He Gives and Takes Away: Finding a Home as a Church Planting Family
Our realtor called to share the news and her disbelief cut through the distance, “Well, you got the house!” she relayed. Stunned, and suddenly unsure if I even liked it, I stumbled to find my husband Ben in order to share the news.
The Lord Gives…
We had been looking for a home in Elkhart County, where we planted our church, for nearly three years. The Lord had graciously provided us with rentals along the way: first, a very short term place to land our feet after we lost the first offer we made in a bidding war. Our family of seven kept most of our things in boxes that summer while we looked at anything that came on the market, which wasn’t much, and prayed for the Lord to lead us. By August of that year a generous man from our sending church, who had raised his family in Elkhart County, offered to rent us their vacant home. We loaded up the moving van for the second time in three months and that’s where we had rested for the past 2.5 years. Ever thankful, but still yearning for a place of our own to truly settle in.
Two weeks before we saw the fixer upper that would become our own, we saw another property that was in the dream house category. The location was perfect and less than ten minutes from our church. Many of our church members were within a 15-minute drive and the home itself, nestled on a cul-de-sac, was everything I could have wanted; the pool in the backyard adorning the dwelling like a cherry on a sundae. Sitting at the top of our price range, we debated even seeing it. After praying, Ben and I both agreed we’d only go if we could hold it loosely and trust the Lord with the outcome. But the moment we walked in we realized the tempting situation we had sauntered into and I quickly failed the test. Our realtor assessed the home and said, “I am so sorry. I have no idea why it is listed this low. There are multiple offers and it will sell far above this listing price.” Dejected and incredibly weary from the many months of trying, we left and texted one of our elders and his wife, seeking their prayers. In my weakness, I was dangerously close to utter disbelief that the Lord even saw us at all.
When our fixer upper came on the market shortly after, the wound still fresh from the last house, we nearly skipped it. We arrived at this new possibility a little bit numb on the inside. We looked around and thought, “Humph, it has potential.” It didn’t knock our socks off like the last one, but we did sense an unwavering peace while we traversed its floor plan and the ideas of how we could make it work both for our large family and for hosting guests came easily as we went along.
Then the prayer we had prayed six months before when we first stumbled upon this little neighborhood, close to a park and even walking distance to a library, slowly surfaced in our minds, “ Lord, would you have a house for us here? Could you make something available? If so, help us to love it .” It would definitely take some work, and there were multiple offers already on the table, but at the fixer upper price tag we felt we could actually compete a bit. “Why not?” We surmised and half-heartedly agreed to place an offer ourselves, praying for the Lord to keep the door shut if it wasn’t what He had for us.
…and The Lord Takes Away…
Nearly three years prior, I found myself tip-toeing through the darkened rooms of the home we were packing up and preparing to leave in order to be closer to our church plant. I crept across the floors while the rest of my family was sleeping to look out upon the curved street from the front window of our home and say goodbye to the place we loved so well. I came there, in the quiet of the night, and took in the apple blossom tree firmly planted in the middle of the yard that housed the swing our middle child had fashioned out of twine and sticks. I prayed for the Lord’s strength to do what He was calling us to do.
We had moved there in December, only two years before while I was seven months pregnant with our twins. Needing space for the surprise of a pregnancy with multiples, we made the best offer we could make and though it was under market value the seller accepted saying, “Tell them I said, ‘Merry Christmas!'” Having no desire or inkling that we’d leave the church where my husband was serving as an associate pastor, we believed we would live in that home for seasons upon seasons, a forever home as they say.
All of those dreams came to an abrupt end when our call to plant came before us. We knew the call would eventually mean selling this place that we loved and pulling up roots once again.
We had dreams of grandchildren one day playing in the woods behind the house and were confident the open layout, that already hosted so many from our church well, would also be a prime meeting place for our family as our children grew, married, and brought their own families home to see us. All of those dreams came to an abrupt end when our call to plant came before us. We knew the call would eventually mean selling this place that we loved and pulling up roots once again. I was willing, but willingness is not a shield from the sting of sacrifice.
Thus my nightly ritual of sneaking out to the living room to spend time with the Lord and ask for His help to let go of the place that we all loved began. One desire we had in planting was that our children would see us laying down something we loved for the sake of the Gospel. Jesus is higher than even our greatest earthly comforts and we wanted our children to behold that within us. I knew we would see His faithfulness, but I could not know what the faithfulness would look like as we sought to make a home in our new community.
…Blessed Be the Name of the Lord.
We are nearly done with our little fixer-upper and will soon be packing up the moving van yet again for what we hope is the last for a notably long while. Our middle child, the one most like her mother, has struggled with the change and isn’t as keen on leaving the rental that she has grown accustomed to. After a rough night of sadness she confided in me, “Mommy, I prayed for God to help me like the house if it is where He wants us to live.” She has learned in these transitional years to look to the Lord for her help and to seek His will in her coming and going. It is a gift that far outweighs a winning bid on a dream home. I pulled her close and said, “He will,” knowing it to be true because with every stroke of the paintbrush He has caused me to love it more and to see His kindness in calling us to plant and bringing us to this community.
I could finally close the chapter; we were no longer in transition and wondering where the Lord would plant us.
The night our realtor called to tell us our offer was chosen, I closed my eyes and saw the apple blossom tree at our old home, with the little crooked swing hanging from its branches and cried over it for the final time. I could finally close the chapter; we were no longer in transition and wondering where the Lord would plant us. I’d have a new curved street to look out upon in the watches of the night, with a new tree to hang a swing from and push the babies on. Not one of them is a baby anymore, but thankfully they still appreciate a good tree swing and joyfully they are all still at home.
He gives and takes away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.