APRIL 15, 2013: NOW WHAT?

Well, it’s been quite a while since I wrote my last blog entry, and A LOT has happened in the meantime.  Bottom line…we made it through!  To say that getting moved in three weeks was overwhelming would be a major understatement.  Our first undertaking was to get moved into the condo.  We spent the entire first weekend after we got the contract for the sale of the house moving over everything that we thought we would need to at least “function” in the new place.  The girls spent the weekend with their grandparents, and by that Sunday afternoon their rooms were completely done (pictures hung, clothes in the closets, etc.).  We wanted to make the transition as easy for them as possible, so we definitely thought seeing their rooms intact would be a big part of that.  Now, our room was a different story!  It was late Sunday night before we even had a bed put together to sleep in.  In fact, we didn’t even have any of our clothes at the condo at that point.  Fortunately, we had taken that Monday off, so we were able (to some degree) to finish things up.  I say “to some degree” because we didn’t see the top of our kitchen table for the next two weeks!

Step two in the process was trying to sell all of the extra “stuff” we had accumulated over the years.  As I’ve mentioned in this blog before, we determined that we were apparently hoarders that just happened to have the cabinet space to keep everything from spilling out into the common areas.  We sent e-mails, put the sale on Facebook, etc… basically anything we could think of to get people to come by.  I’ve got to say, it’s definitely a humbling experience to have people come to your house and go through all your stuff.  After two days, we had raised a little over $7,000 and still had a fairly large amount of stuff that ended up being donated.  I have to give special acknowledgment here to my mom, who served as chief negotiator.  Amy and I would have definitely gotten far less on many of the items had she not been in charge of pricing.  I also want to think my mother-in-law for taking the girls for a big part of that time.  It would definitely have been a lot harder with them there. 

With the sale behind us, we were down to getting the remaining items we going to keep from the house to the condo and getting things cleaned up for the hand off to the new buyer.  Of course, throughout this entire time we were going through all the steps that have to happen from the time you accept an offer on your house to the time that you close.  This, I have to say, is where God really showed up!  The first step was the inspection.  Since we had already had an inspection done for the first buyer whose financing fell through, we were able to provide that to the new buyer.  We were hoping they would simply use that to determine what problems needed to be fixed (and we knew there wasn’t anything major).  You can imagine, then, how my stomach dropped when I found out they were going to use the general inspection, but that the buyer was bringing in his own heating and air conditioning guy, his own pool inspector, and his remodeler to take a look at everything!  I thought, here we go again!  It was way too similar to what we went through with the first buyer who then came back saying that he wanted us to buy him two new air conditioners or he wouldn’t close.  To try to get ahead of this, I was able to get our air conditioning people to come out and do the yearly tune up on the systems prior to his guy coming out.  They came up with about $500 in various stuff they recommended be done (special thanks to my dad for spending half a day at our house while they did the job).  We were then able to forward that report to the buyer’s agent prior to his people coming in.  Basically, for the next three days we played the waiting game, not having any idea what they were going to potentially ask for.  By the grace of God, everything was VERY minor.  A switch on the spa, the basic work our people said needed to be done on the air conditioners and a leaking faucet were all they were wanting us to fix!  We were incredibly relieved.  Next came the appraisals.

