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11/07/2005

SOLD

We drove past the shaded stone mansions, their long driveways curving through crested iron gates and over sloped green manicured lawns, racing our way towards the title company's office to sign the papers before our minds changed. We arrived late and frantic. I'd forgotten my license and panicked wondering if we'd be allowed to close on our house without it, and secretly hoped we wouldn't. Maybe just a day's delay would bring us to our senses - I thought. One more late night conversation with Becky might uncover a never-before-thought-of reason for backing out, for staying put in this mansion of our own. Maybe Becky, in those few extra hours a delay would give us, could concoct a brilliantly persuasive argument for keeping our dream home and not downsizing, some kind of an argument with the phrase "for the children" in it, something I could lightly struggle against before caving into agreement.

But there was no delay. And no new arguments from Becky. Amazon.com, I was told, where my CDs are listed for sale - that's proof enough of who I am. "That doesn't seem like proff enough. I don't even look my CD cover," I argued, but they wouldn't listen. So, gathered around a mahogany table littered with papers and folders, Becky and I signed our house over to another couple, the house we designed and built and moved into just over a year ago.

Then those papers were packed up and carried out in a bulging binder by an assistant dressed in black, like a pallbearer shouldering off a loved one. Then more papers and more folders arrived and more signatures deeded a new house over to us. It's a smaller home carpeted in teal green shag at the moment. All of its cabinets don't open. The list of small repairs and patches our inspector thinks need to be done is five pages long. Mildew has grown over patches of its vinyl siding and sidewalk. Gutters have come unbolted from the roof line in spots and the dishwasher leaks through the floor and into the crawl space below. Two large dogs have periodically urinated on the floors for years, chewed chunks of trim away from doorways and scratched the backdoor windows until they can't be seen through anymore. It's perfect - I think - somedays I think. It's just enough house for us. Kids will share rooms. We'll bathe in a smaller tub. No space will be unused. And in time we'll make it look and feel like home. Until then it needs work. And I need confirmation that this whole downsizing thing is a good idea.

So on the silent drive back from the title company, the papers signed, the deal done and my stomach cramping with remorse, I asked Becky, "Is this a big mistake?" "We don't need it," she smiled squeezing my hand as we wound back through the wide avenues flanked by stone mansions and green manicured lawns. "I guess so," I said after a lengthy pause.

And I think I mean that. I think I believe her. But man, I'm gonna miss my bathtub.

27 Comments:

Blogger Fruitcake said...

When you first mentioned your decision to downsize, I told my mom about it and read your blog to her. Her response the same as mine: "Wow." You've made me wish I had big and bigger things just so I could give them up to give more. And I keep thinking about what change will take place after my Compassion trip in February....

11/07/2005  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

Shaun,

You are doing the right thing. Not because Becky says so, not because you put a lot of thought into it, or struggled with your decision, but because you know that God told you it was the right thing. Obedience is never easy. Your kids won't care that the house is smaller, that they share rooms or that some toys may be harder to find because they're packed away, or perhaps gone for good. What will matter to them is that this new house is just like the old one. It is a home filled with love; with a mom and a dad who know how to play and laugh and learn and make them feel safe and secure. With friends and family near by to share in the good times and the bad. They will "get it," because you both have taught them well.

Beth

11/07/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the pastors in my church just changed houses two weekends ago, for much the same reasons. Seven years ago he was a 33-year-old atheist, a structural engineer and making not too far from six figures and spending more than he made even then.

He first attended our church for our series "Don't Check Your Brain at the Door", which examined tough questions people have of Christianity. Within a couple of months, he'd had enough questions answered and chose to believe.

In the past seven years he and his family have been regular church attenders. He switched back to a previous job making less money but giving him more time to spend with his family. He bought a cheap used ones to stop making payments on a new one. He later cut his hours, giving him Mondays off so he could start attending seminary.

