Giving Up Our Dream House

Have you ever been so sure about something, so confident that you made the right choice,

— only to see it blow up in your face? Maybe, just maybe, despite all that frustration, those experiences are actually blessings in disguise.

That’s what my wife and I have learned – and are still learning – after spending three years in our dream house we had to give up.

Three years ago we moved from Pittsburgh to Charlotte, and purchased the perfect house for our expanding family. We didn’t want to be delusional about our choice here, so we consulted with others, we prayed about it, and everything went together so smoothly. I obtained employment with ease and we were just in time to take advantage of the stimulus money that was available then. We took it all as a sign that the Lord was giving the green-light.

Our plan was this:

We would go into this house knowing it would be tight, but also betting that my pay would increase, making it a more comfortable situation over time. We agreed on some things we would live without for a year or two, because we loved the location, the pool amenities were incredible, and of course the house was awesome.

It was also our first house, so we were extra excited to have a place to call home.

We were so confident with this move, and felt certain the Lord was giving the nod to go ahead. However, my tune quickly changed about six months in. The mortgage I could handle, but now all these hidden costs started showing up, as well as medical debt due to two of our children requiring NICU stays at the hospital.

It all quickly became suffocating, and as obligations were missed, credit card debt went up. We became stuck in this vicious cycle that gnawed at my core.

I’ll never forget one night when I began realizing that I may not be able to make next months mortgage payment, realizing that this situation we’re in might never improve and, in fact, just get worse.

I fretted so much, and remember feeling like God had kind of abandoned me,

—questioning why He ever allowed us into this house, questioning why the mortgage lender ever agreed to give us the loan, but deep down knowing that I have to own my own decision here.

Skip forward two years, we joined a small group that was going through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. While everyone else was finding ways to save money and reduce debt, we just received confirmation that we were battleship-sunk.

We didn’t even have enough money to meet all our obligations, even despite severe cut-backs we had made. It was a very frustrating time to see friends look like they were getting ahead, while we were literally sinking and indeed sunk. I again became frustrated at God, and myself, but even more determined to get out of this mess.

There was one thing in Dave’s program that shook me to the core.

Dave pointed to a verse that basically said debt makes you it’s slave. For me, I wanted to be slave to nothing except Christ. And I say that with all seriousness, much thanks to Francis Chan’s Crazy Love. I didn’t want this type of existence for my family any more. I didn’t want to be slave to debt. I couldn’t for Christ’s sake, and my families sake. I wanted to be set free.

So, using Dave Ramsey lingo, I decided to get us out of this situation with gazelle-like intensity. I consulted with a pastor, and shortly thereafter put our house on the market and downsized considerably. We went from a very nice 2800 sqft home to just a little over 1000 sqft, with four children!

I would like to have said I did it just to be able to better serve the Church, but it’s only partially true. Yes, I not only wanted out to better serve Him, but also because I flat-out needed to.

Yes, I could have maintained in that house if I really really wanted to.

God actually did bless me with a higher paying job half-way through the time we were there. But to really do this right, it would have taken me away from my family for a long time, something we were definitely not willing to do.

Friends and family were shocked, but also understood, and were a great source of encouragement. And our move has definitely been applauded as the courageous and smart thing. Now of course I get that, but I really just was responding to what the Lord pressed upon us to do, despite how hard and insane it felt, and despite how much we really didn’t want to.

And it was indeed hard to downsize. After we signed away our house, I remember immediately wishing things could just stay as they were. And there were times I unfortunately questioned God again, and became angry what He had given us was now being taken away.

It’s now been two months since we downsized,

—and I would like to report immediate financial and emotional relief, but that’s not quite true. Things are still a mess, but we are finally in a better position to do what we feel like God is calling us to do. And we feel extremely blessed by it all, in a strange sort of way.

He got is into that house and He helped us get out. He taught us where he wants our heart and focus - on Him and not on the American Dream. Our marriage experienced some turbulence through this, but we also grew deeper together. Friends have stepped up to offer incredible support.

I realize owning a home is not all it’s cracked up to be and living with less will allow us to do more for Him, and our family. God has shown us that despite downsizing we are still extremely, overwhelmingly blessed.

I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

[Photo:  functoruser, Creative Commons]

Donald McAllister believes it’s not just about agreeing with Jesus, it’s doing something about it. He is a writer and host of the BibleDoing podcast, where he interviews those who are courageously engaging culture and making an impact for Christ. He lives in Waxhaw, North Carolina with his exquisite wife Nicole and four young children. You can follow him daily on Twitter or Facebook. Read his personal blog here

  • Amy Hunt

    It’s amazing how He allows us to experience something and then radically changes our perspective, and then uses that whole experience for such purpose. Seeing all of this — evidence of Him — magnifies His love for me and helps my faith to grow and a lot of the time, for me to forgive myself as I trust He uses All. For. Purpose.

