Building Our Dream Together

Building Our Dream Together

The inspiring story of how one couple made their dreams come true

Old married couples like Rick and me can get settled in their routines. Take weeknights at our house. Rick's pickup would rumble up the drive around 7:30 p.m. Another long day at his auto shop, and late enough that our 12-year-old, Thomas, the only one of our three kids still at home, and I would've eaten already. I'd zap Rick's dinner in the microwave. He'd come in, give me a kiss, wash up. I'd put his plate on the table. A quick blessing, and he'd dig in. Then it was dishes for me and ESPN for him.

We might chat about Thomas and his upcoming ball game. Otherwise we didn't talk much. Didn't have to, I told myself.

My husband was the strong, silent type, and besides, after 25 years, I should be able to read him like the books I was constantly taking out of the library. Right? Not quite.

"This guy I know has a piece of property out in the woods," Rick said one November night between bites. "You've got to take a look at it. It's perfect."

"For what?" I asked. My hands were busy filling the sink, my mind was on the novel I'd been reading. Maybe now that the kids didn't need me as much, I could start writing a novel of my own.Writing was a dream of mine.

"Our log cabin."

That got my attention. "Rick, what are you talking about?"

"Since we've got some money now, we can build—"

"We've got a great place already." Close to our son's school, our church, Rick's shop. "Anyway, we decided what we're going to do with the money."

It was a small legacy from my grandparents. "We're saving it. College tuition, remember?" Our daughters were still in college, and there was Thomas to consider.

"A creek runs through the land. Thomas would love it," Rick went on as if he hadn't heard a word. "Just think, Julie, our own cabin in the woods...like we've always dreamed."

"C'mon, Rick." Sure, he used to buy those log-home magazines, but all they did was gather dust until I finally tossed them. "We haven't talked about this log cabin thing in years. I didn't even know you were still thinking about it."

"That's why I'm telling you now, Honey," Rick said. He glanced at his watch. "Shoot, the Braves are on already." He stuck his plate in the sink. "Dinner was great. Thanks." He disappeared into the den.

Our log cabin, I thought as I scrubbed the dishes. Just like we've always dreamed.

My mind went back to a brilliant autumn day when I was 15 and Rick, my high school sweetheart, just a year older. He zipped his lime-green Kawasaki motorcycle into the woods. I hung on tight, half scared, half thrilled.

We came across a rustic cabin. We stopped, took in the wraparound porch, the antler railings. "Now this is a home," Rick said. He reached for my hand. "One day we'll have a place like this..."

"...where we can sit on the porch and drink in the beauty all around us," I finished. Rick was fearless in his dreaming, in his faith that God meant for us to have a future together.

And with my hand in his, I felt as sure about our future as he did. Back then it seemed like we knew everything there was to know about each other. Now I had no idea what was on my husband's mind. And he wouldn't know what was on mine because he never asked.

What happened, Lord? Why don't Rick and I connect like we used to? I wondered. With our blessings had come responsibilities. Did our love get dragged down to earth by everyday things? Like the dishes. Bills. Church committees. The kids sports practices.

To connect, we had to talk. Rick wasn't the communicative type, so it was up to me. I finished the dishes and went into the den. Rick looked up from the TV. "About this log cabin," I said. "It's not like you've built a house before."

"Hey, I'm good with tools," he said.

"You are," I conceded. "But—"

"Just come with me, Julie, and check this spot out. You'll see."

"All right." I owed him that.

That Saturday we drove into the woods. Rick led me around the plot, among the hickories and pines.

In my head, I did the math. If we spent all our savings on this land, then we'd have to get a bridge loan for the construction. What if our house didn't sell? Could we pay our mortgage and our loan? I didn't even want to think about how building a new house would cut into the time I hoped to set aside for writing.

"Isn't it beautiful?" Rick said. He pointed to a clump of trees. "That's where our wraparound porch can go."

I opened my mouth, ready to remind him of what could go wrong. Then I saw the wonder in Rick's eyes, the fearless fire that still burned in him.

