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There's That Trust Thing Again (Part 2 of our Moving Saga)

Sometimes life is like falling off the side of a mountain into an abyss. You fall and fall . . . and fall. Trials stretch into years. Hurts never quite stop aching, even under their calluses. But other times life is like a roller coaster. Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhh, we’re gonna die! Oh, we’re OK. AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! Another hill!!!! Oh, it’s OK. We spent the fall living life of the second sort.

In Part 1, I introduced the little dream farm we found in August and the mad dash to throw the hip-deep clutter of eight people into plastic bins fast enough to get our house on the market before the weather turned frigid and all real estate buyers went into hibernation/holiday freak-out mode. But the stager we’d hired said a lot more about getting ready. There was furniture to rearrange and furniture to send on vacation to a storage unit (good-bye sewing machine table and piano . . . ). There were flowers to plant, and there was paint, fresh paint in trendy colors to be applied here, there, and everywhere. And of course there were all the things we hadn’t finished from our emergency kitchen/great room remodel.

We decided that we needed to hire someone to paint and finish up the remodeling if we were going to have any chance of buying the little farm that fall. And so our house became a work site, and I started spending as much time as possible out to avoid having to supervise the children around paint and drills. (You know your house is crazy when spending the whole day shopping with six young children sounds easier than staying home.) I remember coming back one day from IKEA, the back of the van all full of new accent pillows and duvets the stager had recommended, feeling so much peace that we were doing what we were supposed to do. I told my husband how happy and calm I felt just trusting the Lord, following His leading.

Late at night, we went on Zillow again to look at the pictures of the farm and dream. That’s when we saw it:

Not for sale.

It was gone. Just like that, it was gone. Our house hadn’t gone on the market yet, but we had filled up two storage units with plastic bins and furniture and spent a pretty penny on painting and finishing trim and curtains and duvets and flowers and accent pillows. And now the dream was gone.

Had we really heard from God? Were we really following His leading? We couldn’t be absolutely certain, but yet we couldn’t have done anything else. The overwhelming peace we had felt had pointed only one direction, toward a little farm that wasn’t for sale.

Test #2: Trust. Would we trust when it all seemed ridiculous, when we’d just had a frantic and expensive race to nowhere? Could we say, “Thy will be done,” when ours so painfully wasn’t?

I went to bed feeling hollow.

And then the roller coaster reached the bottom of the hill.

The next afternoon, our realtor told us the farm was still for sale. It was just a computer glitch that it wasn’t showing up on Zillow. Oh. Heart attack. Whiplash. Problem solved. Boom.

Life is so often not like that. Plans fail. Doors close. God asks, “If I took this away from you, would you still trust me?” This time, He only asked the question. Then He gave the thing back. And strangely, it made me trust Him more for the times that He doesn’t give the thing back. Because I saw that He is so perfectly in control. He is not boggled by our world, so if He chooses not to solve something the way I want Him to, it really is because He has a better plan, not because He had an oopsie and circumstances spiraled beyond His reach.

Stay tuned for part 3, in which strangers see my worst getting-six-kids-ready-for-church messes ever.

In Which Dreams Come True and There Are Lots of Plastic Bins

I had wanted it for so long, I had nearly given up. It had become one of those things I had to keep laying aside in the name of growth, patience, and reality checks (hey, there are people starving in Africa, be thankful for what you’ve got!). And I was thankful. I just kept bumping up against this dream I couldn’t let go of. But last August, after more than five years of searching, we found it.

A little farm.

Close to my husband’s work.

That we could afford.

It was so surreal, I hardly let myself hope. Something would go wrong. Something surely would go wrong. And we would have to sell our house first. Our house that we were still finishing up remodeling, our house that we were living in, that we, all EIGHT of us, with six of us ages ten and under were still living in.

Crazy. How could I ever keep it clean? And if I didn’t, who would buy the House of Chaos?

