Friday, December 26, 2014

He Gives and Takes Away...And Gives Again: Part 2

Thus began a crazy, twisty-turny journey of faith! First, our realtor told us there was an issue with the title, but it should be worked out. We knew it would be, of course...this was our house! God had clearly given it to us. But it turned out that it could not be worked out by our closing date, which was just a couple weeks away, before Thanksgiving. So, the closing date was postponed...then postponed again. Finally, we got a call one day from Beth, who told us, "I've never seen this happen before, but they couldn't get the title issue fixed, so Fannie Mae has taken it off the market and returned it to the bank." Little did we know this was the first of several "firsts" our seasoned realtor would experience!

We were disappointed and confused. Why had God given us something and then just taken it away like that? He wasn't the kind of God to dangle a carrot and then quickly take it away, was He? This didn't seem to fit with His nature. Yet, this seemed to be what He was doing. Admittedly, Jon's faith was far less shaken than mine. He steadfastly persisted in believing that this was God's farm for us. And I wanted to believe, as well. In fact, I clearly remember a time when I began to feel despair over losing "our farm" and suddenly, like a clear voice in my ear, I heard the Holy Spirit say to me, "Why are you upset? It's still your farm. You are going to live there." That should have been all it took, but I was still hesitant to believe.

Knowing my lack of faith, God brought circumstance after circumstance to begin building it back up. We heard several messages in church on faith that seemed to be specifically for me. One in particular was about Abraham's journey to a foreign land. God asked Him to leave his familiar homeland in faith. He told him to go to a land that He would show him...a promised land. So, Abraham stepped out in faith and journeys many, many miles, following God's leading. And when he arrived, what did he find? A land which was already inhabited. Our pastor encouraged us that when we step out in faith, we are often heading straight for obstacles. But God is in control, even when He leads us to a promised land that is already inhabited. He has a plan and we need to have faith and trust in Him, even when we hit obstacles!

During this time, I also decided to join a Bible study. I am not one to sign up for a lot of extracurricular activities outside the home, as I am just too busy with things at home. But I felt compelled to do this. Again, God was in this little decision. The book of the Bible we were studying "happened" to be Hebrews. Every week, I was being reminded of what true faith looks like and how to stretch and grow mine.

As the months of God's testing went on, I came to realize that the miracle of God's answer to our prayers was no less a miracle just because He saw fit to take it back. God is a good God, whether we understand His ways or not. He gives and He takes away...blessed be the name of the Lord! So, we began to just thank Him and praise Him for His amazing blessing, even though it was no longer ours. We marveled at the fact that He had answered so specifically. And we thanked him for the opportunity He was giving us to grow our faith.

And then one day the phone rang again.

It was our realtor, Beth. "Well," she said, "I just got a call from the realtor handling that house. He said it's back on the market and he wanted to know if you were still interested." Still interested? Of course! This time, since there were no other offers that we knew of, we offered only $45,000...$5,000 above asking price, just to be sure we got it. Our faith was not quite strong enough to only offer the asking price. Not long after, we got another call from Beth, "Well, this is the strangest thing I've ever seen and I've been doing foreclosures a long time. They counter-offered," I braced myself for the amount, "for $40,000." What? I think I must have asked her to repeat herself, as this bit of information did not quite compute! The bank had actually counter-offered for less than what we had offered! Apparently, God knew we needed every bit of that extra $10,000 from Jon's 401K to do the renovations. He didn't want us using any of it to buy the house!

We closed on the house and began to slowly go through all of our belongings and begin work on seemingly endless renovations. So many afternoons were spent out at the new house ripping up carpet, painting walls, and scraping off popcorn ceilings. What a job! During this time, I began to waver in my faith again. Were we totally crazy spending every dime of our retirement while we still owned our current house? I trusted God, but I just wanted assurance that we hadn't done something financially stupid. Well, maybe we had according to common wisdom, but I felt I needed assurance that it was in God's plan and that we would sell our house. Then one night I had a dream. It was the kind of dream that feels more like reality than a dream...that feels like a message from the Lord. In it, we sold our house in two days. That was all the confirmation I needed and I was at peace with our crazy decision! I even told a few people about my dream and that I believed we would sell the house in just a few days. And I began to pray that way, and to also pray that God would send a good Christian family to buy it.

We finally completed the renovations, then got our current house de-cluttered and cleaned up (parents are great helping with these things!), and went ahead and listed our house just in time for spring. The market at that point had turned and houses in our price range and size were selling quickly and for good amounts. An extra blessing was that since we had been able to buy the new house outright, we were able to move into it, but leave some of our things in the old house to stage it. And I wouldn't have to clean up every time we had a showing! (That turned out to not matter much anyway, but it was a nice idea). We were able to list our house for more than what we paid. Beth got it on the MLS on a Friday. A family came and looked at it on Saturday and were very interested. On Tuesday morning, we got the call that they loved our house and wanted to make an offer! We sold it and came away without losing any money. And in two (well, three technically) days...just like my dream!

