Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Housing History and Future

SO where to begin? Doesn't it seem like when you really want a baby and cannot, for the life of you, get pregnant, all of a sudden every woman around you is practically bursting with fertility? I'm talking friends, family members, coworkers, random women on the street, people on tv, some women who didn't even want to get pregnant. And you're trying so hard to be patient, not to be jealous or bitter, to share in their joy and still stay optimistic for yourself. Well that's what buying a house was for me.

I hit desperation much harder 2 years ago. I was ready, had been ready. My husband had completed his degree and damnit, a year later we were in the same place; nothing had changed. BUT I WAS READY!  I really felt like this was the right time. But the last thing I wanted to do was make a lateral move- from renting one place to another. So I bought a third kitten (it was not my intention, but I think maybe subconsciously, it factored in), packed up our entire house and told management that we would not be renewing our lease for a 5th year. Then we started looking. We looked at houses we couldn't afford. Then I got attached to a townhome we might have been able to swing. Although, remembering the community fees, maybe not. Anyway, we put in offers and were jerked around while the owner used us to increase a competing offer.

At that point, I felt like the floor was pulled out from under me. Our place wasn't safe anymore so we really couldn't have stayed. I felt panicked. I lowered my standards, and we started looking at places to rent. We couldn't afford another townhome in the area, so now we were going to be taking a step back and downgrading from a townhome to a small apartment. The places we liked would not be available for at least three months still. I felt so confused and frustrated and wanted to know what God's plan could possibly be. I remember talking with Jon one night and in the middle of the conversation, I felt overwhelmed with the conviction He put on my heart. I knew God wanted us to move in with his mom while Jon went to seminary full time. I felt so miserable. So dejected. Absolutely crushed. Just weeks ago I had flat out turned down the offer. Don't get me wrong, we so appreciated such a selfless gesture. But... but... moving in with our three cats and 2 kids... I would have felt homeless and imposing, for starters. I was so upset. The worst part was that I had no idea how long this season would last. That idea really depressed me. But I couldn't get around it, I knew it to the very core of my being. So I increased my class load to avoid life.

Jon was taking 5 super intense classes at seminary. I was working 50 hours a week and taking 5 classes myself. At home, the four of us shared a small room and a bed. Yep, you read that right. It felt like a scene out of Willy Wonka.

All of our stuff was in storage. Our kitties were constantly causing problems with the other pets. And we pretty much displaced my mother in law. I don't think anyone was comfortable and I felt so guilty and hopeless. I still don't know all the wisdom He had in the move. I can see how some of it was being knit together, but much of it still a mystery to me. All I know for sure is that, by the end of it, He successfully broke and humbled me.

But at this point, my restlessness and desperation hit overload. I wasn't happy. Jon wasn't happy. Our kids were (they thought living with Grandma was the coolest thing ever). But that was about it. With Jon not working we could afford even less, but we started looking at houses again. Some were complete holes. And I was willing to buy them. Countless times, God interceded, thank God! I don't want to get into all the details, which I may have already wrote about in the past, but it was just one bad situation after another.

In the meantime a friend kept sending me craigslist apt listings (which I was very skeptical of) but she wore me down and I made a couple of appointments to look at a couple in May. Long story short, this place we're in now was the answer to our prayers. We have been content and happy here, for the most part. We knew when we moved in that it would only work for a year or two at most, but it was exactly what we needed.

At long last, I learned what an idol buying a home had become. I was determined not to go down that dark road again. I resisted the same impulses. Even after Jon completed his second degree, I did not immediately go searching for homes. And then when he got a great job offer, I still held off. When he got a second, somehow even better job offer, that's when it trickled in. And I told myself that if our lease was up at the end of May, we would need to give 60 days notice. Which means that we would need to have been looking and found something before then. So I should start looking now, right?

I contacted my dad about setting up a meeting with his friend and we started looking online. But we felt increasingly convicted not to go into debt to buy a home. After a lot of seeking and prayer, God consistently brought us back to a point of buying a house outright. This was hard to swallow because no one really holds to this today; our society isn't really set up for that. Many devoted, practicing Christians see buying a house or school loans as a necessary exception to God's warning of debt. But we think that God wants us to know that He's in control and that it was through His means, not ours. It's scary and I keep second guessing myself. I mean, a lot of times, owning can be cheaper than renting, on a monthly basis. And I hate wasting money! Plus, especially in this area, it's a good investment. With these arguments, I kept hoping I'd misinterpretted God's plan for us.

And then, things moved like dominoes. We spoke with three different agents (when I didn't think we were going to hear from them at all). We were set up with three different sites for foreclosure listings. And a home I liked was consistently being dropped 10k every three weeks. Threads of excitement were creeping in.

Last Thursday, I went to my first Beth Moore bible study in over a year and a half. And it weighed heavy on my heart again- my desire for a house for our family was in a danger zone to become bondage. Beth talked about how we are holding our chains. Christ paid for our freedom already. I have already been set free. Yet I insist on desperately clinging to chains and begging to be bound. I didn't even realize I was doing it until then- looking back longingly at what I walked away from and flirting with disaster.

Beth asked us to drop our fixation. I balked. She said, "He has called us to victory! We gotta drop that fixation. Put a hold on anger, bitterness, addiction..." In my head, I heard "house." Beth asked me to drop it, not forever, but for the course of this Bible study. I felt that God was speaking directly to me. And some (large) part of me was actually relieved. I didn't want to move without God; I'd seen what a mess that made. But sometimes I wasn't sure if He wanted me to move. I felt like I should drop this. It would take me dangerously close to a line I'd drawn (our lease), but that I should do nothing. Which is one of the hardest things for me. Ohh stepping out in faith can be terrifying.

But what about the agents we spoke with, the listings we were being sent and that steal of a foreclosure? It could be such a great fit for us! Such a great opportunity! It had been on the market for months and no one seemed interested. If we waited another few weeks, it would likely drop further in price and we could offer a little lower. We could make this work! I was so confused. I heard Jon saying that getting a mortgage would root us here when God may not want us here. It would make us feel like we had to put every cent toward debt, leaving no resources for giving. It would make us inflexible. And a small, quiet voice in my mind whispered that God may have greater things in mind for us. That I was trying to settle again. I finally emailed our agents and said we were interested in looking at the two homes. I felt like I had to and thought it couldn't hurt. Maybe God would even use it as an opportunity to tell me one way or the other. And though I felt like I was sabotaging myself, I fervently hoped He would.

This morning I got a reply. I was expecting an appointment and was surprised to see that our agent said the first house, the foreclosure, had just received an offer. It wasn't even contingent. It was as good as sold and no longer available. The second house, had received multiple offers and unless we were planning on offering the listing price or more, it would likely be a waste of our time. We definitely were not. I got my answer loud and clear.

I have to admit I still feel torn. I'm super relieved that God has made it abundantly clear that He is active in this (though I have no idea why I ever stop trusting that. Human nature, I suppose?) and that He doesn't need or want my decision-making in this. But I am scared. I will be praying fervently that our landlord does not mention our lease for the next 11 weeks, which seems unlikely. I don't know what I'll tell him. And more so, I know from experience that following God isn't always a warm, sunshiney,  rose-filled walk. After the vast, barren desert He led us through, I just want peace. I want normalcy. I want it so bad.

He tells me He will give me rest (Matthew 11:28). But to build strength (Joshua 1:9). We were not created for a "normal" life (Exodus 34:10). And just for good measure, I stumbled on this:  

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

To God be the Glory.

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