Yes, I said appraisalS (plural).  The first appraisal took place a couple of days before the sale of our stuff.  I took off and spent the day pulling stuff out of cabinets and getting everything ready for the sale.  The real reason I took off was to be there to make sure the appraiser took everything into account in terms of upgrades we had put into the house.  The buyer was trying to get $10,000 extra to do some remodeling, so we not only needed the house to appraise for what we were selling it for, but we needed it to be at least $10k higher!  We actually had prepared a list of everything that we’d done and what we’d spent that had been part of the package of info. that prospective buyers were able to pick up.  I had a great conversation with the appraiser.  He was appreciative to have the list of upgrades.  And, before it was all said and done I had sold him $265 of our stuff!  I left that day for an overnight business trip thinking what a “God thing” it was that I was able to be there and that it had gone so well.  My heart sank, again, when I got to my hotel room that night in Greenville, SC and got another “showing notice” for a second appraisal the next day.  It turns out that the buyer was getting both a first and second mortgage and the banks were each sending appraisers.  It definitely concerned me that I was not going to be able to be there.  I was concerned but had no choice but to let it go.  I went about my trip and flew home that evening.  The next morning, however, I get ANOTHER notice that an appraiser would be at our house from 12 to 2.  Fortunately, I was able to work from home the 2nd half of that day, so that I could be there.  It turns out that the appraiser who was supposed to have come the day before had apparently had to cancel, and the bank called this guy at the last minute to get him to do it.  We had a great conversation.  He took our list of upgrades as well as previous square footage appraisal we’d had done.  He literally stopped measuring when he realized he knew the appraiser that done that one and knew he could trust his work!   He actually thanked me for being there.  He said that some realtors discourage their clients from being at the house when the appraiser is there but that he preferred for seller to be there.  He flat out said that he would have given us credit for some of the upgrades but that he likely wouldn’t have noticed them all had I not been there to give him the list and point things out.  Again, a total “God thing!”  It took a few days, but the appraisals came in at exactly what we needed the home to appraise for!  Again, thank you Lord!

The rest of the process went fairly smoothly.  The close did get pushed by one day because some paper work wasn’t done in time, but it finally happened.  As much as were happy to finally have this process behind us, it was bittersweet when Abby and Alex cried as they walked the house for the last time.  Abby because she was sad, and Alex because she saw that Abby was getting attention for being sad! J

So, we’re officially settled.  We have two garages at the new place still full of stuff that needs to be sorted through, but at least our living environment is finished.  The question I’m left with is “now what.”  Clearly, trusting God is about a lot more than trusting Him to sell our house.  Now that the turmoil of the move is over, I’m left to settle back into everyday life.  I find myself now worrying about what’s next.  Where do we go from here?  I feel like now that we’ve hit this giant life reset button things should change dramatically, but I’m quickly realizing that, although our circumstances have changed, life goes on in many ways exactly as it has before.  I’m praying that I can have peace on a daily basis and let the future worry about itself.    I’m trying to focus on Matthew 6:34…

Matthew 6:34

New International Version (NIV)

34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Again, this is easier said than done, but having seen how God intervened in what we just went through I’m confident He’s going to be there to see us through whatever the future holds.

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MARCH 18, 2013: Prayers Being Answered…

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again “it’s amazing to me how quickly things can change.”  Since my last entry I’ve tried to hold to the “trusting moment-by-moment” mantra.  There have definitely been A LOT of moments over the last 10 days.  Last Sunday, 3/10, (2 days after my last entry) we got another offer on the house.  The people who had originally said that they couldn’t live without gas decided they wanted the house after all.  We were willing to meet them in the middle between what they offered and our list price, so we countered with a number that would split the difference.  Of course, as luck would have it, their realtor was out of town so we waited two days before she finally got back.  When she did, they requested to see the house again.  A day went by.  Then they requested to see it a third time!  After all that, they rescinded their offer because they just couldn’t get over the fact that the stove wasn’t gas.  Don’t ask me why that took 3 showings!  Were they thinking that if they came back and looked over and over again the stove might, at some point, magically convert from electric to gas?!?  Guessing that transformation is not at the top of God’s priority list when it comes to requests for miracles!  As you might imagine, we were more than frustrated.

That was last Wednesday that it officially fell through.  Things were crazy after that.  On Thursday, Friday and Saturday we had people who not only looked at it once, but came back the same day to look at it again.  On Friday night, the people who had seen it twice put in an offer.  Although we were excited by that (the offer was pretty good), we found out that the wife hadn’t seen it yet (other than pictures).  We held our breath and prayed for most of the day on Saturday.  Finally, late Saturday we found out that she liked the house and that they were accepting our counter offer.  We wrapped up the paperwork late yesterday. 

