After we got married, I moved from the seminary dormitory in Barcelona to the one-bedroom apartment in Geneva my husband had rented since he first arrived in the city as a single man for his new job two years ago.
We were both in our early 30s, excited to start our life and build a family together. My husband had just been laid off from his job at that time, but his insurance allowed him to still have sufficient monthly income for two years. And we had plenty of savings, no debt. I hoped to find a job either in the church or elsewhere.
I’d thought that we would move out this apartment to a bigger one the next year. I’d assumed both of us would have a job by then. Newly-wedded in a foreign country, thousands of miles away from our family members, we underestimated how much we need to learn and navigate to build a strong foundation for our marriage and new family.
Our first baby came before our new jobs. And six months before my husband turned his freelancing into a registered company, our second baby arrived. Over four years after our glamorous outdoor wedding, we still live in the same apartment of 60 sqm, with one bedroom.
I can’t tell you how often I felt like a pressure cooker, waiting to explode at any time. When the baby was crying and the toddler grumbling in a tinny apartment, it felt too much to handle sometimes. I’m not proud to admit that I’d hidden in the bathroom, underneath my blanket in my bed, or the car (thank God for this estate) to catch up with my breath and release the pressure with a good cry.
I dreamed of having a bedroom for my husband and me, a bedroom for my kids so that my daughter doesn’t have to sleep in the living room floor, an office, and preferably, a guest room with a separate toilet.
I complained to God, asking Him why we were still here? Can’t you see that we have far outgrown this small apartment? Why haven’t you provided us with a bigger one?
And I tell you what, because of the challenges and negativities I focused on those days, I was not only feeling miserable but utterly blind to the goodness all around me— the quiet, safe neighbourhood, the elegant garden just outside of my window, the park with a playground and pool, and Lake Geneva, where we get to watch some breathtaking sunset, only 10 mins walk away.
I forgot how privileged I was to live in one of most beautiful countries in the world, raising gorgeous children with my best friend, and free to do the things I love— like writing this blog post and rearranging our apartment to make it work best for our family.
When you look at your life, my friend, what do you notice? Do you see the mess of your house or the curious, beautiful eyes of your children who made the mess? Do you worry about how tight your budget is or appreciate the hot beef stew and cornbread you can still put on the table? Do you complain about the non-stop winter rain preventing you from going outside with your kids or you bake a cake with them and enjoy it with cups of hot cocoa while watching the rain?
When I changed my attitude from complaining to thanksgiving and focus on God’s abundant grace instead of the lack, I started to have more peace and capacity to think constructively and creatively.
What can I do with the apartment we have to serve the people in my life best?
I read interior design books, watched YouTube videos, and made my moves.
I opened the built-in closet in the anteroom— the “half room” on paper, and made it an office.
I ordered a tall bunk bed from Ikea and set it behind our tall wardrobe, which divides the room into two sections to have the space for my husband and me and my son. My daughter’s crib perfectly fit a corner in the living room.
I downsized the TV stand and fit in that nook extra things like a chair and toy boxes.
If you are interested in seeing more photos and knowing more about how I transformed our apartment and made it serve us well, I wrote about the steps and the thinking behind it in depth here.
I’ve grown to appreciate our apartment more and more. It serves us well in this season of life.
Before I was married, I moved a lot and always shared apartment rooms with other girls. I’d never had the chance to design my living space neither did I think I was able to. The result of my effort in redesigning this first home with my husband surprised me and gave me a new passion for homemaking, which taught me that limitation truly is what inspires creativity.
And you know what? When it’s time to move to another apartment, I will be more prepared to tackle it, thanks to what I have learned after changing my attitude and perspective.
You’ve been doing your best to build a life that matters, a safe nest and loving family that you always wish to have. Sometimes, you make mistakes. Sometimes, the circumstance disappoints you and leaves you wanting.
However, I hope my story has encouraged you to lift your eyes from yourself to the people around you and God who created you. Because no matter how deep the pit you are at right now, it’s not too deep that’s beyond any reach. Most of the time, God has already put what you need inside you, and all you need may well be a shift of perspective.