Our Journey to the Promised Land

Thursday, September 20, 2012

WARNING: This is the longest post I have ever written but I'd be honored if you took the time to read it.

If you have been following my blog and/or have known me more for more than 5 years, then you also know the journey I/we have been on.  You know that the major player in our story has been a legacy of job changes and moves that began the moment our first child was born 15 years ago.  Stability and security have been elusive.  For me as a woman it was a painful, weary place and a mountain I grew so tired of climbing.  The questions and judgments from others who have not walked this path have oftentimes rendered me bitter, resentful and envious.  I am not proud of this but I want to be honest.  In our culture, it’s the natural order of things: college, job, marriage, children and a house.  The first time we had to sell our house, I felt shame to be known as a “renter.”  Without exaggeration, I was asked at least once a month: "Are you guys still renting?"  as if I had a communicable disease.  I always made excuses as to why our situation was temporary. Yet every time we thought we'd be in a rental for a short period, the days turned into a year, two years, and most recently three years. But by whose standards was I judging us?  Certainly not God's. Even though I was weary of not having a place to nest and call our own I knew God had a bigger plan and I could trust Him with our future.  I just got tired of always having to defend our lot in life.

Last November I felt God calling me to re-enter this space and begin dreaming again.  In 2004, when I was in a similar place after renting for 5 years, we made a "house wish list".  God gave us almost every single wish--at least the ones that really mattered. That home fit our needs beautifully for the next 5 years and we made wonderful memories there.  But, once again, we were left with no choice but to move on as many circumstances created a perfect storm that warranted downsizing and renting again.  As I sat with my prayer journal open and began thinking about what a home for our family would look like, it took a substantial amount of courage to even write one item.  That's when I heard in my heart, "to Him who is able to do more than we can ask or imagine........." (Ephesians 3:20) Over the next week I probably heard or saw that verse at least once a day.  I love how God confirms himself over and over.  We are so stinkin' stubborn!!

Little did I know that at about the same time Trey had been eyeing a house just 2 blocks down the road.  He didn't share this discovery with me until he did some research--actually a lot of research.  In March, he gingerly approached me with an offer to come with him and take a look at this house that had caught his attention.  I had passed the property on my normal driving route hundreds of times but rarely gave it much thought.  As we drove up the long driveway, there was not a stitch of curb appeal.  Built in 1984 and abandoned and neglected for close to a year, I wasn't particularly drawn to the house but was willing to look around and peek in the windows.  From what we could see, it didn't appear half bad on the inside. With 2.2 acres surrounding it and 11 acres adjoining it, this offered something for each of the boys.  A huge front yard for Ben to kick the soccer ball around, bike jumps galore for Ian to indulge to his heart's content; and within walking distance to the high school.   Trey told me the story of how the lots surrounding the house were recently purchased by someone we knew and he could contact the owner for us.  We sat in the driveway and offered the possibility up to God and moved on.  The next day we heard from our acquaintance saying he got a call out of the blue from the owner asking if he wanted to buy the house.  (He had downsized and moved to a different town) He told him, "I don't but I know someone who does."  Unfortunately, we didn't hear from anyone again for the next couple months.

In May we received a phone call from our landlords letting us know that they needed to sell the house and would be sending a realtor over that Friday to take pictures.  My anxiety went through the roof when I heard the news.  These are the same people whose house we had sold for them 2 years earlier.  And this would be the fourth house we have rented with a for sale sign in the yard while not knowing where we were heading.  After my freak out, my very patient husband completely went to bat for me, promising this would not be a repeat of being at the mercy of real estate agents and buyers.  He refused to let me be in the meeting with the realtor and laid some firm ground rules with her about showings, etc.  She was very amicable and the next couple weeks as the phone calls came, she made sure our time was respected. But then the questions started coming from every direction: "I saw your house is for sale, where are you going?  What do you mean you don't know?  Aren't you worried?  Are you guys going to rent again? "  This is when I can get "spun out" and start to question the peace I have had.  Yet, in spite of the old familiar feelings and fears, I sensed that this time was going to be different.  We had until the end of September before our lease expired and, even if the house did sell, our contract would have to be honored.

After I finished spring quarter, I met one of my college friends from Seattle for the day.  Through my tears, I was bringing her up on the latest when she said: “As you’ve been sharing, a scripture keeps coming to mind and I don’t remember where it is in the bible but it’s ‘to Him who is able to do more than we could ever ask or imagine…” I cried even harder when I told her the story behind that verse.  Confirmation once again.  Even though the outlook appeared bleak at this point, I could sense God was working out all the details behind the scenes.

Fortunately, by God's grace, there were very few showings of the house as the school year came to a close and our summer began.  In the meantime, Ian had been spending a lot of time biking up on the 11 acres above the coveted house.  The owner's son had built a bunch of bike jumps with his friends while he was growing up here and told Ian he was welcome anytime.  Ian came home and excitedly announced that he had met "Joe", Mr. X's son.  Little did we know, that chance meeting would soon serve us well.

In late June, while on a camping trip I took a long walk one morning and talked with God about this circumstance.  September felt closer and closer and not having any future plans was starting to drive me a little crazy. God prompted me with a thought: "Write him a letter.  Tell him your story.  Tell him about your family and why you want to buy his house."  After wrestling with this idea for a week or so, I finally sat down one night, penned that letter and sent it registered mail the next day.  Two weeks went by with nary a word. Finally, I did get the return receipt showing " Mr. X.". received the letter but only silence ensued from his end.  

