I love to tell stories.
The funnier the better.
I have encouraged all my HBU students to share stories as part of their public speaking … and have told them it makes them more relateable. At least one student got it because on the last day of class she brought me a Starbucks cup with a liner on it that said … “Share your story”. She told me it reminded her of me. 🙂
And tonight when I went to a party in my neighborhood, I was telling a friend the story of our new house and she said … “have you written all this down … because you need to”.
I have wanted to write down the story but have felt like certain chapters needed to be finished in the story before I wrote about it. The story will continue for a long time we are certain, but I’m ready to tell the beginning.
There have been lots of hurdles … the latest being our home inspection today of the house we are selling. Bill and I were like cats on a hot tin roof. Having someone come and look (for THREE hours) at every nook and cranny in our house felt, to me, like those people who say they fear speaking in public in their underwear. It felt really exposed. Like what if the house imploded or something? We worked hard, we had things fixed, carpet stretched, walls painted, we cleaned and we prayed. Bill came home from work for the beginning of the inspection and we made tons of jokes about not saying things like … “aww, that old thing … it’s never worked right”. Or, “jiggle it just so and you can make it work”. You know, no RED FLAGS!!
And when the inspector left he said … “I can tell this house has been lovingly maintained”. And I said “whew” and threw up a silent “thank you Jesus” … and decided to start writing the story.
Here is the thing I want you to know before you read a single word though. God wrote this story. He’s still writing it. This is not our house. It is His. We prayed specifically that there would be no way to explain our getting this house except that He did it. And I laugh every time someone says … “how did y’all get that house? We never even saw a for sale sign”.
Tonight when my friend heard a few of the details she said … “this sounds like a God thing”. And I know God saw my heart smile … because that was an answer to our prayer.
So here it is … God’s story of our house:
347 Cinnamon Oak – Chapter One
Bill and I moved to Houston from Nashville 15 1/2 years ago. We had a dog, a couch, and a few pictures to hang on the wall. We thought our house seemed like a museum. A chair here and there and a some pictures on the wall. We bought a dining room set and a kitchen table and began the process of filling up our house. Before we knew it, we had filled it with FOUR (beautiful) kids.
And our house was full.
And we had always thought we’d move at some point … upgrade to something a little bigger. But instead of a bigger house, we got a bigger family. (I’d make that trade again any day!).
We looked at other houses. LOTS of other houses. We made offers on two of them but it didn’t work out. Prices in the area rose to points where we thought it would never be within our reach to own something bigger here.
And we looked some more.
There were times it was discouraging. There were times I gave up. There were days we questioned why we hadn’t moved out to the suburbs when the kids were little and we hadn’t yet made such an investment in the community. There were days we wondered aloud why God wasn’t working it all out.
I VERY VIVIDLY remember one day last spring going on a family bike ride along the bayou. You get on the bayou near our Gretel house and ride it right past the neighborhood we had long prayed and hoped to live in. We had biked by it and prayed, driven through it and prayed (begged) and yet nothing. We had even sent letters to 3 homeowners in the neighborhood and talked to two homeowners at their doors who basically said … “get in line behind the host of other people who also want to live here”.
On that particular day, for whatever reason, I told God I didn’t care anymore. And God knows my heart and I don’t have to explain myself to Him, but I did anyway. And I told him not to think I was mad about it. Not at all. I told him I was just tired of trying to make it work out. I said I was tired of looking and that I was perfectly content to stay right where we were. I remember saying something like … “honestly God … I’m not mad. I’m fine. 406 Gretel it is.”
And within weeks our phone rang. It was a friend that I hadn’t seen in years. Our daughters went to elementary school together and then they had switched to private school in middle school. In fact I hadn’t seen her since a day three or so years earlier when I saw her at the nail salon and said …. “oh Lucinda, it’s so funny I’m seeing you. Bill just wrote a letter to your next door neighbor telling him that if he ever wanted to sell that we would be interested in making an offer”.
Coincidence that I ran into her that day, I think not.
Because when she called she said … “did you and Bill ever buy a house”. I said … “no, of course not”. 🙂
She said … “well, Mr. Reeber, my next door neighbor that you sent the letter to a few years ago, passed away. His six children are here and they’d like to move their mom….you should call them.”
We waited a few weeks and one Saturday morning last May, Bill got up and said … “I think I need to go see Mrs. Reeber today”. And so he went and knocked on her door. She asked who it was and Bill said … “I’m Bill Baerg, (so sorry for your loss), I had sent your husband a letter ….”
And Mrs. Reeber opened the door and said … “are you the man who sent the picture of your family?”
“Yes mam”, he replied.
“Well, my husband had your picture on his desk. I had wondered what had happened to you.”
And she said she would give the letter to her children.
It was a weird feeling because we didn’t know if it would be days or weeks or months (or ever!) when we heard from them.