And now he's moved into a smaller and much cheaper rent house to save even more money, so that in nine months, he and his wife and two kids can travel to India for two years to work as full-time missionaries.

We'll miss him while he's gone. But though he has fewer toys, he's living God's call for his life.

Bravo, Shaun. As one of my college pastors used to say, "May your tribe increase."

Graham Mitchell, computer science teacher-slash-undercover missionary at Leander High School

By the way, my brother lives in Longview, TX, and I went to high school in Overton, TX (near Kilgore).

11/07/2005  
Blogger Nancy Tyler said...

You've not just freed up money and time for ministry and for family needs; you've become more accessible.

The surrender of your mansionette is a surrender to God to be used even more broadly on the home front--in a neighborhood less about celebrity (bet you won't have a famous author across the street here)and more about just living day to day and hopefully a little more open to kids and grownups running across each other's lawns and sharing chats on the front steps.

This is also something that will help you connect better with the people you're already ministering to--from the pulpit or from the music stage. I remember the reactions from faithful fans after your previous post with pictures of your home. I could sense this gap--this "wow you live there? i feel small now" awe that added a space between the connections. Now the space is closing. You've gone back to being more part of the "one of us" world.

The big house "made sense" for a growing family, coming from your first, smaller, "Welcome Home" house. And buying it was the expected thing to do. You get to a certain point in the music industry, you need to show signs of your success. Or so they tell me, emphatically, when I ask "Why do you live on this gated hill?"

Tall man, I grieve with you for your bathtub. But I'm rejoicing with you and Becky for the greater treasure you've just gained...pukey green shag carpet and all.

n

11/08/2005  
Blogger Mustard Packet Pelter said...

Here's an extra pep-talk to go along with all the others...It's going to work out fine! The tub should be the least of your worries. You'll still have your wife, your kids, and all your friends. It will feel somewhat like home once you move in. I say somewhat because you have to re-learn your way around in the dark. Suddenly remembering that there's a door there just as you step into it in the dark and....wait this isn't helping is it?

Just trust me, everything is going to work out, and you'll be glad you went with the shaggy green carpet and the smaller bathtub. You're a brave, smart, funny, great guy, Shaun Groves, and you can do this!

11/08/2005  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Thanks for the "pep talks" but seriously, I'm not needing them...today, anyway. The odd thing about writing creatively for me, whether blogs or songs, is that I exaggerate feelings and experiences to make them more entertaining or interesting or enlightening or - hopefully - humorous to others. I'm not sad. A little buyer's remorse is all. OK, a lot of buyer's remorse. But that's normal stuff. Change, especially change that involves money and relocating, is a little stressful. Moving is one of the top three stresses they say. (In America where our stresses are pretty pansy anyway.) Add to the normal moving stuff the reality that a lot of our stuff won't fit anymore. So we're packing and tossing simultaneously and, hey, I need that gnome collection - put that down!

Seriously, thanks for the support but it's bordering on attempts to talk me off a ledge I'm just not on right now. By focussing on the moments just after the closing I'm to blame for painting a picture of doubt and worry but that's a momentary and small feeling, as is envy of those big houses and the love of large bathtubs. The dominant feeling in me is one of progression, evolution backwards.

I never bought this big house because of status. I bought it because I wanted my kids to have their own rooms. I wanted to have an office. I wanted hardwood floors so our allergies wouldn't kill us. I wanted trees. Becky wanted a dining room and a playroom for the kids. I wanted a basement to turn into a studio someday. We wanted a deck to have parties on.

Thing is our kids hung out in one room. I don't have the money or desire or need for a studio anymore. Our dining room is unfurnished and never needed. The kids don't like playing in the playroom when they could play under our feet instead. We never throw parties and we'd rather sit in the yard in folding chairs than sip tea on the deck overlooking the pond. The pond smells too btw and breeds mosquitos.

