***Sorry for the cruddy pictures. I couldn't find the originals and didn't really think it was important enough to spend a lot of time looking for them. ;-)
Today we say a final farewell to the first (and so far only) house we've ever owned. I thought it would be a bittersweet experience, rich with excitement and hope for the future but tinged with bits of sadness.
I have a confession.
There's no bitter at all, and the sweet is as rich as the best chocolate I've ever tasted.
I'm not quite sure if that's good or bad.
I mean, this was our first house. I don't want to seem ungrateful. Lots of incredible and life-changing events happened here. We had 3 babies while we lived here (one of which was born way too early to survive life on earth, but that is a story for a different day.) Jared wrote his first book here (which is finally due to release in a couple months. How's THAT for full circle? ;-) We hosted dinners and parties and impromptu swing dance lessons. We celebrated holidays and special events. We watched first steps and heard first words. We developed and nurtured some of the most amazing friendships of our lives. And we learned to cling to Christ like never before. Indeed we are grateful to have built a home in this house for many years.
Seems like I would be sad to see it go.
But the thing is, I didn't really leave anything there to mourn. It's kind of just an empty box. My babies, Jared's books, and all those precious memories left that house a long time ago. They all live with me here in Vermont now.
I'm still unsure as to why God allowed this process to take so long. Seems like that will remain a mystery until I can ask him in person (if I still care by then), but I'm grateful for the way he used the time to teach me so many life-changing lessons such as these:
He completely adjusted my perspective regarding resources. For 4 years, we paid a mortgage in Tennessee AND rent in Vermont on a (small rural church) pastor's salary. I'm sure I don't have to elaborate on the many ways that math just doesn't work. But God provided over and over again. Sometimes through writing contracts and speaking engagements for Jared, most of which he didn't even really pursue (point being that many times God provided before we even knew what or how to pursue), sometimes through a consulting gig for me or the transcription job that was pretty much handed to me out of the blue one day (I didn't even know such a thing existed.) For a portion of the time, He provided through the supplemental income of renting the house, which, by God's grace, was an easier experience for us than for many we've known. And many times, God provided directly through the gifts of his people. More than ever before, I'm so gratefully aware of the fact that everything belongs to God, and we are merely stewards. Such freedom in this truth. All that I have belongs to him and all that I need will come from him. This is fantastic news.
He crushed my pride. I don't know about everyone else, but I really like the idea that I have things under control. More specifically, I like the idea of others thinking I "have my act together." I don't like to need help. I certainly don't like to have to ask for help. And I can pretty easily convince myself that this is because I don't want to inconvenience anyone, but the greater truth is that I like to protect my pride. But. . . a little over 3 years ago after living 6 states away from my family for 9 months, my church decided that was enough (primarily because they saw that it was killing us) and moved me up here, declaring that they would cover our mortgage until the house sold. Guess what happens in that situation. Pride dies. It has no choice. I had nothing to offer. No job to bring. No finances to contribute. No control over whether or not the house would sell in a reasonable amount of time. Nothing but total dependence. This was one of the most beautifully difficult gifts of my life. The utter destruction of my pride. (not that it doesn't still try to rear its ugly head
sometimes often daily, but I'm much better equipped to fight it now than ever before.)
He taught me to trust and rest. These are not my default modes by any stretch of the imagination. By natural design, I tend to live in the thought processes of "It's up to me to make this happen" and "I better stay busy until the job is done." But finding myself repeatedly in situations over which I had no control forced me to stop working and start trusting. And because God is God and unequivocally worthy of trust, he proved himself over and over again. So much easier to trust the trustworthy, right? But only by God's grace. And do you know what happened when I finally realized everything didn't depend on my work or my plans? Then came the rest. Oh, sweet rest in Him.
He increased my patience. Notice I didn't say he "taught me patience." There's no past tense here. Sadly, I haven't come anywhere close to mastering this ongoing lesson yet. (nor any of the others, but this is one of the hardest for me.) But certainly waiting 4 years for a house to sell *after* waiting 15 years for a lifestyle change developed some level of patience in me. This is one of my least favorite lessons, but I'm grateful that God shows kindness as I wait. And while he certainly doesn't owe me an explanation, sometimes he even sees fit to give me glimpses of why the waiting occurs. But never does he show up late, and it's a thrill to my heart when I actually remember to dwell on that truth. I love those a-ha moments! Evidence of sanctification. Tiny little revelations of complete joy in God's sovereignty, even when it doesn't match my plans. In the deepest part of my heart where only HE can reach and only HE can transform.
Maybe there are other reasons I'll discover somewhere along the way. Maybe there are other reasons I'll never know about. Maybe these reasons are enough. I don't know.
What I do know is that God is good. All the time. He was good for the 4 years we owned a house we no longer wanted. And he's good to bless our family by helping us put this chapter to rest. And he'll continue to be good as we wait for whatever he has planned for us next. So grateful for all the ways he loves us in every season.
And now, LET'S CELEBRATE!!!
(I feel like singing the "My Chains are Gone" version of Amazing Grace, but I don't want to be blasphemous and make it seem like I think selling a house is as important as being set free from sin. But y'all understand, right? ;-) )