I hope you will excuse the delay of sharing details on this beautiful story that God is writing for our family. We have had quite the month which started out with a lot of excitement, but then took a difficult and painful detour as we battled illness for several weeks. Three weeks, three emergency room visits and about 13 gallons of gatorade later, I'm excited, relieved and honored to be able to be have three healthy kids spending the day at art camp and to be healthy and well enough myself to sit here and share these details now!
As of the writing of our print newsletter, we had accepted what felt like unfavorable circumstances --- without being able to get a mortgage it seemed that our only path forward toward a permanent home in West Philadelphia was a one year holdover in a rental home. While the idea and end result of moving can be exciting, the actual process of it is not all that fun. The thought of having to move twice, and having to sink precious dollars into rent while the real estate market prices continued to to escalate over the year to come felt overwhelming, discouraging and frustrating. We told ourselves that it would be worth it in the end, but it was really only hope in things unseen that kept us able & willing to step forward into that plan.
Well, the unseen was far beyond what we could have imagined! After spending a week searching for and submitting inquiries for rental properties to no avail, I decided to just take a peek at the real estate listings near our church neighborhood. We had been looking to the west and south of our church in order to watch for homes that we could potentially afford, but for some reason on that afternoon I decided to look a few blocks north in a little pocket of the city that we hadn't considered earlier. Just five blocks away from our church there was a house had just been listed that day. At 4 bedrooms, 1 1/2 bathrooms and 1700 square feet at a price less than half of what it would be if it were just a few blocks south, we suddenly saw a whole new path opening up.
The next morning we left a few minutes early for church and drove by the house. Noticing neighbors outside we parked and took the opportunity to talk with them. Most of the residents on the block are elderly and have lived there for decades. A man who had lived on the block longer than anyone else was outside picking up trash, warmly spoke with us and told us how nice it would be to have a young family move into the house. The next door neighbor sat on her step, and most everyone who walked by wished her a "Happy Mother's Day" by name. Was this too good to be true?!
The next morning our realtor was able to get us in for a showing. She had already long ago warned us about not even setting ourselves up for disappointment by viewing any houses that we couldn't afford. But with the sale of our lot and a closing set for sixteen days later, we would have the option of cobbling together a combination of savings, personal loans and help from family to add to the lot proceeds to make a cash offer on the house. By that afternoon we made an offer on the house, and by that same evening our offer was accepted! Part of the appeal of our offer was that we were willing to do a fast track to settlement, with a proposed closing date of June 1st. The next two weeks were a whirlwind -- inspection, following up with contractors, asking for adjustment to our offer based on the work that needed done, haggling a bit with the seller, but ultimately moving successfully to closing on June 1st!
We arrived at closing early as did the seller's real estate agent, so we sat in the waiting area and chatted with him for a bit. "What are you planning to do with the house?" he asked. "Uhhhh ... live in it," we answered. The entire time he had assumed that we were developers since we were able to offer cash, and figured that we were planning to rent the house out. And really, of course he was confused. We are a conundrum! God's goodness and zany favor towards our family just doesn't make sense. It doesn't make sense that a family would move away from one Philly's most desired neighborhoods because we feel odd and out of place and starving for purpose here. It doesn't make sense that a family who can't get a mortgage could still get a new house. It doesn't make sense that the developer who bought our lot pulled out of the package house & lot deal, only to come back with an unbelievable offer for our lot alone, enabling us to buy this new house. Of course it makes beautiful sense to us and just seems like the perfect continuation of the story that God has been writing with our lives for all of these years.
Just after we settled on the new house we ran into a developer we know from the neighborhood who we had initially consulted with when we started to think about moving. We had had him over for dinner to pick his brain about the value of our properties and suggested improvements for selling them. During that dinner we shared some of our stories about how God has cared for us in the past -- His faithfulness to create a family out of a less-than-a-year-sober new follower of Jesus and a single missionary girl who had told God that she wasn't going to date, so He would just have to bring her husband to her with neon signs. We told him about how God sealed our engagement with gifted diamonds and given us the opportunity to purchase the house and lot in miraculous ways. I remember Frank telling this guy at dinner that night, "Don't be surprised if God just does something crazy all over again for us in this situation! It's how He works with us." Seeing him again after closing on the new house and sharing how everything worked out was an awesome fulfillment of Frank's prophetic words!
We were willing and ready for the ordinary, and yet God has done the extraordinary for us again. Our hope is that as we keep simply obeying and following, He will keep using us as examples of His faithfulness to people who might be impressed with how good, loving, generous and creative He is!
When we were moving solidly towards closing on the new house, my mom made plans to come and spend a couple of weeks with us to help with the kids so that we could get necessary work done at the new house and also with packing and moving. We had been hopeful that we'd be all moved in by mid-June, but both the illness that knocked us out for weeks and the scope of the work at the new house have slowed things down. It turned out to be so necessary for us to have the help from Nana just for basic functioning for the three weeks that she was here. We probably said a hundred times while she was here, "We could not have done this without Nana!"
Frank stayed well, so for the time he had leftover from caring for the sickies he was able to make good progress at the new house. Major work needed to be one on the plumbing, electrical and HVAC. At this point the plumbing is done, the electric should be finished later today and the HVAC team is coming out to start their work tomorrow. We think it's realistic that we could be all moved in by the end of next week!
Before I got sick and since I've been well I've been painting up a storm and have all of the bedrooms and bathrooms painted. During my time of painting the kids' bedrooms (YES, PLURAL --- Selah will have dream-come-true of her own room and Callum & Clementine will share a nice sized room) I was just so overwhelmed thinking of the loving parent heart of God. As a mother I am humbled almost to tears to have this chance to give my children something nicer than I ever imagined we could give them. My own mother has been so excited about this new home that she was unable to sleep in the nights leading up to her visit. As he has always done in our home, Frank has lovingly sacrificed and worked to hard to be sure that our home is as safe and functional as it can be.
More and more, I am understanding and cherishing this loving parent heart of God. And really, this has been the heartbeat of our ministry since having our own children -- that people could know how wonderfully God loves them and that it would cause them to want to draw near to and follow Him. We are so excited to imagine how this story will continue to play out from our new home in West Philadelphia!