2016 was quite a year. It was the year we found land, designed our dream house, and had it built. It was a year of learning new things. It was a year for me of finding contentment without having a place to call our own.
A theme passage for me was 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” These verses reminded me that in a year of uncertainty, I was to keep rejoicing, keep praying, and keep giving thanks to God. As someone who often idolizes order and ease, I would have many opportunities to practice these disciplines.
But let me back up and tell the whole story.
It’s always fun to reminisce. But more importantly, when we remember all that God has done for us in the past, it produces a thankful heart. It’s the same reason why God continually asked the Israelites to build monuments when God did something great for them. He wanted them to remember. The story that most easily comes to mind is when the Israelites crossed the Jordan with the Ark of the Covenant on dry ground. When the they got to the other side, God asked them to place 12 stones from the bed of the Jordan at the place where they camped that night (Joshua 4). These stones were to be a reminder to the Israelites “for eternity” (that’s a long time) about what God did for them. Side note: If you’ve never read the book, Polishing God’s Monuments, by Jim Andrews, I’d highly recommend it. It’s the true story of a young woman’s mysterious medical condition and how she and her family respond to her life-altering illness in a God-honoring way. The author makes the argument that Christians are helped through trials by remembering God’s faithfulness to them in the past – by polishing the monuments of God’s work in our lives. It’s superb!
Back to my story…
In the Spring of 2015, my husband and I started talking about selling our home so that we could move closer to our kids’ school. I was spending 2-3 hours a day just driving back and forth to school. So after lots of long weekends and late nights fixing, painting, and replacing the damage we’d done over 12 years and with four small kids, we put our house on the market on Father’s Day. We intentionally planned to be away while it was on the market because I couldn’t imagine keeping a house clean for showings. Our house went under contract in 2 ½ weeks.
In the meantime, we were on a hunt to find something else. We’d already spent several months researching a 1981 house with 2 acres – how to bring city water and sewer to the house and the budget to fix it up. The house had been on the market for a long time. After all our hard work and research, the house went under contract with someone else right before we sold our home. I was devastated. I’d already dreamed of all the projects I wanted to do at that house and all the fun ways that we could use the land.
Then…we found another house. It was built in the 80s too but it was on one acre tucked away right in the middle of town. You can see that we didn’t just want any old house in a neighborhood. We wanted some land to spread out on. This new property we were looking at would be super close to school and to anything else we’d want. The house was “For Sale By Owner” and they had just dropped the price by $25,000. We knew that it needed work but again, we did all the research on how much it would cost to renovate it. We put in our bid and it was verbally accepted. We negotiated some details all the way down to them leaving the pool table for us. We met our realtor to hand over the earnest money. We were just waiting for the buyers to send us the signed contract.
We kept waiting and waiting and waiting.
Finally, two long days later – they sent us an e-mail explaining that they’d chosen another offer over ours! I felt so betrayed. I learned that people selling their own homes often have a different set of rules – ones that they make up. They are not obligated to handle the sale of their home in the same way that a licensed realtor would.
What we found out was that when we put in our offer, the sellers decided to contact a family that had been interested in the house several months earlier and see if they wanted to put in a contract. In other words, they were scheming behind our backs with another buyer while they negotiated with us. These few months were a roller coaster emotionally and spiritually. Remember 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18?
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you?” It was time for me to put this into practice. The praying I had down. It seemed like that was all I was doing. I kept asking the Lord to work it all out. I asked him for each house and He said, “No.” Then my prayers turned to helping me to be content no matter how it all turned out. My emotions were all over the place. I admit that I did have a hard time rejoicing and giving thanks for losing these two houses – and particularly the last one in such a disappointing way.
But here’s a truth that I heard years ago that helped during that time…
WE NEED TO SPEND MORE TIME TALKING TO OURSELVES THAN LISTENING TO OURSELVES.
“How does one talk to one’s self?” Winnie-the-Pooh asked. (I’m reading that book with my 3rd grader. That’s a question he’d ask for sure.)
I meditate on God’s Word. I remind myself over and over again of who He is and who I am in Him. I literally go over God’s promises in my mind again and again. I read over the Bible passages that are pertinent. In fact, I read them over and over again so I can’t forget them. I post them in prominent places. I remind myself that He’s working everything out for my good.
Romans 8: 28-29: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
Many people forget about verse 29. The good that God is doing is making me more like Christ even if it hurts. At that point of disappointment over the lost houses, I needed to remind myself that God had a good plan for our housing situation and I just needed to trust Him.
By that time, we had a month to be out of our house. Time was running out. I was getting hourly phone alerts from the real estate apps about any new property that came on the market. It was exhausting.
We started throwing out the idea of building a house. We knew that finding land in the Cary/Apex, NC area is almost impossible unless you’re a developer building a whole neighborhood. At that point, I stumbled upon our county’s mapping app: Wake County IMAPS. It isn’t very user-friendly but eventually I figured out how to find vacant land near where we wanted to live. IMAPS lists the address of the owners for each property in our county. I spent hours and hours combing through the site looking for land. I showed my husband the properties and we decided to send out about five letters to people who owned an acre or more. None of the land was currently for sale. In our letters, we introduced our family and asked if they’d be willing to sell us their land. It was a long shot – a REAL long shot.
One land owner called us saying that they would sell us three lots and their house for $1.5 million. Ha!! WAAAYYYY out of our price range.
Then on August 1, 2015, I was waiting in the church pew while my husband prepared to officiate a wedding. We were at the church really early and I had some time to kill so I checked my e-mail on my phone:
“Thank you for contacting me about the lot on
That would be the beginning of the year-long adventure of our House Raising.
To be continued…