We moved here because it had many of the things we thought we needed, but that was before ElSalvador and many other experiences convincing us we had more than what we needed and there are many people in the world who need life our money can buy them. And it will, in time, after the shag carpet is replaced.

SG

11/08/2005  
Blogger Dave Haupert said...

Shaun,

You don't know how timely your postings have been for me. A few months back when you posted your blog titled 'Enough', my wife and I were just starting to get similar feelings ourselves about our house/farm. While we're loving where we live, we do find it weighs heavy on our hearts- the fact that nearly every dollar we make goes into this home and the care of it, and that we are so burdened by the work in keeping it.

I think your posting for us was part of the work of the Holy Spirit, and it was just the beginning of a long set of months of deliberation and prayer. Until just a few weeks ago, we were still on the fence.

Then came hurricane Wilma.

Not only was the damage to our home fairly significant, but the time I spent prepping our house for the hurricane (putting up shutters on 45 windows, etc) I couldn't help but think I wish I could be free to help out the people who don't have shutters to put up, or single mom's who don't have any help with their shutters. I am continually feeling that 'Enough' is too much, what was enough for us was too much to bear and weighed us down to the point of having nothing else to give to anyone else.

So here we are with the solid decision to put our house for sale. Of course, with that comes doubt and wondering if we're really sure (like you, we designed and built this house and our kids love it here). So I'm thankful to open up my RSS feeds and discover this posting today, to see that you too have wrestled with second thoughts and have stayed the course. Thanks for sharing those open and honest thoughts with us all.

11/08/2005  
Blogger Kathryn said...

Good for you.

11/08/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you wondered if the kids in el salvador knew what you were doing if they would think you are crazy for giving up a house that they would consider the greatest blessing of their life if they had an opportunity to have. (not the greatest sentence) I am sure you have asked this question so I am interested in your response. I have thought of doing the same thing that you are doing and Dave is probably going to do. I hope im not sounding like a materialistic you-know-what here but i guess I am wondering about that fine line of obedience and sacrifice. My dilema lies in actually buying our first house rather than downsizing.

Great stuff as usual.

Seth

11/08/2005  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

I wish there was a set of pre-approved blueprints and budgets in the back of my bible, stuck between maps of Paul's missionary journeys and diagrams of Christ's family tree. That would make life much easier, but also less character forming and dependence creating. I'd pray less, that's for sure. I'd skip examining my motivations a priorities and stop looking around myself for those with greater needs than mine. I'd simply turn to the back, to those reference materials, pick out a house plan that I liked and build it to specifications. I'd organize my money according to the ancient example budgets back there as well. No thought. No questioning. And no maturing as a result.

Seth, I can't say what you need to have. Truth is, even after downsizing I have more than I need. But having less than I did will hopefully enable me in time to give others more of what they need. I have learned this about wealth though, and I hope it gives you and others something to ponder and wrestle with: I don't believe how much I earn matters to God. God gives wealth, the bible says. Having a great deal of money isn't a sin. Keeping it is. That's a harsh statement I know. It's nothing we're likely to hear at church, that's for sure, or the rich guys would leave and the church budget wouldn't be met. But I do believe it's the truth. Everything that comes to me is on it's way to someone else. I, like Abraham, have been blessed to be a blessing to all nations. And so have you. The trick is figuring out, with fear and trembling and much soul searching and prayer, how much to pass on and how much to keep. I think I can give more and this house thing is one step in that direction. There will be others, because, oddly, giving turns out to be as addictive as getting. Odd. It's becomes a game to figure out what we can give away and how little we can live on. Coupon shopping has taken on a holy purpose! Sales are sanctified now! It's actually fun to spend less when we know someone else is getting the benefit of our savings.

So, should you buy this house or that? I don't know. Should you meet the needs of others and live your life to make earth as perfect and painless as Heaven now? yes. If your answer to number one gets in the way of number two, go back to one and choose differently. That's what we did. We're trying to live by the second question and not the first. And, honestly, we're just beginners at it with many more changes to make. We're just now waking up from the American dream.