The next night we went to our home group and on the way home Bill said … “let’s go by the house and pray that if this is what is supposed to work out, that it will”.
And as we were turning into the neighborhood … the phone rang.
We both assumed, seeing how it was 9:30 on a Sunday night, that it was the kids calling … in a fight.
Instead it was one of the daughters who said … “my mom gave us your letter and we don’t know when it will be, but when we do sell we would like to give you the first opportunity to buy our home”.
So we turned the corner, parked in front of the house and said … “ok God. Sounds like you’ve got this. Don’t let us get in the way. Don’t let us work this out, only you. Stop us if it isn’t right. Give us peace … and oh yeah, THANK YOU SO MUCH”. One of the things I remember Bill praying that night was that it would be as much of a blessing to Mrs. Reeber as it was to us.
Sometime in the summer the son called (they had 5 daughters and one son) and said they had realized we had never been inside the house and he set up a time for us to come over. That is so funny to me now that we were already in love with a house that we had never been inside.
And we went and we loved it probably more than we even thought we would. It was exactly what we wanted and had prayed for …. 4 bedroom upstairs with 2 baths, master bedroom and bath down with another guest bathroom. And BIG CLOSETS. I NEEDED BIG CLOSETS.
In the kitchen Mrs. Reeber had a round kitchen table. I love round kitchen tables. Whenever we go to a restaurant I feel so happy when we are seated around a round table. So I told them it didn’t so much matter about the house, but could I buy the table? Turns out Mrs. Reeber offered us the table with the house.
She also told me one day that a friend of hers had told her that she needed to leave her house with a blessing and she kissed me on the cheek and said something about giving us that blessing. So that round table … it’s my table of blessing. And I hope and pray my children have fond memories of sitting around that table enjoying the blessing of family and that they know and remember what God did for us.
And there are about a million details I could tell you and I’m sure I’ve already forgotten many of them. Things like Jacob telling the son, when we were standing in what will be Jacob’s room … “Mr. Reeber (Chuck) , my friend Jack lives in that house over there” and pointed out the window. Chuck said … “Jacob, my best friend growing up lived in that house”.
Things like how the (literally) hundreds of times I have driven through that neighborhood hoping against hope that “the” house would come for sale, I never really noticed 347 Cinnamon Oak Lane. Then one day Bill came home from taking the kids to swim team and said … “I saw a house I want to send a letter to … it just seems right”. I made him drive me by it, for approval, and he sent the letter. I love that he was the one that found it … because trust me, I’ve been the house hunter. I could go on and on. At every step we’ve had assurances and blessings.
One of the biggest blessings for me has been the peace that Bill has felt about it. I know how much he has wanted us to have a new house and I’ve known the stress it’s been of trying to figure out how to make it work. And crazy things have happened … when no one could get a loan without selling their house first, we could. When Bill didn’t feel comfortable starting the remodel and we decided to wait until our house sold, we got an offer two weeks later. In a bad economy in a neighborhood with lots of homes for sale (including our exact house), we got a contract on ours.
There were nights Bill and I were both afraid. What if our house didn’t sell and we paid 2 mortgages for an extended period. What if, what if, what if. A very wise friend said … “instead of clinching your fists in worry, open your hands in praise”. And sometimes we had to pry our hands open, but that is what we did.
And on the day we were leaving for Thanksgiving (when the very last thing I wanted to do was show the house), we had a showing. A realtor wanted to preview the house for his client. He liked it and brought his client while we were in Arkansas. After Thanksgiving we were in the “holiday lull”. People told us over and over that houses don’t sell during the holidays. Wait til Spring they’d say. And yet we knew we didn’t have the luxury of waiting until Spring. We had 2 mortgages, water bills, electricity bills, etc.
Just before I left for the mother/daughter retreat, the realtor called and said his client wanted to see it again on that Saturday. That meant Bill was in charge. He was more than capable (in fact he had the house looking better than I ever did!) … but it still felt weird to leave him with that responsibility of taking care of the kids, shuffling them to their activities … and oh by the way … have the house spotless.
That Saturday afternoon while Savannah crafted away, I said out loud to anyone who was listening … “I’m going to go back to the cabin to see if Bill sold our house”. I was just talking. I mean they saw it at noon and it was only 3:00.
And when I got to the room and checked my text messages, I had one from Bill that said … “CONTRACT IS ON IT’S WAY”.
And a weary family was rejoicing!!
It is no small thing to leave your house show ready all the time. I have done more crazy clean ups than you can imagine. I have put clothes in the dishwasher and stuffed food in the dryer. We lost the printer cords for weeks and still haven’t found the TV remote. There are things I wonder if I ever will find again.
And so that is the beginning of the story. It has been a blessing to us and Mrs. Reeber has told us it was also a blessing to her to know who she was selling it to, to not have to “show” her home to a bunch of strangers, etc.
God is writing this story … and I think I’ve said this before, but His are always the best ones.
” Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”