House or Home?

3 06 2013

ImageWelcome to the Miller Manor, built and established September 1983, same year our youngest, Justin Michael was born and also when I planted that giant maple tree, then barely a twig.  Back then the house didn’t have garage, only an open carport.  There were concrete steps leading up to the front and back doors. Just a typical 3 bedroom, one bath ranch style home sitting on an unfinished basement.  The basement couldn’t be sunk in the ground to the normal depth since unbeknown to us we had bought a lot that had a high water table.  It had to be poured 3 feet higher than usual making our house sit higher than anyone else’s in the neighborhood.  So it wouldn’t look so obvious, we simply added brick and siding to cover the concrete walls so they wouldn’t be seen.  So there you have the start of the first owned residence of John, Cathy, Jamie, Jeremy, and Justin. And start was really the only purpose of this house on Vandeveer St., Warsaw IN.  I liked this little abode, but I only saw it as a short term investment, a stepping stone to bigger and better houses down the road.  Well as anyone can tell you, the best laid plans of mice and men don’t always develop as hoped.  A business venture that I sunk a lot of hope and money into ended up flopping and nearly destroyed our family economically.  Instead of surging ahead financially, we lost nearly everything we had and I was forced to do anything I could to bring in money including working 2 full time jobs at a time.  Besides my regular job, I taught music as well as played music, I did maintenance work at a hotel, I was a bouncer (that’s a story in itself) and finally a fate that was nearly worse than life itself, I was a softball umpire; Whoa!!  

Furniture wore down to nothing and for awhile we were keeping our clothes in boxes and the kids were sleeping on mattresses on the floor. A car loan was out of the question, so I would scour the trade papers to find the best automobile that a few hundred dollars would buy.  I remember one old clunker we had that if I had to pick my daughter up from school; she would wait until everyone else left, then make a mad dash to the car, dive onto the floor in the backseat and stay there until we got home!  To this day I thank God for the Lady He brought into my life, for of all the many talents she has been blessed with stretching a dollar was undoubtedly her strongest suit.  The magic she performed to make meals for a family of five with so little money available was incredible.  She kept all the bills juggled and paid which was a feat in itself considering many times our outgoing was higher than our income. The kids were great also.  They had to be brought into the scope of our situation and made to understand that for a while what many other children were getting or doing they would not.  Never once did any of them ever complain about a thing; I do thank God for the Miller Mob with which He blessed this man.  All energy and resources were used to pay off our indebtedness and to hold on to the one thing we all wanted to save; the house.  Over the course of time we worked our way out of the giant hole of debt that was created and life hasn’t been too bad since those dark days.

About ten years ago now, I had opportunity to pursue my 1st desire of moving up to a larger and nicer home.  The time was right and the money was available.  The kids were grown and gone but still, I thought they’d back the idea of mom and I moving on up; boy, did I ever get a wake up call.  Two of the kids didn’t say much about the idea of selling the house, but it was obvious they weren’t overly excited about the idea either.  It was our middle child Jeremy who put feelings into words. “Geesh dad, if that’s what you want to do, okay.  It’s just that when ever I come back I feel like I’m coming home; now it’ll just be coming to your house.” Wow, I wasn’t expecting that!  Then a girl out in California whose sisters and her use to spend the summer with us called, “You can’t sell, yours is the only house from my childhood I could close my eyes and walk into every room!”

After these conversations I remember sitting quietly in my chair in my small living room and listening.  I could here the voices and laughter of children, many children.  The amount of kids that came though our doors is almost overwhelming.  All the kids in the neighborhood, all of my children’s friends, Cathy doing Bible club in the summers, for a while we babysat many kids.  As the kids grew older and bigger so did their friends.  With our youngest, Justin, it was football players (Try to fill up a half dozen of those walking buffalos on a Saturday morning breakfast!).  With Jeremy it was musicians and artists.  (We even had a concert in our basement that nearly a hundred kids showed up for!)  Then there was our daughter, Jamie Melissa.  With some kids, they’re bringing home stray cats or dogs; with Jamie it was kids that needed a roof over their head, a meal in their stomach, and kindness when none could be found anywhere else.  (All these years later that’s still one of her biggest hobbies!)  I can’t count the number of times I’d wake up in the morning not knowing how many young people were bedded down in the house. As I mentioned, we had 4 girls that stayed with us a lot from California who became so close we intermingled their name (Kizer) and ours to become the Milzers!  Thinking about all these, plus the people that Cathy and I had over, I made an attempt to count up the many conversations we had in the very room I was now sitting, laughing, crying, and almost always praying with; well, it was more than I could wrap my mind around.  Then there was the important nucleus of this residence, the five Millers ourselves.  This is where we became a family, the only home the kids could remember, the place where loved, fought, grew and learned from each other; I guess I always knew it but on that evening, sitting in my favorite chair in my little front room I put it to words. “This isn’t a house, this is an institution of love; this HOME.”

It was once said “Strength of character may be learned at work, but beauty of character is learned at home.”  I’ll never say my kids are perfect (They have my DNA after all!), but I couldn’t be prouder of how they’ve turned out, guess that all started with a couple of green parents, a loving God we devoted them to and a place they have and can always call home.

Proverbs 24:3-4  By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.  God has made me a rich man in my little house; our home.

Over the course of time we’ve made improvement here, built a garage, added decks front and back, remodeled the basement and so on.  Yep, it may not be much to someone else, but to me and my family it’s the greatest home on earth.

Have no plans on going anywhere. Then again, when I retire in a few years (Good Lord’s will and the creek don’t rise) if someone out there has several acres in eastern Tennessee they might want to swap me even up; let’s say we have lunch!
Enjoy the life God gave you! 🙂


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