This was a special Share the Love Habitat family shoot for me because I now know what it feels like to be a homeowner. Mark and I recently bought our first home in Durham, NC that we’ll move into in mid-August. Honestly I never understood how owning could be so different from renting, but now that we’ve made the leap, I finally get it.

I could identify with Marquida and her two girls as they looked at their new home with excitement and a sense of belonging. A place they were responsible for and could make into a reflection of their personalities. Just like us, they had lived in small apartments for a long time and didn’t know when or if they’d ever get out.

Marquida is a Sheriff in North Carolina. She works hard to support her girls but with all the costs that go into parenting on one income, she didn’t think she’d ever be able to do more than rent. Habitat for Humanity of Wake County made it possible for Marquida to purchase a house. She pays an affordable mortgage, and she put in many hours of sweat equity while the house was under construction. This is what I love most about Habitat – they reward people who work hard and give them ownership over their property. Many people I know get this assistance with their first home purchase from family, like a wedding gift or inheritance. But when you have no help, and that down payment is unattainable, the idea of paying mortgage insurance and a hefty interest rate seems impossible, I’m sure.

I could tell that Marquida now thought of Habitat as an extension of her family. She knew the men and women that hammered the nails into the house frame and carefully placed the siding on her walls. You could see her trying to put into words the appreciation in her heart, but like many who receive a gift of this kind, that thank you seems too big to comprehend, let alone communicate.

I’d be willing to bet the people at Habitat are more than happy just to see the joy on Marquida’s face and the smiles from her daughters when they run around their new yard and sit on the front steps.