A Tale of Two Houses. A Story of Hope.

2 houses

Several weeks ago I snuggled up with my boys in their bunk beds as a blanket of grief covered us. It was our last night in the only home either of them had ever known.

My youngest was wracked with guilt and sadness because we were abandoning the house itself. What would the house do without us? How would it feel?

My oldest son told me that this felt like The Giving Tree. Our home was like the tree who had loved us unconditionally, housing our play and family dinners and nightly slumber. Though we’d leave for school and work and vacations, the house was always there, awaiting our return. And now? We were just walking away, leaving it to strangers.

I’d done my best to soldier on until that point. But y’all, The Giving Tree analogy? My seven-year-old crying into his pillow, asking me what our house would do without its family? I flat out came undone and surrendered to the tidal wave of emotion.

Homes are sacred places. For nearly ten years our family stored up memories and meals and milestones within the walls of that little house.

I remember the day we brought our youngest home from the hospital. I placed him on our king-size bed while his big brother and sister oohed and aahed over his brand newness. Along with their pet lizard. In a jar. On my bed.

I remember holding sick toddlers wrapped in blankets out in the cold nighttime air, praying away croup at 2 am on the porch, waiting for the medicine to kick in.

I remember birthday parties in the driveway and a yard full of neighbor kids.

My boys learned to golf in the backyard.

My baby learned to walk in the living room.

My daughter skipped into the house at the age of four holding her Barbie. She walked out for the last time holding her iPhone.

My youngest locked us out of our bathroom with the handcuffs he got for Christmas one year.

handcuff

Ten years is a long time to stay in a single place. It’s by far the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere. And because home is the space where we shelter our people and root our hearts, we don’t uproot without struggle. And a lot of emotion. Leaving home is hard, even when it’s good and right.

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If you’re a regular here, you already know that this journey has been a long one. We’ve planned to move for a couple of years now, longing to have a bit more wiggle room for our growing-up family, a few more walls for their introvert mom, and closer proximity to the schools and church and places that are part of daily life. But houses sell quickly here and we knew that we’d have to sell ours before we could look seriously at anything else.

In July of 2014, confident and excited, we were finally ready to put our house on the market. Just getting to that point was a miracle in itself. My husband and I don’t make decisions quickly. I worked my fingers to the bone instead of enjoying summer with the kids. We spent more money than we’d expected trying getting the house staged. I knew exactly what to do because blogs and HGTV are the boss of me. The house listed a month later.

Crickets chirped. And chirped. And chirped.

Through a long and painful fall and winter, at the worst possible moments, our little house suddenly began showing up a storm. {Dear Timing, you are mean.}

In the midst of grief and chaos, I’d get a request to show the house, put my hiney into high gear, fuss at my kids, load up the extra junk in the van and back out of the driveway like a crazy lady. The kids can tell you the drill. I’d be in tears, apologizing for yelling at them in all of the hurry and stress, and we’d pray that it was the last showing.

moving van

Eventually, I lost count of how many showings I’d killed myself over. We got wonderful feedback every single time about how cute it was and how well it showed. We were even under contract last February, two buyers dueling over the house on the same day. But the stars never aligned. Within a week of the contract falling through, our car died and our washer broke and my youngest child got a scary virus that made his legs not work for a few days.

And with so many things falling apart and breaking down all at once, my heart followed suit and broke a little bit too.

Enthusiastic and well-meaning acquaintances who didn’t know our ordeal talked about how someone just showed up at their house! That wasn’t even on the market! And offered them over market price!

At least three times I heard versions of this story from different people as I smiled through gritted teeth and told them how HAPPY I WAS FOR THEM.

I sat on a throne of lies.

In May we finally pulled it off the market. I was bitter at the house, envious of others, and drained by the ordeal and seemingly misspent stress, money, and energy. We needed a break. We didn’t know how long the breather would last. We didn’t really talk about it at all, which was a problem. And our lack of communication may have simmered into a rapid boil that necessitated a trip to our counselor.

God bless our dear, long-suffering-counselor-turned-friend. Jon got us on the same team again, reminding us that if we weren’t communicating and praying about this together, then we weren’t inviting God to be part of it. And why would we want to go one step further in this journey without asking God to be in it with us?

It was the turning point we needed and the truth we’d forgotten. {Dear God, we do want you to be All In.}

Walls came down as we communicated humbly with one another. We apologized and forgave. We prayed together and kept at it, asking for wisdom regarding our current house and for the provision of a new one, if that was God’s will.

