We purchased our house in 2008. God directed us to it. Really. We were in a rental that we had to get out of quickly and were trying to purchase a home. The home we found and had an offer on was a short sale. We were told it could be weeks before the bank responded. The day we heard from the bank was not good news. The number the bank gave us was higher than what we had set as our budget. We didn't have the time to counter and wait weeks on end for a response. Fred had made the wise decision to discern how much we could afford since I stay home with the children, and we had planned on sending them to a private Christian School. We needed a mortgage that would continue to afford me to stay home and pay for Christian School tuition for several kiddos. (Verses making it work. We technically had the money to make it work.) Disappointed that this house slipped through our hands, I sat back at the computer and searched MLS listings. I was getting extremely disappointed at what was available in our price range. We could find a decent house, but when we would drive by it, the neighborhood seemed iffy. I was getting grumpy that we didn't just make it work with the short sale house. Anyway, we saw a listing that didn't have pictures, but the price was in our range. I had looked at a couple of other houses in that general area and new it was a good neighborhood. We had never seen this specific listing before. I quick jotted down the street and my mother in law and I jumped in the van and headed to do a drive by of the house. When we got on the street I turned the GPS off and slowly drove down looking at each house, just taking it all in. There was only one for sale sign on the street, so we pulled in front of it. It was obvious an older lady lived at the house. I noticed the for sale sign had a flyer with pictures so I went and grabbed one. Almost immediately I noticed the price listed on the flyer was $40,000 more than what I saw on the online listing. That made it out of our price range.
As I headed back to the van an older lady came out the front door and asked if she could help me. I let her know I was looking to buy a house, but her flyer let me know this was one was out of my price range and she might want to let her realtor know the online price was different then her flyer. She responded with, "Well, you caught me on the right day. I might just sell it to you for what you can afford."
I told her how much we had budgeted and why. She opened up her front door and welcomed me and my mother in law into her home to see if I was interested. I told her if she was serious about accepting less then I would love to look around. Her home was built in 1968 and was outdated, but it was very clean, had four bedrooms, in a great neighborhood (with a park!) and in our budget!! As soon as I stepped into her sun room I was sold. I was so thrilled I asked if I could bring my husband back.
We made our offer, but her realtor had her counter. Fred responded to her realtor with, "No thank you. We were serious about our budget cap and offered what we could afford." Within an hour the realtor called back and said, "Congratulations, you bought a home! She accepted your offer!"
After the deal was sealed we learned that:
(1.) The seller was a Christian. Joy told her realtor that she knew we were not trying to pull one over on an old lady, but that she could tell from that first interaction with me that I was a sincere Christian. (2.) The listing we saw online for the cheaper price was actually three houses down from our new house. The online house was a short sale (why it was cheaper) and had just gone under contract a week before. The day my mother in law and I drove down the street looking for "it" was just a couple days after the sign in the yard had been removed.
God directed us to our house. He gave it to us.
There are so many lessons to be taken from that experience it is amazing! God continues to use our house as a means to sanctify me.
We moved in the first of Nov 2008. We were thrilled to get to work updating and making the house our own. Fred is extremely capable and talented at just about every home improvement project. And my dad updated all the electricity and installed ceiling fans. One of the first things we tackled was painting kids rooms and getting them settled so they could have some stability. Between those projects and Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, 2008 flew by. (Take in mind we are doing all of this with a then infant, two year old, three year old and almost five year old under foot.)
In February '09 Fred had his second back surgery. That put things on pause for a bit. But by April he was right back at it, working on the house. He removed the linoleum and put down a hardwood floor in the foyer.
|Brian playing on the foyer floor in '08. The BEFORE picture. I told you, out dated.|
|Fred, the hard worker. He cannot be kept down.|
|The kids playing "the pillow game". They take every pillow they can find and line them up and jump from one pillow to the next. I remember playing it as a kid. Don't all kids play this... ;-)|
Making progress!! Looks great!
During the begining of '09 God was working in our family in regards to our schooling choices. Remember, part of our decision to set our budget for buying a house the way we did was so we could afford private Christian School. I remember having a conversation with my mother in law about homeschooling in Feb '09. I felt like God was calling me to homeschool Ansley, but I just wasn't interested. I wanted my children to have the same experiences I had growing up. When we discovered the school we were going to send Ansley to was from 7:45 AM until 2 PM (or 3...I can't really remember now) for Kindergarten, with an hour nap at the school, we knew that was not for us. Ansley had never been away from me. That just seemed too long. So, we figured we would homeschool Ansley's Kindergarten year and then send her to the school for first grade. (When we pray for wisdom God always gives it. HE made it obvious what we should do.)
I didn't have much confidence (or desire) to homeschool so I started out in my little attempt to homeschool in May '09. We started early so that if (when) I fail, we still had time to enroll her in school for the fall.
(I am giving you guys a peek at my rotten attitude and stubbornness. We are not awesome people. Anything good in us that you see is Christ in us. )
Summer '09 my little sister got married and we were back and forth from Panama City ALOT! It was also during this time that we noticed Brian had all these curious issues. You can read about that HERE.
Throughout those months as we did our school work, Ansley and I actually ended up really enjoying our homeschool. It was really working well. When Brian was diagnosed it was like a light went on and I thought, "OK, God, this is why you had us homeschool". And because we started in May, Ansley and I were able to take the fall off and process everything that was going on in our home with Brian and his illness. Homeschooling eliminated outside germs and outside schedule demands. It has been so wonderful. We have been homeschooling for three years, going into our fourth, and we are really enjoying it. There are so many positives I could go on and on about it.
In September 2009, after Brian was diagnosed, home improvement projects became low on the list of priorities. About the only thing we got accomplished in 2010 was Fred ripped up the carpet and took the hardwood floor down the hallway leading to the bedrooms.
