Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Closed Door

“This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it—the LORD is his name:
‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’"

Jeremiah 33:2-3

The best thing about when God closes a door is knowing that He is the one who closed it.

Being all-powerful, He easily could have made our house sell for a $30,000 profit in March. Or April. Maybe a $15k profit in May. Maybe $5k in June. But despite the steady pace of showings, no offers came in. Not even little ones. We left the door open, waiting, wondering. Would we be able to get to Arizona before this baby arrived? Should we go ahead and move into a house we could easily afford out there, while still owning our home here, until some generous buyer came along to relieve us of the second mortgage? Or should we put an addition on our three bedroom ranch and turn it into a home we could be comfortable in, at least for a little while?

With a little research, I discovered that the cost to add a second story to our existing house would be about as much as a beautiful four bedroom, three bathroom home southeast of Phoenix. With signs pointing westward, Don and I flew out for a long weekend of viewing prospective homes and checking out the area. We loved it. The weather (yes, even temperatures over 100 degrees every day) is beautiful, thanks to ample sunshine and no humidity. We could picture our family living happily in these homes, especially if it meant doubling our square footage while cutting several hundred dollars out of our monthly mortgage payments. Every neighborhood was full of sidewalks, quiet roads, and playgrounds. With my clipboard and camera in hand, I jotted notes to help us compare the 20 or so homes we saw, until we narrowed it down to a list of favorites.

And we very nearly bought one. Some delays in getting a response from our loan officer gave Don time to voice his hesitation to take on a second mortgage. Meanwhile, our real estate agent back home reported that our open house had gone well, with several parties exhibiting interest. We returned to New England with anticipation of receiving an offer within a few days. Then, armed with the security of a purchase and sales agreement, we would pursue our favorite Arizona homes - if they didn't sell first.

After nearly a week of phone calls, emails, and frequently checking the computer to see what houses sold that day, the offer finally came - about $25k too low. It was so low, in fact, that in order to accept it, we would have had to bring a significant amount of money to closing, leaving us nothing for a new home. We scheduled an appraisal to prove to the buyer and her agent that our home was indeed worth what we were asking. After the appraisal, with the offer still on the table, we waited for the results through two more days of intense email checking. Finally, the answer came. I scrolled through 25 pages of comparisons, notes, and pictures in order to get to the bottom line. In today's plunging market, our house is apparently worth only what we owe on the mortgage - roughly 2/3 of its appraised value from 2006. And with such a low appraisal, no bank will finance a higher sales price on the house. In short, unless we want to pay to get out of it, there is no way to sell our house right now.

This news came on July 27. Ironically, we had said for months that if the house didn't sell by the end of July, we would take it off the market at least through Christmas. I didn't want to be moving across the country at 39 weeks pregnant, or trying to show the house while adjusting to life with a brand-new baby. And now, just in case we were tempted to change our plans, we have little choice but to do exactly what we had discussed. The house is off the market, and will stay there until prices rise (which isn't looking likely in the current economy) or we at least pay off enough principle to break even on the sale. We may look at Arizona again next spring, or next year, or maybe it will be years before the door opens for us to relocate. Only God knows.

Are we disappointed? Of course. Instead of more money, more space, and new adventures, we get the same old mortgage, the same old town we grew up in, and four children and two adults sharing two bedrooms (the third bedroom necessarily functions as Don's work-at-home office) and a single bathroom. Instead of over 300 days of sunshine, we get another long winter of ice and snow. Instead of settling into a new place, we have to figure out how to settle back in to the place we already were.

And yet, we can't be unhappy, because we know that this is God's will. For whatever reason, at this point in our lives, the Lord wants us to stay right here: in this house, in this town, in this state. Whether He has a specific ministry for us to fulfill here, or whether our family just needs a lesson in contentment, this is where God has placed us, and to fight it would only be to kick against the door that He lovingly closed.

Now that we know we will be here for a while, there are many things to figure out: which boxes to unpack, what clutter to allow, where everyone will sleep. After six months of clean counters, spacious shelves, and organized closets, I quite like the feel of living in a staged house. (And I wonder how many of those boxes in the attic I really need!) At the same time, as I mentioned in my last post, there is a strange sense of liberation in knowing that we can now display family photos or tack Bible verses to the wall. And there is a great relief in knowing that we will never have to spend an entire morning racing through the house to clean up for a showing.

So to summarize, it may not be the answer I was hoping for, but it is nevertheless an answer. We asked the Lord to open or close the door on moving this summer, and He was faithful. I cannot see what the future holds, but I trust that my God, who made the heavens and the earth, has great plans for this family. His vision is not bound by cramped bedrooms or even the depths of the Grand Canyon, and it is exciting to know that no matter where we live, God will, in His perfect timing, reveal the unsearchable things that I do not know.


  1. I praise God that He has given you direction, and even more so that He has given you peace in His will! (((hugs))) and praying for you as He takes you further down the road He's leading you on, where ever that may be!

  2. Manda :],
    While I'm excited that you are all staying, I'm sorry it didn't work out :\. It's awesome that God's will was done through all of this, and I look forward to having a little extra time to spend with you all :].
    When is the baby due, by the way?
    Love and miss you!

  3. Thanks for the update! Glad God is providing you a clear direction!
    Do you know if you're having a boy or girl?

  4. They said it's a girl (though I always give the disclaimer, sometimes the ultrasound tech is wrong!). We're excited to have a sister for Lydia!