Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How we got here - Part 3

The House search

With such uncertainty in selling our house, we had not spent too much time house-hunting. We had driven through the neighborhood but had no idea when our house would sell, so we didn’t get inside hardly any. So after our contract was signed, we began touring the NorthEast and spent many afternoons driving down every street from Independence to St Gladstone Avenue, from Bellfontaine to Belmont. We were so blessed to get to know the families from the NE and they served us with such Christ-like love during our search.

But God closed doors. We spent a week or two pursuing a grand old house that was in very good shape in many respects, despite needing work. It was without a kitchen, furnace, A/C, and a lot of cosmetic issues. It had some structural issues as well, but our plan was to hire some renovator friends and an HVAC guy from our church to fix it up as part of a construction loan. But times had changed and the requirements for such a loan eventually ruled us out.

We began to see that our small amount of cash on hand was going to require we get an FHA loan, which drastically limited the number of ‘fixer-upper’ type houses that would work for our situation.

So we were thrilled to find a house that was practically ‘move-in’ ready. It was on Van Brunt, one of the nicest in the neighborhood, and it was well cared for. Inspections went well, but ended up disappointing many of our plans for the house (to finish off the upstairs attic-structural concerns, and to provide a ‘fourth bedroom’ in the basement-water in the stone basement, etc.) In the end, we felt the price we agreed to was too high given what we discovered during the inspection. Not only that, but the bullet-hole we found in the front window shattered Aimee’s comfort level that we were on a ‘good street’.

So we prayed and trusted God would find our house. The Lord in the meantime, had provided a wonderful temporary house in Smithville, MO and we were once again overwhelmed by His providence. A friend told me that his church sometimes uses a big four bedroom place for missionaries on furlough and for believers who are in need of a place to stay for a month or two. We were able to stay there for very cheap rent. We were moved-in by our family and our church family at Countryside along with our new friends from the NorthEast. The Smithville place was such a nice transitional house. Nothing fancy, but we were situated on a lot of acres including a fishing pond that the kids loved! Before it turned cold we had a number of days exploring this property. This winter offered lots of snow for sledding and snowmen as well.

After the Van Brunt house fell through, we began to broaden our house search to go beyond the NorthEast. We ended up looking in several parts of KC in relation to how close they were to downtown KC where I work. We looked at Gladstone, KCK, Raytown, KCMO, and even Olathe. All this time, we kept wondering what God was doing?

Eventually it became clear that He did not want us to move to the NorthEast. The timing was such that next to nothing new was coming onto the market in the NE. Yet there was a lot of activity north of the river in Kansas City, MO and in Gladstone. We were often disappointed when houses we loved went to other buyers before we could blink. We lost one house because the seller was laid off and decided against selling.

Then came the dream house! It was huge house in Gladstone, a nicely renovated place with three fireplaces. It was close to the highway and in a great neighborhood. During the inspection, I followed our inspector to the roof to check it out with him. He took a call while ‘up top’, so I took the opportunity to tweet this message: “I'm on the roof w inspector. Plz pray it goes well... And I don’t fall off! I didn’t fall physically, but my heart did. Later, the inspector found major problems with the foundation of the house and at one point asked if I wanted him to continue. In denial after so many disappointments, I wasn’t grasping what he was saying. I didn’t want to make that call. He couldn’t tell us not to buy the house, but he was hinting that the problems would be big ones to fix. We eventually walked away from that house, and our inspector was able to give us a deep discount on this inspection since we didn’t complete it. In the process, we learned what a thorough and honest inspector John Clason (Crown Home Inspections) is. We whole-heartily recommend him as well!

In the end, we tied John’s record for most inspections by one family, and we broke Shelley’s record for number of contracts drawn up which did not result in a sale. These are not records we are proud of.

Since we broadened our search from the NorthEast, the price we were willing to pay for a house increased with each showing. We were learning that if we pay a smaller price for a house we could expect to need more money to fix it up. This was money we just didn’t have, so I eventually saw (our agent Shelley was so patient) that we would not be able to buy a 100-yr-old house for dirt-cheap and fix it up and yet still get an FHA loan.

Christmas came and went. New Year’s came and went. We were still in the rental in Smithville and anxious to be in our own home. We had no intention of staying as long as we did there, and we seemed to always be sick. It was a trying time. We kept clinging to our verse. ‘Trust in God, commit your way to Him, and He will act.’ But when?

Looking back it is clear that God used this time to teach me about how to look at missions. I was excited to go to the NorthEast to share the Gospel with those who need it so badly, the culturally diverse and the poor, a neighborhood with few fathers and many hurting. In the meantime, though, I began to see that I had neglected to share the Gospel boldly where I lived right there in Spring Hill.

My brother-in-law sent a link to this post, at a time when I had been reading in 2 Cor 5:14-6:2, about the ministry of reconciliation given to those who no longer live for themselves, and how it is to be 'regifted' to others regardless of how others see them. What I began to see was that I was not looking at people the way God requires us to look at people. Paul’s words were cutting to my heart: “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. (2 Corinthians 5:16)” I was failing to see people the way God does, as eternal souls that will be resurrected; either to spend forever worshiping Christ in Heaven, or to suffer for their sins in Hell. And this applies not only to the poor and needy in the hood, but to middle-class families who ‘have it all’ in the sub-urbs. Death is the great equalizer; we have all fallen short of God’s glory and are in need of a Savior.

Our plan all along was to meet neighbors, do Bible studies, have children's programs and share the Gospel in the NorthEast. Why couldn't we do the same in Parkville? Are they any less lost? Nope, in fact Jesus words indicate their state is hopeless. Every American is rich, compared to the world as a whole. So the middle-class is even wealthier. Jesus said that it is more difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Impossible. This requires the Spirit of God to perform the heart transformation that He did in me.

Could God have been preventing us from moving to the NE (using a growing uneasiness in my wife, economic conditions that would seem to make buying a house there a bad idea, and lack of available homes that fit our needs for being 'move-in-ready), all because He wanted us in the burbs? It appears so.

One night in early January, a house in Parkville popped onto the online search my wife was doing. It had everything we were looking for in a house and had a very reasonable price. We arranged to see the house, among a few others. After walking through, we decided to make an offer that very night. Shelley met us in her office hours later, after we grabbed a quick bite. Sophia, by the way, became ill with the stomach flu and threw up in the lobby at Burger King! Aimee and I took turns staying with her and the other kids while the papers were signed. So on the first day on the market we had an accepted offer!

We hope to use our home for God any way we can. It is a huge blessing and we are so excited to use it for His glory! This is how we got to Parkville. Tomorrow I will focus on some ways God is answering our prayer to get out of debt.

1 comment:

Joel Conrad said...

Thanks for writing about the story of how God brought you to Parkville-- It was very encouraging to me, especially your reflections on the struggles along the way (seemingly unanswered prayer, pride, disappointments, etc.). Thanks for taking the time to share this with others--

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