So, here we are again.  We’re just praying everything goes smoothly.  We definitely know it’s going to go quickly because we’re closing 3 weeks from today!?!  Apparently, the house they’re renting has sold, so they really need to move.  If everything goes as planned, we’ll start our move process this weekend.  We definitely need prayers for everything that will go on over the next three weeks.  First, for the sale process to go smoothly (we still have to get through final financing approval, appraisal, etc.).  Second, that everything goes smoothly in terms our moving/getting rid of “stuff” process.  Hard to imagine how 4200 square feet is going to be whittled down to 1428 square feet in just three weeks!  Finally, and most importantly, that the girls handle everything okay and don’t get overly sad about the move.  So far I think they’re excited, but I definitely expect there to be tears along the way.

We definitely believe that this is God’s plan for us.  We’ll be continuing to pray that that is the case, and we definitely appreciate you doing likewise.

MARCH 8, 2013- Trusting Moment-By-Moment…

So, today’s words of wisdom come from two very different sources, the devotional book Jesus Calling and from Rhoda!  This definitely hasn’t been a great week.  The worse part about this “housing limbo” is that, as much as we talk about trusting God, it’s very hard to maintain that trust when you don’t see Him act.  It really makes you question all those Bible verses I’ve previously quoted that say things along the lines of “God has a plan.  God wants the best for you.  God can do more than you ever imagined, yada, yada, yada…”  I know it’s horrible to say, but the thought has crossed my mind “what if all this is just stuff that people with crappy lives tell themselves to make themselves feel better.”  To some extent this attitude is driven by some news I heard earlier this week about a friend I went to church with when I was a kid.  She’s just a year older than I am, has three kids (I believe the youngest one is around 11), and she lost her husband 15 months ago to pancreatic cancer.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, she is now in the end stages of fighting cancer and is expected to lose that battle within the week.  Where is the grand plan in that?!?  I guess I should really feel thankful about the fact that my problems aren’t problems at all compared to what she and her family are going through, but instead my instinct is to be mad at God for her.  Again, I just can’t see how these three kids (one of whom is a special needs child, by the way) losing both parents within a 15 month time period is “God wanting the best for them”!?!   I just don’t get it.

As I’ve struggled with this, I’ve read various devotionals and listened to various sermons to really try and get my head back in the right place.  I know, deep down, that my current attitude is wrong.  I know that my blessings far outnumber my problems.  At the end of the day, I do still believe that God has a plan for my life.  One of the things that made me reconsider my attitude, however, came from an unlikely place.  I was reading the People Magazine article about Valerie Harper and the brain cancer that is expected to take her life within 3 months.  The quote that I liked had to do with whether she was struggling with the “Why me?” question.  Her response was…”Why not me? I don’t get why I should be exempt.  I’ve had a good run.  What more can I ask for?”  The article goes on to say that she considers herself agnostic.  It made me think about how sad it is that a person who doesn’t really believe in God can have a better attitude about dealing with something like this than me.  It really made me realize what a wimp I am when it comes to trusting God.  I’ve written several times in previous blog entries statements along the lines of “This is it.  I’m just going to quit complaining and start trusting.”  Jump forward a couple of entries, however, and I’m likely back to complaining and asking “Why me?”  One minute I’m trusting God, the next minute I’m not.  It reminds me of the quote in Mark 9:24…

Mark 9:24

New International Version (NIV)

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

That’s pretty much where I find myself.  I believe, but I definitely need help with my unbelief.  Given this fact, the passage I happened to read in Jesus Calling this morning seemed especially timely…

Jesus Calling: April 12

Trusting Me is a moment-by-moment choice.  My people have not always understood this truth.  After I performed miracles in the wilderness, My chosen children trusted Me intensely- but only temporarily.  Soon the grumbling began again, testing My patience to the utmost.  Isn’t it often the same way with you?  You trust Me when things go well, when you see Me working on your behalf.  This type of trust flows readily within you, requiring no exertion of your will.  When things go wrong, your trust-flow slows down and solidifies.  You are forced to choose between trusting Me intentionally or rebelling: resenting My ways with you.  This choice constitutes a fork in the road.  Stay on the path of Life with Me, enjoying My presence.  Choose to trust Me in all circumstances.