This was the man I'd fallen in love with. The man I'd trusted my life to when I was only 18. He'd made good on that trust, working hard to provide for our family so I could be a stay-at-home mom like I'd wanted. Maybe it was his turn to do something he'd always wanted.

"Okay, Rick," I said. "I'll do this. For you."

"For us," he corrected me.

"For us," I said.

We went to a log home manufacturer and decided on a model. Three weeks later a cardboard tube arrived by UPS. Our blueprints. I took them out, tried to read them. Nothing doing. "How will all these crisscrossing lines add up to a house? What have you gotten us into?" I practically wailed when Rick got home from the shop.

He calmly spread the blueprints out and showed me where each room would be. "I'll take out the third bedroom," he said, "and put in a computer room that overlooks the den. See?"

"Not really."

"You will," Rick said confidently.

The log company set up the logs, and by spring we had a shell of a house. Now came the really hard labor-filling the shell. Rick would come home from the auto shop, bolt down dinner, then go to work on the cabin, sometimes not crawling into bed beside me until two in the morning. He had to be exhausted, but I hadn't seen him this happy in a long time.

Saturdays he and Thomas were a father-son construction crew. I stayed home, trying to write and not think about all the problems that could crop up with the cabin.

One weekend Rick dragged me to Home Depot. "Let's use these rocks for the kitchen floor."

"Rick, you'd have to polish them. How about slate tiles?" I asked. "Still rustic, but easier to clean."

Rick nodded. "I guess we should be practical."

Had I really heard that? "Now for the master bathroom," he said. We strolled through the aisles in the bath section.

"Look at that tub!" I exclaimed. "With claw feet, just like the one my grandma had. I love it."

"Then that's what we'll get."

"Really?"

"Sure. It's your house too, Julie."

So why couldn't I feel good about it? Even as I marked our progress—framing up, flooring installed, plumbing in, electricity working—I kept worrying. What if our current house didn't sell? What if it sold but the price didn't cover our building costs? What if? What if?

One Saturday about 10 months into building, I packed a picnic lunch and took it to the site. I found my husband perched at the top of a 20-foot ladder, hanging a tongue-and-groove ceiling.

"Rick!" I said, feeling like I had been riding on the back of his motorcycle.

"Don't worry, I'm careful." He climbed down. "Come on, I'll take you on a tour."

He showed me the slate tiles in the kitchen. The wood-burning stove. The antler railing on the staircase. The space where the clawfoot tub would go.

"This is amazing, Rick. The way you've made everything come together."

"Didn't I promise I would?"

"I—" I was ashamed to admit it. "I guess I wasn't listening."

I spread out a blanket and we had our picnic on the unfinished floor. I thought about how I wished Rick and I could connect like we used to.

I'd pegged my husband as the uncommunicative type, but hadn't he, in his own quiet way, been reaching out, telling me what he was thinking? Showing me through his actions, if not his words. Wasn't building this home his way of communicating?

Maybe it was me who was stuck in a routine. I get it now, Lord, I thought. Talking is important, but so is listening. Help me do more.

We sold our house in February and moved into the cabin the day before Valentine's Day. Rick led me up the steps of our wraparound porch and took me on another tour.

The thought he'd put into every detail! The shelves that were the perfect spot for my grandfather's train collection, the weathered horse collar he'd turned into a frame for our bathroom mirror. On the third floor we walked into a loft overlooking the den.

"This is for you," he said.

"What do you mean?" I could have sworn this was the spot Rick marked as the computer room.

"There's space for all your books and the computer. And here's a window so you can look out at the trees. This is your writing loft, Julie."

Tears came to my eyes. Maybe Rick hadn't come right out and asked what mattered to me, but he'd been paying attention. Far better than I had. "Honey, you planned this all along?"

"From the very beginning," he said.

I reached for my husband's hands, calloused from all the work he'd done, and held them tight. "Thank you, Rick, for building our dream house."

What if? What if we found our dream... together.

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