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Chapter 1: Buying a House and Making a Home
Making a House into a Home
Anyone who hears and obeys these teachings of mine is like a wise person who built a house on solid rock. Rain poured down, rivers flooded, and winds beat against that house. But it did not fall, because it was built on solid rock. Anyone who hears my teachings and doesn't obey them is like a foolish person who built a house on sand. The rain poured down, the rivers flooded, and the winds blew and beat against that house. Finally, it fell with a crash.
MATTHEW 7:24-27 CEV
The above scripture is obvious to us: if we build upon a rock, a strong foundation, the house will survive hard times. The purchase of a house does not create a home; in fact, a home is not predicated by ownership of property but by a mind-set that creates the temperamental and environmental conditions, thereby creating a physical place that has deep spiritual significance. A home radiates security, love, nurture, and a connectedness among all who live in it and those who enter its doors. How then can we achieve the transformation of a house to a home? Why would we want to create it? How can we build a solid foundation for our family?
A house that becomes a home creates stability for your family. Those who own homes are more likely to better adapt to American aspirations and values.
A study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development put it this way:
The desire for home ownership is deeply rooted in the American psyche. Owning a home embodies the promise of individual autonomy and of material and spiritual well-being that many people sought in coming to this country. In addition to its functional importance and economic value, home ownership has traditionally conveyed social status and political standing. It is even thought to promote thrift, stability, neighborliness, and other individual and civic virtues.
Home Ownership Creates Wealth
Purchasing a home is the largest investment that most families will ever make. It is in effect a forced savings plan in that part of your mortgage payments is retained as equity in your house. As long as the value of the home does not erode, there is a long-term wealth benefit. As a general trend, owning a home is a good long-term investment. Home ownership has become a critical factor in moving up the economic ladder as home equity is the largest single source of household wealth for most Americans. For homeowners, almost 60 percent of their wealth is in the form of home equity. For minority homeowners, home equity is an even more important component of wealth, representing more than three-fourths of their median net wealth. Homeowners also enjoy important tax advantages in the value and distribution of federal tax preferences for home ownership, such as the deductibility of property taxes and mortgage interest and the onetime exclusion of capital gains.
Home Ownership Creates Personal Well-being
Home ownership is a commonly recognized symbol of social status and an important goal for many Americans. It improves our self-esteem and life satisfaction. Owning a home is a widely shared and cherished goal and an expectation and hope of most Americans. Many scholars have reasoned that its attainment tends to increase the homeowner's contentment with life. It is often argued that home ownership enhances the homeowner's sense of control over his or her life and environment by offering greater privacy and protection. Empowerment comes from the ability to own, change, and control one's environment, to be able to paint, change fixtures, and change the inside or outside of your house. Your living space will better support your lifestyle and may increase your satisfaction with your house and life. To know that one will not have to negotiate new leases with their unpredictability is also a part of both financial and geographic control that promotes well being. Homeowners control who comes into their house. The social status and freedom of home ownership can lead to higher levels of self-esteem and a belief in the greater control over life in general.
Home Ownership Creates a Healthier Family
Psychologically we have already noted that the self-esteem of homeowners is higher than those who don't own their own homes. Studies attribute this to three underlying factors: first, the purchase of a home leads to others holding us in high regard; second, as homeowners we understand ourselves as doing better; and third, we see ourselves as successful in accomplishing goals, our purchase being evidence of our competence. The vast majority of home buyers have stated that being a homeowner makes them feel better about themselves. Employed homeowners report significantly less economic strain, depression, and problematic alcohol use than do renters. Home ownership contributes both to psychological health and physical health. Homeowners do not have to deal with landlords who provide inadequate heating and cooling, and they also suffer less of the infestation of bugs and rodents that can lead to respiratory and other illnesses. Homeowners also score higher on general health questionnaires and health indicators.
Home Ownership Creates a Better Educational Environment for Your Children
There seems to be no better reason for homeownership than what studies tell us regarding our children. Homeowners tend to create a higher quality home environment for children. Children are better supported in their physical, emotional, and learning development. Children will perform better in mathematics and reading tests; will be less likely to drop out of high school, to have children as teenagers, or to be arrested prior to age eighteen. In other words, children who live in their own homes tend to do better in school and are less likely to participate in behaviors that are detrimental to their future development. Children of homeowners tend to become homeowners themselves. Doing better in school and getting in less trouble leads to increased earnings and the acquisition of a home.
