Well here we are at the very beginning of downsizing. I felt like it was appropriate to go down memory lane a bit and take you back to the beginning of our first home. There are a number of years packed into this post that have prepared us for where we are now. I believe that going through hardship and loss was necessary to come to a place of appreciating where we are. The lessons you learn in life and the stripping of things you love are good! Yes, they are good because when the blessing comes you can embrace it with humility. We would have never appreciated the home we are in, or the life we have if we didn’t experience each of the trials that were ordained for us.
Social media portrays a picture often times of the end of the journey and that can be discouraging. You often only see what people have achieved and not often where they came from or the struggle and journey to get there. So here is a snapshot, things we thought we needed, blessings in disguise, good things, mistakes we made, what we learned, where we are now, and why I don’t believe in “Dream Homes.”
Jeff and I met back in 1991. I was a manicurist at the time, living on my own in a little apartment in Clairemont. He was a lifeguard at the beach and living with his mom. It was a tough time in my teen years obviously living on my own at 17. My childhood made me strong in many ways, having divorced parents and watching my mom struggle as a single mom raising two kids, at times working three jobs. I had some really confusing hardships as a child and those things can define you if you allow it. We didn’t have much in the way of white picket fences let’s just say. My mother did her best to create a home and hospitality. She made it work and often we would celebrate meals on a floor of newspapers, sitting around a circle of friends and family. You don’t need a fancy table to make a beautiful meal filled with love. It was hard to grow up and not have what my friends did. I think that drove me to want success.
At such a young age, Jeff was the security I never had and falling in love so young was something I never imagined. It took me by surprise but I have always felt a deep security with him and he has not stopped caring and providing for me in this way. These photos below are from our first days dating and our first apartment back in 1991. Wow the time flies, and home design was not something I really thought about. We were busy riding mountain bikes, traveling, surfing, water skiing, being young, and enjoying the adventure as best friends.
I did love cooking and hosting our family. As I said, my mom had modeled hospitality to me. I did my best with decor, but began learning how to make a home and cook! Having friends over and bringing people together has always been important to me. My love for food and creating an environment where people are served has been a long passion of mine.
My father in law had a duplex in Carlsbad and he arranged for us to buy it, our first home. This was during the economic downturn in 1996. Crazy to think how little we payed for that house, it likely would have been payed off by now… but let’s not go there!
We were married and held our reception in the backyard. I think our wedding was no more than $5000. It was perfect, relaxed and simple. I didn’t really care about having a fancy wedding, something intimate with close family and friends was all we needed.
We are forever thankful for this first helping hand. Buying a home is so hard these days, and we hope to do the same for our children. We had no debt and our bills on two incomes was easy to handle. There was plenty of “extra” for travel and fun.
With no kids yet we were busy playing and building our careers. Jeff had been working structural iron at the time and I was still in a salon. His dream of becoming a fireman came true on our honeymoon when he got the call for a position in National City. This position and working iron was probably the best jobs he could have had. Those were the times when old school departments were still a thing. Discipline and structure was ingrained and at any time one mistake could cost him his job. Looking back this was an incredible gift. It has served him well as a father and a husband, learning how to work hard to provide for his family. This character built into him and his faith is something I am so grateful for because God has used it to get us through some trying times.
I was extremely driven and let’s just say still am today, just with a bit more wisdom nowadays to channel that drive. I decided to open my own salon with a partner and although we did small improvements on our first home with the help of family, my salon was my first major DIY. We worked day and night completely remodeling the inside ourselves building walls, laying tile, plumbing, and learning how to use a hopper for the first time. I worked extremely hard building a successful business taking every class I could to become a master at my craft. I really did enjoy working in the salon, getting dressed up everyday and obviously the social aspect. Being a hard worker and a lover of hospitality I think this greatly helped my career.
Having a successful career and life Jeff and I started thinking about having children. I was about 25-26 by this time. My salon was in Escondido which was near a town called Valley Center. I had a few clients from the area and just loved the long country roads and rolling hills. Desiring to have a bigger home to raise kids and that wrap around porch my husband and I decided to purchase a home in Valley Center and leave our beach life. The housing market was up quite a bit by now and it seemed like a great opportunity to sell high at the coast and buy low in the country.