One day shortly after we had sold it, before the closing, I ran into the new owner and had a nice conversation with him. I found out they were a Christian family and he had actually been homeschooled! It was an extra blessing knowing that our beautiful home filled with so many memories would go to a Christian family. And one more little blessing is that our new neighbor, who lives behind the gate with us and used to own all the land where we live, is of the same self-sufficiency, "prepper" mindset. It is good to know we have a neighbor who is watching out for the property.

Now we patiently await for God to complete "part 3" of this amazing journey. And we know He will! Part three is two-fold: 1. Heal Jon completely from his health challenges and 2. Provide a way for him to come home from corporate America. We pray these things because we know that in order to live off the land and do the things we want to do here, he needs to feel better. He has so many ideas he wants to work on (truly brilliant ones that he doesn't have time for) and really wants to homestead more, too! He wants to work side-by-side with his children, disciplining them every day! And we need his leadership. I'm so haphazard...I know I need him in the area of scheduling and to help keep us (me) on task. And honestly, he just needs rest from the stress of the kind of mentally exhausting work he does every day. I.T. is a very stressful job. We are SO grateful that God has allowed him many years of working from home, but it is still a stressful job that takes so much of his time. Having a brain injury (from a car accident years ago) makes his job even more stressful.

But we already see God answering these prayers. Over the years, he has improved. His Lyme disease is gone and his struggles now are lessening. We recently learned that he has issues with his spleen (probably from the years of being sick), so we did some research and began a regimen of certain herbs that are supposed to help. We are slowly seeing results!

And as for bringing him home, this is also being answered. God led us this year to a wonderful group called Educating for Success where we have learned some real options for starting our own business(es) and been able to network with some of the most amazing Christian homeschooling families. Finally, with the things I've learned, I feel like I can pursue all these entrepreneurial ideas I've always had floating around my head! I feel like I'm allowed to be who God created me to entrepreneur. Soon we will be starting our own online food store ( that will only offer non-GMO foods. We are very excited about the possibilities with it! Not only will we get to educate the public on the dangers of GMOs (which we have seen first-hand), but we will also get to sell good food at wholesale prices. And I have started a business with a company called SendOutCards ( and am seeing a lot of potential there, as well. (It's also helped me to be able to easily send cards to people to show them I care). And we have another venture in the works, also, that we're hoping to get off the ground in January. Our goal is to have multiple streams of income so that if one stream dries up, we have other sources we can focus on. This is another thing God has taught us...that it is wise to have multiple sources of income instead of being completely dependent on one.

Jon has always said, "Danielle, bring me home from work," but I didn't think I could. Now I'm seeing God open the doors to be able to do this for my husband, while still being a responsible wife and mother. We prayed an "impossible" prayer once, and God delivered in an amazing way. So, we KNOW He will be faithful to answer again as we pray in line with His will! We believe God's will is to heal Jon and bring him home from corporate America. We are praying He does it this year, but we are patient for His perfect timing because it is ALWAYS perfect!

(Continued SOMEDAY when God answers! Keep watching for Part 3. :))

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

He Gives and Takes Away...And Gives Again

Well, I'm only a couple years late in posting this. Procrastinator? Why, yes. But here it is! The story of our promised land (written when it happend, just finally brushing it up and posting it, so forgive the odd time references). If you don't like minutia, you may find this account tedious. But I wanted every detail recorded for myself and family, at least.

Today is the beginning of an answer to years of prayer. God is doing something incredible and I can barely contain myself! Today God gave us our "promised land," a piece of property and home we have been longing for and praying for over the past six or seven, perhaps even eight, years. Today we finally come home to where our hearts have been all along our journey, to the place God has saved just for us. All answers to prayer are exciting, but this one...well, this one is just detailed and complicated enough to only be possible by the hand of God.

Let's back the story up to the very beginning...

The story really starts with my wonderful husband, who one day years ago told me, "Some day I'd like to live on a farm. I'd like to have animals and gardens and..." and I said,


But God knew what He had in store for our family, and that little seed was planted in Jon's heart. It grew and grew over the years and, as our hearts are one, it couldn't help but spread to mine, as well. Without even realizing what had led me to the point, one day I realized that my heart also longed for this farm...this restful place. So now I recount those years of my own heart being molded as a record:

Perhaps five years ago, Jon's mom, already an avid gardener, started reading Joel Salatin's books and became interested in homesteading. With her excitement over all the new ideas she was learning, I became open to the idea of farming. It still "wasn't for me," but if she wanted to farm, I'd be happy to visit and enjoy it from a safe distance.

Jon's parents eventually found their own little promised land (their own story was a miracle in itself, but that's a story for another day), and they moved one exit away from their old house to a nice five-acre homestead. We visit them when we can and every time we go, we feel like we are home.

Somewhere along the way, farming became more and more normal to me. I found myself more attracted to this lifestyle of living off the land and Jon's own desire was becoming stronger. We prayed that if God was in it, He would lead us to our farm. Otherwise, we prayed for Him to take that longing away.

As times grew worse economically, Jon began to see the real need for being self-sufficient. I remember him saying, "I've really been thinking a lot about this. We don't need to have any more money; We just need to cut our expenses so there are less things we HAVE to pay for. We need to find ways to put money into being self-sufficient." He began thinking more about alternative power, gardening, and other ways to cut or eliminate bills. The farm-longing was intensified again.