Home Ownership Creates More Stability in the Neighborhood
Family stability contributes to and is enhanced by the stability that home ownership provides to the neighborhood. We already noted that there will be less delinquency among the youth, and studies show that there is less addiction to alcohol or drugs by adults.One of the most persistent claims made for home ownership is that owners have a greater financial and emotional investment in their neighborhood and are more likely to maintain and improve their neighborhood. Homeowners have lower residential turnover as home buying is viewed as signifying a family's commitment to remain in the community. This commitment of home buyers also affects rental residents: they are also less likely to move away from the neighborhood. One of the reasons for this is that homeowners are more likely than absentee landlords or their renters to maintain and improve their properties. Homeowners spent more on maintenance, were less likely to defer repairs, and reported fewer housing problems. Home ownership creates a higher level of neighboring: the forming of neighborhood or block associations that lead to better understanding of political and local neighborhood leadership. Items of mutual interest, such as police, fire, and school needs, are shared by neighbors. Neighborhood community building leads to the development of crime prevention programs, such as a neighborhood watch. Even when cooperating to stop illegal activity, home-owning neighbors are more likely to look out for each other.
Now we have discovered many of the reasons we should strive to be a homeowner. Home ownership can help us create: wealth, personal well-being, a healthier family environment, better educational achievement by our children, and greater family and neighborhood stability. If you can afford to purchase a home you should consider it.
We started this chapter with a sacred scripture, a parable that forcefully illustrates a single idea. This story is about two persons, each building a house. One uses a rock as a foundation; the other uses sand. A wise person, we are told, builds on a secure foundation; a foolish person gives no thought to the foundation. The parable conveys to us that we have to prepare for hard times and that hard times will come to all of us. Rain, floods, and wind will come into our lives in many different forms and venues. Clearly, the parable shares with us the need for a strong foundation to face the storms of life. These storms can be inflicted by crime or accident or our very own actions, and they can sink our family, friends, or loved ones, attacking our health, finances, or relationships. To repel or withstand these unwanted events, it is important to have your home spiritually centered, which is what is meant by building on the rock, so that when the storm comes — and it will — you can withstand it and survive it. Building on a rock assists us in transforming a house into a home. Unlike a house that can be purchased, building on the rock necessitates developing an inner spirituality that becomes a part of your life and a part of how you deal with adversity. It is the security that God is present in your life and that God's love for you is unwavering. It is faith, an acceptance that God is both concerned for you and desirous of a relationship with you. This relationship can be instrumental in converting your house into a home. It can help center your entire family and those who enter your house as you express your love and care for them. It is an understanding that God is desirous of a relationship with you and that God is active in pursuing that relationship. God will help you become a woman or man of greater substance, living a life that will not crumble under pressure or sink in sand when the storm comes by. You can be a person who can face the storm and not have the house come down. It will be because you have chosen to connect to God. You have become strong on the inside. You have become someone who has learned to walk with God this day and the next day and the next. Facing whatever it is you have to face, the day that brings the storm will be no different from the ones that preceded it. God will be your companion then because you have made a practice of hearing and obeying God's voice, and your life will have a foundation under it. You will be able to deal with whatever tragedy life may bring. Building a strong foundation requires faith, which in fact is the foundation. The foundation grows stronger as you learn to believe that God listens and forgives and that God does so because God loves.
Developing your spiritual center begins with the realization that God does indeed listen. While this seems simple, it truly is not. Many people feel that God can't possibly care about our inconsequential or insignificant selves, given all the people and needs in the world. Others cannot come to grips with the idea that God would listen to them, given the things they have done to and not done for themselves and others. For whatever the reason, many of us deeply believe we cannot approach God. If you talk to God, God will listen. All you need to do is try. What kind of prayer does God listen to? There are three things God wants us to do: first, we must pray from the heart; second, we must acknowledge our need and our pain, hiding nothing; third, we need faith. Prayer must be from the heart. It should be pure, meaning that there is nothing contrived about it, a conversation. It can be full of emotion as we cry to, call to, nag, whisper to, or remain silent before God. Our prayers are to acknowledge both God's existence and our needs. We cannot hide anything from God. He knows our innermost being. He knows our strengths and our weaknesses. How can we keep any of our needs from God? There are times we are unsure of God's guidance because of the pain we incur and the struggles we face. But as we persevere we can look back and see God guiding our life and that of our family and friends each step of the way. What do we really need? God knows our desires. God knows our needs better than we do ourselves. We make requests to God because he is merciful. In our prayer we should give adoration and acknowledge God as creator and sustainer. We confess our faults. We give thanks to God for our lives. We present to God our supplications and our needs. We may desire a house for the development of our family. For you to pray and ask for God's blessing in the process of acquiring a house is not only appropriate, it is the first step in making your future house into a home.
