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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Our Home

Is it only when you are looking for God's hand that you see it so clearly?  Or is it because you are looking that God reveals it more plainly? 

Words cannot express the love I have for our home.  I have learned that I cannot pretend I will always love everything about it, but we are in that honeymoon period of home ownership where all we see are the amazing things- the beautiful perennials that are coming up, the amazing ability to send our kids outside without an ounce of guilt and say "go outside and find something to do!"  They have 11 acres to run and play and explore, and to me, every inch of that land is perfect and ideal for exploring.
I hesitate to put family matters into words but I believe doing so would lessen the story- let me tell you the story of our home.
Since we got married we wanted a certain lifestyle for our children.  We wanted them to have the freedom to explore, learn, and get skinned knees.  We wanted room for them to roam without fear of what they might encounter.  While many would argue that they can do that anywhere, the mama bear in me is sometimes more concerned about the PEOPLE they might encounter than anything we could find in the woods of SW Michigan.  Our first home was adorable and idyllic in its character.  We had amazing neighbors that we wouldn't have given up for the world in our young parenting life where we needed the friends right next door to encourage us, bring us back down to earth, or just listen as we cried.  But it was tiny (900 sq feet plus a minimally finished basement).  We figured we'd have one child, maybe another baby, but by the time that 2nd one was too big we'd be moving on.  God giggled.  We had 2 at once and squeezed every inch of space out of that sweet bungalow before it was time to move on in search of a bit more space.
Our second home was in our dream school district.  It didn't check every box for our "perfect" home, but we bought at the right time, got a great deal on the home (after not getting back what we'd spent on the first), and got into a school district we were excited about.  That home allowed us to build some fantastic relationships, dip our feet in the water of public schools, and feel like we had begun to establish a relationship with our long-term community.
After a few years in our 2nd home we discovered a few things about our life goals that maybe we hadn't realized before.  We found out we love having neighbors but we also value privacy.  We didn't like having to follow HOA rules (Andy knew this, I was not aware;)), or worrying about how often we were able to mow our lawn or if we could have people over without bothering the neighbors (who were not bothered, but still the fear is there).  We realized that in our particular spot there wasn't a whole lot for our kids to explore- we were land locked so to say by busy roads, sidewalks that ended inexplicably, and a larger neighborhood that at their tender young ages our kids were not able to access even though they had school friends who lived in it.  We LOVED the pool - something we didn't plan on- but other than that, the benefits of an HOA were lost on us.  We knew we hadn't planned to stay forever- but the desire to stretch our legs on some land of our own was STRONG.  We spent many evenings daydreaming about owning our own chunk of land.
It was around the same time that my husband's grandfather began to have health issues in his early 90's.  Andy had been raised having spent lots of time on his grandpa's land (also in Byron Center) and felt a huge emotional attachment to it.  He fondly remembers helping his grandma in the garden, riding with his grandpa on the tractor, riding bikes, and baking in the kitchen...so many wonderful memories I wish I could have shared with him.  His parents worked and relied on his grandparents to care for him and my sister-in-law during the work week.  As a result, he got the country-life childhood we both desperately desired for our own children.  I'd grown up with space to explore as well, and cherish the memories of time spent alone in the woods exploring and imagining. 
As his grandpa lay in a hospital bed early on in his illness, thinking he would pass soon, he grabbed Andy and asked him if he wanted "the farm."  Andy wasn't ready to say goodbye and assured him this was not the time or place to discuss it and thankfully, he was right.  We had a few more months with Grandpa for which we are very thankful.  During those months when Grandpa's health improved and waned, Andy and I began the process of determining if we could and should buy Grandpa's property.  One of the things I (and Andy, but I am certain I spent more time pondering) felt compelled to consider was what our next step looked like versus the typical next step for people our age.  We are approaching our mid-thirties and a part of us longed to have our "perfect" home.  We wanted a beautiful home- who doesn't? With all the bells and whistles- rooms for each kid, a guest room, a finished basement for the kids to hang in, custom details, allllll the pinterest projects, the perfect paint colors and finishes.  We live in a society that says all of this is possible.  A theater room?  Sure, why not?  Smart home?  It's to be expected right?  But there was a larger part of us that realized, in the transition from our tiny home to our larger home, that what once felt huge and lavish, now felt claustrophobic and full of STUFF.  We had filled our bigger home with all the things we "needed," but now we had to maintain all those things, clean all those things, organize and control all those THINGS.  I had 4 bathrooms to clean, two living areas, 4 bedrooms, a pretty big backyard and none of it ever felt done.  There was always an area that needed attention.  What good would an even bigger, fancier house do?  We'd go broke building it and furnishing it, then as soon as that was done, we'd feel the need to update- it's a hamster on a wheel-type scenario and I think we both felt done with it.
