The tough real estate market is more than just a news story to me. I’ve had my house on the market for five weeks and had no showings. Over the weekend, I had my second open house since putting my home up for sale. No one came.

I cleaned this place as if the Queen Mother herself was stopping by, though. I shampooed carpets, mopped floors, put away stacks of books. I even dusted. It’s a funny thing about putting a house up for sale; I almost feel like a guest in someone else’s house.

That’s what I think every time I mow the lawn. I make lap after lap around the yard, passing the “For Sale” sign with each rotation, and I am reminded that this is a temporary arrangement now. I look longingly at the perennials that have sprung up along the back fence, at the blueberry bushes out front, at my raised bed gardens that I built myself a year ago, and I imagine someone else there hoeing and pruning and harvesting.

Sometimes, it makes me want to stay.

I’ll just call my Realtor and tell him I’ve changed my mind, I say to myself. It must happen all the time, people who plan to move and then don’t. I’ll just stay here, figure out a way to get some help with all the outside work. Enjoy the fruits of my labor.

With no one showing up at my open house, that may happen whether I choose it or not.

But then there are days when I see the chipped paint on the laundry room floor and the cracked window in the bedroom, when I look out at my unmowed lawn and can practically see the grass growing right before my eyes as it continues to rain, and I want nothing more than to move on, to live in a better place.

Every decision about the house ends up as a prediction about what the “new owners” would want. Should I bother painting the closet doors? No, because the new owners might like them unpainted. Should I purchase new toilet seats? No, because the new owners will just buy new ones anyway.

Having my house up for sale has highlighted the tension of living in two places at once or the danger of not really living in either.

It’s not my first experience living this way, though.

Every day I wake up and find myself still living on earth, bound here by flesh and blood. But as a Jesus-believer, I am actually a citizen of heaven. Even more acutely then selling my house, this dual residency of heaven and earth creates an unsettling tension in my life.

Some days, I look around longingly at my family and friends, the amazing art and culture I have access to, all the books I want to read, even chocolate, and I want to stay on earth forever. Even in those dark days of cancer when I felt life might be slipping away, this world and its simple pleasures became so valuable to me.

During those same dark days, though, when the pain and nausea were unbearable, or times like last week when I heard of beheadings and rapes and children going to bed hungry on the news, I could barely stand to be here in this world. I know there is a better place. Why can’t I just go there and be with Jesus?

But the danger is that I’ll stay too settled, or always be longing, or vacillate so wildly between the two that I end up in the worst position of all: not really living for Jesus in either world.
Amazingly — and by “amazingly” I mean amazing grace — I haven’t stressed out too badly about the flux of being between homes as I wait for the housing market to loosen up. I’m supposed to keep the house “show ready” at all times. In reality, I’m probably at 75%. But I’m also developing a plan for staying; I’m in the process of hiring some teenage boys to help me with the yard work even if just for this one summer.

And whether I sell my house or now, it won’t hurt to plant a garden this weekend, will it? Surely someone will be here to pick the tomatoes.

Maybe the new owners?

Or maybe even me.