Let's see, where did we leave off--
Oh, right. Mike had suggested that we broaden our house search and I thought this was the worst idea I had ever heard--until seconds later, I typed our search criteria into the residential real estate database, and I saw this:
...And then it was like the BEST idea I have ever heard in my entire life, because LOOK AT THAT HOUSE. I have been perusing the database for months, watching activity, stalking houses--and trust me when I say that houses like this are NEVER listed for rent. FYI, it only takes a wrap around porch with a swing (ohmygod, a SWING) for me to compromise my very rigid stance on school districts.
The truth of it is, we knew it the moment we saw it. We knew this was it. We knew we LOVED it. Every light in the house could have been a neon beer sign, and I still would have been sold on it. It was unlike anything we were looking at, and it was the ONLY thing on the actual rental market that would work. It was so, so very obvious--and our decision was made in seconds.
I will also tell you--the house we *almost* submitted a contract on was WAY different. It was extremely modern, quite ugly from the outside, and very, very odd. And by very, very odd, I mean that it had two large tree houses attached to it's back deck; and in one of those tree houses was a waterbed, a sink and a toilet. I mean, after you gasp and get over the inital shock of it...it's kind of awesome. Certainly unconventional. But it didn't have any kind of neighborhood (one of the things we were most motivated to find), it wasn't for rent, and it had a multitude of issues we were willing to overlook--almost all of the criteria we had established, actually--and so I can't tell you what an amazing miracle it was the God closed that door.
Because two days later, we were staring at this. A 100-year old Victorian, in an amazing neighborhood. It is old, which means it overflow-eth with CHARACTER. Great open space, staircases hidden in bedrooms, a third floor with TWO nooks. I freaking died and went to a two nook heaven. But it gets better! We are ONE BLOCK from the community pool, an ice rink, and a huge park with tennis courts and a new playground. The community parade goes DOWN OUR STREET. Two blocks in the opposite direction (still on our street), we have a frozen custard shop, a fire station, a working train station, a dance studio, and a candy store geared toward kids, with large jars of candy that they sell for 10 CENTS and up. Just like when I was a kid, and I would ride my bike to "The Goodie Korner" and buy candy cigarettes for $.50. Four blocks down (and still on our street) is the farmers market, which is also the pumpkin patch and the Christmas tree lot. The best margarita in town is three blocks away, and one street up. There are summer concerts and fireworks and swim teams (same one we were on last year), and a public library--and all of them are no more than five minutes away (walking). To say this is ideal is an understatement.
There is not a day that I will spend in this house, that will not feel like an incredible and undeserved gift. And that is the home the Lord has prepared for me, that he had designed all along--a place of deep and unshakable thankfulness. He didn't desire for me to be plain, or to sacrifice everything I love, or to be neutral about my choice. He didn't stir my heart to change, only to have me NOT care about where I ended up. He didn't desire to teach me an "I told you so" lesson. There was always this incredible feeling that came with letting go of everything predictable and trading it for a new kind of adventure; but with it came fear that the adventure would be hard, and out of control, and full of really terrible wall paper. And that is the precise moment when I was sure I was going to hell, because this was supposed to be about following Jesus and apparently my loyalty ended with houses that had pink carpet. It is precisely this kind of guilt that leads me to believe that God's answer to my cold, materialistic heart is a shack, and perhaps, and oral disease that leaves me toothless. It just isn't so, friends; and I am smack in the middle of the lesson where I learn how incredibly big he really is.
When I said we were looking for something smaller, I meant it--and I believed it would be much smaller than this. There is a part of me that carries some guilt that it all worked out the way it did, that it all looks so charmed and easy. It speaks to the Barbie debate we talked about last summer, the insecurity we carry as women, wanting other women to like us, and feeling like we need to downplay ourselves. It's really a post for another day, but I'd be lying if I wasn't thinking about it, and worrying about how it's all perceived--you know, this tiny sliver of my reality, that I put out there on the Internet.
I prayed for OBVIOUS, and he closed doors. He timed it down to the hour that Mike came home from work for lunch, the day we impulsively decided to expand our search, the moment we casually perused the rental market. It was starting to feel like the very start of drowning, and then suddenly it was a 100-year-old Victorian in the most ideal location, that met every bit of our criteria. We made an appointment to see it as soon as possible, and within two hours, I got a text from a friend, who had a friend, who had a friend-- that wanted to rent their house. Same house that we were already in love with. We had an in, a connection, a reference that would testify we were unlikely to cook meth in the bathroom.
We walked through the house the next day and met the owners; a family with kids almost exactly the age of our own. They were making a hard choice to move out of state, to do what was best for their family. Letting go of everything familiar, and trading it for a new kind of adventure--and I could understand the same tide of uncertainty, because we were treading in its water, too. We had to wait a few days, but a couple of weeks ago, we were told it was ours to rent. And then came the news that we would have to switch schools THIS YEAR, and it all started to feel out of control again, until we remembered that all of it has been incredibly OBVIOUS--and that even in the things we know and love, there is still lots of things to fear apart from the Lord.
The details are falling into place, the PODS are being delivered, and now that we are seeing patches of 60 degree weather, I am about to be reunited with all of the children's winter sweaters. And I am so, so excited. And EXTREMELY grateful.
And this is our year of being really intentional with what the Lord has given us.