House for Sale

 The first time I saw it, I knew I was home.

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Don’t ask me how I knew … I just knew.

I felt it the moment I saw it in the realtor’s big binder of available houses. I felt it the moment I pulled my car into the driveway. I felt it the instant I walked through the front door to take a look around. And by the time I had peered into every closet and looked inside each cabinet, I knew this house was home.

I really think this is the one,” I told my realtor. “but I’m … well, I’m just not sure I’m ready to buy a house.

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As a single mom, I never set out to buy a home. I certainly didn’t feel financially ready for such a big purchase. Yet my hands were tied. If I didn’t do something quickly, my three children and I were going to be homeless.

The home that I had been renting from my parents had been sold, and I needed a new place to live before June 1st. Initially, I hoped to find another rental home, but the rural area where I was living had nothing to offer. I had been checking every listing every day for close to two months, as well as calling anyone I could think of who might have a lead on a home for rent. Nothing.

It was now early April. Time was running out. I needed to make a move … soon. But I had no idea of where to look. I was fresh out of ideas. The only option that seemed to be available was moving to a larger city, away from my job and the security of living near my parents. And I desperately didn’t want to do that.

And then my brother suggested buying a house. The very thought scared me, but with his encouragement I cautiously went to see his realtor. The realtor was friendly and warm, and took the time to share with me how even with my one-income budget I could afford to be a home owner.

Nervously, I finally said, “Well, there is no harm in looking around, is there? So let’s go see some houses.”

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Carefully, I chose three houses to go look at with the realtor … but there never was any other choice. One look at the photo of the little white house in her binder and I was in love.

Built in the early 1930’s, this home was full of character and charm, and I instantly felt at home from the very first moment I put my foot inside the door. The floors were hardwood. The ceilings were 10 feet tall, with original transoms over the doorways. The kitchen was outfitted with a Butler’s pantry. All over the house were pocket doors. In addition to the three large bedrooms, there was an office that had floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a glassed-in sun porch.

I knew I wanted to buy the house, but I was nervous about making the final decision to go through with it.

Take your time. Think about it; pray about it. And when you are ready, give me a call.” The realtor gave me a warm smile as she shook my hand and we parted ways.

That was on Tuesday evening. Two days later, I brought my dad and mom by to see the house and get their opinion. After getting a brief tour, we stood in the yard under one of the large shade trees watching the children as they played nearby. My mom was the first to comment. “It’s really lovely, Paige. I can’t think of a reason why you shouldn’t buy it, but it needs to be your decision.

My father agreed. “After all,” he said, “You will be the one paying the mortgage.”

Part of me had hoped they would tell me what to do. Part of me was glad they didn’t. Even though decision-making has never been my strong suit (just choosing a restaurant can at times be a difficult task for me), this decision was still mine to make. And even I knew that I needed to make the final decision for myself.

Six weeks later, I was unpacking boxes.

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My  kids and I only lived there for a year and a half … but we did a lot of living in that time.

There were six birthday parties and two Christmases and a couple of rare Louisiana “sneaux” days.

Julia turns 7 years old!
Julia turns 7 years old!
Christmas 2009
Christmas 2009

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I bought a drill of my own, and learned to hang my own curtains.  Always before, someone had hung curtains for me, but in this home I proudly hung the curtains for myself.

(Some day, maybe tomorrow, I’ll share the story of how God told me I was not allowed to complain about my feelings of being unsettled when I wasn’t settled enough to even hang up a few curtains.)

Julia's girly butterfly room with the bright happy hideaway in the corner. I hung that in addition to the pink curtains ... there were 8 windows in her bedroom!
Julia’s girly butterfly room with the bright yellow hideaway in the corner. I hung that in addition to the pink curtains … there were 8 windows in her bedroom!

My new drill and I got along so well that I hung up a few hooks for backpacks …

The backpack nook ... about as organized as I ever got!
The backpack nook … about as organized as I ever got!

and added a shelf above my washer and dryer.

My new laundry area. Of all the places I've ever washed clothes, this one was my favorite.
My little laundry area. Of all the places I’ve ever washed clothes, this one was my favorite.