SG

11/08/2005  
Blogger Drew said...

Shaun, your post was so timely. Today in chapel at my school, the preacher spoke about money, and love of money, and so many other ideas that tie in with what you've been talking about in regards to downsizing. I love how God uses all these different avenues to drive His message into my heart. Thanks for your thoughtful, prayerful, faithful example of obedience. By that way, the end of your last comment reminds me of a song by Derek Webb:
"i repent, i repent of my pursuit of america's dream
i repent, i repent of living like i deserve anything
of my house, my fence, my kids, my wife
in our suburb where we're safe and white
i am wrong and of these things i repent"

11/08/2005  
Blogger Nancy Tyler said...

Hey! Mine was not a pep talk. I didn't say "poor baby" once. LOL

I'm not feeling pity for your situation, to be honest...except maybe concerning that bathtub. LOL

I know I've said it around these parts before, but the family who owned the drafty old 1,400 square foot house before I did raised seven kids and numerous dalmatians there. The cramped quality of a house that could not possibly hold them--except that it did--drove the family out onto their lawn and into the neighborhood. People still come up to me years after they moved, to tell me about the impact that that chaplain's family had on them. I'm confident you and your family will do just as well.

Now, the thing about writers--not just you, but all of us crazed keyboard huggers--is that we are benevolent manipulators: yanking on emotions, stretching the retelling of momentary events and spinning and tugging at words as if we were pulling taffy, to move readers to think or to learn to laugh, to ache or to act. And sometimes, wonder of wonders...they do. :)

n

11/08/2005  
Blogger Fruitcake said...

I'm posing a question...what do you (and the rest of you readers) think about churches (as in the organized group of people who meet in a building(s) and have sign out front with what word from the Bible they like + their denomination + "church") adding on and adding on to their facilities rather than investing those humongo funds to missionaries and those in need to further the gospel and be the hands of Christ?

11/08/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, that helped.

Seth

I started thinking about this when Amber and I took on a compassion kid at the same time shopping for a home. I have to say, the whole experience of picking out a child, to support, although very meaningful, was kinda surreal. I could not help but ponder the circumstances. A bunch of wealthy people in a zillion dollar building, flipping through the cards almost shopping for the child that they would give a little dab from of their giant incomes. I wondered if it was in some way a means of passifying our guilty consciences. ( Or it was Gods way of tearing off a shingle and letting us see a little bit of ourselves.) I had the biggest desire, and i am sure others did also of taking the whole remaining stack and supporting them all. That desire almost caused me to put back my card out of an overwhelming sense of hypocrisy.

It is a tough dilema, and there is something that rings very true about it your response in words and actions that make it seem less tough. I mean crap, i dont even have kids yet.

Watching you go through it helps to make sense of what to do.
Seth

11/08/2005  
Blogger ks said...

Fruitcake, it's hard to watch churches get big. I started going to my church when it was at 200 people. Now, eight years later, it's at 2000. it's not our fault! People just keep coming. We keep adding new missionaries (five in the last year, I think), finding new ways to use our resources, but it seems the more we do that, the more people want to come to the church! It's a sick paradox. But, as our late pastor always said, the main thing is Jesus Christ. And the number of people who are at a church aren't as important as what their hearts are receiving inside of those doors, and giving outside of them.
I hate the idea of huge churches. I really, really do. But there is a use for them, if they are responsible stewards of what God gives them. The resources available within a church of our size (and bigger) can be used to reach out to the community and the world, and for that I'm glad.

And if I weren't part of a church that is growing exponentially, I'd probably be really critical of expanding buildings. But as long as there is spiritual growth there, where people are being eqipped to go into the world and be true believers, there isn't a lot of complaning I can do.

11/08/2005  
Blogger Toby said...

