the long-term planner & I figure out the day-to-day minuetia. He's a visionary, dreaming and unafraid to explore deep waters of "What if?". Ask him what he's doing tomorrow, though, and he'll say, "Work... and I'm don't know what else yet." I was the one who, even into my teen years, couldn't answer the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" because it was too strange and scary to think of myself in the future, but I do have a comprehensive list of all the things I need to do this week.

All that to say that usually large decisions in my life come from Ben. He's very considerate about not "forcing" me to do anything, but he brings these ideas into our lives that he wants to talk and pray about. Then it's my turn to analyze the situation and see if God gives me peace about making the change. Sometimes the impetus comes from the outside, but in those cases Ben usually can think about the big picture and use his intuition in a way that moves us in one direction or another.

With this decision, Ben didn't know what to do. We talked about our situation in August several times. Instead of solving the problem, we came up with even more possible answers! I wasn't thrilled about the idea of living out of a motor home (which Ben spent an evening researching with keen interest), but was trying to not be fearful and to be open all the other possibilities.

We could tell that we shouldn't move to Seattle. (Sorry, dear friends and family who live in the beautiful Northwest. We had a great visit this summer seeing ya'll, but it appeared that our opportunities, needs and passions lay elsewhere.)

But Colorado Springs? We've spent our entire time in Texas telling anyone who would listen that we'd jump at the chance to move back! Ben's doctors in both states gave us the go-ahead! It's a beautiful and interesting place, our wonderful jobs welcomed us back with open arms (and doesn't their keeping us employed mean something?) and the first week or two there this summer, I could not stop smiling.

However... after coming back to Houston, our feelings were mixed. I realized that we have three homes in our heart now: our wonderful hometown, Seattle, the place we love and work, Colorado Springs, and the place where our lives are happening, Houston. It's kind of complicated, but maybe amazing too?

Other factors that gave me mixed feelings were:

1. By the end of our time in Colorado, we were exhausted. But on returning to Houston, Ben felt a lot better - immediately. That night. We realized that the altitude was affecting his fatigue much more than we thought.
2. The doctor indicated that there might be more clinical trials in Ben's future, in Houston.
3. Being back in the office was exciting but stressful - especially for Ben.
4. We realized that our social support group in Houston is actually stronger than in Colorado Springs. Don't get me wrong, we do have lovely friends in the Springs, and now Ben's parents as well (yay!). However, when Ben was on chemo in Colorado Springs, we had a LOT of lonely nights. Our friend network was such that we had to actively make plans to socialize, which for a person who is unpredictably sick is nearly impossible, so, we rarely saw our friends. In Houston, there are lots of pre-planned gatherings of one sort or another. They are available to us whether or not we can make a commitment, which lets us see friends when it works for us.

It was at this point that I started praying for answers for a short time each day, but avoided thinking about the "Moving?" issue the rest of the day. A couple of nervous bad habits re-surfaced to numb my mind. I stayed up too late so that I was exhausted when I went to bed, and could fall asleep without thinking much. My shoulders tightened and mentally, I curled up into a ball. This decision was scary! And it was coming right at us!

I felt like we didn't have any leads. We don't know what the coming months and years hold for Ben's cancer treatment, but I really really felt that information was crucial to our decision. God wouldn't tell me.

Asking advice is usually a helpful trick. This time, most people didn't have much to say except "Live near me!" - very sweet sentiments, but biased and not addressing our myriad questions. My parents probably gave the best advice. They are smart, compassionate and practical people who know us well and also knew that we weren't going to live near them either way. Mom felt deeply that if we were to stay in Houston, we shouldn't move farther from the hospital again in order to save money. She reminded me about how much happier, more productive and even healthy we've been without the long commute. She was right - so we decided that if we stayed in Houston, we'd stay near the hospital. Dad listened and contributed to my ramblings about about renting vs buying - but more on that in a bit.

Then at some point, Ben began talking about the Decision again. Patiently, each day he brought it up and drew out my thoughts. We realized that we had a lot of the same specific misgivings about moving to Colorado, plus an unspecific unease. I don't know why we didn't remember this before, but either one or two moves ago Ben said that God told him that he would be in Houston until the cancer was dealt with (or something to that affect). That promise came back to us and completed the decision to stay in Houston. It came with peace and agreement. There is a life we imagined in Colorado, but it doesn't fit where we are now.

The last part of the Decision was whether to re-sign our apartment lease or live somewhere else. Our rent seems expensive to us but it's comparable or better than others in our area. Beside that, we really do like our apartment. Still, it bothered Ben to spend so much money on rent, so he started looking into buying a condo. At first it seemed really promising. We could pay $450 a month in a mortgage and live down the street - wow! I wasn't terribly excited because I've spent three out of the last four autumns putting time and energy into moving, and what used to be my favorite season has gotten quite harried. Adding a seventh place to have lived with Ben in the last five years isn't a goal of mine! But... I tried to be open, and my tension continued.

The morning of the deadline, we went out with a realtor. What we found out was that we'd be paying a good $700 a month between HOA dues and taxes, in addition to our mortgage. Still cheaper than rent, yes. But the places in our price range needed work. In my favorite condo out of the lot, Ben declared that he wouldn't live there unless the entire kitchen was replaced. Okay, so maybe there was a little mold under the sink. Or a lot of mold. In Ben's favorite townhouse, at least four sinks built into counter tops were badly cracked, among other depressing characteristics. In the short run we'd be paying moving costs, losing wages and doing at least a few thousand dollars of remodeling. If we were planning on living here 10 years, that would make sense, but we don't really have plans - just a brand new 12 month lease at our apartment.

Whew! I'm hugely relieved that we're staying in our nice apartment this fall and that I'll have time for other things than packing. 

One other option that we explored was "Living in Two Places". We have decided that our primary residence will be in Houston, but that doesn't rule out continuing with more extended visits to Colorado Springs in the future. If we drive there and stay at someone's house, the trips aren't very pricey. We'll probably be there next in either late October or December to help Ben's parents celebrate their first Christmas in Colorado!

There are still some things about Houston that I really don't like and probably never will. Going into year three though, the heat doesn't seem as bad. Learning about the city's architectural history and getting to know some local architects had helped me feel grounded. My precious Texan friends will stay close for a time longer. The food is awesome and the center of the city is diverse and interesting. We'll dive into the unique ministry opportunities we have here, and we'll embrace the positives of the big M D Anderson and the small working from home...for now.


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