This passage really hit home for me.  I’ve got to actively choose to trust “in the moment” without an end result in mind.  Throughout this house selling process, I’ve said I was going to trust almost with the expectation that the statement alone was going to cause God to act in some sort of dramatic fashion.  Like saying “I trust you” was going to cause God to say “That’s all I needed to hear.  I’ll be sending over a buyer for your house right away.”  Basically, a cause and effect situation.  I’m finally realizing that’s not really how things work.  Faith is about trusting God when you don’t see the miracle or you don’t understand why something has happened.  It’s about intentionally making the decision to trust when you don’t really see Him working.  This is the attitude I’ve got to strive to maintain.  So, right here, right now, in this moment, I’m choosing to trust! 

MARCH 5, 2013- Giving Thanks vs. Feeling Thankful…

I’ll have to admit, I purposely didn’t write anything yesterday because I couldn’t come up with anything positive to say.  We had 5 showings over the weekend, but none seem to be truly interested.  One couple apparently LOVED the house but won’t be buying it because our stove isn’t gas!?!  So, we basically continue to live in limbo.  In our heads we have one foot out the door, but the other foot is seemingly shackled to our house.  Deep down we know that God can do incredible things.  He could easily send a buyer today (in fact, we have a showing this afternoon), but we’ve been disappointed so many times we’re really starting to lose faith.  We don’t doubt His ability to do something, but we are certainly starting to doubt His willingness to do it.  We’ve definitely gotten to the point where we’re jaded enough that we’re very carefully not to let ourselves get over-excited about something.  I problem is, I WANT to get excited!?!  This isn’t the norm for me.  I’m very much a “glass half full” person.  However, at least in terms of the process of trying to sell this house (given the fact that it’s been on and off the market for the last 3 years), it seems like our glass has been habitually half empty.  I definitely believe we’re being tested for some reason, but I gotta tell you…there’s a reason it was the Book of Job and not the Book of Adam!  I don’t think I would have done well in his circumstances.  That level of patience is not my strong suit.  But, with all that said, I’m trying as best I can to keep my focus on God and His promises.  My mom sent me a devotional yesterday that really helped to put things into perspective.  In it, the author quotes Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:18…

1 Thessalonians 5:18

New International Version (NIV)

18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

The point the author goes on to make is that God commands us to “give thanks” not to “feel thankful.”  This really hit home for me given the fact that there seems to be a big disconnect lately between the attitude I know I should have and how I actually feel.  I know deep down that I have a lot to be thankful for.  I’ve got a great family, and we have our health.  We may be stuck in a home we desperately want to sell, but we’re not homeless.  I get it.  When I get discouraged, though, it’s very easy to forget about all that and focus on the negative.  I can quote a few more scriptures and tell you I’m going to stop doing that immediately, but it simply wouldn’t be true.  I’m going to do what I was commanded to do and give thanks.  I may not feel particularly thankful as I’m doing it, but I’m hoping the act of obeying that command will work its way into how I feel. 

MARCH 1, 2013- Trusting vs. Understanding…

And here we go again…

The house sale completely fell through last night.  As I laid out in yesterday’s blog, the buyer was having trouble with financing, but they were still “95% sure” that everything would get resolved.  Well, our realtor had them contact her mortgage person yesterday.  She called us last night to tell us that she was recommending that we refuse to let them extend the option period to next week.  They had already told us that if we didn’t allow them to extend it they would terminate the contract, so she was effectively telling us to let them walk away.  When I asked her what had changed and what happened to the “95 sure” she said that she had spoken to her mortgage person and, although he couldn’t officially tell her anything and she couldn’t officially tell us anything, after speaking with him this was her recommendation and “as a smart man” she felt sure I could draw my own conclusion from that.  So, we’re back to square one.  The house should be back on the market later today and the waiting game begins again.  I’ve got to say, I definitely believe the sale falling through was a blessing in disguise.  At the end of the day, this guy was shady and not a good person.  Who knows what else we would have had to deal with between now and April 2nd when the sale was supposed to officially close!?!  With that said, the frustrating part is that I don’t really understand why we had to go through this at all.  As I was thinking about that Proverbs 3:5-6 came to mind…

