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...).

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