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John Houston discusses “Finding My Way Home”

Rough Going

John Houston’s custom home company builds more than 600 homes every year in Dallas/Ft. Worth and Waco, Texas. He says he drives by dozens of signs every day which remind him of what he does, but not who his is. Throughout his 20-year career building homes for others, his prayer has been that the occupants would have what he didn’t as an adolescent: a loving, intact family home.  

On a Sunday afternoon when he was 11, his family returned home from a vacation, and his parents called them all together to announce their divorce. John was blindsided. “My head was like WHAT??  The words didn’t make sense.  What did they mean ‘divorce’?” He can’t recall his parents ever arguing, and the family went to church three times a week. What he didn’t yet know was that his father was involved with a woman at church. John and his siblings were asked to choose right then which parent they’d live with: their mom, who would move, or their dad, who would stay in the house. John and his brother, Mike, 15, chose their dad, while their sister, Cora, 12, moved with their mom. John’s dad married the other woman three months later, who moved in with her two children. The arrangement was fraught with tension for everyone, so John’s dad and his new family soon moved out, leaving the boys on their own. “We basically lived with little-to-no adult supervision. No aunts or uncles or foster parents or anything like that.”

Both their mom and dad checked on them regularly.  Amazingly, John says he never felt abandoned, or scared, and always believed in their love for him. He and Mike had been raised to be self-reliant, proven by their working extremely hard in a lawn care business that Mike set up. The brothers got up at dawn, mowed lawns before school, and then went straight to work again afterward. “We stayed in school, went to church, started a business, later moved into a townhouse apartment, and avoided giving in to most of the temptations that teenage boys face,” John recounts. “It sounds crazy looking back on it, but nobody called the state or the county social services to check to us.”  When Mike married five years later, they brother still worked together, but 16-year-old John lived completely on his own.  

Seeing God's Fingerprints 

Looking back after many years as a believer, John is able to see his rough early years through a different lens. He says God provided many people to help: neighbors looked out for them, a kind man at church invited John to sit with his family every week, and when John was 18, a couple he knew hired him, loved him, and provided many of his needs. A year later, John started dating a girl from church; Tracy Miller was just 15. Before long, her parents, impressed by John’s character and work ethic, and sensing his need for a family, invited him to live with them.  John accepted. “I had never seen a family function as theirs did. Their model, as much as any experience in my life, prepared me to be a godly husband and father and to come to know God as a true heavenly Father.” John and Tracy married halfway through her senior year of high school. A year later, however, a crisis occurred that made it difficult to see God’s love for a long time. His mother, who had struggled greatly with alcoholism and depression, took her own life.   

Redeeming the Pain

He and Tracy stopped going to church and tithing. Her parents kept encouraging them to return and find comfort in the Lord. Finally, solely to appease them, John agreed to go. He distinctly remembers God speaking to his heart that morning. “Son, I love you and I’ve given you time to mourn. Now it’s time for you to make a decision about whether you’re going to follow me or not. A true healing began in my heart and I started to understand God’s love more than if I hadn’t gone through that process,” John states. He was 23, and says it was then he believes he was actually saved and began trusting and seeking the Lord like never before.

Another major redemptive work occurred many years later in John’s life, when his son, Austin, was 15, acting rebelliously, and wanted nothing to do with God. The Lord impressed upon John that he had led his family more by law than love and that he needed to learn how to love each one. While this was discouraging, even maddening at the time, John leaned into God all the more, and did all He showed him to do. One of those things was taking his son to a Beach Goth concert in California to show Austin he cared about whatever interested him. Though John hated that kind of music and believed it was destructive to his son’s thought life, the effort bore fruit. He found that taking several days just to show genuine interest in his son made all the difference in learning how to love him as he was, not as John wished he were. As he continued to do that, their strained relationship healed in time and today John describes it as loving and healthy.  In fact, Austin lives in the house next door!  

John knows as well as anyone that life is hard and often painful. He wants all believers to come the place of putting God first, learning how to love Him and others, and trusting Him to redeem their pain for His higher purposes. He’s says it’s like God working the fields of our hearts to produce good fruit.  

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