As we began exploring the idea of settling and trying to decide where we wanted to live, there were too many options. If you’ve been to Montana, you know that basically everything west of Billings is beautiful. Our family is also very partial to Wyoming, especially the Cody area. We were open to almost anything. The very first house we looked at in Billings, had everything we were looking for, except that it did not have a well, and was not on city water. Instead, it ran off of two 2,200 gallon cisterns. We really had it in our heads that we want to be able to teach our kids homesteading skills and be able to self-sustain our family. We walked away from it that day, but I never forgot that house on Yellowstone Trail, I mean, even the address was awesome! In the following months, we spoke with realtors from Cody to Great Falls, Missoula to Kalispell, and even one in Northern Idaho. We visited houses and land and quickly realized that we weren’t the only people who wanted to settle down in Wyoming or Montana. People were buying houses and land, “sight unseen,” and most houses were on the market for less than a day. We were starting to lean towards building a house, but kept thinking about the one on Yellowstone Trail, which surprisingly was still on the market (likely because it was bank owned and a more complicated as-is purchase). During those three months of searching, we had learned that half of all rural properties in Montana are on well water and the other half on cisterns. We started to consider the idea and since our kids were already getting plugged into a local church here in Billings, we kind of liked the idea of calling it home. We went back out to look at that first house again. We still loved it and decided to make a low ball offer. As soon as our realtor submitted it, the listing agent let him know they had just accepted a different offer. We were too late. I was so sad! But immediately, I felt like Father said, “Don’t worry, that house is yours.” I thought to myself, “Interesting!” Every day after, even as we continued our house search, I would check the listing on Realtor.com to see if it had come back available. Morning and night, I would check, just waiting.
Roughly three weeks later, it popped up as available again! I was so excited! We quickly put in another offer. As we waited on the bank to respond, another offer was submitted and we ended up in a bidding war. Everything in me wanted to outbid the other offer. Yet, something held me back. I knew if we bid higher than the asking price, it would be in an effort to take things into our own hands, which never really works out the way we hope. I fought my impulse to bid high and told Erich I felt like we should bid under the asking price by a couple thousand. I felt like it gave God more room to move (not that He needs any room, but I think He likes it when we give it to Him). If the house wasn’t right for our family, it would be easy for us to be outbid, but at the same time, if it really was “our” house, we could win the bid without taking it into our own hands. Erich immediately agreed and we submitted our offer. I’ll be honest, more than once I had the urge to change our bid, just a little bit higher. The kids weren’t ecstatic about our decision to not go “all in” on our bid either. But we prayed over it and waited. And waited, and waited. We prayed and tried real hard to not ask God for the house, but for His best plan for us. During this time, my dad, who never has dreams, dreamt that we got an envelope from the bank and inside was a blank piece of paper that had the word “YES” written on it. My hope was rekindled. It was a three day holiday weekend and it takes three days for the bank to respond, so, six brutal days later, we got the news that we had won! Needless to say, we were thrilled, and started to rest in the confidence that the words I had heard earlier were indeed a promise from God, this house was ours.