Here are a few pictures of this house. I decorated this house the best I knew and got really creative with paint colors. When I say creative I’m talking salmon and teal walls in the living room and a purple bedroom, not much of a design enthusiast but lets just say I got creative. Scary!
We have always been avid mountain bikers and the property had almost 8 acres. We dreamed of building our own trails on the property and getting that serene life we thought we wanted. Little did we know the ground was hard as a rock and it would take heavy machinery just to dig a hole. It took every resource to plant a tree, or try to get shade. We quickly realized that people who live out here hire people to get the job done. It was going to take money we didn’t have to maintain such a piece of property. If you live in the country you’re laughing at me right now and all the city folk that think they are bred for country life. HAHA!
We did get pregnant with our first daughter, Emma, then Jakob my son 22 months later. The 30 minute drive to the grocery store, rattlesnakes, and isolation became harder. During this time I went through a really hard season in my life. Even though we had been together ten years before having children it seemed as if everything happened so fast. I took on buying a house, having a baby, opening a salon all at once. It was like one big roller coaster and here I had a newborn and this life I had built and I was not happy. Hard to imagine, or are you relating to this?
You know I think that in the building and the doing there is a lot of excitement. You’re building a dream but when the work is over there can be this big let down. The adrenaline rush is over. I have learned from this, and now have to be intentional in taking time with a decision and learning patience. Sometimes forcing myself to pause, pray and wait for the next step. That intensity and work ethic I possess is wonderful but as I have gotten older I have learned that to slow down is better. It can be very costly when we don’t pause.
It became harder to leave my babies and the changing of shifts between Jeff and me was unbearable to our marriage. Being in a busy department required being up all night and to come home and have to watch Emma was taking a toll. It wasn’t working, I was unhappy, he was exhausted, and I began to resent my job and all the success and wealth I had built my life upon.
We needed to make a change and I eventually sold my salon to become a stay at home mom, something I never thought I would do. Eventually I will write my testimony and share this part of my journey and change of desires with you.
I have always been driven, but that drive got poured into being a wife, mom, and home-maker. It became my job and I loved this new found desire to serve with joy. Our priorities slowly began to change over time. We had to make sacrifices and Jeff began working more to replace my income therefore, he was gone a lot. I found myself alone with two babies away from family. His commute became more tiresome over time, and after rattlesnakes on our porch, having to evacuate for fire with two babies and pets, I knew it was time to move closer to the city and not be alone in the country. The home was too much for us to handle on one income.
We had wished we were still in that little duplex in Carlsbad but the market was so high at this time. We had two options, move back to Carlsbad and live in a tiny condo for what we could afford, or go further north and buy an even bigger home for the same price. Can you guess what we did? You guessed it, we bought dream home #2 in 2004…and here we are, 3400 square feet.
I saw this house and was swept away! I had to have this house and Jeff has never been good at denying me. It seemed to be the house I had always wanted. Big enough for our growing family, friends, parties and the big 12 seated dining table I dreamed of to host grand kids. HAHA! Yah! I had the dream planned out. This house had everything I wanted in Dream Home #1 without the property and country life and it had a porch!!! It was gorgeous and we had so much fun decorating it.
Because this was a new home we had to pick out everything. This was the first time I entered a design center. Choosing carpet, flooring, counter tops, door trim, hardware was so fun. The design should have stopped there but I was so excited to build this home and I wanted it to happen all at once. Anyone else struggle with instant gratification?
I hired an interior designer and learned about fabrics, custom drapery, and how to put a room together. I loved decorating and creating. I still shopped as affordably as I could but let’s just say didn’t exercise restraint when I needed to.
I see a lot of this in social media. Dreaming of a space to be finished or looking at pictures on social media and desiring more than what you have. One of my desires to start this page is to portray reality and truth to a home. To communicate that family is most important, even when your eating on a floor of newspapers. I have learned from a lot of mistakes, and still am learning but I’ll share more at the end.
The driveway on this house was amazing and the cul-de-sac was huge. We would sit and watch the kids for hours play in the street in their electric jeeps. This is where my son Jake found his love for riding bikes, building jumps out of anything he could and racing motocross.
The neighborhood was beautiful full of walking paths, a boathouse, fishing, lake house, and parks everywhere.
We would go to the river all the time and this just put us that much closer to our drive in Arizona.