Forgiveness is an action of God that takes away the obstacles and barriers that separate humans from God's presence, opening the way to reconciliation and a relationship with God. God desires to have a healthy and whole relationship with every human being. Our insistence on disobedience, the straying from God's desires, cuts us off from this relationship. Forgiveness is the removal of the barriers between us and God. Understanding that forgiveness is a gift that God truly wants to bestow upon us is an important part of the foundation that creates a spiritually centered home. Forgiveness is the glue that will enable you to withstand the storms that hit your house. The forgiveness that God will bestow upon you should in turn be bestowed on others. In creating a home, members of a family will inevitably fail each other. Forgiveness will have to be taught and practiced for any family to survive. We should always remember that we are creatures who can never deserve the forgiveness that God Almighty bestows, yet we receive it because of God's love for us. God in turn asks us to bestow forgiveness on others.
That God is about and for love is unquestionable. When Christ was asked, "What are the greatest commandments," he answered, "Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself," implying that God is both lovable and loving. It is this divine love that will go to any length to do good to humanity and secure our well-being. God's activity is to love, and God implores humanity to reciprocate by loving God and each other. As Christians, we understand that God's love is so strong that the writer of the Gospel of John states, "For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). What is amazing is that God loves us and that because of that love God will listen to us and forgive us. As you continue to reflect and meditate on God's love, you will connect with the presence of God; you will begin to grow in confidence that God listens, forgives, and loves. The process of connectedness can be assisted by your relationship to a house of worship, clergy, and others who are in search of God's love. This connection will eventually provoke you to find the opportunity to use your growing faith to serve others, starting with those who live with you and those who live near you or visit you. As you grow in understanding God's love for you, you will grow in your capacity to love others. As we hear of God's love we will learn to act on God's love. Loving others reflects the nature of God that is in us and is evidence that we are God's children. Our understanding of this and our acting on it by talking to God begins the construction of our home, whose foundation is on a rock, not on the sand. Now you can convert the physical place called your house to the spiritual center called home.
A famous American poet once wrote, "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, / They have to take you in." That remark has been used for close to one hundred years because it encapsulates something that is so true. We all hope to have a place like that, a place that serves as a refuge, where if we are weary we can rest, where if we are hungry we can eat, and where if we thirst we will be given drink. This is the type of environment you want to create for your family. Before you find and purchase your house, prepare yourself and your family by developing the financial and spiritual foundations for your home we have discussed in this book. As soon as you move into your house, you begin its physical conversion. You create special places that promote family history, tradition, and culture, be they photos of special moments from the past and present; books that were important to you or to other family members that you want your children to read; ceramics, pictures, paintings, carpets; anything that has a family story attached to it that should be shared and passed along to others. These physical things will be bound together by love. These spaces are created not by the investment of money but by the investment of time. Simple actions are those that are most remembered. The glass of milk and plate of cookies for your children as soon as you see them when you get home from work and your telling them, "Don't let this spoil your dinner"; the Saturday or Sunday cup of coffee with your spouse while you dream of the future. These small traditions, if done in love, become the things that help inspire and maintain a home, even through stormy times. Each space of the house can take on a special significance. Kitchen and dining rooms are excellent spaces where one can take a moment to share something good or something bad that has happened. Dreams can be shared there; hopes for the future and assistance for the struggles of the present day.
There should be no part of the house where parents and their children cannot play. Play is the most underrated aspect of the development of a spiritual center in the home. Play with your children! Play with them in their bedroom, in the living room, kitchen — anywhere you can see and create a smile for them and, as a consequence, for you. Watch television together. I know most people say not to watch TV, but I believe you should watch it with your children and spouse. As the children and you grow older, they will actually watch it with you. The programs you watched together become memories that bind you together spiritually. For children, their bedroom or yours can be a great place to share. The hustle and bustle of our days sometimes doesn't allow for all the family interaction we hope for. There is one time, though, that is a must for all children, and that is bedtime. Read to them before they go to sleep. Pray with them. Have them pray for others. Nothing you do will help them and the spiritual growth of your family more than this repetitive daily action. It will help the children understand intuitively that a home is more than a house. It will help them establish their spiritual center and contribute to the development of the home's spiritual center. It will help them grow into a home, and it will help you in the same way. As you create a home, you will find that many children, neighbors, and friends will want to be around you. They will want to share and be in the place they know is built on a rock. Share your home but protect it. It is something that is fragile. Remember that storms will always come. Do not allow others to bring their storms into your house. Always be hospitable but also be protective of the home that God has given you.
So now . . . let's go buy a house . . . and create that home that will have you dwell in God's favor
. . . FOREVER! Copyright ©2006 by Luis Cortés Jr.