But then there was this peace. Every time we had looked at a house during our years of searching something hadn’t seemed right, not something physical like an atrocious yellow and orange shag carpet (which actually this farm house has), but a feeling, an uneasiness of not being at home. But as soon as we drove up on that August day, I knew that this was where we were supposed to be. The Lord was opening the door we’d been pounding on for so long. When we want something that isn’t God’s timing, ain’t no way it’s going to happen. But when it is His timing, nothing can stop it, not even a winding down real estate season or a house full of active children spilling juice all over the living room or running their Melissa and Doug metal shopping cart into the brand new stainless steel refrigerator that was a showpiece in your newly remodeled kitchen (for example).

It’s going to take several posts to get through the whole story, but here’s the first bit.

We didn’t know where to start in getting our house ready to show to strangers, so I called a “stager,” a sort of decorating, decluttering, make-it-what-the-market-wants consultant. Our good friend had used him to sell his house, and the results had been astonishing, so homey, so intelligent, so uncluttered. And what a blessing! The stager had an opening. In two days.

“Just pretend that I’m a potential buyer,” he said.

“OK,” I said.

When I hung up, I looked around at a sea of stuff. There was stuff on top of stuff, with more stuff creeping out from under beds. Bins. We needed bins, lots and lots of bins. My husband came home with the first lot, and I handed them to the children to tackle their rooms. “Just shovel as fast as you can. We’ll sort it later.” I labeled the bins helpful and detailed things like, “Terrifying Randomness from the Boys’ Room,” and “Detritus,” and we shoveled and stacked and filled the garage with bins. The time was drawing near for the stager’s arrival and still we shoveled. The kitchen had been emptied, everything off the counters, all but the essentials out of the cupboards and drawers. I took most of our clothes out of the closets, most of the towels out of the linen closet, while bin after bin left the ever lessening morass of my children’s rooms. I worked and raced and sweated and puffed my way towards that stager’s appointment.

It was nearly time. I hadn’t made my bed. I couldn’t even find my bed under all the junk strewn all over it, carted in from the rest of the house, the “important” stuff, rescued from being shoveled into poorly labeled bins with less important stuff. I had left our bedroom for last. I was in there, still frantically throwing things in bins when the stager arrived.

Test #1: Humility. And Failure. A two-fer. I am supposed to pretend he’s a buyer, and he must think I’m an idiot to have an unmade bed covered with “important” stuff.

Oh, well. It is what it is. We’ll explain we only had two days. At least the kitchen looks good, and the kids’ rooms.

I had looked on Pinterest and several “How to Sell Your House Fast” type pages and had decided to leave just a few toys in the children’s rooms to suggest happy play. In the boys’ room, for example I left one farm set, a large horse on springs, a truck, some puzzles. So maybe it wasn’t quite like a magazine, but it was pretty good, right? I mean, at least there were no broken bits of Happy Meal toys. (Speaking of which, why do we have so many of these when I can count on one hand the number of times we let the kids get Happy Meals?)

The stager surveyed the boys’ room.

“Well,” he said, “now’s the time to start paring down your toys.”

Clearly, this was going to be harder than I had imagined.

Stay tuned for Part 2, in which we have even more bins, and tests, and shopping!

Telling Stories

I kept waffling. I would hear a song, or read something inspiring in a book, maybe have a conversation, and I would decide, resolve right then that I would start writing again. But my computer time is at bedtime, and night would come, bleary-eyed and worn, and the thoughts that seemed so sharp in the daylight would melt away and slip through my fingers like the last bits of Popsicle in July.

Maybe I’ll just check Facebook.

And so it was for ten months. I have written little and published nothing. But I have squirmed. I had nothing to say but no peace about silence. I couldn’t stop thinking about blogging.

But one morning I knew.

I was sitting in church, balancing baby and Cheerios and a little red race car. And suddenly, it hit me. For the ten months that I had had nothing to say, I had been living a story, a story with God as the Hero. I had seen countless everyday miracles. And I had already forgotten most of them. I need to be blogging, not because I have something profound to teach the world from the depths of my own brilliant Google research or striking, fresh conclusions about the meaning of life, neatly packaged by one too young to be packaging up anything more than cookies, but because we are called to be witnesses. And this is what I can witness.

So I’m back, trying again. I don’t even know if anybody still checks my blog. But God is here, sustaining a stay-at-home wife and mom with six small children, a woman who messes up daily, fights for joy, and sometimes burns the breakfast sausage. And I have a story to tell.