Grandpa's land offered a rather forceful escape from all that- his home was OLD- I can't even remember at this point how old, but old, and we didn't have the money to put into all the remodeling and modifying that it would need to be "just right."  So, we thought, lets just live in it.  Let's accept it for what it is and enjoy the 9 acres it has to offer.  After all, Grandpa wasn't looking to make money- just sell it fairly.  We could get the land for a good price, live there a few years, purge and decide what we truly needed, and THEN build on the land- exactly but no more than what we required.  It felt scary but just counter-cultural enough to be incredibly enticing.  And so we pursued.
Long, sordid story short, there is some history in the family that made our plans impossible.  But let me be clear- God used those people to stop our plans and put His own into place.  We were saddened to lose that land.  We were saddened that hard feelings between aunts and uncles could cause them to go to great lengths to ensure their nephew and niece did not gain a property that could have been incredibly beneficial to their family.  But despite it all, our decisions were prayed over and guided by bigger hands than ours.  We thought we knew what was right, but we were wrong.  Our loving Heavenly Father made that clear to us in no uncertain terms, for which we are incredibly thankful.  A local farmer, sought out by the aunts and uncles, purchased the land instead of us, and we settled down for a bit longer in our current home.
I didn't realize until we were in the process of selling our home just how much we had planned on staying- we paid a lot to have the carpets cleaned, we moved the kids' bedrooms around to make things feel fresh and new, we began to talk about little remodels here and there.  Then one day our amazing realtor sent me a picture, taken as she drove by the home, of a house for sale by owner that she felt met all our requirements.  However, the price seemed high- it was certainly higher than Grandpa's place had been, and we just weren't there mentally.
Over the next month I got alerts on my phone of a price decrease, an open house I considered attending just for fun, and then a second open house that happened to fall on a weekend that Andy was home and we had no plans.  We decided to go check it out; our main reason being that we could get a better idea of what we would be looking for a couple of years down the road while filling an otherwise empty winter day.  Little did we know we would fall in love.  It was home.  Without our realtor's help as she was out of town, we contacted the listing agent and went for a second walk-through the next day.  There is no other way to say it except that it was meant to be.  Every box checked, things we didn't dare put on a list of desires- done.  Amazing.
The rest of this part of the story is boring- make an offer, counter offers, financing, inspections.  Everything went flawlessly.  Our current home had an accepted offer after 10 days on the market and "lucky" for us, we were in Florida for a previously planned vacation during all of the showings and open houses.  Now the really fun part.
Our accepted offer was contingent on the sale of the buyer's home.  We never felt peace about it.  It was an offer, it was higher than listing, but we were allowed to continue to show the home AND receive other offers.  It felt.....wishy-washy.  We got more offers, we played ball, it felt awkward.  Then we got a 4th offer.  Like the good millennial that I am, but will rarely admit, I looked the new family up on facebook and I loved them.  I had an innate sense that they needed our home...and they had TWINS- the 3rd set that would potentially live in our home.  We decided to back out of the first offer and take this one.  I'm so happy that we did.  
I mentioned that the inspections on our new home went flawlessly- they sure did.  This house is over 130 years old, and yet it inspected 100% fine on a day when rain was pouring and had been for days - the house is in the muck fields of Byron Center, we expected it to be a bit wet and yet- it was dry!  The bank actually waived an appraisal (more confirmation that we had gotten a deal when deals on land in Byron Center are absolutely unheard of).  We lost about 500 sqft in the move and it's the perfect amount.  We have 2 bathrooms- that's all we need.  We have enough room for each kid to have a room but currently we are able to use one as a guest/spare room.  We have the ability to add on if we ever need it (will this love for adoption/foster care ever lead somewhere? who knows? but we have the space if needed), yet also a small enough house not to fill it with unnecessary clutter.  Perfect.  It has just enough character but all of the modern updates we need.  Not to mention MORE acreage than Grandpa's place and a killer barn.
The family we sold to are Christians with crazy similarities to our life story (now having met them I am even more convinced that God's hand was guiding this step of the process and has a whole other story to tell there as well), and the family we bought from are Christians who are thankful to have sold their home to a young family that will cherish and love it like they did.  Our next door neighbor is- wait for it- the farmer who bought Grandpa's land and recent interactions with him have shown us just how amazing this whole story is.  To God Be The Glory because I could not have fathomed a better story!  As I watch the clouds roll in over our gorgeous property where in the last 3 weeks our kids have run wild and free, I praise His name.  Thank you Lord for this amazing home, your faithfulness, and the ability to share the beautiful stories that only you could write. <3 div="">