Little did we know that this home would be a burden over the years. Like I said we didn’t exercise restraint when we should have. We both drove expensive cars with big payments, and the commute for Jeff was getting longer and more expensive by the month. I think we calculated $900 gas bill at the height of the recession.
We did so much research, but being young and not educated in home loans and the federal reserve we had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into. We persevered and payed every bill in spite. My husband worked harder and provided financially for a long time but it just became clear we couldn’t keep this up. We had four small children by this time going back to work was not an option. The rates were going to adjust and we would be in trouble. The home had lost so much equity it almost didn’t seem worth it to hold on to anymore.
In order to continue affording this home we had to be in an interest only loan. We had no idea that this was the worst advice we could have ever got. If you remember when banks were giving money to just about anyone. Our mortgage guy convinced us my husband would get raises at his job and we would adjust in a matter of time. In a normal economy this could have been true. Little did we know the market completely crashed, he never received one raise in fact he got a pay cut and we had debt from the second we took out on the home to do all our improvements. What a mess! You can imagine we were wishing that we had rented that little duplex in Carlsbad near the beach.
It became really apparent that we were in a bad situation. My husband was still commuting to Encinitas from the Inland Empire and traffic had doubled by this time almost 9 years later. We sought counsel and decided to short sale. We tried every option with our bank and because we never missed a payment they refused to work with us or consider a hardship. We had invested equity from two houses into our dream home and it was gone like that. A hard lesson to swallow but one completely out of our control.
I remember coming to the reality that I was leaving this home and this community. We had built a really beautiful life here. I loved my friends, my home, our church, and sitting on my front porch watching my kids play. I had once again found myself putting my hope into a life I had built and it was crashing down.
I remember sitting on the front porch one day reading my daily devotion and I read this verse that showed me my desires and allowed me to begin to let go of the stuff.
“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15
That was it. God spoke and I listened. I had been planning my life out, every step. I was still falling into the trap of “if I had certain things, or lifestyle, I could be happy.” In that moment God showed me that this was just stuff, just a house, just money, and I could be happy anywhere as long as I was in his will. This dream home actually became quite stressful over time always wondering how we were going to pay for the life we had built. In some ways my arrogance had led to this. I do believe we cannot thwart God’s plans. He knew we would make these choices and he had a plan in it all for our good.
So now I live with my hands open. God gives and he takes away. He has a better plan always and to be attached to a dream home, money, success, children, or retirement is foolish. Yes we have to steward those things well and be wise but they will never fill you. Only God can do this and walking in his will, praying through these decisions, and being patient to wait on the Lord for wisdom. I didn’t wait I just made decisions and acted, I think that is the driven person in me that God is refining with age. Surrendering these things to him has brought me more joy and happiness and peace than any home could.
The lesson here I want to share is that where we are today is the result of the journey we had to go through and the lessons we had to learn. As I said in a recent Instagram post that “humility and faith go hand in hand.” If it wasn’t for the stripping of the things I loved many times, the hardship, losing lots of money and homes we wouldn’t have been able to appreciate with humility (rather than a deserving attitude) the gift of where we are now. Many times in my life all I had to hold on to was faith that the discipline I was receiving was an act of love and there would be triumph on the other side.
When I first laid eyes on the home we are in now believe me it was hard. It was not my big red farmhouse, but it was a home. My husband reminded me it was four walls with four bedrooms and it met the needs of our family. This time I listened.
It was what we could afford, and it was a second chance to start over and try to do things right. To better steward the gifts we were given. To say no to big car payments and credit card bills. To be able to learn contentment with less and getting creative with what we had rather than taking out a loan to have desires fulfilled. No, its not perfect by any means. I still make mistakes, and I will forever be sanctified in this area but I’m growing in wisdom, appreciation, and contentment.
Whatever season you are in, take a second and review the gifts and blessings in your life. Pray to be content exactly where you are at with your home and pray for contentment with what isn’t perfect. Every beautiful home has a journey and I suspect many have struggles and hardships along the way.
If you have gotten this far, you have preserved through a long summary so thank you. I cannot wait to share the journey of our move and back to renting full circle in Carlsbad where it all began…God truly did have a better plan even though we couldn’t see it at the time.
You can subscribe by email so you don’t miss the story unfold.
For more of our latest projects, follow us on instagram at @beachhouseforsix.
© Joey Snow interiors 2021 | design by Valerie Howard
Approachable Design for Everyday Life