And then there are my two special memories from my little white house on the big corner lot.

The first one was the day I discovered the blueberry bushes. Oh, finding those blueberry bushes was like this enormous hug from God because I’ve always wanted to have a house with blueberry bushes in the back. When I bought the little white house, I didn’t pay any attention to three big bushes on the side of the house … but about two weeks after I moved in, I discovered them. Huge, enormous bushes, covered in the most delicious blueberries I’ve ever tasted. No doubt, it was God’s way of telling me He loved me. (Perhaps one day I will blog about my special love for blueberries, but that probably won’t happen tomorrow.)

Julia fills a bowl with blueberries from one our special blueberry bushes.
Julia fills a bowl with blueberries from one our special blueberry bushes.

And the second memory I love is how Jon and I shared our both our first kiss and our second first kiss in the living room of this house. (Now this is one story I’ve blogged about before. If you haven’t read it, you can get all the details here … but sorry, there is no photograph to go with that one.)

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I married Jon on the last day of 2010. Two weeks later a moving truck took all my belongings out of my little white home, and a renter took my place.

For four years, I’ve been renting my house. Mostly I’ve hated being a landlord, and that’s not at all because of the renters. Mostly God has granted me good ones. No, I hate renting out my house because I’m ultimately still the one responsible for the property.

My dad used to help us with the management of my house, serving as my property manager if you will. But after his death 3 months ago, Jon and I have had to take all of those tasks. And it quickly became clear to us that the house was like a millstone hanging around our necks. Instead of a pleasure to me, my sweet little house on the big corner lot has become a burden. It simply too much of a struggle for Jon and I to manage the upkeep of that property.

We discussed whether or not we should put the house on the market, but I didn’t want to run off my renter and end up trying to cover two mortgages. It was hard to know what to do, and honestly I felt stuck between a rock and a hard place.

This morning my current renter called. “I’m giving you my 30 days notice,” she said. “I’m moving somewhere else. I’ve loved it here, but it is time for me to move on.”

And I’m wondering if it is time for me to move on as well and let go of the house I love.  As much as I knew the first time I saw it that this house was meant to be my home, deep down I know that I’ll never live there again.

I’m ready … ready for whatever God wants, whether it is bringing me a buyer or finding me another renter. He knows and I can trust He has this under control.

But just in case you wonder which way I’m hoping God choosing to work in this situation, there is a nice white house on a big corner lot for sale in rural north Louisiana.

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If you’re interested, I’ll be happy to make you a great deal!

M is for …

M is for Moving.

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When I married Jon Hamilton, I loved everything about him. Everything, that is, with the exception of his house. And that, I hated.  

So hate might be a strong word, but the truth is I had no pleasant feelings about this home other than for the man who owned it.  A white brick, ranch style home in an older subdivision, it was small and run-down. Jon had bought it with his ex-wife, chosen mainly for its location and school district.  It needed lots of minor repairs, but we lacked the funds and skills to pour into these projects.

The worst of it was the way all seven of us were packed into the small space, like sardines in a can. Two of the children slept in the formal living room, which we converted into a bedroom. The master bathroom was so small that you could turn on the faucet for the sink while standing in the shower. The kitchen was nothing more than a ridiculously tiny box, unable to hold more than one person at a time. I felt like I was performing a huge feat of engineering each time I entered to cook for our family of seven, which was at least three times a day nearly every day of the week.

I wanted to move, but Jon didn’t believe it was possible.  “Paige, we cannot sell this house. It’s got too many cosmetic flaws,” Jon would tell me anytime I asked about the possibility. Then he would launch into his list of 3,492 reasons why selling our home was practically impossible.

However, his pessimism didn’t stop me from praying about it. And frankly, I prayed about that house a lot. Sometimes, I even did more than pray … I would look at local houses on the web, wishing I could find a deal so amazing that even Jon could not refuse. Mostly, though, I just prayed.

One afternoon, I got a strange phone call from a realtor in the area. He admitted to me that his company had captured my information from their website, and he was just calling to see if I was perhaps looking to buy or sell a home. I answered that I wasn’t in the market to do either at this time, but he was a typical realtor and didn’t take no for an answer. After a brief conversation, the realtor asked if he could come talk with me in person.

