Please forgive me for seeming brazen or crass, perhaps even unfeeling and detached with some of the peripheral details, but if you hang in there with me, you’ll see why I have to focus only on specific events.
Jimmy and I sold our second house in October of 2007. Our dear friend and real estate agent had helped negotiate the sale after just one open house. There was sadness leaving the house where Cara was brought home from the hospital, where Rachel had learned to ride her bike, where they both had climbed their first trees, and where Pawpaw had helped build a 2-story playhouse. But we were also eager to leave behind this house, the place of marital struggles and strife, a place that held nearly as many sad memories as glad ones (perhaps a later post). We had asked God for a fresh start and He had fulfilled our wish!
We were elated to be moving to West Mobile, closer to our schools, friends, and into a wonderful and beautiful lakeside community. It was a fresh start in a beautiful home on a quiet cul de sac. The lake was full of brim, the neighbors barbecued together, Cara learned to kayak, Rachel had a constant flow of friends, the neighborhood kids were always outside riding bikes or playing ball; it was very much like a modern Mayberry. We were happy and we were making new and wonderful memories. What a faithful God we serve!
Then in August of 2008, Jimmy had a heart attack at the age of 40. World= rocked. His mom had died in her early fifties because of heart disease and a massive heart attack. His maternal uncles had battled heart disease. Because of all of this and Jimmy’s young age, the doctors ‘threw the book at him’ so-to-speak, when it came to meds and treatments. Most of his meds were not available in generic. The number of prescriptions for the first 9 months totaled 11, and most were $75 co-pays. Overnight, we were faced with nearly $900 in prescription co-pays and hospital and doctor payments, but we were depending on God’s faithfulness.
In just a few months, our savings had taken a huge hit. Coupled with a new mortgage, private schools, etc., we could definitely foresee struggles. By February, we were trying to negotiate with our mortgage company to work through slow payment issues. But nothing prepared us for the next hurdle. Jimmy lost his job in July of 2009. World=upside down. Hurdle doesn’t begin to describe it. Tsunami, hurricane, horrible earthquake…a natural disaster seemed more like it. We were depending on God’s faithfulness. At this point, being completely honest, I was probably trying to convince myself of His faithfulness. (I had decided, however, that the whole ‘God only gives us what we can handle’ thing must be based on the size of our derriere, because I had been given QUITE THE AMOUNT, ya know?)
Jimmy had worked in the car industry at a local Toyota dealership for 16 years. He was the youngest and most successful fixed assets manager in the region. He had a six figure income and we had lived up to it, not in toys or extravagant vacations or new cars, but in a beautiful home, private schools, etc. Overnight, we were dependent on a meager teacher’s salary. We still had more than $700 in his prescription co-pays, and we had added to prescription co-pays with my lower back issues, depression (my mom had died just before Jimmy’s heart attack which had already rocked our world-perhaps a later post), etc. We were now at approximately $1,000 per month in prescription output. God would be faithful.
By this time, the country was facing the beginning of the housing crisis. Many people were walking away from mortgages where their home was worth thousands less than what was owed. We were in the same situation, with our house now worth $40,000 less than what we had purchased it for just a year and a half earlier.
We did not want to walk away from our mortgage. By now, Jimmy had opened the shop. However, our income was a fraction of what it once was. To keep our house, we desperately wanted to, needed to, try to re-finance for a lower payment, re-negotiate the terms…anything to save our dream home in our dream location in our dream neighborhood. But our mortgage lender had no idea how to handle our situation any more than we did. By July, we were receiving foreclosure notices. God would take care of us. We hung onto this.
Did I mention that our mortgage lender had NO IDEA how to handle our situation (and in the coming months it became obvious that no mortgage lender knew how to handle the housing crisis). In the first week of September of 2009, we received a foreclosure deadline AND a refinance packet, just days apart. Not knowing what to do, we began looking for a rental house. I could now understand how a middle-class family could become homeless. I know that you think it could never happen to you. But I could completely see how one cannot completely control their future, that there are outside circumstances that can devastate families. God was faithful.
It just so happened that a rental house in our neighborhood became available. Move in would be in October. It was a Godsend. We would still have our neighborhood, still be close to our friends, schools, etc. God had really shown us how He would provide. We had a roof over our heads, and it was a nice roof. (Two months later, my sister died. It rocked my world…again-a different post at a later time.)
Not owning a home was so difficult for us. We had bought our first home in midtown when I was twenty and Jimmy twenty-three, and hadn’t known renting for a very long time. Knowing that it isn’t yours takes its toll. There is no ‘making it your own,’ no planting roots, no permanence, no feeling of being home. But God is faithful.
Cara and I were driving through a neighborhood and she pointed out a home. I didn’t think much about it. The neighborhood, though not pretentious, was certainly out of the question for us. Income and credit rating left us at the mercy of our landlord. Thankful that God provided our rental home, I knew I had to be content with what we had. Cara became a bit obsessed with the neighborhood, and the home. Every time we were near the neighborhood, she wanted to drive past, and she had taken to calling the house ‘ours.’
