Monday, September 29, 2008

a time for thankfulness

a year ago, we were in a 3 bedroom apartment, with four kids, wondering when our "big break" would come. we'd already moved twice, and this apartment was the nicest place we'd ever lived in. before this, a low income townhouse, where we hated the thought of sending our kids outside by themselves. before that, we had a home in crystal. a small home, our first home, but it was ours. our situation wasn't unusual: we owned a house, and with that house, came a lot of debt. We owned the debt, but really never owned up to it, until we fell behind in our house payments, then our credit cards, then our utilities. the phone rang off the hook all day long, but i never answered it. my cell phone was a safe bet to answer, when it wasn't being shut off for lack of payment.

to say that it was completely my fault would be entirely true. i was a stay at home mom, wanting to live like her friends, with things and playdates and cars and "the life"! but that wasn't where we were at. i spent, money I never had, online, and in catalogs, and in person. when nate took away my credit cards, thinking that it had solved the problem, but i had memorized the numbers long beforehand. i spent, he worked, and i kept spending. i kept waiting for that big bailout, when someone would give us all the money to solve our problems. but it never came. when the foreclosure notices started coming, i ignored them. when collectors came knocking on our front door, the kids and i "played hide and seek" upstairs, me always peeking out the windows until the collector drove away. i was depressed, suicidal, ready to leave nate. not because i didn't love him, but because i would have rather left than stay inside the black hole i had created for myself. our families tried to help, lending us money to get ahead again, but within a month, we'd get behind.

so what happened?

a GOD moment.

everyday, i'd call my sister kelly, begging her to pray for me and help me figure out what to do. she never knew what to do, but she'd always pray with me on the phone. then one day, she called me and said, " i just passed this truck that said they buy houses, and i think God is showing it to me so that you can get out of your house and start over". i was floored! none of the scenarios i'd imagined said that we'd leave the house. but we'd grown to hate the house, and all the debt and turmoil that we'd bought with it! i called, and the next day, a man came out and looked at the house. he said a lot of work needed to be done (it did!), so that would affect how much money we would get out it. he offered us $2000 up front, just so we could get on our feet, and then a little more than that when the house sold. this was the best and worst thing imaginable. we'd get out of the house, but lose everything that we wanted with it. we'd lose our freedom, and that sense of success you get when you achieve your dreams.

but it wasn't up to us. the sheriff was coming, and we had to move.

so we rented a roll off dumpster, emptied 2 years of things that we knew we'd never have room for into it, found a low income place we could afford, and moved. when we drove away, kelly and fred were there, with our four kids and our short life of memories stuffed into the trunk. i cried, but not for the house, but for the person i had become, and the affect of my decisions. i vowed that we would never be there again.

there was no bailout, no "big cash bonus", just a lot of hard work, and a lot of stress. nate and i took more jobs than any 2 people with four kids should have. it was humbling, because most of our friends wouldn't even visit our house, because it was so bad. our garage got broken into the first night we were there, so that says something! we lost our pride, and the false sense of who "we SHOULD be", and woke up to who we really were. we were broke, and starting over, but we were blessed to get a second chance. we got financial aid, we got WIC and MAC, and any other free program we could. nate's parents frequently dropped by "extra groceries" they said they didn't have room for, and my sisters were constantly buying 2 of everything, and giving one to me. it was humiliating for us, but it taught us a valuable lesson: the life we lead is only what we make of it. we suffered for what we'd done to ourselves, but found hope every day in the promise that a better day was coming. our marriage was strengthened by our need to cling to each other, because that's really all we had. each credit card we paid off felt like a victory, and the debt total kept going lower and lower!

we moved to the apartment, but only because our kids had grown, and so had our need for safety and space. we kept chugging away at the debt, and last november, we made the final payment on our unimaginable mountain of debt. to say that it feels great is an understatement. i feel proud of myself, and nate, but i am grateful for the opportunity to prove to everyone that people can change.

so we saved, and worked, and dreamed of owning a home again. our priorities changed, and saw that our family was our focus again. when nate resigned from LWCC, his employer of 9+ years, we thought we'd never get into a house, but God took our leap of faith and blessed us with an opportunity to own the home of our dreams. every single thing we'd put on our "wish list", we'd found, and in a price range we could afford.

this july, on our 10 year anniversary, we closed on our dream house. we brought our kids with us to the closing, because we all had to work to get here. and we never stop telling them that this dream was a gift from God, one we had to be patient for. somewhere along the way, i stopped expecting to be like everyone else, and just started loving MY life and MY kids, just the way we all were. i awoke from the person i had become, complacent and selfish, and found myself in a place of grace. every day when i drive up in the driveway, i smile, because at the end of my rope 4 1/2 years ago as we drove away from our first house, i never expected that God would bring me home again, but He did.