"Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what He has done for me."Ps 66:16
If I could fully express to you in words the magnitude of what God has done for us over the last three years...
...Through some of the darkest valleys, seemingly impossible situations, and loneliest roads...
...If I could accurately translate the overwhelming feeling of unworthy gratefulness I have in my heart for you to experience as your own...
...I'm still not sure it would do the job.
"Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what He has done for me."
The story begins in the spring of 2007. Israel Hope was just a newborn. I had just quit my job as a TV news producer to stay home with her full-time.
Do you remember how tiny and sweet she was? This is her at 4 days old.JP had been working on a major condo remodeling project in the uptown area. Everything had been going very well. The client had been pleased with his work and had even gone so far as to give JP and his crew gifts at Thanksgiving and Christmas and crochet Israel a blanket.
But then she started running out of money. The project was over budget (by no fault of JP's...there was just a lot more work to be done than she had originally thought). I'm sure she was overwhelmed and probably scared, but for whatever reason, she decided to take it out on JP. She suddenly claimed he was overpriced, that it was his fault, and refused to pay him for roughly $17,000 worth of work that had already been completed, plus we had well over $10,000 invested in the project in stuff like insurance and other things that we would get back at the end of the project.
As you can assume, this was a major blow to us as a small business. How in the world were we supposed to function with nearly $30,000 less than we needed? We filed a lawsuit. And in the meantime, we survived on credit cards, and we (stupidly) refinanced our house and pulled out equity, which bumped our already high monthly payment up to beyond ridiculous.
Months passed. Israel grew. So did my belly, with Ruby Ann inside.
It soon became obvious that it was pointless to stay in a house where the payment was double the value of the home -- a house that JP's business was outgrowing anyhow. So in November of 2008 -- with newborn baby Ruby along for the ride now -- we packed up everything and moved into a rental home in Dayton, MN.
And there we were for the past 14 months.
Now don't get me wrong, that house was an extreme blessing. When we first moved in, we couldn't believe how much better off we were here than in our Brooklyn Park home. JP had tons more space to operate his business out of. The kids and dogs had a huge yard in which to play and explore. We had all of the benefits of the country while still being 5 minutes away from a Super Target and Chipotle. :)
When I would look around at where we were now living and how far superior it was to life in the city, I was amazed. Because believe me, I mourned the loss of our Brooklyn Park house. I loved that little house. I had every intention of living there all our lives, raising our kids there, etc. I never thought any place could satisfy me if it wasn't my own little house on Daleview Drive.
Turns out I was wrong! What I thought was a horrible, discouraging situation turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We loved living in Dayton, and we both fell in love with being outside the hustle and bustle of the city.
But there was still something missing. While this house had been our home for the past 14 months, its was never technically our home. We rented it. Maybe for some people renting is great, but for us, it was very frustrating. JP is a handyman, and he loves to fix things up and improve. And believe me, when you live in a 1918 farmhouse, there is plenty of things that could use improving. But since it was not our house, it was not worth the investment of our time and money. We even offered to make the improvements if our landlord would simply pay for the materials, but he wasn't interested.
Take, for example, the dishwasher. We moved into that home in November 2008, and one of the very first things I noticed is that the dishwasher didn't work. I called the landlord. He said he'd get it fixed. Weeks went by. I called again. Sorry, he had asked his wife to research it and hadn't heard back from her. He'd ask again. Months went by. I called again. I left voicemails. I sent text messages. Finally, TEN MONTHS LATER he sends a guy out to try to fix the dishwasher. The guy picks it up and takes it to his shop. Two weeks later he returns with the still broken dishwasher. He couldn't get it working. I call the landlord again. He says he doesn't want to pay the money to replace that dishwasher (it's a different size than normal and costs much more). We offer to adapt the cabinet to make room for a regular sized dishwasher. We even ask him to simply give us a dollar amount of how much he wants to spend on a dishwasher and tell him we'll forward the money, we'll pick it up, we'll install it, the price can come out of next months rent, he doesn't have to lift a finger. He says it sounds too good to be true. I assure him it's true, just please give us a dollar amount.