Proverbs 3:5-6

New International Version (NIV)

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

I also came across a passage in the devotional book Jesus Calling this morning that said basically the same thing but in a slightly different way…

Jesus Calling: March 31

“Sometimes My blessings come to you in mysterious ways: through pain and trouble.  At such times you can know My goodness only through your trust in Me.  Understanding will fail you, but trust will keep you close to Me.

Bottom line…I’ve decided to give up trying to understand everything, and I’m back to trusting. 🙂

FEBRUARY 28, 2013- Feeling Defeated…

It’s amazing how much can change in a day.  Got a phone call from our realtor last night (we’re learning that, at this stage of the game, that is never a good sign).  Apparently, the buyer is having trouble getting his financing approved.  Although the mortgage company is “95% sure” it will get done, they are apparently saying that it will take an extra week due to the fact that he’s self-employed and, therefore, the process requires a lot of additional documentation.  Our realtor is trying to get them to speak with her mortgage person today, but bottom-line, we only have until 5pm today to make any sort of adjustment to our lease at the new place.  We had that clause put into our contract because the end of the day today was his deadline for having his financing squared away.  Needless to say, we’re not feeling very hopeful about moving anything this weekend.  The most likely outcome is that later today we’ll find out that there’s no way around it and that they do, indeed, need another week.   At that point we will have the following options:

  1. We allow them to amend the contract to give them until next Thursday to have their financing squared away.  We then amend our lease so that we’re moving in next weekend instead of this weekend.  What this basically means for the buyer is that he gets the extra week to work on this, but still gets his $15k in earnest money back if things don’t go through.
  2. We refuse to amend the contract.  At this point, the buyer has two options.  He can either move forward with the purchase (which is basically the same as option A except his $15k in earnest money would now be at risk), or he can simply walk away.  Of course, our choice regarding the apartment is then very much dependent on his decision.  If he walks away, we’ll obviously just cancel the lease.  If he moves forward, we either amend the lease to move in next week or we move forward with this weekend’s move-in with the thought that we will have his $15k in earnest money to buy us out of the lease were things to fall through.

To say that we’re frustrated is a huge understatement!  So far, I’m definitely doing better in terms of my reaction.  I didn’t immediately go into the “blame God mode” that I went into last weekend when dealing with the whole price reduction situation.  With that said, I’m still struggling with how exactly I should react.  I know I should “trust God,” but I just don’t get why we’re having to deal with this.  I know I should be upbeat and say things like “I know God has a plan,” and “I just want His will for my life.”  However, when I started writing this blog I promised myself I was going to just put it all out there and be brutally honest.  (Let’s face it, I’ve certainly shared more about my finances than I ever would have thought I would).  Anyway, when it comes to how I feel right now about the only word that comes to mind is “numb.”  I know deep down that God does, in fact, have a plan, but I’m just not feeling it.  I’m to the point where I don’t even know what it is I’m supposed to pray for!  Do I pray that it all works out?  Do I pray that the person walks away now, so that we don’t lose any more time that the house could be on the market?  Do I pray for God to help me make the decision about whether to agree to amend his contract?  It’s all so incredibly frustrating.  Long story short, I’m half-heartedly praying for His will.  I say “half-heartedly” because I’ve been consistently praying for that all along.  The frustrating thing is that just about the time I think I know what His will is, what I think turns out to be wrong.  Maybe that’s my problem?  Maybe I need to surrender everything to God and stop trying to figure out what His will is?  If that’s the case, then I’m at the perfect point in my life to make that decision.  As beaten down by this whole process as I feel, surrender certainly sounds like a great solution.