I tried to explain the impossibilities of ever living in the house. But her excitement was contagious, and her faith in God’s graciousness unwavering. Then the ‘For Sale’ sign changed to ‘For Sale – Will Consider Lease/Purchase.’ This caught my attention. I decided to make an appointment to see it.
It was an amazing house. It felt like home the minute we walked in, even more so than our cul de sac home. The brick floor in the kitchen was identical to the floor Jimmy laid at our second home. The girls’ rooms would be upstairs, a dream of theirs since early childhood. It was an acre lot with a beautiful oak tree and a pool. I figured there was no way could we afford this, as proven by the owner’s monthly rental requirement and terms for the lease/purchase option. The few hundred more than what we were paying at our rental was still a few hundred more than what we were paying at our rental. It was definitely a dream home; but it was beyond the realm of my dreams.
It was time to renew the lease at the rental. It was disheartening not to own, to live in someone else’s dream home. And to make matters worse, they were raising the rent. But God is faithful, and they were raising the rent! They were raising the rent to within dollars of what the dream home owner was asking! I convinced Jimmy to see the house and meet the owner.
Jimmy felt the same way that Cara and I had felt. Upon entering the house, it was peaceful, wrapping you in a cozy blanket like a real home. He saw the brick floor, looked at me, and he knew my feelings immediately. He began discussing with the owner the details of living here. But we left the home disheartened. Jimmy explained about the owner’s desire for a credit check, deposits, and other things that were normal for an owner to require of a renter, but things that we could not provide. Have I told you how faithful that my God is?
It turns out that the owner has known Jimmy’s business partner for years. No credit check necessary. We received the final check from Mom’s estate. It was just enough for the deposit. We could not take off from our jobs to move in. He would give us a month to move in, provided we take over maintenance of the pool. The lease was for two years, with an option to purchase within those two years for a fair market value, with our deposit going toward the purchase price. For everything we listed as a hurdle, God provided a way to walk around it. Jimmy called me one afternoon at the school and said, “Jesus apparently wants us to have this house.” If you know my husband, insert ‘Hallelujah’ here!
We have lived here for two years. Today, October 1, 2013, is the deadline month for purchase. I have struggled for the past few months, knowing that we do not have the down payment. This house, our home, where I have envisioned my grandchildren sliding down the stairs, learning to swim, swinging from a tire swing hung in the giant oak in the back yard… the house that was an answer to prayer, so obviously given to us by God, more than we could ever ask to have… has a deadline, and we cannot meet it. I told the girls to prepare themselves.
Rachel and Cara cried. For the first time in years, they feel like they have a home, and this is it. They have wonderful memories at the cul de sac home, but this one is ‘warmer,’ they say. This is where they have already imagined their children here with me and Jimmy, Nanny and Paw. This is where they want to come to when they ‘come home.’ But we still do not have the down payment, and we cannot foresee any windfall that would enable this dream.
I was driving to the bakery one day just a few weeks ago. The radio was on and I was putting on my mascara. (My car doesn’t start unless my mascara is in hand.) It was time for the daily devotion on my station. It was a story I have heard many times, and I have told it even more! But it took on a whole new meaning for me. I hope I can convey the power of the message that this familiar story gave me anew.
I’ll paraphrase a bit from Acts 3: Peter and John were going into the temple. There was a beggar there, placed there each day at 3, to beg for money. He asked Peter and John for money. Peter spoke to the beggar; I’m thinking that he raised his voice to make sure the beggar looked at him and paid attention. “I don’t have any money. Get up and walk.”
I have been begging God for money, asking for a windfall, an unexpected check, a huge month and bonus at the shop. I want something, anything to happen that will enable us to buy this house, our home. And then I hear this story, like I have never heard it before. See, the beggar asked Peter and John for money. What he was given was so much more! From the NIV: 6Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” I KNOW that God is faithful. I am the beggar. I have been unashamedly asking for money. God may give me money. He may show me a way to purchase this house. Or He might not. He may have something better.
7Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. Regardless, He has given a hand to help me up. He has placed people in my life that teach me to rejoice and worship, to keep walking, to keep praising God.
9When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. You may see me as the one downtrodden due to circumstances beyond my control. But I ask you to look past this. Look through the trials and see how faithful God is. We shouldn’t limit God’s blessings. We should rejoice in His perfect plan for our lives!
The song that I used to sing with my students:
Peter and John went to pray.
They met a lame man on the way
He asked for alms and held out his palms,
And this is what Peter did say
Silver and gold have I none,
But such as I have give I thee,
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.
He went walking and leaping and praising God,
Walking and leaping and praising God,
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.
I am pretty sure God wants me to quit whining; He heard me the first time. He will give me the desires of my heart. Get up. Praise Him. Get excited!! He’s got this.