On Friday last week Peter and I signed our names approximately 5 million times and became first time home owners.
We’re both 40.
We have three kids and have lived in 9 rental homes in 3 different countries. And two years ago I’d officially given up the dream of ever owning our own house.
Until last week Friday.
I cried when we got into the car after this photo at the realtor’s office was taken.
When we first moved to Virginia our small, rental house was just a short term plan. But every summer when it came time to move we couldn’t yet. And we’d promise ourselves just one more year of saving and paying down debt and then next June would be our June to move.
I would cry.
I would get really angry at my husband.
And eventually I would accept the unacceptable and try to figure out new ways to arrange the couches in a living room that didn’t lend itself to easy configuration. Or room for more than five people at a time.
Five years of waiting.
I wrote a lot about that house. I believe there are lessons I learned there still cemented between the bricks of that home. Even the faux ones that were constantly falling off the kitchen walls. Curiously I mostly wrote about it as a series of guest posts for other blogger friends. I think this had something to do with the shame factor. How sharing about that house embarrassed me to put on my own blog.
I’ve heard from a lot of you that feel the same about your rentals. Thank you for that. It helped me feel less alone.
The thing is, I moved into that house feeling entitled to something better.
And I moved out of it five years later in a hot June feeling like everything was a gift.
We’ve spent the past two years in yet another rental. I wrote about that move over here.
It’s one with more space and a sun room that pours light into our lives and is where we gather with friends and over breakfast and when we’re doing sticky art projects or trying to work our way through an advent reading with minimal tantrums.
I’ve photographed it in every season. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll notice it’s my most photographed space in the house. (Side note: that table and chairs were one of our first purchases as newly weds).
That room feels like grace to me.
The free gift from a God who is never tired of us, never over us, and never in a rush to give us what we want.
But determined to lovingly give us what we need.
This house is where I surrendered the dream of owning our own home.
Entitlement is such a dangerous thing isn’t it?
Especially as women there’s this deep-rooted sense of being entitled to a home that is our own.
But that is the exact opposite of what Jesus has promised us:
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Instead, He has promised us Himself. He has invited us to make our home in Him.
Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
He offers us welcome and profound acceptance way beyond the state of our four walls or our carpets. And He promises to abide with us. If we can only take our eyes off ourselves for a moment to catch a glimpse of the glorious invitation to make our home in Him.
I’m not gonna pretend this is easy. It took me seven years to begin to really get this truth. For real. Seven years.
And it’s not like I’ve arrived – I’ve just started letting go of the things I’ve felt entitled to and it is such a relief friends. Such a relief.
For the first time in 7 years I finally felt at peace in my skin and my home.
So that brings us to last October.
We were at a church service a while back when our Pastor asked us to be intentional and write down what he called, “Sun Stand Still” prayers to present to the Lord much like Joshua did in the old Testament.
Peter wrote down 5 and two of them were, “that God would bring us into a new season and that the new season will bring us to a house with more room” and “that our family would catch a vision to be more generous and hospitable.”
I’ve had that notecard on our fridge for two years.
Last October Peter told me he thought it was time to explore buying a house.
At first I barely heard him.
But he was sure. And I held onto his own sense of sureness because I had grown roots where we were. I have dear friends who are close neighbors and our kids are active in club sports and at the public school down the road and moving wasn’t on my agenda any more.
But Peter was hearing something from God and I caught echoes of it in his quiet, sure steps forward along the process of exploring home ownership. So I followed in his footsteps.
We met with a mortgage lender. A dear friend connected us with a realtor. And we slowly, cautiously explored what Peter was hearing to test if it really was an invitation from the Lord to purchase a home of our own.
We qualified for a loan.
Let’s just say this was a big deal for us because we arrived here seven years ago with debt in the six-figure range. Every spare cent the past nearly decade has gone into a black hole of paying off debt and bad financial decisions.
It’s been a long journey.
Painful. And also deeply redemptive.
And then the bank gave us the green light and a pre-approval letter and Peter spent months combing through all the listings. Houses would come and go in a period of days and it was dizzying trying to keep up with it.
But where we live in Northern Virginia is overcrowded, and very expensive and Peter had caught a vision for moving us to Maryland, to a quiet corner of the country with less noise, less traffic, less stress for him on a commute into DC on a fast train instead of the throttled highways.
A move that would also offer more space, more house, and more quiet for our money.