And so began the whole messy process of buying a house. I was almost dreading it, but I cannot even begin to tell you the favor we have experienced throughout the entire process. From finding a lender who would consider all of Erich’s pay (including his travel stipend) as income, to a positive inspection revealing nothing major needing to be repaired. We were using an FHA Rural Development loan to finance the purchase which meant there were stricter requirements during the appraisal process and, because the property was bank owned, any repairs required by the appraiser would have to be done by us. Our realtor expected the worst, but we were hopeful. The only thing the appraiser ended up wanting done, was repainting any raw wood on the cedar siding, the trim and the peeling deck. Painting, of all things! If you know me, you know that painting is one thing I know how to do. We got the materials along with a weather forecast informing us that we were about to get a ton of snow. Instead of waiting for Erich’s next days off, we headed out to the house to get as much done as we could. It’s a long story, but we got it done, maybe not to a professional’s satisfaction, considering we were painting in freezing cold weather, shoveling snow off the deck and using fans to dry the wood so we could apply the stain. But we got it done. Then we got more snow! Which, we felt, was actually in our favor since the appraiser couldn’t be as thorough in his re-inspection of the repairs. =) At this point in the process, the only thing we were waiting on was the water test, and even the Water Guy (yes that’s his name), when he found out we were in a pinch for time, went a day and a half earlier to test the water and get it to the lab for us. Then the results came back in record time, even the Water Guy was surprised! When our lender called to get us locked into an interest rate, he was punching in the numbers and sounded confused when he said he could get us locked into a 2.25% rate. He wasn’t sure it was real. Then, a few days later, he called us out of the blue, just for fun, to tell us that our closing costs were going to be about $4,000 less than he expected. He was going over all the credits that the seller had allowed us, listing them off in surprise. At that point, I shouldn’t have been shocked anymore, but I still laughed, somewhat in disbelief, and told the lender how God had shown us so much favor, every step of the way when it came to buying this house. He said he often sees credits, but has never seen them go so far in someone’s favor. We were beyond grateful. The house did not have a washer and dryer and this freed up some money to buy them. If you have tried buying appliances since Covid19, you know they are few and far between. Someone at Home Depot told us they are basically making them to order at this point, most of them on backorder until January or March. We did not want to buy new anyways and were going to wait until after we closed on the house, but I hopped on Craigslist to see if we were even going to be able to find any used ones. There was one set, basically brand new, and the washer was a front loading unit (which uses less water, which is important for cistern use) and the set was less than the cost of one or the other brand new! We decided we couldn’t pass it up and went to look at them, skeptical that something wasn’t wrong with them. Why do we still doubt Father’s willingness to bless us even in the mundane?! The seller said the only thing wrong with them was their color. Apparently his wife wanted matching appliances all the way around. What?! What an amazing gift from a Dad who sees all and loves to give His kids good gifts.
I admit, the thought of starting from scratch with a family of six was intimidating initially. We are fine on our cots and camp chairs and are going to take things slow. We want to buy tools instead of furniture and work with the kids to learn to build beds, desks, shelves, etc. We are excited about building a home again. Awhile back, I told Erich that all I wanted for Christmas was a house and a couch. He laughed, I’m not sure why. Now, here we are, on track to close on the house this week! And, while we were going to wait on buying a couch, one popped up on my facebook feed for $250!! It needed some cleaning and some love, but it’s comfy and it seats ALL six of us!
Over the course of this last month, there were a lot of times it all felt too good to be true. My cynical self would start to expect something to go wrong, or things to fall through. I worried about lending, I worried about the inspection, then there was the appraiser and his demands, I worried about the water test, about being able to find a washer and dryer before next year…. the list goes on. But, every time I’d lay down my worries, I would find myself drowning in his favor. If you are a believer, you are familiar with the battle between worry and trust. I know He will take care of it all, so why is my initial tendency to fret? To expect the worst? Why, after sooooo many years of God providing for us, of Him never failing us, of His favor on our lives, do I still expect disappointment? I have found myself searching my own heart for the answer to that question, and have found that I tend to expect the worst, so that I’m not disappointed. It feels safer than getting my hopes up and being disappointed. I don’t know what led me to that strategy of approaching life, but I’d like to change it. I’d like to approach new challenges, and the unknown, with the enthusiasm of knowing that He will provide. With the unwavering belief that He uses even disappointments to surprise us with His goodness. I want hope and trust to dominate fear, worry and doubt, not just in the end, but in the beginning of every circumstance.
A.W. Tozer said, “God answers our prayers not because we are good, but because He is good.” We can feel like we are falling short at every turn, but it is His joy to bless us anyway, because he is a good, good Father. His goodness is not contingent on our “goodness.” However, even if we aren’t currently feeling or seeing His favor, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. How many times have we been through something that felt like hell, only to realize it was the desert between our freedom and the promised land? We have been in so many manna seasons, where we experience His provision and goodness, but it feels like “just enough” to last the day. We have walked the deserts and the dry places, we’ve been down in the valleys and on the mountaintops. The truth is, in every season, He is good. Sometimes it is those exact places that feel empty and dry, that end up ushering us into the promised land He has prepared for us.
Below is a sneak peak of our new home. Hopefully we will be closing on the house this Friday and then I can share more pictures after we move in. Thanks for following!