“No,” I said. “you can’t come speak to me about seeing this house. Truthfully, it belongs to my husband, so you’ll need to speak with him. I will tell him you called and give him this number. If he is interested in pursuing the idea of selling further, then he will call you back. Otherwise, you can assume he isn’t interested at this time.”

When Jon came home that evening, I told him about my phone conversation, trying to give an air of disinterest. Jon didn’t buy my act for a second, and immediately began to work his way down the long list of reasons why we couldn’t sell our home. At some point, my eyes began to glaze over … at least until I noticed Jon was picking up his cell phone. The next thing I knew Jon was setting up an appointment for the realtor to come take a look at our home.

The following day, I watched in wonder as the realtor put up a For Sale sign in the front yard. “Don’t get in a rush,” he warned. “Older homes are harder to sell. I expect you’ve got at least 6 months, maybe longer, to wait.”

Less than 48 hours later, we were under a contract for a cash sell on our home.

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When God’s ready to move you, get ready to move …

unless He’s not ready to move you and in that case get ready to wait.

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All along I had figured selling our home would be the hard part. Finding a new one was sure to be easy. I was wrong.

For two months we house hunted. We must have looked at 25 homes, maybe more. Nothing in our price range seemed to fit our needs. And when we finally found a home that did, we rushed to put a contract on it only to discover that we didn’t qualify for the rural development loan as we had been assured.  

As we neared the closing date for selling our home, the only solution seemed to be accept an offer to rent our old home from it’s new owner.  Of course,  the rent was going to be nearly $200 higher than our mortgage. If I thought I hated that house before I sold it, now I really hated the idea of renting that house for a bigger cost. I felt bummed at the situation and irritated with God as I tried to figure out what He was up to doing in my life.

It wasn’t long before a friend called me insisting that Jon and I needed to check out a particular home. “Paige, every time I go visit my friends, the Bellards, I just see your family living in this home. It’s not on the market, but I know they are wanting to sell soon. Would you mind if I told my friend Renee about you and gave her your number?”  Still feeling defeated about house hunting, I agreed she could pass along our contact information.

A few days later, Jon and I found ourselves walking through the door of the Bellards home. It was a stone’s throw from our old home, situated in the exact part of town where we wanted to stay. There were four big bedrooms, two full baths and two half baths, and a nice-sized home office located away from the center of the house. The kitchen was spacious and open to the living areas. And the backyard was completely fenced in, with enough space for our dogs and kids to play. Despite being centrally located, the neighborhood was quiet. This house had everything we were hoping for … everything, that is, except the price.

Jon and I knew it would take an act of God for us to purchase this home. Yet, somehow we felt encouraged to consider it carefully as an option. We spent quite a bit of time looking at the house, and talking with the owners. As we were getting ready to leave, Renee pulled us aside and said, “I just wanted to pray with you before you left. Let’s both ask God for wisdom about whether or not we should proceed. If He’s in the deal, it will be the right outcome, but if He’s not in the deal it will go wrong from the start.

It’s the first and only time I’ve ever been involved in buying anything that the seller asked me to pray with me before I decided whether or not to make the purchase.

A day or so later, Renee contacted me and said that she and her husband had decided to reduce the price of the home by $15,000. Now the price of the Bellard’s home was sitting squarely within our price range. But there was another problem. There was no money for a down payment. We had been hoping for a rural development loan, but had discovered earlier we didn’t qualify because I owned another piece of property.

Once again, a mountain stood in our way. A mountain only God Himself could move. After several days of praying and talking, there seemed to be no solution but to call the Bellards and tell them about our predicament. “Perhaps,” Jon said, “they will give us a year to come up with the $7,000 we need for the down payment, seeing as they hadn’t even listed their house on the market yet.  Maybe we could try to sell your house in north Louisiana. Or we could save my annual bonus and combine it with next year’s tax refund to come up with the money. If they aren’t willing to wait,  we will just have to tell them we can’t buy the home.”