For what it’s worth, I contemplated whether to put this blog entry up.  I know with other entries I’ve tried to include scriptures that ultimately helped me to deal with what I’m going through.  This entry sounds more defeatist than I would like.  For good or for bad, though, it’s how I feel right now.  Deep down I know that God is eventually going to act, and that we’ll get past this whole situation.  I look forward to writing that blog entry.

FEBRUARY 27, 2013- Make a “True” Sacrifice for God…

Well, I think we’re finally allowing ourselves to get excited about the move.  I know, for most people, the idea of “moving on down” to a 1,400 square foot apartment from a 4,100 square foot house would definitely not be something they’d be looking forward to or remotely excited about, but as I’ve mentioned before, we actually can’t wait to go through everything we own and “purge.”  We feel weighed down by all the stuff we’ve managed to accumulate over the years.  In fact, having now started the packing process we have come to the realization that we’re apparently really organized, high-end hoarders!  The amount of dishes, glassware, knick knacks and random appliances we own is absolutely crazy.   Anyone looking for a rice cooker, sandwich griller and, wait for it…a sterling silver toast server should definitely swing by our house!  Okay, so I feel obligated to mention here (lest anyone think Amy was involved in the toast server purchase) that it was something I had before we got married.  It seemed like an essential purchase at the time.  What if I became really wealthy and had a staff serving me breakfast “Downton Abbey style?”  They would need something to put the toast on!?!  Anyway, like I said…hoarders!  Another reason I think we’re more excited now is that we’ve entered the “acceptance” phase.  This new, more simplified life is what we’re going to be living for the foreseeable future.  Clearly, we realize we’re still more fortunate than a lot of people out there, but it’s definitely a “scaled back” lifestyle compared to what we’ve been used to.   What I’m trying to be careful of, however, is the mentality of “well, this is okay because it’s only temporary.”  The fallacy of this mindset was driven home by a sermon podcast I listened to yesterday.  In it, the minister (Charles Stanley) talked about idols in our lives and making sacrifices for God.  As most everyone knows, there are many things that can be idols in our lives.  Money, work, alcohol, people…these are all things that we can put before God.  Even our lifestyle and status can be idols and, therefore, hindrances in our relationship with God.   Obviously, the best thing to do is for us to get rid of these idols.  To sacrifice that thing(s) in our lives so that we can grow closer to God.  The part of the sermon that really hit home for me, though, was when he talked about doing it with the wrong mindset.   Many times we say “Lord, I’m willing to give this up for you” while inwardly crossing our fingers that his response will be something along the lines of “all I needed to see was your willingness to give it up.  Because you’ve shown me that, you can keep it.”  He said many people use the story about Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac for God as a justification for this mindset.  Of course, we all know the story…

Genesis 22:9-18

New International Version (NIV)

Abraham Tested

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

The bottom line is that God knows your heart.  If your willingness to give up something is predicated on your expectation that God will either keep you from actually giving it up or will eventually give it back to you, then you’re not truly making a sacrifice.  I was struck by how much this was true in my own life concerning our current situation.  One of the things I was holding tight to was the expectation that we were making sacrifices now that we believe are part of God’s will for our lives and that we will be blessed for having done so.  Now don’t get me wrong, I know for certain that we will be blessed, but what I’m realizing is that it won’t necessarily be a material blessing.  I know that God has great things planned for us.  I still believe the verse I quoted in my first blog entry…

Ephesians 3:20-21

The Message (MSG)

20-21 God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

I’ll have to admit, though, that I originally embraced this verse with material blessings in mind.  I am now realizing that mindset was not correct.  From this point forward I am determined to be thankful for whatever blessings God has in store for us regardless of whether they ever result in a meaningful improvement in our status or lifestyle.   There is definitely more to life than status and possessions.  Perhaps just realizing that is a blessing in and of itself.