2010- 2011 was a really rough time for our family. Enough said.
I struggled off and on with remembering this was the house we lived in before we moved to Pensacola.
Everything was brand new, nice granite, huge garden tub, the house was large and open...
to living in a home built in 1968. I saw the vision of what it could be when we first walked through the house, but almost all of that has been halted due to life. And like the Israelites, I often forget what God has given me and what he has done for me, and I want what I want.
There are times that we see what we have been given and we rejoice that we don't have a high mortgage. We would not be able to juggle a high mortgage and the thousands of dollars of medical bills. God provided what HE knew we would need and gave us gifts we didn't even realize we wanted. I have cherished my time with my little ones. Our "baby" is almost four and a half. It happened too fast. We struggle with Brian's illness, and we know how precious life is. We treasure our time as a family and love the amount of time we get to be together. It is a great gift. It will be gone before we know it.
Even still, everytime we really looked at our home we saw it was crying for some attention. It needed some updates and renovation. (You know how things just become scenery, then when someone comes over, what has been there all along unnoticed, just kinda stands out and you really see it?!)
So, in February of 2012 we started the major renovation projects. We were getting excited about our house becoming what we had planned in 2008. So, in March of 2012 when we realized Brian was about to begin another year of chemo, and the new protocol was one week of daily chemo followed by three weeks to recover before he gets hit again, we were stressed not only for what this meant for our little boy, but because we were only a few steps past this process:
After Brian's first week of chemo we finished the floors and got our house "livable". Renovations were put on pause and operation "make it work" took over.
Brian's second week of chemo started out like this:Monday morning...
|The dog had explosive poops in her crate during the night. Not a nice smell to wake up to. Especially since we had to rush out the door to get to...|
Things were great with Fred's fusion. I asked the doctor if I could take a picture so I could show our five year old. I told the doctor I wanted to show our son that, "see, Daddy has to do x-rays too". We explained that our five year old son does scans frequently for his Histiocytosis. The doctor replied, "OH. Wow. That's rare. Sorry to hear about that." It was a weird moment. Not sure how to describe it.
So, after that appointment we had a couple of hours before we had to head back to the house and pick up Brian for his doctor's appointment and chemo. I had the bright idea to run to Lowe's really quickly and pick up some baseboards and trim. My thought process was that since Kasy was watching the kids we could really make some progress on our house. Famous last words...
We purchase the baseboards and trim, loaded them in the van (like ALWAYS!!!) and as soon as Fred shut the back of the van, the boards shoved through the front of our van windshield.
Let's see...lessons learned...DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DO THINGS THAT ADD STRESS TO AN ALREADY STRESSFUL WEEK!!!!!!!
And you guys know how the rest of the week went.Tuesday night we were admitted for our week long hospital stay. Followed by a week of home treatments.
And now chemo week three has already included it's own ER visit. Wow, we have a long year ahead of us.
OK, why am I sharing all of this?
Because it drives me insane to read blogs of people who only put their best foot forward.
Christians were made for relationship. We need each other for fellowship, authentic conversation that edifies, accountability, encouragement... The list goes on.
I inwardly cringe when others say how amazing Fred and I are, and what an amazing example we are to all who see us walk through this time in our life. I am sure we can look pretty awesome from a distance, or if you spend an a hour or two with us. Anyone can pull it together and look wonderful for a short time. (Plus we have super cute kids. :-))I am actually pretty good at pulling it together and seeming OK. I have some amazing training in that area. I am a pastor's daughter. :-) My sister Dabney and I got pretty good at verbally assaulting each other with 'I hate you's' and 'don't ever touch my stuff again' as we were in the car on the way to church. Only to then hop out and be sweet to all we encounter as if we didn't just have WW3 on the way to worship with no confession or apology. You know what I am talking about, the "let's just leave this in the car".
Fred and I don't want to give someone a false glimpse. We know the real us and we are not an amazing example. Seriously, everything good you see in us is Christ's work in us. Quite honestly, we have been through some of the worst years of our lives these past five years. They have been horrible. Probably if left to ourselves, and had we seen what was ahead, we would have both thrown in the towel and walked away from our marriage. We probably would have been less than stellar parents and just plopped our kids into whatever extra curricular activity or school kept them busy so we were freed up to "take care of self".
I am being honest. Things have been a tough. Fred and I want to really encourage others. We don't want anyone to look at us and compare their marriage or family to ours and think that we have it all together and then get discouraged about their own situation that is hard. Because life is hard. Everybody's "hard" looks different. We want people to know that it is not Carrie and Fred. You can have what we have, because what we have is Jesus.
It drives me crazy to know some behind the scenes information about some friend, then see or hear her in public go on and on about how perfect everything is and my, oh, how God has blessed her to have everything so perfect. All the while I am thinking inside, I am going to scream!!! Please don't let this poor sweet person you are talking to feel like God hasn't blessed her b/c her life isn't perfect.
God's blessings in our life have not equalled "perfect" times. God has blessed us multiple times by having us walk some very painful paths.
Fred and I were invited to a marriage thing in January (thank you R & M...we love you) and heard Warren Barfield for the first time. We LOVE him. He tells a story about a fight he had with his wife and a song he wrote for her shortly thereafter. One of the lines from the song he wrote for her is "and if we should try to leave, may God send angels to guard the door..."
That brought tears to my eyes, because that is Fred and my story. We are selfish, sinful people. Marriage and parenthood require a sacrifice of self that hurts. God is keeping us together and working in us.
So, if you are reading this, know that our hearts desire is that you are not deceived by the Father of Lies. Nobody has it all together. Don't be envious of someone else's marriage, family, house, etc.
God loves us and HE is carrying us through. HE is using everything to chisel away at our hearts of stone and reveal a more Christlike character.