There was a rock at the bottom of my stomach. I did not want to talk with Renee about this issue and yet I knew it was what needed to be done. As I pulled out my cell phone to call Renee, I heard my own ringtone. It was Renee calling me!  I answered, “Renee! I was just about to give you a call.”

“Paige, whatever you have to tell me can wait. I need to tell you something first.”

“Okay. I’m listening,” I said.

“Well, we’ve been praying all weekend. Kerry and I are in agreement on this. We feel very strongly that God wants us to give you $7,000.”

How did she know? Jon and I had never told them the down payment was a problem or that it would be exactly $7,000 we would need in cash? I was stunned.

A month later, we moved into our new home … the home God Himself chose for our family.

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The God-story doesn’t end there. 

It wasn’t just a blessing for my family, it was a blessing for another family too …

actually two families that lived in Wisconsin.

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Exactly one week after moving, I left behind all the unpacked boxes to attend the Speak Up conference for Christian speakers, writers, and leaders. While there, I kept feeling a nudge from the Holy Spirit to talk to a particular lady.  I didn’t know her and had never met her, and yet over and over God pressed upon me to go speak to her. Mentally I bantered back and forth with God, arguing that I didn’t know what to talk about. I spent most of the weekend working to stay far enough away from this lady so as to give myself a convenient excuse for my disobedience.

Then on the last day of the conference, I saw her, sitting alone at a table, drinking a cup of coffee. Once again, I felt God urging me to go over and talk with her. After another short internal argument with the Lord, I decided the best thing for me to do would be to obey.  As I approached her and began to chit- chat about the conference, I could tell she didn’t really want to converse with me.

“See, God,” I said in my heart, “I told you this woman does not want to talk to me.”

“Ask her if you can sit down at the table.”

“What?”

“You heard me. Ask her if you can sit down.”

Grudgingly, I did … and to my surprise, she smiled and said she would love some company. As I pulled up my chair, I realized I didn’t have a clue of what I should say. I had already gone through all the polite conversation starters …weather, where she was from, children, etc.  This lady was not a big talker, and the last thing I wanted was a long, awkward silence.

And then I heard it, a loud whisper in my soul. “Tell her about your house.”

“Oh, come on! Really, Lord? You want me to tell a complete stranger about my house? I can promise you she does not want to hear about it.”

“Yes, she does.. Go on… tell her about how you got your house.”

“I really don’t want to. It’s obvious this woman has nothing to talk about with me, and I’m going to end up looking like a fool.”

“I’d rather you go ahead and obey Me, even if you do think you’ll look like a fool.”

“Okay … okay. I’ll do it.”

The next thing I knew,  my mouth opened and out began to pour the story of how Jon and I bought our new home. As I retold all the events of how my family was blessed with our new home, my new friend sat listening with rapt attention. Before I was done, she had begun to weep, tears streaming down her cheeks. I sat there silently, watching her cry, wondering what on earth was going on.

Looking up, she whispered, “You couldn’t have possibly known. Only God … He sent you to me. You see, I’m in the exact situation, only I’m the seller. I have a big old home, but my children are grown and gone. I’ve got my eye on this beautiful little log cabin. Really, it’s my dream home. I was wanting to sell quickly so that I could purchase it.  Last week my husband and I were approached by a young family  we know from church.  They have seven children, and live in a tiny house not too far from us. When they found out we were wanting to sell our home and downsize, they asked if we might consider selling to them.  However, they don’t have the down payment. They offered to pay half now and the other half in six months, if we are willing to wait on them to raise the money. To be honest, I didn’t want to wait, because doing so means I probably won’t be able to buy the log cabin I love so much. And yet, making that decision felt horrible. All weekend I’ve been conflicted as I’ve struggled to decide what to do, knowing when I go home tomorrow I would need to call and tell them what I had decided. Now I know … God wants me to bless them, just as your friends blessed you.”

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I’ve moved more than 15 times as an adult. While I don’t hate moving, it’s not exactly enjoyable either. Packing and unpacking, boxes piled upon boxes. I have to admit there is a part of me that never wants to move again. But if I do, I hope the Lord gives me another moving experience like this last one … one that has His fingerprints all over it, from beginning to end.

My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.

~ Isaiah 32:18