From Shanty to Manor of Happiness

By Steve Dragon

Just before our youngest son was born in the summer of 1994, we were inspired to move into Beckie’s old family home in Farmington, Utah, the very one she was raised in her entire life. It was a little house started in the 1930s, constructed in phases over forty years with part wood frame, part adobe, and part thin prefabricated panels, later covered with asbestos siding. By the time we moved in, it had grown to a spacious (not!) 950 square feet.

The living room was made of a cement slab floor with prefab panel walls and ceiling, the latter being old enough that it was sagging a couple of inches in the middle. The bathroom was four feet by nine feet with a 4’x4’ shower, plus a small vanity and a toilet. Just outside the bathroom was the clothes washer that required us to put a 2” diameter steel pipe into the toilet so there was somewhere for the washer to drain. The kitchen/dining room floor was covered with indoor/outdoor carpet on which we could often see fresh slug trails in front of the kitchen sink in the morning.

The house had three bedrooms, one of which was accessed only by walking through the one we used as our master bedroom. That master bedroom was big enough for our queen bed with a foot and a half of walking space on each side and an aisle of less than three feet between the foot of the bed and the front of the dresser, which aisle also served as access to the smallest bedroom/home office. For about half of the six years we lived in the house, the largest of the three bedrooms was used as the kids’ room where we had two bunk beds, each having a double mattress on the bottom and a twin on top, occupied by six kids: two girls and four boys, ranging in age at the end of this experience from five years to fourteen years.

I’m pretty sure Beckie still considers these six years as the most miserable and challenging of our many years together.

We had considered remodeling the house but decided after uncovering the condition of the structure that it wouldn’t be cost-effective. When we expressed our frustration to our hometeacher at the time, he decided to help us do something about it. With his efforts initiating the process, we got approval from the city to live in the old existing home while we built a new house behind it. I designed a new house myself and produced a complete set of construction documents. We applied for and got a construction loan, which I suspect, based on our financial situation at the time, was facilitated by certain people pulling some strings. (During the course of all this, Beckie’s family deeded us the property as her portion of the family inheritance, which is partly what made the construction loan possible.) And finally, our hometeacher arranged to have many volunteers from our ward and stake help us build the new home.

There were untold blessings associated with the entire experience, only a very few of which were:

  • The fact that I had “coincidentally” worked for a high-end residential architect for a few months prior to this process where I learned how to design my own house and produce construction documents.
  • Having a construction contractor in our ward volunteer, for very minimal compensation, with both time and heavy construction equipment, acting as our general contractor.
  • Having so many other wonderful and capable, even professional and experienced, people as volunteers who donated lots of time and materials, including concrete for footings and foundation.
  • Having a good and faithful bishop who was inspired to counsel us to downsize the house, feeling that we would eventually lose it, and this after we got the original design already built up to the subfloor. It was subsequently, through inspiration, redesigned from a two-story home of over 2800 square feet to a single-level home of less than 1600 square feet on the same footprint.
  • Having so much help that we were able to construct the entire redesigned house, including many tools I needed, with the construction loan we qualified for.

This whole experience was probably the greatest blessing we have experienced in our married life. We knew our moving into the old house was inspired of the Lord, but it was a most difficult time for our family. What a wonderful and glorious time of joy and elation to move into the new house upon completion and have the old one destroyed and hauled away!

I didn’t know it then, but definitely do now: every adversity is accompanied by an equal and opposite blessing.


For more on this topic, click here to read Hidden Treasures: Heaven’s Astonishing Help with Your Money Matters FREE.

Steve Dragon
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