Saturday, August 11, 2012

To the Day- A House Story

a beautiful sign in our not so beautiful yard
Lily and I have walked through almost fifty homes over the past month.  It has been a non-stop, daily adventure for us- and our favorite realtor, of course.  It was exciting to wonder what was behind each door.  A little strange to think that we were walking through the homes of complete strangers, but that is the process, I guess.  We knew our price range, we knew the areas where we wanted to eventually be and we made tracks visiting and touring and driving all over the county.  Some days were fun and exciting, others were difficult, some were depressing, and others were sad.

Here is the story of our journey to today...

A few weeks ago, we found what we thought was "the one."  It had everything we were looking for in a home, just needed some minor touch ups here and there.  The family had already left and had experienced tremendous tragedy, so they were selling it "as-is" in hopes of moving it fast.  It was still in good condition and was an incredible deal.  Apparently we were not the only ones who felt this way about that adorable place- within 48 hours of it being on the market, there were three offers on the table and a little "bidding war" ensued.  We ended up not getting it, and I got my first taste of heartbreak on this buying side of the moving process...the side I thought would be so much easier and a whole lot of  fun.  To be fair, we had prayed and repeatedly asked God to close the door if it was not the right house for us, and well, He did.

After licking my (I say 'my' because I've learned that my beloved Joe so much more pragmatic about this process than I am.  While he certainly experiences the ups and downs of all of this along with me, he does not swing his whole heart into a house before its ours the way that I cannot help but do).  So anyways, after licking my wounds for a couple of days, I set back out onto the trail to try and find our future home.  My heart was not in it- at all.  I could only compare these homes to the one that got away and they were not even close to it.  After a few more days of searching, we reached a point where we had literally seen almost every house on the market that was in the areas we wanted to live and that was in our price range...which was really discouraging.  We were now just waiting for new homes to pop onto the market.

In the meantime, on my realtor's advice, we started visiting ones I had previously said "no" to on paper or after seeing online, with the wisdom being, sometimes you just need to see them in person just to make sure you are not missing out on something great.  I was okay with doing this, but my expectations were low.  We saw several and my initial reactions to them on paper/online was correct.  We then decided to see some that were technically out of our price range just to see if I liked them in case we wanted to wach them and see if they dropped their price.

That is how we arrived at what we will call "the lake house."  It was being sold by its owner and was not technically on a lake, just in a BEAUTIFUL neighborhood that has lots of lakes with walking paths around them. This house and neighborhood were absolutely lovely.  It was a custom home, so the floor plan/layout was entirely unique which made a favorable impression on both of us.  It had been updated and impeccably maintained.  It was tucked back in on a cul-de-sac near excellent schools and we loved it.  However, for whatever reason, I had some weird nagging questions about the pantry (which I could not remember existing at all) and we wanted to measure a couple of other things before putting in our offer.  So we made plans to go back for a third visit last Sunday afternoon and when we made the appointment, we learned that there was another offer on the table for the house, so we knew we would need to move quickly if we wanted to get ours in and have it be competitive.

We told our friends about it and took my parents with us so they could see it and we were SO excited about it.  As we were there for an hour, talking with the owner, measuring particular spaces, learning about the neighbors (one recently had a baby, one was an elementary teacher etc- hello, perfect!) we received a complete peace about the house in our hearts. As we were standing out in the backyard of the house (so we could talk privately about our offer), our realtor came outside with a stunned look on her face.  She informed us that the owner had signed a contract (on the earlier offer) the night before.  She explained that when she tried to clarify what had exactly happened and why the owner had previously stated that there was NOT a contract on the house, the owner expressed confusion about the difference between an "offer" and a "signed contract."  It all seemed a little fishy.  We felt like there had been a complete bait and switch right before our eyes.  We would never have spent the time going down there, the time wandering around measuring, we would not have taken my parents had we known the house was off the market.  We could not believe that she had let us wander around her home, with my parents, with our measuring tape, with all of our questions and enthusiasm for an HOUR before mentioning that the house was already under contract.  I was speechless and heartbroken all over again.  It was a very sad scene and I'm positive the disappointment on our faces and in our deflated hopes was palpable.  Our poor realtor was livid, but maintained absolute professionalism in that most difficult of situations. I have to hand it to both her and Joe who also handled himself extremely well all things considered.  Me?  I was silent and kept my attention focused on Lily so I would not burst into tears right there in the woman's kitchen.  It was a stunner, but again, we had been praying that if it was not the right house, that the Lord would close the door and again, with a surprising twist of events, He did.

Where was our home????  Why was this so difficult???  I had thought this was supposed to be the fun side of things! 

