April 8th, 2017 will certainly go down in the story of my life as one of the many times when God’s activity was more clearly seen. It was the day when God provided us with a house.
My wife and I had been hoping to buy a house for a long time, and we had been praying regularly for God to lead us in that whole endeavor. It wasn’t a prayer like “God, give me that house,” or “a house.” It was more like “God, we know you have a plan for our family’s housing. Please lead us to what you want for us. Help us to know when to act and how.” Coming into the beginning of 2017, we had been scouring Zillow.com and Realtor.com, trying to find a place of our own, but the more we crunched the numbers, the more we realized that we just wouldn’t be able to come up with enough money for a down payment until at least mid-2018–and that was with the help of a generous benefactor who was going to match our savings. By the end of March, we had settled on pinching our pennies for another year, trying to save as much as possible toward that down payment.
At this point, we were nearing the end of our second year renting a quaint little cape cod in a small town in Central Michigan. For the most part, we had been happy with the place: good landlords, close to work, good neighborhood, etc. Around this time, however, we had begun to suspect there was a significant mold problem in the house. The basement leaked, and there were some plumbing and construction issues that trapped moisture in the house, so we had known for a while that there was probably some mold, but I hadn’t really considered how much there might be. Meanwhile, however, my wife had been dealing with various health issues which weren’t going away and our oldest daughter had developed some similar issues, especially as the weather started getting wetter. Amanda started to connect the dots and began conjecturing that, considering what we knew about the house and how much mold there could be, our whole family’s health was probably being affected.
Amanda discussed this with her practitioner, who told us that the mold in our home could at least be delaying my wife’s healing (if not causing some of the issues to begin with) so it would be wise of us to try to move as soon as possible.
Heeding that advice, Amanda and I began intensely searching our area for a new rental. We live in a college town, so many rentals would already be booked for the next school year, but the rest would turn over very soon. The more we looked, however, the dourer seemed our circumstances. All the rentals in town seemed 25%+ more than what we were currently paying–and for less space. This just made the idea of saving up for that downpayment all the more elusive. Things were not looking good. Either we would be stuck in the same rental (with mold and possibly deteriorating health) for another year or we would find a tiny apartment that we could afford somewhere in town.
As in times past, when our backs were against the wall, we turned to God and to our friends. We had been praying through this whole situation and asking a few people to pray for us, but sometimes God wills a thing to happen on the condition that people pray for it, so I sent out a large group email request for friends to storm heaven . . . and that they did!
Looking further and further into the different rental opportunities in the area, Amanda was able to line up a few apartments to tour. They didn’t seem spectacular, but we hoped we could settle with one for a year or so.
Initially, we were supposed to go out of town to visit my family for the weekend, but it turned out my dad was going to be out of town, so we delayed our trip for a future weekend. I left work on Friday, April 7th and met Amanda at our first place to tour. It was a little split-level apartment in a run-down area of town. Neither of us walked away feeling that it was a good fit. The landlords, however, seemed nice, and they gave us a list of their other rentals that were soon to open up, so we decided to drive around and window shop for those. They also were able to arrange a tour of one of their son’s rentals in town the next morning.
We woke up on the morning of April 8th, planning to spend the whole day in search of a new place to call “home.” The morning rental tour we had set up with the landlords the night before was a bust, and as we left, Amanda and I decided to crisscross the streets of town, looking for “For Rent” signs. Up and down we went, jotting down addresses, phone numbers, and websites– hopeful that God would provide us a decent place.
Divide and Conquer
Amanda wanted to get a jump on contacting the various rental owners, so I dropped her off at home. It was nice weather, so the girls and I decided to go on a bike ride through more of the city, looking for other rentals. I pulled one in the trailer and the other was elated to use her new big-girl bike.
Popping in to See Jesus
We had found probably a dozen more rentals on our trip by the time we zig-zagged across town and ended up at Sacred Heart Church. I brought the girls in for a visit to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. On our way in, I noticed someone practicing singing, and noticed that the music was a considerably higher quality than I had ever heard on various visits to this parish. The girls and I made our way to the side niche with the Tabernacle, making acts of love to Jesus and also begging His help in our search for a home.
After our brief visit, we turned and headed out of the church. On our way, however, I noticed that the musicians were actually friends whose concert I was invited to attend at Sacred Heart. I thought to myself: wow, they’re awfully dressed up for a rehearsal! It turns out, however, the concert was to start later that day and I had misread the invitation, thinking it was the next day. Had I read properly, we would have all been getting ready to head out for this concert.
We exited the Church, continued our bike ride search, and eventually stopped again to visit some friends nearby. The girls and I chatted with our friends for a while and decided we should get back home to grab some lunch, see how Amanda was doing, and bring her our list of findings. Our route took us again past Sacred Heart Church, where I noticed a full parking lot and I thought to myself: I wonder what’s going on at Sacred Heart on a Saturday afternoon. Little did I know our family was supposed to be inside, attending the concert that I thought was the next day.
As I mentioned, Amanda was at home, rifling through web pages and calling landlords. She had even set up a few rental tours for the following Monday. In the middle of doing this, Amanda accidentally tapped the icon to call someone on her favorites list, but she quickly hung up and thought nothing further of it, until later…
As Amanda was continuing to look for rentals, she happened to look on Zillow and see a house for sale that was just posted to the market. Out of curiosity, she clicked to find more details. As she looked it over, something about the house stood out to her beyond that of all the other houses we had previously seen. It had all of our “must have” options and some of our “want” options–and it was within our price range . . . if we had a downpayment. The extraordinary combination of all these features stirred Amanda up enough to call me and share what she had found. I and the girls were on the way home already and the thought of a house instead of a rental was music to my ears.