And we never heard back from him again.
See what I mean? FRUSTRATING! Having a landlord is not a good idea for handymen and their families. At least not this one. We missed being homeowners and having the freedom to invest into our home and make it our own. We were thankful for the house where we lived, but the honeymoon phase was definitely winding down.
We felt stuck.
Then one day, JP was listening to the Minnesota real estate show on talk radio. He heard this guy talking about a program through the USDA that helped people with tarnished credit buy homes in the country. It sounded exactly like the opportunity we were looking for, so JP called in to the show and got more information.
The program is called the USDA Rural Development Program. Basically, they want people to move into the country, and they'll go to great lengths to make it happen. You can buy, build, or even move a home, as long as the home meets their requirements for location and condition.
We applied for the program and found out we qualified! Given our situation, we figured we would only be approved for enough money to buy a fixer upper, so we were very surprised when they offered us a $175,000, 33-year loan at 4.8% interest with $0.00 down, AND they were going to subsidize a portion of our monthly payment for the life of the loan.
Our jaws hit the floor. We looked at each other in amazement, then jumped up and down screaming for joy, then got teary-eyed at the overwhelming reality of the door God had just opened for us.
We started our home search right away, because the USDA only gave us a relatively short amount of time in which we had to get an offer accepted, or we'd be disqualified. Our realtor, who happens to be JP's oldest and best buddy, Jono Sathe, started showing us homes right away. We found one pretty quickly that we liked and put in an offer, but it was a short sale. It can take months and months to hear back from the banks when offering on a short sale. We waited as long as we could and asked them for a quick response, but ended up having to pull our offer because we were running out of time.
Next we found a house in Buffalo. The house needed work, (it was actually a dump) but the lot was great and the location was too. We made an offer and it was accepted, but when the USDA came out to approve the property, they rejected it because it was technically a modular home on a foundation, and apparently that doesn't qualify.
We had two back-up properties in case the Buffalo one didn't go through, one in Monticello and one in Big Lake. These were both fine houses that would have been sufficient, but they were just on regular city lots, not on acreage like we had been hoping for. We made an offer on the Monticello house and it was declined.
By this point, we were getting frustrated and we were running out of time. We had looked at a ton of houses and were down to our least favorite option as a last resort. JP and Jon went to see the Big Lake property one more time before writing up an offer, and I went home to do one final MLS search to see if anything new had popped up in the last few days.
And what did I find? You guessed it.
3 bed, 2 bath, vaulted ceilings, walk-in closets, tons of storage, attached garage, huge pole barn with a wood-burning-stove-heated workshop, play house and swing set, all nestled on 5 acres in Princeton. It was exactly what we had been looking for all along.
I told JP & Jono they should check it out. At first they didn't want to, but then they decided it was worth a shot. JP came home beaming and I knew we had struck gold. The guys started writing up an offer. The funny thing was that when I started asking JP about the layout of the house, he couldn't even remember. All he could remember was the lot and the pole barn!
Jono took me & the girls out there the next day, and as luck would have it, we loved it too! Rae announced she wanted this house to be our new house! (I don't think the playhouse had any sway in her decision making process. Just kidding.)
You've gotta understand, people! We didn't think we'd be able to buy another home for years! Let alone a NICE, big home on acreage for ONE THIRD of the cost we were paying in Brooklyn Park. All we can do is stand back and look at all God has done with amazement and thankfulness. In the beginning, everything seemed horrible and hopeless; but now, we're far more blessed than we ever could have imagined.
Trusting God in hard situations can be tough. There's no way we could have known three years ago where we would end up or how we would be surviving now. But as always, He proves Himself faithful time and time again.
The next time you feel stuck, hopeless, or like life is spinning out of control, remember how faithful God has always been to you. He's never let you down before, and He never will. He always comes through with hope.