What we were learning in this process was that the quality houses in our price range seemed to have a pool of buyers just waiting for them to pop up onto the market.  It seemed like there were lots of people who were looking for the same things we were in the same areas we were and so we knew, that if we saw something we liked, we had to move quickly and not dally around building dreams and hopes into each potential place.  We had to move forward in faith that God was leading us to where we were supposed to be- He HAD to be- doors continued closing that seemed so we knew He was leading us somewhere...we just had no idea where.

So after a couple of days of being stunned and disappointed on missing out on the dreamy lake house by mere hours, we again began our search.  My hopes were low.  However, just a couple of days later, a listing popped up that was just around the corner from the first house we had made an offer on- so I went to see it the same day it went on the market and then had Joe visit it after work.  It was very similar to the first one in appearance, only it had a different floor plan and had been COMPLETELY redone and updated.  It was beautiful and would obviously sell fast.  It was priced out of our range, so we made an offer at the max of our budget in hopes it would be okay- but we knew it was still considerably under what they were asking (and could probably get).  After making our offer, I started to have a little bit of cold feet about being at the tip top of our budget.  We also found out that in its one day on the market, there had been 8 showings in three hours and they had received 3 offers (one of which was ours).  This was crazy!  We found out later that we did not get that one either, however, I was not heartbroken this time as I had been with the others. I actually felt a bit of relief on that one.  Grateful that again, God had closed the door for us.  The search would continue! *sigh*

Then came yesterday.  Our fearless (and incredible) realtor had sent a rash of new listings over a couple of days which was encouraging to actually see several new homes somewhat in our price range that seemed to hold some promise.  Three of these homes were in a neighborhood that was much farther south and west than we had previously been looking.  Initially we had declined to live that far "out" but we were at the point where we were keeping all options open in hopes of finding the right house.  Maybe God wanted us way out there! Who knows?  So Lily and I did a drive by on the neighborhood one afternoon (and yes, it was really far out there) but it was lovely.  I found myself pleasantly surprised and had a much greater willingness to look at homes there after seeing the area with my own eyes rather than Google earth.  In total there were five houses we were interested in seeing yesterday (which was amazing considering the recent "lack" of viable options out there as of late).  Yesterday morning, we made plans to see a couple of houses that were just south of the neighborhood where we had put offers on the other two, and then three way far out there in the neighborhood Lily and I had driven through.  In my mind, I was more focused on the "way far out there" neighborhood than I was on the two we were going to see in the morning that were actually closer in and more along the corridor where we were hoping to live.  They seemed nice, but I was just more eagerly anticipating seeing the ones way far out (which in itself was surprising to me).

Funny how God works.

We pulled up to the first house which is closer to where we had envisioned living.  While my expectations were not high, they were not low either- I would actually say they were kind of in the middle.  I walked through the door and my breath caught a little bit.  It was BEAUTIFUL.  It was flooded with natural light and its homey feel was EXACTLY what I had been looking for all of these weeks.  While the house has not been completely updated, it is in fantastic condition, has been finished beautifully and possesses a very open and welcoming family feel.  To me it felt like home.  I could immediately see our family living there, our friends spending time there, our family there, overnight guests visiting....I LOVED it. Instantly.  It is move-in ready, yet, still holds many opportunities for us to put our own finishing touches on it and make it our own (which I love).  It does not have some of the things we were hoping for (a finished basement, a flat driveway, a neighborhood pool, cul-de-sac location) but at the same time, it has everything we were hoping for too- tucked away in a neighborhood yet has easy access, a lovely back yard, a great family feel, space for entertaining, space to spread out, space to breathe, lots of natural is a great home.  I was completely shocked by how the online photos did not do the place justice.  It felt so much bigger than it looked in the pictures - big, yet cozy at the same time.  Exactly what we wanted.  (Side note: Lily loved it too.  The owners appeared to have two young daughters, so the house was sprinkled with cute little girly toys and stuffed animals which Lily went BONKERS was very hard to contain her as she tried to play with and touch all of them! It was very cute.  I chose to take that as a confirmation sign from above that this could potentially be our home as Lily felt instantly very comfortable there as well).

Joe went to see it over his lunchbreak and we easily decided to make an offer.  The house had been on the market one day and we had no idea how many other showings had happened and did not want to play around and potentially miss out on this one like we had the other houses we had loved.  We felt confident after seeing so many different homes, that this was the one and that we could be very happy there.  So we signed the paperwork and turned in our offer with lots of prayers whispered up.  After turning our offer in, we received word that ours was the only offer in play so far and that the owners already had a counter offer...we countered with our own counter offer- and literally, just an hour ago, we received word that they had accepted!!!  PRAISE GOD! WE HAVE FOUND OUR HOME AND IT'S UNDER CONTRACT!!! (*Yes, there are still inspections and appraisals that have to happen, but we are THRILLED to finally have a home to "officially" and freely begin dreaming about!  We will post pics at a later date.)

