After a beautiful Thanksgiving, I am reminded once again by just how much I have to be thankful for. God has rescued me - drawn me up from the miry pit, and set my feet upon the Rock (Psalm 40:2). I am completely undeserving of his grace and mercy, and completely undone by his relentless love for me.
He is good.
He is faithful.
He is for us, and not against us. He never changes.
And yet . . .
In my human frailty, and my struggle against faithlessness, I have fought this past year to apply those truths to my heart. Gratitude is elusive in the midst of hardships. Oh, how I have begged Christ to make me see clearly!
It has been a challenging year for our family. This time last year, we were facing the unknown of unemployment. That period lasted for six months. During which time, I watched my husband wrestle with despair, lack of health, and his (seeming) lack of purpose. It is difficult to watch someone you love walk down a road you cannot follow. This was an opportunity for me to come beside my husband and pray for him in a way that I might never have learned, if not for that period in our lives.
God in his kindness, has always provided for us financially, and my children have never yet known what it is to wonder where their next meal will come from. He made clear that He is our provider. He always has been, and he always will be.
After the emotional roller coaster of going through multiple interview processes, only to be told that another was selected for the position, we wrestled together with the knowledge that God would provide a position in his timing, and for his glory. This was not about qualifications, interview skills, or anything else. If it were, only Nate would receive the credit for the position. It was a daily struggle to consciously rest in that truth.
Then the whirlwind began of an accepted job offer, and relocating our family to a new city. In the midst of this joy, God saw fit to bless us with another addition to our family. Joy overflowing! Although his timing is somewhat baffling to my sensibilities sometimes (okay, most times!), I was thankful for this gift.
In mid-July, Nate started his new position. Because we had sold our home in a matter of days, the process of packing up the house and looking for a new home had to happen right away. With Nate working in Milwaukee, that meant staying in IL with his parents during the week and making the 90 minute drive to and from work each day, and only coming home to us on the weekends. The reality of single parenting full time, and packing up a house while dealing with morning sickness was heavy. I am thankful for the people God surrounded me with during those weeks to encourage me, and challenge me. Too often, I lean on my own understanding, and try to do life in my own strength. I was reminded time and time again how weak I am, and how desperately I need Jesus! He is gentle with us, and remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:14). I was shaped exponentially during that time in so many areas - character training is messy work. Especially as an adult!
The time for closing on our home came and went, and as we still hadn't found a new place to live, all of our earthly belongings were put into a storage unit, and I moved in for (what was supposed to be) a few weeks with my parents in IL until we could get settled in Milwaukee. We began the complicated process of searching for a home without knowing anything about the urban area we were relocating to. With no personal connections, and no working knowledge of the surrounding communities, we were feeling overwhelmed. Reality began to set in about the kind of home we would be able to afford, and after several weeks of searching, and Nate walking through many a home, we found one we thought would fit our family's needs adequately for the next couple years.
We made an offer, and unfortunately weren't able to take on the replacement of asbestos roof tiles. Since the owners weren't able to come down any in negotiations, we didn't get the house.
A few weeks later, we found another home in a community even closer to Nate's office, that was very small, but had a double lot with a fenced in backyard! We were glad for the prospect of having some outdoor space in a safe neighborhood, while still being close to everything. We had an accepted offer, and then came the home inspection. Our report came back with multiple disturbing structural issues. The house was essentially an accident waiting to happen. Since neither we, nor the homeowner could take on the repairs needed, we were very disheartened but decided it was the best decision for our family to walk away.
About a month later, while still trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy for our family, we almost stumbled across another home. This home had so much beautiful character, more space, and was also in a good neighborhood. The current owners had obviously maintained it, and there were several beautiful features we were thrilled to discover! We immediately made an offer for just above asking price, and were pleased when they accepted! We started to get the sense that the owners were going to be difficult to work with, based on little things that kept coming up during arrangements. Still, we were encouraged to give them the benefit of the doubt, and as we were really looking forward to being a family again (and Nate was excited about only having a 20 minute commute!), we decided to push ahead and try to get through to closing. We were scheduled to close on the home December 2, 2016. We were thrilled to be in a home again by Christmas! As it was, with that closing date, we would have been separated for 6 months, give or take most weekends. About a week ago, we received word from our realtor, that the sellers, for their own reasons, were simply refusing to close on the home. Our options were limited. Either hire an attorney and take them to court, or take the refunded earnest money they offered us, plus a little extra to cover the inspection, etc, and walk away. I honestly couldn't believe what I was hearing. It felt like being in a bad dream. It was baffling. We prayed about it, sought godly council, and decided to start over . . . again.
To say that we were disillusioned by this point would be an understatement. The morning after we decided to walk away, we received a listing for a house - not two blocks from the one we had just lost. It was a far cry from the homes we had started out looking at - it practically gleamed! Nate was able to schedule a showing for that same afternoon, and afterward was giddy with the prospect of owning it. We made an offer right away, and we were amazed that this house could really be within our grasp financially. It just seemed too good to be true! A gorgeous home with so many updates, yet maintaining the integrity and character of the 1940's Craftsman style home. By the next day, we had a verbally accepted offer from the seller. We were thrilled - but remained cautious. Their realtor came back and asked if we would be willing to provide one month of post-occupancy, to allow the sellers time to find a new home. We agreed, and that left us just 6 weeks after moving in until the baby I'm carrying is due to arrive. Two days later, the realtor informed us that the sellers had continued to have showings, and had decided to accept a better offer. Though they had verbally agreed to our offer, because of the extra paperwork involved with the post-occupancy addendum that hadn't been mutually agreed upon and signed, they were free to entertain (and accept) other offers. We were crushed.
Thanksgiving approached, and I struggled to feel thankful. We are no closer to living together in our new city than we were in July, when we began our search. This period of waiting, and being displaced, is wearying to our spirits.
And yet . . .
We are reminded so often that our joy and security are not tied up in a home. Christ has been made more precious to us. He did not promise us an easy life of earthly comforts, but he works in us for our eternal gain. What could be more loving?
Thanksgiving day, I was driving up to meet Nate in Chicago, where we would be celebrating with our extended family. I was feeling apprehensive about the drive, as I had never been to this particular house, and it was in the city. Also, I knew that most of the guests - though relatives, would be unfamiliar to me. I listened to Colossians during the drive, and this passage pierced my heart:
"May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:11-14, emphasis mine)
Really, what else is there? I have Christ living in me, the hope of glory! I don't have a child with cancer. I am not a widow. I woke up this morning and drew breath into my lungs. I was once in a deep cesspool of sinfulness, and he drew me out! I don't want to downplay the struggles of the past year, but needless to say, my heart is filled with gratitude. My focus has once again been redirected to Jesus for my joy and satisfaction, instead of looking to earthly things. He is enough. Wherever he has called me to go, he will be there.
We would covet your prayers for us - for wisdom, and for patience as we continue to seek housing options for our family. We have difficult decisions to make, and we want to honor God with all we say and do. For we do not battle against flesh and blood . . .(Ephesians 6:12)
Grace and Peace,