    Praying you rich blessings as He continues to lead you, and speak to you, and draw you ever nearer to His heart in the process.

    • Don McAllister

      Thank you!

  • Joan

    My husband and I had a similar experience several years ago. For us, it was not giving up a house, but a job change for him. We, unfortunately did not seek God in the matter. My husband ended up without a job for 18 months, we watched our savings deplete, and there were times when I thought God had abandoned us. Yet He used that time to draw us back to Him (we were prodigals at the time). Even though we made mistakes He used them for His purposes. I wouldn’t want to go through that again, but wouldn’t take for having gone through it.

    • Don McAllister

      Praise God!

  • Karen Migala

    Hi Don! Congratulations on your article. I can totally relate to your confusion about were God wants you. I felt that same way about our move to Delaware. Felt like I was given the green light and we were doing it to pay off debt and so I wouldn’t have to go back to work full time. My heart’s desire was to be together more as a family. But now Rich and I are working more than ever! So I often question was this the right decision but know I can never afford to move back to NJ. You guys have made a tremendous sacrifice and I am sure the Lord will bless you for it. Right know your priorities are raising those 4 beautiful kids and I admire the awesome parents you guys are. Hang in there it will get better!

    • Don McAllister

      Thanks so much, Karen!

  • Michael Carter

    Thank you for sharing this. We have a similar story… except God allowed us to go through foreclosure and repossession that we might draw even closer to Him. And it is good! Blessings to you from the neighbor-town of Fort Mill.

    • Don McAllister

      Thanks! And greetings from Waxhaw…I drive through fort mill almost daily in route to rock hill.

  • KellyW2010

    Beautiful and faithfully told story – one that more of us need to hear. Thank you!

    • Don McAllister


  • jewellspring

    Hi Don.
    Is your wife willing to write a Part II from her perspective? Downsizing with four young children has taken a unique toll on her, I’m guessing. She’s not homeschooling, is she? Just wondering. I wish your family all the best. #motherof3 #2800squarefeet #California

    • Don McAllister

      My wife doesn’t care to write, but that would be a good perspective for sure! She was homeschooled and we plan to homeschool ours. Thanks!

  • Isaac Whiting

    That is a good story. We also have four kids in 1000 Sq ft. It’s a crazy life.

    • Don McAllister

      Yeah, with four children in a small space you know exactly! :)

  • Kristi

    What an inspiring story, and one the church today really needs to hear! My husband and I also bought our “dream home”, and found ourselves deep in debt and unable to sell when God called us to move to Uganda as missionaries. Thankfully, our God is merciful and helped us to do a short sale on our house the very day we needed to buy our plane tickets to Africa. Now our family of nine is happy and content to be living, debt-free, in a two-bedroom, 800 sq ft. house in a remote village in Uganda. I am so thankful for the lessons God has taught our family about debt and how to live free of it! No matter the size of the house, no debt is always the way to go :)

    • Don McAllister

      That’s an amazing story, Kristi! Thanks for sharing! Definitely agree: no debt is the way to go.

  • Megan Fessenden

    Isn’t it funny, here in America we are so blessed and we have become so accustomed to what we feel are necessities…a certain size house is too small, you need at LEAST this much space, oh don’t you need a bedroom for every child? Etc, etc. I remember someone pointing out once we expect to have our parents’ standard of living that they worked for thirty years to achieve and we want it right away. It’s keeping us in debt up to our eyeballs and so many are struggling to make their payments thinking they HAVE to have it or people will look down their noses. We had a family of 12 (two parents, ten kids) in a 1400 sq ft double wide mobile home. It didn’t start out that way, we started with about seven of us kids and yes it was snug but sometimes you do what you gotta do. Later my parents were able to move up to a 2400 sq ft home with five bedrooms. Coming from a house where we had a boys room and a girls room it seemed like such luxury to only share a room with only one or two siblings! It’s not always fun and sometimes it’s inconvenient but I know God had us there for a time to learn and let me tell you, some of my best childhood years were spent in that trailer with all four of us sisters in the same room. I hope you guys are also able to enjoy the time you spend in the smaller space. God has some rich blessings when you are so close together. :)

    • Don McAllister

      Thanks, really appreciate that!