To say we are excited is an understatement.  I already could not sleep last night with all of the excitement in my body and that was before we had a contract! 

The ironic thing about all of this?  Tomorrow marks the one month anniversary of signing the contract selling our little house. All of these ups and downs have happened in the last MONTH!  And tomorrow also marks one year anniversary of when we initially put our house on the market.  It feels like ages ago, but one year ago to the day- this whole journey "officially" began. Progress has been and is being made.  Change is happening.  God is good and faithful.  I'm glad I did not know how long the wait would be or the difficulties I would face when we started out a year ago- but I am SO thankful for his provision as we have crossed this desert all the while moving toward where we are going.  All of this has been for His glory and I am (finally) so excited! 

Thanks for reading this whole thing.  I know it is a really, really long post, but I wanted to document it here and share it with all of you so I could always look back and remember God's faithfulness and leadership as we traveled across this desert in order to finally find our way home.  Praise God!  It has been a (very) long and difficult journey to reach this place.  There has been lots of waiting, lots of faltering and lots of struggle.  I was recently reminded of a beautiful quote about waiting and I wanted to close with it today.  Blessings to all of you, but especially those of you who are in your own season of difficult waiting.  You are not alone and we realize that ours is far from over as we continue to wait for our next family member, but today, I feel encouraged and hopeful- more than I have in the past year.  I pray that our story of God's faithfulness in helping us move forward and out of this particular desert can be of encouragement to your weary heart as well.

Living in true beauty can require much waiting, much time, much tenacity of spirit. We must constantly direct our gazes toward the face of God, even in the presence of longing and sorrow. It is in the waiting that our hearts are enlarged. The waiting does not diminish us… God does not always rescue us out of painful season. You know that he does not always give to us what we so desperately want when we want it. He is after something much more valuable than our happiness. Much more substantive than our health. He is restoring and growing in us an eternal weight of glory. And sometimes… it hurts.
Captivating by John and Stasi Eldridge

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Starting Over...Again

I feel like I have been going through the motions of living these past couple of weeks. Like I have nothing to offer and just making it through the days has been tough.  We have been really busy and I have been here, doing my regular thing, seeing my regular people, but have not really been here if you know what I mean. 

Life has been a rush of inspections, appraisals, bids for repairs, plumbers, house hunting, sickness, ear infections, toddlerhood, disappointments, waiting and wallowing.  I have been trying my best to hold it all together, but I have really struggled.  If I'm going to be honest, I have failed.

I have cried more in the past three weeks than I have in a long time.  I'm sure to God, I appear like a toddler myself who pouts, weeps, throws tantrums and sulks.  It was pretty eye opening when I made the connection.  Lily is genuinely meeting obstacles and trying to learn and develop coping skills that she literally does not possess yet.  She is amazing as she works through these developmental milestones right in front of my eyes with no bigger picture perspective...just continued effort in spite of setbacks.  Some days are better than others for sure, and when you add in some sickness, that just makes everything harder- especially for her.  But she pushes through.  I greatly admire that about her.

Me on the other hand, I have perspective.  I know there is a bigger picture.  I know I am not in control, and yet when I have met disappointment or setbacks in recent weeks, I have crumbled.  I have bottomed out and have turned inward and away...angry, sad and frustrated.  Writing nothing, sharing nothing of my heart.  Last night as I lay awake in the middle of the night, I was able to pray in a way that I have not been able to for a long time. And finally a little bit of peace and relief filled my heart.

I have so many questions about my life these days.  Big Questions.  Questions that cannot be answered by me or by anyone whose voice I can audibly hear by calling on the phone.  Questions about homes, babies, dreams, timing, future happiness, callings....   I have cried out to God only in anger a LOT lately, not surrender, not with reverence, certainly not in humility.  I have thrown my tantrums.  I have not wanted to surrender to Him because despite all of His promises in the Bible, part of me is deeply afraid that I won't like what he has ahead for me.  What is wrong with me???  Thankfully, he has given me a wide space to just be.  To be who I am and where I am with Him.  He has been quiet and has let me kick and stomp and weep.  I have no question He is working, I can feel the refining fires burning hot.  I feel ready to surrender...scared out of my socks...but also ready for things to be different and I know that can ONLY happen if I let it go, ask forgiveness and surrender anew. 

 So today, I'm starting over...again.  Surrendering and choosing joy.  Choosing the gifts of this day in these moments I have been given with people I have been given to share them with. 

Thank you, God.  And thank goodness for second chances...(and third and fourth and fifth....)