I returned home and Amanda showed me the house. I agreed that it stood out above all the others at which we had looked. Because of this, we knew this house would not last long on the market. It would probably be sold by Monday. I had to put the kids down for a nap, but as I returned downstairs, Amanda and I discussed what we should do. If there was any chance that we could possibly even consider this house, we would have to act quickly.
I resolved to call our real estate agent who had just returned the day before from a spring break trip. I told him we didn’t know if we could actually do anything, but we wanted to see this house. I also asked if there was any chance we could see it immediately. He said he would make a call and see.
Around this time, the person whom my wife had accidentally called returned the accidental phone call, so Amanda shared the news of looking for an apartment and coming across this house and how we were trying to go see it. Amanda passed along the URL to view the details. The person was very excited and agreed that this was a great house for us.
During that phone call, the realtor called back and said: “how about 20 minutes from now?” I agreed, unsure of how we’d figure out what to do with the kids. Quickly, I called the friend whom we had just (knowing from our visit that she was likely available) and she gladly came over. God gave us intuition to know things needed to happen quickly, and He provided us with the means to begin acting.
As we began driving over, Amanda and I offered a spontaneous prayer, offering our thanks to God for this opportunity, our trust in Him if He wanted us to move forward with this house, and, in general, resigning ourselves to His will for our housing. The drive there was only a few minutes, but at about the halfway mark, Amanda’s phone rang. It was the accidentally called person calling again-actually husband and wife on speaker phone.
This couple knew of our mold/health situation and they know the benefactors who were willing to match us to help our downpayment, and they knew we still needed another year to save up that money. They were calling to let us know they would work with the benefactors to help us with whatever was needed for the downpayment and that if we thought this house was worth it, to feel free to go ahead and make an offer.
Wow, Amanda and I wondered, God is so amazing and these people are so generous! We both were in awe as we approached the house.
Riding on Cloud 9, Amanda and I came into the house and searched it over. We did our best to inspect everything we could (particularly mold) and everything checked out. We both could see ourselves in this house.
We let the realtor know of the news of financial backers, and we started to discuss a price. We already knew that even though the house just came on the market that day, we would probably have to offer a little above list price, just to make sure no one else made a higher offer.
The Other Couple
As we were finishing our conversation, we were walking back to the entry when we noticed another couple with another agent outside. Not surprising, we thought. This is a good house and a decent price–a combination we hadn’t found too common in our area.
At first, we thought nothing of it, until Amanda recognized who they were. They were really good friends of ours–our goddaughter’s parents! They were actually among the people who had received the prayer request email and were praying for us. We knew they, too, had been on the house hunt and that their desires were very similar to our own.
We stepped outside and chatted with them for a while. They asked what we thought of the house, and we said that we were going to make an offer. After continued friendly conversation, we parted ways–us to our realtor’s office and them to tour the house.
The Friend’s Calls
We finished most of the paperwork at the realtor’s office when I received a phone call from my friend whom we had seen at the house. He wanted to know if it would affect our friendship at all if they also made an offer. What class! I thought. It was so heartening to know that they valued our friendship higher than a potential home in a tough market–God has certainly blessed us with some solid friends! I reassured him that the feeling was mutual and that them making an offer would not affect our friendship.
Our offer ended up being higher than theirs, but when they heard from their realtor, all they knew was that their offer was not the top one, so my friend again gave me a call to see if my offer was higher than his. He wanted to make a counter offer if someone else was in the mix, but if we had the high offer, he didn’t want to go any higher. He tactfully broached the offer amount and I let him know that ours was higher, so he congratulated me. Wow, again! I thought: What class! God has surely given us amazing friends!
[Please take a minute to offer a prayer for God to provide a home for them, too. See how well prayer works!]
God’s Continued Provision
After that, minor hiccups came up, but God continued to provide.
- Our lease was supposed to end in July, but after some conversation (and some prayer) our landlords responded that we could break the lease early.
- The house has .6 acres but didn’t come with a mower and since we’ve been renting for years, we don’t own one, but my mom happened to have an extra mower and trimmer.
- My aunt offered her extra snow blower.
- I already happened to have a 5-day weekend planned just before the time of the closing (and they couldn’t be moved to later), so we asked the bank and the sellers if it could be moved up, and it all worked out.
- The inspection went smoothly.
- We had many friends and family members help us move and happen to have extra home supplies that they offered to give us: a lawn mower, a snow blower… We’ve even been offered a new furnace! (The existing furnace works fine but is getting older, so it’s nice to know one is available.)
The 7 Years
The day after finding the house, we brought the girls over to see it. We also decided to introduce ourselves to the neighbors. We learned that the lady who was previously in the house had passed two years prior and before that, she had been in hospice for five years. The house, then, had been empty for about seven years. We, at the time, were two-thirds of the way through our seventh year of marriage. Our whole marriage this house had sat empty, waiting for us to come along and bring life into it again. God sure works in wonderful and mysterious ways!
The Power of Prayer
It’s so amazing to see how God orchestrated all of this. There were so many moving parts over which we had no control. Now, I’m not preaching a Health & Wealth Gospel here. It’s not as though everyone who prays to God will automatically have everything he/she ever wanted. God is a good Father who knows what is best for His children (and when will be best to give those gifts). It’s important, on our end, to do what we can with the means we have available to us, to leave the rest up to God, and to recognize His gifts as such and not just chalk it up to “chance” or entirely the work of people–yes, people definitely had a great part in this, but God provided the means, the generosity, the timing, etc.
We also need to make good use of the gifts God gives us. I hope this post is a small start to our work of putting God’s blessing to good use.