Shaun,

I can tell you from experience that you can live fairly well on very little. It just takes practice and God's grace. My wife and I found out abruptly when our yearly income was cut by 2/3 5 years ago. It was a crazy and sobering smack into reality, but we have happily lived below the US poverty level for 5 years with our 3 children. We don't get financial assistance or food stamps, and we are responsible for our bills. Still we have excess. What I discovered is that when all the "stuff" becomes "stuff" rather than wants or "needs," a little goes a long way. I even get to have stuff like 2 cars, 2 laptops, tv and broadband; I just have to practice delayed gratification. It really comes down to how you see things. My wife and I have agreed, and it sounds like you have is well, that if God gave it, he gave it so we can minister to others.

11/08/2005  
Anonymous kat said...

Shaun,
Well done. Few people actually walk out their convictions. I applaud your decision, your follow through and your transparency to the rest of us.

I have one area in which I disagree, though:

"Having a great deal of money isn't a sin. Keeping it is."

I've been wondering if this is really true. I don't think it's a sin to be wealthy. I think that some people are called to be rich (though far fewer than those who actually are wealthy and live a wealthy lifestyle). Frankly, I'm not likely to ever meet Bill Gates or Steve Jobs and even if I do they're not likely to listen to things I have to say. However, if one of their peers approaches them and shares God's love, they're more apt to be heard.
I think the important thing is that we love God and people more than money and that money is used only as a tool to bless God and others. I think that the greater issue is just listening to God more than our peers.

Thoughts?

11/08/2005  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Now, how do you disagree exactly? I'm not clear. I'd love to talk about it though. Sounds like there may be something I can learn from you. Explain it again please: How do you disagree with the statement that having wealth (earning lots of money each year for work rendered) is not a sin but spending it all on yourself is. Hit me.

By the way, this is a theory. I can put some scripture to it but it's still very wet cement in my brain. Carve it up. Help me get solid on this.

SG

11/08/2005  
Blogger smb said...

shaun, after reading about your palace and your new non-palace, a friend of mine and i were wondering if you would give us the addresses of the two just so we can see the difference in the two of them, i know this might be giving up a little bit of anonymity but you don't really seem like that kind of guy. so yeah lemme know thanks man.
smb

11/08/2005  
Blogger Paula said...

Seth,

I remember when I signed up for my first compassion child - soon after I got my first job after graduating. My friend (who was the Compassion rep), asked me to pick which one I wanted.

Even to this day, I still find that request unsettling. How could I choose? Is one more needier than the other? Should I pick this one because she's a Girl, or because she has a cute smile? I felt sick - and all because I'd been asked to "pick" a child.

So I told the rep to do it for me. (He picked Elisabeth, a little girl from Equador)

Since then, that child has now become independent of the Compassion program. When that happened, I received a phone call from Compassion to let me know - and it made me both sad (that I wasn't sponsoring her anymore) and happy (that she didn't need me to sponsor her anymore) at the same time.

When Compassion asked me if I wished to take on another child, I jumped at the chance, and I've now been sponsoring Antoniche for around 7 years. He turned 12 in January. (And I didn't pick him. I just asked for one who'd been on the list the longest).

For me, sponsoring a child is not a way to appease my conscience. Sponsoring a child is my way of impacting one child's life for the better. I mean, what's $40 to me? It's a CD or a cheap night out with the girls. But to Antoniche, it's schooling. It's food. It's a chance to realise a life that may never have existed for him before.

(sorry, just my 2c!)

Paula

11/08/2005  
Anonymous anna said...

i still miss my mirror from my old house...:(

11/08/2005  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

I actually miss my bathtub from my old house too. It was a very small house (980sq.ft.) for 6 people but the tub was standard Brit. Narrow (a bit) but longer and it was great to fill with very hot water and just relax!

