My fiancée Rachel and I bought a house recently. It’s an older home — over 100 years standing — with great character and in a good location. It’s a quick walk from a quaint little downtown, a hop, skip, and a jump from a lake, and is a much shorter work commute for both of us.

I previously owned a townhouse during our courtship, which I had been in the process of purchasing when we first met. Not wanting to start our marriage with two mortgages, I immediately placed my townhouse on the market and was blessed to have it sold within a week — at a profit, no less. That’s something I never thought would happen in just one year of owning it and after I had taken a substantial loss on my previous home during the market crash last decade.

Interestingly, the closing of my townhouse and our new home were the exact same date. Knowing full well that the hassles of selling a home while also buying one, and getting all the paperwork and other logistics done in a timely fashion, doesn’t always work in one’s favor, I was pleased that the stars aligned and worked out so well. I feel blessed that God showered blessings down upon us.

One of my fondest memories of my townhouse was that it was the hub for good bonding between Rachel and me. As I mentioned, I was in the middle of buying the place when we met. The first time Rachel saw the place was at the inspection. I brought her along to get a view of the place we might spend nights curled up on the couch watching movies and the kitchen in which we might have home-cooked dinners. As the inspector was making the rounds checking out all the nooks and crannies and testing everything the layperson knows nothing about, Rachel and I were relaxing on the newly-carpeted living room floor and decided to take a selfie together. To this day, after hundreds of photos, that particular one is still one of my favorite pictures we’ve ever taken together.

The next time Rachel and I were in the townhouse together was the day I officially bought it. After the closing in the afternoon, I drove to the empty house and Rachel and her mother met me there. We popped some champagne and they presented me with some generous housewarming gifts. Rachel bought me a beautiful painting of the Last Supper which I proudly hung in the kitchen above the table. I love that picture, not only for what’s in it but what’s behind it as well.

I bought the townhouse as a foreclosure, but unlike most other foreclosures that are in some kind of distress, this place was newer and in great shape. All it needed was some painting and personal touch.

Rachel’s parents were generous with their time and resources and offered to help me paint my new place. As a young man who was moving out of his parents’ house, I didn’t exactly own an extension ladder that could reach the upper walls of my two-story living room. Plus, drop cloths and paint brushes can be expensive. I was already paying a fortune for the various paints I’d be using in almost every room in the house. I was grateful for the resources.

As Rachel, her parents, and I began the tall task of giving the townhouse a little color, the bonding began in earnest. Rachel and I were only a little over a month into our courtship so I not only was getting to know her parents but obviously a little more about her as well. We spent early mornings on weekends rolling paint and eating doughnuts and late nights after work listening to 80s music on the ol’ boombox. That one night that Rachel and I spent sitting in my empty loft eating pizza — Lou Malnati’s, the best there is — is also one my fondest memories with her.

After the townhouse received a little color, the final piece of the puzzle was filling it up. As I noted, I was moving out of my parents’ house and didn’t exactly have a full set of furniture. Rachel’s parents just happened to have extra furniture lying around and generously offered to let me use them. Think about how gracious an offer that was for parents to loan their daughter’s boyfriend couches, a bedroom set, and various accessories just two months into their relationship.

Once we lugged in the big furniture — another chance for Rachel’s father and I to bond — the place was almost complete. But to transition it from a bachelor pad — a hodgepodge of random things — into a cohesive home, the place needed a little decor and what they call a woman’s touch.

One day I came home from work and entered through the garage to one of the best surprises ever. There was a nice rug beneath my feet instead of the tile floor of the kitchen. There were placemats on the kitchen table, pictures on the freshly-painted walls, and accessories neatly arranged. Rachel proudly led me on the grand tour of the home she worked hard that day to set up. The living room had lamps and couch pillows, a picture of us on the end table, and a coffee table replete with a candle and reading material. The loft upstairs was transformed into a nice little office space with a table for my MacBook, bookcases with my favorite books and movies, and a makeshift filing system for my bills and important documents. The master bedroom looked like a wonderful place to crash after a long day. Another lamp, a plant, a little box to put my valuables, and a nicely-made bed.

It was a nice surprise for Rachel to take the day off work and transition my new place from a house to a home. It capped off a whirlwind experience from an empty, white-walled foreclosure into a cozy, furnished home. Getting from A to Z took a lot of hard work, but the memories and bonding experiences along the way from B to Y are moments etched in time that I’ll remember forever.

Now that Rachel and I have a new house together, we have the opportunity to further detail the story of our lives.

The house is still empty. It needs to be painted and given a deep, thorough cleaning before we move in all our stuff — that which we own, plus all the generous shower gifts we’ve gotten from friends and family. The big move won’t take place until a month from now just before our wedding, so that the house is set up when we move in together after our honeymoon. In the meantime, I’m currently “roughing it” on an air mattress in the guest bedroom with clothes strewn about and a TV sitting on the floor in the corner. Ideal living conditions? Of course not, but that’s the fun of it. It’s something I’ll remember years down the road.

Rachel and I started painting together this week and also spent a half hour dancing in our barren living room, preparing for the first dance on our upcoming wedding day. Much like last year’s pizza dinner in the loft, I already have another favorite moment to add to the memory bank.