A few days after the confirmation that the letter was received, Ian got involved once again. In his "git ir done" way, he informed "Joe" (23) that our family was interested in hisdad's house but couldn't get in touch with him.  Utterly pleased with himself, Ian came home and announced  "I got Mr. X's phone number, do you want to call him?" I burst his bubble and told him that I was waiting for a reply to my letter and would continue to wait.  Apparently, Ian was not happy with my answer and took matters into his own hands.  The second week of August came and all our summer adventures were behind us.  We were ready to move forward but there was still silence on the other end.  Ian couldn't stand it any longer.  One afternoon I heard him downstairs talking on the phone.  I hadn't heard any phones ring so I went downstairs assuming he had picked up my phone (teenagers don't actually talk on their phones) when I heard: "Ian.  Yeah.  13.  I'm Trey's middle son.  My mom sent you a letter, did you get it?  We were hoping we could work out a deal with you to buy or rent your house."  I just about had a stroke on the spot.  I immediately thought about the verse. "And a little child shall lead them...."  When this kid gets focused, there is no stopping him.  He hung up from his 10 minute conversation and informed us that "Mr. X. is going to answer your letter tonight and call Dad tomorrow."  I just love how naive children are to the stupid games us adults play with each other.  They take everything at face value.  I was hoping he was right.

Another week went by with silence and we were in full on back-to-school mode.  We had resigned ourselves to the fact that the kids would be starting the school year at the same house. Our landlords sent a message asking if they would need to be looking for new tenants at the end of September.  That same night Trey's phone rang and it was none other than "Mr. X."  After a long conversation that I tried to piece together through eavesdropping, it was decided that we would meet at the property the next evening at 5:00.  Worried he wasn't going to show, I busied myself all day and as I made my way down the drive, there he was  to greet me.  (Trey was having crazy car troubles and got there late.)  We all went through the house together and our whole family fell in love with it.  Judging from the exterior, I would have NEVER guessed what was waiting inside. It had everything on my wish list: huge kitchen; tons of natural light; a separate office for Trey; a sitting area off the master for me to study; a room for each of the boys. We discussed the terms of a purchase versus a lease option and agreed to meet on Saturday to finalize the details.  He gave us a key and went on his merry way.  We all stood there shaking our heads and pinching ourselves.  Only God could orchestrate something this crazy and miraculous.

But of course, the enemy couldn't let us get too excited before he wreaked havoc on our hearts once again.  I've said this before and I stand by it: when God says "no," the doors are slammed shut and it's obvious.  When God is about to get a lot of glory for blessing his children, the enemy turns up the heat so we will doubt God and his goodness. We knew this entire process was spiritual because the attacks kept coming day after day.  Trey's ignition switch immobilized and his car wouldn't start; my transmission started slipping, my laptop hard drive crashed; Ian's bike needed a hefty repair.......all major distractions set against us to take our eyes off God.  Saturday at noon came and Mr. X. was a "no-show"  My heart dropped but I still had an amazing sense of peace.  God would not bring us this far with no other options a month before we had to find a new place to live.  I knew I could trust Him but I sure didn't like it.  Mr. X. sent a text apologizing with a promise to be in touch.  After a week of phone tag and promised emails, he rang our doorbell at 8:00 a.m. on August 31st with the paperwork.  In just enough time to give our landlord a 30-day notice.

One last hurdle was to get the water turned back on and make sure there were no broken pipes or leaks.  Mr. X. was going to take care of this but another week came and went and still no water.  Another verse God gave me when I asked for a scripture for 2012 was from Isaiah 43:18-19: "Forget the former things: do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." As tempting and natural as it was for me to want to return to my old ways of thinking and believe that "this is our lot in life" I knew God was saying to forget the past.  As we entered the second week of September, I couldn't sleep one night so I got up and started reading the whole chapter of Isaiah 43 and it was all about WATER--the one thing we were waiting for so that we could move--literally.

The water was restored on the  September 11th (hmmmm...)  and there were a few more minor glitches that took us down to the wire and gave our friends just 2 days of warning before our request for moving help came.  In spite of that, they rallied and we were almost entirely moved in 4 days ago. I stood humbled, amazed and grateful as I watched these men and women love on us.

As I sit here and write this, I am still pinching myself that our family gets to live in this house.  I want to share two very key anecdotes about this process that became clearer and clearer as moving day approached.  First, my friend, Joy, had such great insight when she told me: "I was thinking about how for the last 10 years you have been living so close to this property and it reminded me of the Israelites and how close they were to The Promised Land but God had to deal with their disobedience before they could go there."  She assured me she wasn't saying she thought we had been suffering for disobedience but I definitely see the parallels.  Maybe we weren't living in rebellion to God but there were definitely a lot of areas we had to work on individually, as a couple, and as a family before we could ever be ready for a blessing like this.  Second, I have thought about how unattractive this house is on the outside but how beautiful it is when you walk inside.  God had to seriously show us how much time we spend on our outside appearance when He wants to work on who we are becoming internally.

So here we are settling into our own little "Promised Land."  It has been quite a journey filled with heartache, longing and pain but I never would have dreamed or imagined this kind of ending.  Only God.  To Him be the glory forever and ever.

1 Comment »

One Response to “Our Journey to the Promised Land”

Diana Cannon said...

Wow! What an amazing story. This could almost be called a modern day gospel. It is the embodiment of God's love and your abiding faith. Much love to all of you.