But how could we ever afford it? The reality was that we had a very large monthly mortgage to pay, with no extra cash. If we bought a farm, we would need to sell this house first. So, we prepared to sell our house and started looking at properties. Several options excited us and we pursued them. But somehow they never quite worked out. The culmination of our search was bringing a realtor to see our house and finding out that, in the real estate boom, we had paid much more for our current house than we could now sell it for. What was God going to do? We needed to sell this house in order to move, but how would that even happen?

We called off the search for a while. But we had learned a few things about what we were looking for. Even with the house that was just a few miles away, I felt strongly that we should live on Jon's parent's street. After ending our search, other houses would come up for sale, but I had no interest to even look. It wasn't God's timing and it wasn't our land if it was anywhere but on that street. Jon felt strongly that our land should not be visible from the street and really wanted a place with no road frontage. Seven acres of land is what he began to pray for.

The most recent step in our journey is that we've become more aware of the facade of security in our culture, and we've become convicted that we should be more reliant on God for our security and to provide for our needs. We have realized that instead of having faith in God to provide for future needs, we have been presuming upon Him to provide for things we decided we just couldn't wait for. Our faith was in our mortgage and credit card, not in God.

Why did we think we needed to have a mortgage on our house? This seems so normal to our culture today, but it never used to be. Do we really need a large home with so many nice things? Is this really depending on God to supply all our needs? Or had we decided that the bank could supply all our needs and God would just continue to bless Jon with a good job to pay the bills that we had presumptuously created? What if we could just pray for God to provide things in His time (not ours) and He would? Isn't that a simple concept? Yet it is so novel to us today!

So that sort of lifestyle was in our hearts to live. We have a mortgage and there is nothing we can do to relive a past decision (and of course, it is not sinful in and of itself to have a mortgage, but it was for us). But we committed to do better in the future. And we began praying more earnestly for our promised land while we waited on God to act.

During this time, God began to move on Jon's heart to pull out his $50,000 401K to buy land. The fact that my husband even considered this was amazing in and of itself. My husband is a classic example of an over-planner. If there are two choices and one is a risk, no matter how good the choice, my husband will probably choose the less risky choice. As a child, he would ask his mother what he should be when he grew up because he wanted to start planning. This is my husband! But $50,000? Buying land is costly enough, but land with any kind of livable house would be nearly impossible on such a budget. We expected to have to build. And that brought about many more quesitons of how God would give us the money and where we would go once we sold our current house and waited to complete the new one.

But this was a decision that God impressed on him. It was somewhat of a risk and God would have to work out the many details. Within a matter of weeks after this decision, we noticed a For Sale sign on his parent's street. I copied down the number and called a few days later. We were in no rush, as we knew God would do what he willed, when He willed it.

The realtor, Beth, told us that the house was under contract, but that there was another house next door going into foreclosure that she expected to go on the market very soon. She told us she would contact us when it did. Again, we waited. Several weeks, maybe even a month later, on a Thursday I got a call from Beth. "Remember that house? Well, it's on the market now. It's three acres with a 2,000 square foot manufactured home." And the price? $40,000. I think my jaw hit the floor!

We scheduled to go that afternoon to see it. Knowing we would have to act fast on it, I spent the rest of the morning praying for several specific things. We needed to know this was where God wanted us and He needed to confirm it for us. I prayed that the house would be in good condition and not need major repairs. I prayed that everyone we told, particularly my mom who is not of the farming mentality and also tends to look for the negatives (not that this is necessarily bad), would be positive and excited about it. And I prayed for one little "extra": That there would be a space for my large eight-foot tall bookshelves. I had just redone them right before Korban was born and books are a big part of our family. They were special to me. This last request was a bit of a test, as manufactured homes do not usually have tall ceilings. I felt that if God answered that particular request, it was a definite sign for us.

When we went to see the property, we found answer after answer.

It was secluded. There was no road frontage, with a gate at the top of the driveway. We had prayed for seven acres, but this three acres seemed like a lot more, since the long drive meandered through the woods and over a creek through the two other properties there.

Built in 2001, the inside of the house was in good condition, with no major repairs needed. Some minor renovations would do the trick.

The layout was almost perfect. It had the rooms we needed, in the configuration we needed. Even the master bedroom was the same size as our current one. In time, we could do some additions and really make it our own. One major issue in our current house has been our school room, which is located upstairs away from the kitchen and laundry room, where I spent most of my time. I have always wanted the school room to be right next to the kitchen. With the addition of a wall, this house could easily be configured in that way.

And, it even had the unlikely extra I had prayed about: A tall enough wall for my bookcases. The ceiling went up in the middle of the house to a peak.

We called my parents and they were excited (another answer to prayer, as I had prayed that both of our parents would be excited about it). We put an offer on the house the next day and got it faxed in just in time at 11:59, right before the seller's agent presented all the offers to the bank at noon. Since there were five other offers, we offered the full amount we could: $50,000 cash. We weren't sure how we were going to afford the renovations, but knew we had to make a higher offer. The next day, we got a call. It was ours!

Or was it. (Continued...).