We must have looked at over 100 houses online. And then nearly 15 in person.
And I still couldn’t imagine any of them would make moving worthwhile.
And then in March, Peter came into the room late one night to show me our house.
We both knew it was ours the moment we saw it.
Down a quiet country lane on an acre of land it had a vegetable garden, a playground, a koi pond and a beautiful, open-plan living area that felt like home the moment we laid eyes on it.
Built by the hands of the couple who owned it, it was part of what had been a large farm now divided into plots for the family and it had 28 birdhouses dotted along the property line.
We went to see it in the dead of winter and even blanketed in snow we knew it was home.
We made an offer. And we prayed and we hoped and it was terrifying to hope.
Because hoping is trusting God with the desires of your heart and what happens if He doesn’t grant them?
And then there was a miscommunication about the septic system and a misunderstanding that resulted in a delay and finally a revised offer.
And the day we submitted our revised offer was the same day another offer came in. Much higher than ours.
And while we’d written a letter sharing about our family and all our hopes and dreams for this home as a place to grow roots and raise our children and plant deep into the community the answer came back, “No.”
They went with the other offer.
I was sitting in a room full of my best friends at one of our Tuesday night meet ups when Peter texted, “We didn’t get it.”
I was stunned. I was so stunned. And more than that, I deeply needed to believe that this answer was from God and not from the whims of the universe. I needed to believe that when we pray and we trust God with our hopes and we ask Him to protect us from the decisions we don’t know enough to avoid, that He answers us.
Because He is a good God. And I believe this. And I needed to believe the No was a loving act from Him and not just a matter of, “Well, that’s life.”
Because what is all this faith we talk about worth if in the moments of our greatest hurts or hopes it doesn’t count?
So we prayed more and talked to friends and family who love us and we held on with admittedly very sad hands to the promise that He does, in fact, work all things together for good. For HIS good, which Peter and I believe is then also our good.
I mean, it was ridiculous.
It was a 72-hour marathon of toilets and buckets and bowls, and the laundry running round the clock on repeat. One by one I watched each kid succumb until it was finally my turn. Pete was the last man standing, until he wasn’t.
It was brutal.
We were shaken, and when my boys could finally straggle their way back to school, they looked relieved to be leaving behind the scene of the crime.
Peter had been emailing links to alternate house options until I finally told him to stop. I sent him an email titled, “I hate all other houses,” and I meant it.
I couldn’t imagine a home that would meet Micah’s passionate farmer’s heart and his need for digging and planting and taking care of the land and Jackson’s heart for wide open spaces to play soccer and nerf gun wars and Zoe’s delight in the purple bedroom that should have been her’s. A house like that that would still be in our price range.
I just couldn’t see a future beyond that house.
And I couldn’t understand why God would bring us so close to it and then let it slip through our fingers through a series of seemingly ridiculous misunderstandings and delays.
I prayed with other parents before me for God to help my un-belief.
The first day after we were recovered enough from the great stomach flu apocalypse of 2015, Zoe and I were headed out to tentatively pick up some food when I got this text from our realtor:
“Check your email! The other couple pulled out of the property! The agent is wondering if you guys want to resubmit your offer.”
And then I pulled over in a Chipotle parking lot with shaking hands to text her back, “Oh my word yes yes yes! 100% yes. How do we do it?”
It was stunningly unreal.
Peter was still sick from the night before and lifting his head to read and process the messages and sign the contract was dizzying. But really, the whole process felt like that.
And when we got final confirmation that the house we had so hoped and prayed for was actually going to be ours I was downstairs in the laundry room with Peter and I cried so hard I scared our kids when we told them the good news.
I don’t claim to know how God works.
His mind is vast as the universe He dreamed up and as deep as to oceans He poured out.
But I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt now that God gave us this house.
He made that abundantly clear. Everything begins and ends in His hands – His good hands that can be trusted to hold us as we mourn as well as when we rejoice.
So on Friday last week I stepped through the front door of the first house I have ever owned.
And you guys – it was just as amazing as I ever could have imagined.
We move in officially toward the end of June. There’s lots of packing and planning to do between now and then. And I can’t wait to share updates as we get settled into this new rhythm.
For now I’m just so profoundly grateful for the most unexpected story. And I promise that wherever you are in yours, God has not forgotten you or abandoned you. He has you in the palm of His generous hands.
And now, if only there was a way to have you all over for tea some day…….