Grace in the chaos

The past few months have been quite difficult for me and for my family and I’ve tried very hard not to talk about it. I try very hard not to whine on facebook or even address it most of the time, and that in itself is quite difficult. I don’t feel that whining, airing frustrations, or focusing on them are good things to do and they don’t produce good fruit, so, outside of the occasional pity party, I’ve tried very hard to avoid it until now.

We started on a venture about six months ago now, one that was very scary, but we were very sure that it was God’s plan and we were very excited to begin it! We made plans to leave our house, with no buyer and no renter, to buy a duplex in an area of the community that we’d been longing to live for all the fruit that life there can bring. We had no extra income, very little savings (emphasis on the word VERY), and a very fuzzy plan, but we were certain that this is what God wanted and that now is when he wanted it. He showed us a door a long time ago, and he started to open it. We stepped out in faith.

He gave us renters for our house (thank you Jesus!), but just enough to cover the mortgage. We started plans with a bank to buy the duplex and everything looked good! Through the generosity of a wonderful couple, we made plans to stay with them while we started work on the duplex to convert it into a home that would work for us. The house needed more work than thought, and it was going to cost more than we thought (little hurdles), but we tried to focus on the plan and allow God to provide. We were only able to work on half of the house at a time, so we adjusted our plans, extended our timeline (more little hurdles), and started working on the first side! The kids played in their new gigantic, shared yard with their new friends while many of our friends helped us start doing the demo work! It was a wonderful night!  

We began to move out of our old house in the meantime, making plans to store the bulk of our belongings in a friend’s moving truck (again, thank you Jesus!). The night we made the final push to move out of our old house, after we finished moving the last box, cleaning the last floor, and unloading the last of our luggage into our friends’ house, we got a phone call. Through no fault of their own, the plan had fallen through, and we had no place to live because we’d completely torn up the half of the duplex we had to do the work we needed to do. Big hurdle. It was 11:00 at night after one of the longest days of our life, and we were devastated and homeless.

My in-laws, being the extremely generous and gracious people they are, took only that first night to decide that we could live with them and not on the street. It’s a good thing my children are so cute! Still, it wasn’t a big enough house for two families and seven people. We also didn’t have nearly the room that we had planned on, so storage was a problem, but they were wonderful about it, and we stayed long enough to push through work on the one side and make it able to be lived in. It took two months and we would have to make do without a stove, a dining room, or much of a kitchen at all (small hurdles), but we could move in and wait for the other side to free up. We did.

Meanwhile, we got most of the way through the mortgage process, and everything seemed on course, until it wasn’t. The person handling our loan casually mentioned that there were some new federal regulations put into place regarding the purchase of duplexes (big hurdles): we would have to put 25% down, the interest rate would be considerably higher, the loan couldn’t be federally backed for the bank’s protection, and we couldn’t get a construction loan. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t going to be an investment property, these new regulations were put into place to protect us from big investors, and we had to follow them too. Well, the interest rate being higher was unfortunate but not impossible, but we didn’t have 25% to put down, and we were counting on at least a small construction loan to do some of the repairs and work that needed to be done to turn it into descent working house for one family. Also, because it couldn’t be federally backed, the bank wouldn’t take on the loan, not in this economy.

We found a credit union, who had a friend on its board, that seemed to be willing to take the loan in-house. We couldn’t borrow more than 80% of the appraised value but we just had an appraisal done and the figure should work out for the sale price with minimal out of pocket to us. The other details were not a good as we were hoping for (still a higher interest rate, a shorter loan term, and still no construction loan), but we adjusted our hopes and moved forward.

Meanwhile, living in a very small space, and working around the difficulties of no kitchen, we continued to do what we could on the house from our regular monthly income, little by little. It was very slow (even longer timeline) and frustrating, especially with little money and time to work on it, but we waited. Finally moving day came for the tenants on the other side, and we started to break through to begin the real work. Hope always comes with demo work!

The termite letter went through well, the loan was approved and we were very close to closing when we got the appraisal back, the second one in two months, and it came back far too short. The loan was off the table. I can’t begin to tell you how horribly depressing the days after that were for us.

I wish I could tell you that it’s all turned around and we have had a miraculous intervention, but we haven’t. We still don’t have any answers, just an unfinished house that we can’t buy, that’s costing far too much money to put together, new repairs that surface weekly, no time to do it, no money to pay for it, a timeline that is currently stretching into the fall and possibly further and no answers. To add to it, I have been crippled with raging morning sickness and unable to clean the rubble that is our home or find much peace in it. It’s been a very difficult six months for us.

Probably by now if you have continued reading, you’ve realized how very much I have stepped away from my earlier decision to not whine and complain, but I do have a purpose in it. I realized that some of the most encouraging things I’ve ever heard or read have been when people share their personal struggles. Noone’s exempt from struggles, even those that appear to have perfect lives because we all live on earth, where life is very hard indeed. Not to sound all gloomy and doomy, but it is very hard, and doesn’t stop being hard. You never ‘make it’ to where life is easy, because that’s life. If it was perfect, we’d be much more reluctant to desire heaven so fervently!

I have two main points I want focus on: There’s always hope and there’s always grace. It may not be enough to jump up and down for joy every day, but He promised there’d always be sufficient grace, not abundant happiness or ease of living. Early on the Lord gave me the image of the apostle walking out on the water towards Him. It was when he looked down that he became scared and wasn’t able to do it, but when he kept his eyes focused on Jesus, he could walk out across that water. I am that apostle and I’m trying very hard not to look down. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I look down and get scared and frustrated and shake my fists at heaven and ask where God is in this; when I’m trying desperately to do His will, why isn’t it easier?! Isn’t it supposed to be easier when I’m trying to do His will?!?!?!?! But there is enough grace to make it through the day, even in the midst of drywall dust, nails sticking up on the floor, debilitating stomach sickness, and total chaos. There’s grace even in the chaos.

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