Over the past six months or so we’ve been on a real journey of faith that I’ve pretty much kept under the radar on this blog. I don’t generally like to share too much from my personal life online, but I think I have a few lessons to share and stories to relate that will be an encouragement to others.
This will also explain why we now live in Connecticut.
About two years ago a friend of ours encouraged us to pursue graduate school for my wife Julie. We’d been talking about it for years, but we kept assuming that we should put it off. After a lot of thinking, planning, and testing, we decided to give it a shot. Last April Julie was accepted at the University of Connecticut to begin working her way toward a PhD in English Lit.
Consequently, we had to sell our house in Vermont, she had a lot of preparation to do, we had to find a place near Storrs, CT, and I needed to figure out a job. Over the following months we sensed that I should try writing and speaking full time, which meant we really needed an affordable place to live in Connecticut and to live on a tight budget. We also needed to downsize significantly by giving away or selling a lot of stuff.
When we decided to give grad school a try back in 2007, I began watching the real estate market very closely, planning to sell our house myself. How hard could it be in a small, fairly stable market such as Vermont? That was lesson one. There are times to save money and to be a do-it-yourself person, but not when your family’s financial future is hanging in the balance.
Over the three months I tried to sell our house myself I was not only humbled, but felt that I’d been foolish in putting us into a tight financial spot. I also put my own prospects of launching a freelance writing and speaking ministry in jeopardy. All of this was humbling for me beyond words.
The next blow came on the first day or our family vacation in late July just after leaving my day job. My next book deal fell to pieces in a matter of days. The publisher had changed directions significantly and we could no longer agree on the direction or details of the book after I had completed the first draft. So as I was launching my “freelance writing career,” one of the major sources of my pride, income, and security disappeared.
By the end of July, Julie and I wrapped up our jobs in Vermont, meaning our income suddenly stopped. We also signed on with a realtor. In early August we had to move to our apartment in Connecticut, meaning that we would soon have a rent and a mortgage to pay. The house needed to sell, and soon.
During the month of August we learned that a lot of people were looking at our house, but no offers were made despite the work of our incredible real estate agent. By early September I began to panic. We really needed an offer on the house. I knew we had priced it right, and the sheer number of viewings was evidence enough of that. Over Labor Day weekend I began to crack.
On the trip home from meeting family I prayed intensely over the sale of our house. “God, we need you to sell this house.” While driving on a dark country road in Connecticut (yes, we have them here), God spoke in an almost audible voice, “Do you want me, or do you want me to solve your problems?”
I had to be honest. I wanted God to sell the house. I didn’t want God or to seek his Kingdom first. On the following day I struggled to write and ended up fretting about the house and our finances. Reminded of God’s word the previous evening, I left my desk and kneeled in the other room resolving just to worship God. After a few minutes of this, I remembered we had not one, but two reserves of money that I’d completely forgotten.
That gave us some breathing room. I’d never felt so cared for by God over the following month. Two weeks later we received an offer on the house and negotiated a price that I think was fair for both parties. The same buyers closed on the house yesterday. We are now free from that hefty mortgage payment.
We could have stuck it out longer, but back in June I picked the latest date I’d want to wait to sell the house: early November.
The process of selling our house has been trying, with lots of uncertainty. It hasn’t been easy. However, the lesson I learned that evening in September has stuck with me. Do I want God or for God to solve my problems? This has felt like boot camp in seeking first God’s Kingdom.
It has also helped me to see God’s provision in every detail of our lives here in Connecticut. Every accepted article, every friendship we make, and every wonderful place to hike is a blessing from God. We wouldn’t have ended up here without God’s provision at key moments.
I wish I had a pithy way to sum this crazy experience up. I feel like we were trying to figure out where God wanted us to go and to obey that leading. Following God’s lead has not be comfortable or easy, but it has been rewarding. I have experienced intimacy with God on a new level, have seen sin in my own heart challenged, and have learned to hold loosely to home, money, and status.
Everything really is on the table, but if we lose any or all of it, it is far more precious to have intimacy with God. I’m still digging deeper into the mystery of seeking first God’s Kingdom. It’s not an easy thing to do. However, as we pass through these trials and terrifying times we will find abundant life and joy in God and his provision.