It was only our second weekend looking at houses. We were going quite a bit further geographically than we were wanting to live, but we had found homes in our price range that were nicer and larger, so we felt it was worth a look. We had resigned ourselves to the reality that in order to find something nice, we’d have to sacrifice proximity to friends, the church we loved and Nick’s easy commute.
The first house we visited was a total dud. Phew, I thought. I didn’t fall in love yet. But there were five more on our list.
We parked near the second house, got the kids out and walked towards the front door. I took one look, turned to Nick and said, “I’m going to fall in love with this house.”
The Neighbors From Hell.
Barely two months before, a situation at our apartment had gone from bad to worse. On New Year’s Day, we discovered we had new tenants living above our heads that weren’t too concerned with being considerate. Their music would blare at random hours, sometimes day, sometimes night, sometimes for one hour, sometimes for six, always shaking our walls and doors. We tried confronting them to make a change, but to no avail.
Once, we learned that a party was being thrown because a friend had just gotten out of prison. Another time, two arrests were made after a violent fight broke out late at night. The police were called three other times for domestic disturbances, all in the span of two weeks. We had gotten our leasing office involved but that only made things more contentious. An eviction notice was finally given, which did nothing but start court proceedings.
Needless to say we lost our peace. I found myself uncharacteristically anxious to the point that I could barely eat. It had been our plan to buy a home within the year, wanting to take our time to find what was right without feeling rushed, but the situation upstairs accelerated our plans. We had thought to renew our year lease to save money, but we decided to go month to month at the end of February. A providential decision.
“Just Start Trusting Me.”
One afternoon, I was talking to Jesus on the crucifix out loud. It was a practice I had started not long before, having relaxed and open conversations with him as I’d have with a friend.
“How do I begin to trust you again?” I asked after some ramblings, a question I’d pondered since losing my trust in God roughly two years before.
“Just start trusting me,” was his reply.
How could he give me such an oversimplified answer? He knew what I had gone through and why this step was so hard. My eye roll could have knocked him off his cross.
“And this is how I know you’re a man,” I retorted.
I knew he was right. Finding a house was the perfect opportunity to trust him again. But I was afraid. It was hard to hope for things having learned the hard way that God will not grant me what is not in accord with his will. Two years before, he had broken my heart for the good, but I didn’t feel my heart could bear being broken again quite so soon.
What he said gnawed at me. It was my decision to make.
So about a week later, I was back talking to him on the crucifix. “OK fine! I’m going to start trusting you.”
What I planned to say got caught in my throat. Deep breath.
“Ok Jesus, find us a house. Find us a house with at least 3 bedrooms, in a safe area, with some kind of yard for the kids to play. Find us a house where we can host our parents for visits so they don’t have to stay in expensive hotels. Find us a house where we can host our friends, old and new, a place where we can practice hospitality, a place where people can feel loved and feel you.”
I felt a twinge of apprehension. The house was his, to give us or not.
Down to Business.
By the beginning of February, we had met with a realtor and began searching. The housing market was utter insanity, with demand rising exponentially higher than supply. Houses were going up on the market on Thursday and selling by the following Tuesday, having gotten anywhere from 10 to 30 offers.
As we approached this house, I just knew. It was beautiful. The layout was functional and simple, with lots of light and space that flowed well. There were four bedrooms and three bathrooms, plus a finished basement and workroom. The yard was amazing, beautifully manicured, with all kinds of fun things for the kids to explore. The sellers took pride in keeping the house pristine. It didn’t take much imagination to see what our lives would be like.
“How many offers have you received so far?” I asked the selling agent. It was so perfect I figured we wouldn’t have a shot.
“We’ve had about 10 since Thursday, so you know, definitely get in an offer soon.” Ah, we didn’t have a chance.
We chatted with her for some time, giving her our availability for moving, our financial situation, and hearing about the neighborhood, the city and the things the previous owners had done to improve the house. For some reason, she seemed to like us. “Listen, there’s a lot of offers, but the sellers are pretty attached to this house and want it to go to a good family. They are only selling because they’re in their 80s and it’s just too much house. Write them a letter with what you like about this place to include with your offer.”
It was a lot to take in. We had gone from “we’re just looking at the area,” to “we need to put in an offer on this house stat.” We called our realtor and began working on the contract. We even wrote that letter about the house, including our family photo.
Within four hours of submitting our offer, it was accepted. The next week, the appraisal came back without a hitch. The inspection came back with no deal-breakers. Less than three weeks after seeing the house, we were signing the closing papers. The next day we moved in.
All For Our Good.
Even at the time, I thought that the issues with our neighbors were part of the answer to my prayer. Without that, we would not have started looking for a home when we did. All the anxiety and disturbance put a strain on our lives and even our marriage, but it drew us closer as we had to address the problem together. We spent many evenings talking about our hopes and dreams for our family, as well as looking realistically at how our lives would change and what we could afford. It was a moment of unity for us as a couple.
The Monday after we moved, Covid-19 became more serious. States were issuing stay at home orders and the bishops were cancelling mass and public events. We learned too that open houses were being canceled, and fewer houses were going on the market, further exacerbating demand. Realtors were even taking on fewer clients, all in an effort to slow the spread. We had no idea just how bad things had gotten since we were focusing entirely on finding a home. We were mostly insulated from the fear and worry that had been sweeping the globe until we were settled.
We are quarantined in over 3000 square feet with a beautiful yard, and kind neighbors who are eager to welcome and help us with things we need. Nick has his own office to work from home, I have space to write, and the kids have a whole playroom. The garden is a lovely place for a daily rosary, as well as providing many hidden corners for the kids to explore, and there’s even a grill that we’ve used an excessive number of times already.
Everything has become joy. The weeds are ours to pull. Our breakfast room allows us to all sit at the table at once. We take the kids outside before and after dinner to play. We see our neighbors on walks and know them by name. Every evening, I look at Nick and say, “I love this house.”
I’ve always felt hindsight is a funny thing. It doesn’t show up until after you need it, and can be easily forgotten when needed again.
To say that God timed this perfectly is an understatement of monumental proportions. I was so afraid of giving God control of our need for a home, but I forgot something very important. When we give ourselves to God, no matter how small the pieces, he refuses to be outdone in generosity. He gives us himself back. Sometimes that means he will give us the cross, as it had for me two years ago, for the cross is as much a part of Jesus as his miracles and resurrection. All are sublime gifts, though the latter two are far easier to accept than the former.
I can see how God used that painful cross in my past to empty me so that now I could be filled beyond containment. He not only answered my prayer, he exceeded it 10 times over.
From the belief that trusting you will leave me more destitute,
Deliver me, Jesus!