And just like that, we decided to put it back on market and see what happened. We didn’t tell anyone at first but our realtor. The sign went back up. We had six showings in one week and were under contract less than two weeks later.

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Now here’s where it gets crazy.

The morning after it was obvious that we were going under contract and things looked solid, a house popped up on the internet, for sale by owner. I literally gasped and went running into the living room where my husband sat. The location, the price, the specs — all exactly what we were looking for. We couldn’t find a phone number so we hopped in the car and drove straight over. There was a little sign with a phone number. We called and made an appointment to see it later that afternoon.

It was the one we wanted — a sturdy, soulful house built in 1959. Best of all, it had a screen porch the size of a living room. If you know me, you know that I would live in a cardboard box if it had a screen porch. It’s something I’ve wished for since childhood.

screen porch fall table

It also had flowers and beauty and just the right amount of quirk and wonkiness to suit me, a gal who loves storied and lived-in things.

Friends of ours live right down the street and they texted the owners, telling them that they knew us and probably assuring them that we weren’t killers.

I’d enlisted our parents and a few others to pray, to really pray that we would find favor with the owners and that what seemed impossible would become a reality. Because even though the contract on our house was a good one, the couple couldn’t close until October 25th! And it was still the end of July! What person in their right mind would agree to that? Especially when the market was hot and inventory was low and they could sell it ten times over before October.

But they did. They agreed. Because they wanted the right family in this house that they loved so much.

Two days later, we pulled into the driveway to sign a contract. A text from our realtor came in. “No explanation for this but your buyers have agreed to move the closing up a month. Congratulations! You get to close September 25th instead of late October.”

I sat in my minivan and sobbed. My heart could not hold all the goodness.

The next two months were hardly smooth sailing. We had some major hurdles. It was going to take a miracle for our house to appraise for what we needed it to. See, that was the thing that tanked us when we were under contract back in Febrauary. Our area had a string of unlucky comps right after our house went on the market the first time. We were powerless to do anything about that.

Lo and behold, just two weeks before our appraisal {which providentially kept getting delayed}, several houses on our little street all sold higher than houses had been selling. You can guess what happened. Our appraisal was golden. {Dear Timing, I’m sorry for what I said about you earlier.}

A friend of mine told me months ago that she didn’t think our house would sell until we found the one that was meant to be ours. I didn’t know how right she was.

We got a buyer. The next morning our new house showed up.

“It’s funny,” the owner told us when we first looked at the house. “We’ve been trying to get this house ready to sell for months and just haven’t been able to. We put a For Sale by Owner sign up two weeks ago but didn’t get around to putting it on Zillow until yesterday.”

You know what they say, “Timing is everything.”

And timing does not belong to me.

For so many months, God had allowed us to wait and wonder and strive and struggle. I’ve doubted and despaired. At every low point, I’ve been faced with a choice: try harder or trust.

This story may seem like it’s about something as superficial as a house but it’s really about so much more than that. God uses the stuff of real life to peel back the layers of my heart and reveal its true state. I had a plan. I had a timetable. I wanted certain outcomes. Despite so much time and toil, nothing was working out.

God had a plan too. And his plan had more to do with the state of my heart than the sale of my home. I’ve been through trials far weightier and more heart-wrenching than selling a house and finding a new one. But this road has been its own special journey of faith and trust and repeated surrender. I did everything “right.” I consulted the experts. I staged and re-staged. I took every showing seriously.

It simply wasn’t the time. And no amount of toil would make it so. Psalm 127:1-2 comes to mind. I was trying to build my own house, “eating the bread of anxious toil” instead of trusting God, the one who asks, “Will you literally rest and trust me?”

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.

That right there is some truth.

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stream and path

Months ago I began praying that God would provide in a way that was ridiculously beyond what we could over orchestrate. Not in the form of impressiveness or a fancy place. I just wanted a story where He got all the glory.

He absolutely came through on that one.

Redemption is the theme of my life and the older I get, the more enamored I become with the glory of God and the smallness of me. He keeps allowing opportunities for me to strive, hit a wall, and finally give up / get out of the way so that He can do my very favorite thing of all: show up in beautiful and unlikely ways, doing wonderful, redemptive works that absolutely slay me.

