Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Story of the House

In my last blog, oh too long ago, I mentioned that we were looking for a new home. The story of how we found a house is simple yet extraordinary at the same time (as so many profound things often are) so let me tell it to you.

We had been thinking of buying an investment property, something that we could fix up and sell for a profit in order to build our equity for the future. On a drive around our island (yes, we live on an island, but not the Caribbean kind) we spotted the perfect candidate: an undervalued and neglected nearly new home in a very nice development, and the seller was motivated. We called up the real estate agent immediately and were informed that the property already had an offer on it. We persisted and convinced the real estate agent to let us see it anyway – it was exactly the type of house we were looking for. We asked her to inform us if the offer did not come through as we were very interested. A week or so later we drove by the house again and noticed that it was still for sale. After a few inquiries we discovered that the first offer had fallen through and there was now another offer was on the property but the sellers were being difficult because of a messy divorce and not responding to it. The sale would be going to court in three days when the vendor would be forced to sell. We decided to throw our offer into the mix, knowing that it was a longshot, especially since our condo was not even for sale at this point and we needed the proceeds from the condo in order to buy this house.

Real estate can be so complicated, but wait…it gets better. We hurriedly put our condo on the market and put in the best offer we felt we could, dependent on the sale of our property, and waited. The court date came and went and the house was sold to the other party who had no conditions on their offer. It was to be expected, though slightly disappointing to us. In the meantime, the interest in our condo was good, and within 30 days, we had an offer. We negotiated our way to an agreeable price, and they gave us 60 days to find another place to live. Now we had no choice! We looked at a number of houses that next weekend and found one in the same area of town as the first one. Again, this one was vacant, needed some work, and the vendor was motivated. We put in another offer, feeling like we were getting pretty good at this, but unknown to us, the vendor had lost patience with the market and had arranged to rent out the property for the next year if he didn't get exactly what he wanted. When our offer came to him, he was not as flexible in price as we would have liked, so we let the house go. Two strikes.

We continued to do some research on the internet that following week in order to find some more properties to visit. My niece happened to be visiting at that time and was helping me decide which houses to forward to our agent to set up appointments. After a few hours of searching, everything started to look the same, and discouragement wasn’t far away. I turned to her and said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an angel standing and pointing over the house we were supposed to buy? You know, like the star over the manger, a light telling the shepherds, ‘Over here!’ I don’t want to spend weeks looking at house after house, I just want to buy the one that God points out.” And then my niece indicated one that we had just looked at and said, “How about that one?” I looked at the picture again and saw that when the photo was taken, the sun was shining overhead in such a way as to send rays of light shining all around the house, almost like a halo. We both laughed in amazement and wondered if it meant anything. I went to tell my husband. “Definitely put that one on the list,” he said, "It can't hurt."

We looked at four houses that weekend. The “Jesus house” as we had dubbed it was the last on our schedule. It was a very nice one-year-old house, impeccable inside, with beautiful wood floors, more bedrooms than we needed and a totally finished basement. Of course I would have loved to live there, but the point was to get a 'fixer-upper' or a property we could add value to and there was really nothing to do there except landscape the yard, and besides, the asking price was higher than what we were comfortable paying. We went home, discussed everything we had seen that day, and decided to put an offer in on another nearly new property in the area with an unfinished basement and a lower price. I made the call to the real estate agent and to my surprise, she told us we shouldn't do that. What? She said she had information that the other home (the one we called the “Jesus house”) would go for a much lower price than what they were asking and it was a better location and we would be getting much more for our money. Okay, then. Well, this new information, added to the fact that the light WAS shining very brightly over the house, changed our minds on the spot. We put in an offer within the hour. The sellers immediately came back with very agreeable terms except for one – the moving date. They wanted at least two months to find a new home for their family of six and we agreed to give them the time they needed. Our real estate agent urged us to make a contingency plan for being homeless for 30 days, and I called friends and relatives and moving companies to see where we could stay, board the cats, and store all our worldly goods for a month, should things come to that. Perhaps it was a lack of faith, I don’t know, but I was just trying to be prepared.

Yesterday I got a call from the agent telling us that the sellers had found a house and we could move in two days before our condo had to be vacated - no homelessness necessary. Wow! It reminded me of the story of the manna from Exodus 16 that I spoke on in church two weeks ago. Trust God – he has what you need for today. 34 days and counting…

Thursday, September 08, 2005

dream on...

We are in the process of looking for a new home and today the kind husband of a real estate agent said to me, “I think – no, I KNOW you will find the house of your dreams!” I smiled and nodded politely, all the while thinking to myself, “I don’t really want the house of my dreams, at least not now – I want a good investment, a property to fix up and sell for a profit, and by necessity that means the house will be less than ideal.” And I was convicted by my ready dismissal of his inspiring words. The man had a better grasp on reality than I did, and here’s why:

1. I assume that my dreams will come ready-made, no assembly or hard work required. In fact, most dreams appear as a seed, an idea, a squalling baby, a vision, a dilapidated old house that needs restoration, or a promised land that requires a desert trek and some big battles and sacrifices in order to make it your own.

2. I believe that my dreams are frivolous – no one really needs a dream home, least of all me. Just give me a reliable roof over my head, a refuge for my family, a place where visitors can feel welcome, and that is sufficient. But Jesus did not die to give us a sufficient life, he came to give us an abundant life. Why are there dreams and longings in my heart if God did not mean to do something about them (excepting selfish or immoral desires, of course)? This is not merely about material wealth, it is about developing and pursuing resources and opportunities in order to accomplish great things.

3. I tend to focus more on my ‘lack of deservedness’ than the generosity, kind intentions, and unlimited ability of my father in heaven. It really has nothing to do with how worthy or not I am to embark on a dream come true – it has to do with how much God loves and is willing to demonstrate it.

4. Deep down inside I still carry vestiges of my Mennonite heritage that associate riches and good fortune with guilt – anything I am enjoying is necessarily depriving someone else of the same. Not only am I living in luxury while others are needy, but too much of a good thing will lead me down an evil path and some small measure of poverty is healthy for it will make me rely on God. Well, that is simply bullsh*t. Either I rely on God or I don’t. It all has to do with the state of my heart, not the state of my finances. Contentment, good character, generosity, faithfulness, love, patience, wisdom, humility – these are the hallmarks of godliness, not whether you have much or little.

5. I am a doubter. I do not believe my dreams will come true, and I have some pretty outlandish ones, I will admit. When I have been brave enough to share them with others, they have often been dismissed as childish, and I have come to dismiss many of them myself in order to avoid disappointment. However, faith (not doubt) is the currency of the kingdom of God.

6. I am under the false pretence that it depends on me. While I am a firm believer in working hard and doing what you can to improve yourself and your situation and to help others as you go along, there are simply some things (fantastical, out of the ordinary, or supernatural) that I cannot bring about, no matter how hard I try. Only God can make something out of nothing, or truly restore something that is broken, and I must learn to rely on his ability more than my own lack.

So today, I repent of these erroneous thoughts and I choose instead to believe that my gracious God will supply not only my every need, but do so according to his lavish love and character. May I become more like my father in that regard.