Beth

11/08/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paula,

Actually, i hope my post did not imply that we regret sponsoring a child. I was the circumstances that surrounded the sponsoring that seemed a bit surreal for me. Their is no doubt that the Compassion program is wonderful. I just felt at the time so selfish and strange looking at pictures of a children thousands of miles away living impoverished lives all from the comfort of a very expensive new church building surrounded by a parking lot filled with cars that averaged 37,000 and up. Not being critical of people with expensive cars, it just seemed something was out of place or maybee finally something was in place.

What if I were on of the ones overlooked because I did not connect with the shopper. It is hard to say anything about all this without sounding like i am being critical of Compassion. I am really not, i am being most critical of myself. Every person that took a child home did a good thing. I have no doubt of that. I was simply the first real step into something new, and that first step sometimes can be painful because you look back on you life and wonder what the h-e-double hockey sticks you have been thinking. Or more importantly who have i been thinking about.

Really boiled down to being a guilt issue.
Seth

11/09/2005  
Anonymous kat said...

Shaun,
Let me start out by saying that I generally agree with you and I think that at the heart of it all we're on the same page. I just don't think that having or keeping wealth is necessarily a sin. I think that gluttony is a sin. I think that selfishness is a sin. I don't think that having wealth or lavish things is a sin. This isn't written in stone, it's just something that's been on my heart lately.

I was home a couple of weeks ago watching TV and a show called "My Super Sweet 16" was on MTV. It sounded interesting and as I watched it my heart broke. I literally spent most of the show praying for the girl while I watched it. Her parents spent $250,000 on her 16th birthday party. Money is all they've ever given her. She was so vapid, so immature, so empty that it was almost gut wrenching to watch because I could see through the green camoflauge she put up around her and I saw how insecure and desperate she was. On the outside, though, she had it all and I'm sure most of the people watching the show aspired to be her. But if this girl ever lost her money she would truly have nothing because her parents have filled every void with money.

I continue to pray regularly for that girl. The show impacted me deeply and I began to wonder if the "Rich and Famous" are some of the most unreached people. My circles would never intertwine with theirs. I'm sure they'd never visit my little house in a neighborhood with too many cars on the street. Going on a mission trip to Beverly Hills isn't often talked about. Not at my church anyway. I don't imagine bodyguards would let me hand out tracts at the Emmy's. Who ministers to these people?
I don't know, but I have to wonder if God has called certain believers to be wealthy. Not to horde or be selfish but to give them access to people who need to know about Him just as much as the poverty stricken in El Salvador. It's the heart - not the pocketbook that matter. Some people may be wealthy with the sole intent to reach or help others.

Perhaps we mean the same thing and it was just your wording that misled me. Or perhaps we do disagree and I'd love to learn from your opinion. I don't have any Bible verses to back this up, but I can't help but think it's true.

Here's another thought. Who is to say what wealth is? How poor must I be? I think it's just as much a sin for a millionaire to spend $250,000 out of selfishness as it is for a homeless person to spend $2 out of selfishness. I think that God cares more about the heart and what ones heart longs for more than the number of digits in their bank account.

I too just want to learn and figure all of this out. Would you share those verses and more of your thoughts on this?

Kat

11/09/2005  
Blogger Paula said...

Kat, thankyou for sharing that.

Seth, I understand where you're coming from, and that is one of the many reasons why I sponsor Antoniche. I don't think that I'm sponsoring out of guilt though, as guilt comes from condemnation. I sponsor my child out of a conviction that I have a responsibility to other people in the world. I can't help everyone, but I can help one person, and maybe more later on. I doubt that I'll ever go (on mission) to a nation such as Antoniche's, but with Compassion, I have an opportunity to impact one boy's life, his family and his community in a way I never thought possible.

I hope I haven't harped on too much...I'm very passionate about my Compassion child!!

Paula

11/09/2005  
Blogger smb said...

...or not its cool man

11/10/2005  
Anonymous Kat said...

Shaun,
I know you just moved and you'll need a few days to thaw out after your trip North, but I'd still like to hear your thoughts on my comment when you get a chance.

kat

11/19/2005  

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