It’s been an agonizing journey. I am simultaneously elated about our new home yet still grieving the loss of our old house and the dear community of people we lived among for ten years. Like I said, uprooting doesn’t come without a struggle and our roots feel more like exposed nerves — sensitive and painful and not wanting to be touched.

I had to stuff a lot of emotions just to get through the packing and moving process and they all came tumbling out the night before we moved when my boys played The Giving Tree card. {Dear Boys, do not every pull that one again.} They came tumbling out the moment I walked out of my door for the last time. They still tumble out when I least expect them to.

Moving, no matter how near or far, is one of life’s most baneful chores and emotional roller-coasters. I joke that it’s taken years off my life. My insides are a mess and my spirit is fragile. I’m exhausted and headachey and jumpy and overwhelmed, even in the midst of such gratitude. It’s a mixed bag is what I’m saying, and I know I’ll need some time to make peace with the change, even though it’s change I hoped and prayed for.

I also need a nap. Every day for the rest of my life.

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tea on the screen porch

I’m sure I’ll be writing more about the house. A new house means new beginnings and new projects and new ways of doing life. But I can’t begin to do any of that without the backstory.

Always, the backstory. Because redemption isn’t even a thing if we don’t have that. And this house is such a picture of redemption. Not because it’s new or posh or in the best part of town. Those things weren’t on our wishlist. But there’s so much about it that’s just right for us, gifts that feel like a kiss from God who keeps reminding me that his heart for us is one of preservation and blessing. Not in some slick prosperity gospel sort of way, but in a personal sort of way. This is the place for us, given at just the right time.

All along, God has kept our family when the odds were against us. The world launched its missiles through our windows and kicked at our foundation. We almost gave up. Rebuilding has been a slow and messy process. We wouldn’t have made it without hope. We still don’t make it without hope.

In so many ways, this home is hope realized.

The day before we closed, in the midst of blinding rain and mud and moving plans going awry and expenses climbing and having miles to go before we slept, I blubbered to my husband on the phone. “I know this is hard and feels impossible. Everything about this process has been messy. But we’re doing this together. We’re moving as a family. All of us. God has been so gracious. Crazy as it all feels right now, this is redemption.”

And it is.

Thanks for journeying with me — for your encouragement and support. We are far from settled. Between marriage and motherhood and boxes and doctor visits and my jobs and his job, daily life is full. I’m forced to find new ways to weave regular-ish writing into these busy days. It is my comfort, my coping mechanism, and my worship.

And once again, I am both bewildered and comforted by Timing. If I’ve learned anything, it’s the reality that time does not belong to me. Though I wrestle with the frustrations of that, I’m also soothed by the promise of seasons and change and how there really is a time for everything. This is a time to re-settle, to do my right-now work, to love my people and run my home and choose to rest in the midst of the undone.

In the whirling hum of these sacred tasks, I still get to hope.

To trust the One who is the giver of all things.

To unwrap each season and each gift as He ordains.

Thank you again for walking alongside me and sharing in my story.

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Comments

  1. Jen @beautyandbedlam says

    oh friend – years with you as I read. He is ever present in all the details, isn’t He? Even when our timing doesn’t quite align with his. Love hearing this and would love to see you sometime when I’m at Furman xoxox

    What classes does your hubby teach? I need to tell My son.

  2. Debbi says

    What a wonderful way to journal your journey. It will now be exciting to experience all God has for you in this new home. We were blessed to be the first guests and to share in making some memories. Laundry painting and sand bags!

  3. says

    So happy you have finally landed right where HE intended. God is so good and faithful and gracious to HIS children. Bask in the goodness of your Promised Land :)

  4. Kim says

    So beautiful. I have missed your writings, but that was worth the wait. You had me laughing and in tears. Blessings to you and your loved ones, in your new home.

  5. Kristen says

    Such an inspiring post! I have traveled down a similar journey a few years ago and as frustrating as it was, I never felt closer to God. He was revealing Himself to us day by day and teaching us to trust His timing.

  6. Linda says

    It’s amazing how many things I can relate to in this and we’re not evening buying a home just yet. But the hope, the learning (painfully slow) how to trust in God’s timing and goodness, not to bulldoze my way to what I want, it’s hard.

    In my journal I wrote: ‘These are the days of: learning to hope in a manner that expands my trust in God and is not tied to the one and only outcome I perceive best.’

    I’m so thankful that you carve out time to share your thoughts.

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