A big ‘Sold’ sign is adorning the front of our house! Yes, it has finally happened. The ‘For sale’ sign went up in January, and I naively imagined people would be flocking to buy our very desirable home. We would have to fight them off, and having made huge wads of money, could choose a new home in a leisurely fashion. In fact we were already pretty sure which house it was going to be. It had been on the market since June of 2010, but as it was so suitable, God would keep it for us!
How wrong can you be? A few people trickled by to view our property, and then everything went deathly quiet for weeks. “Never mind,” said our agents, “The market always picks up at Easter!” Perhaps you remember Easter this year? In the UK, it turned out to be our summer. It was so hot that everyone was out having picnics, and sunbathing, and generally behaving as if it wasn’t Easter. They forgot about house hunting.
So we kept praying. “OK Lord, we understand that you want us to stay in Brighton for the last Together On A Mission conference. It really helps to be on the spot, not least because we have family coming and going; But when its over, please send someone to buy our house!”
The agents said, “No one buys in August. It’s the flattest month”.
To cut a long and boring story short, all of a sudden people were coming to view. We “sold” to one party from Dubai, but eventually that fell through and we now have buyers who have a family and live nearby, which is simpler.
The house we were so sure was the one God had for us was sold to someone else! No! Despair! “God must be testing our faith! We must pray them out. They haven’t got a mortgage, and we don’t need one, so we’ll pray they don’t get it”. So we did, and they didn’t for ages; but eventually they did.
OK. We must look for another house. Sigh. More going and looking at properties that look wonderful in the photos online, but which turn out to be horrible in reality. So we had an exhausting, tedious day looking at useless houses. Terry and I never fight, but that day we nearly came to blows. At the end of the day the agent produced particulars of one more. It looked OK on paper, but then they always do.
Mustering our strength for one last assault we went…and saw… and loved it! Yes!
Surprise, surprise! It is much nicer than the one we thought we were going to get!
So we are buying it!
So now we are trawling through all our possessions, madly dumping loads of papers and books and old photos and ornaments; shedding beds and bedding, and generally trying to reduce the furniture of a six bedroomed house to the needs of a three bedroomed.
As anyone knows who has been through this process, it is stressful and frustrating and really tests your faith. We thought our journey was unusually prolonged and difficult, until we heard other people’s stories and realised that actually it hasn’t been as bad as some. It has been both tedious and tense; exhausting and exasperating. We have prayed our way through it, believing that God has initiated this change in our lives. In the end, he is in control of all the details.
But the process of dismantling a home is strange. Going through dawers of old photos, finding beautiful letters from old friends, rediscovering memories long forgotten: these evoke emotions of wistful sadness and joy at the same time.
Yesterday I found a bundle of mother’s day cards from all my children. As I read again the loving words each had written year after year, a surge of thankfulness engulfed me. I also found photos and letters from my own parents. I realised afresh that we are links in a chain. God invented homes and families. When we seek to build them his way they bring stability and continuity into our lives as well as great joy.
God gave us a beautiful house in which to raise our family and in which to pray, eat, laugh and cry, with countless people who have passed through. If these walls could talk! In the eternal scheme of things it is only bricks and mortar, non-permanent. But it has been the context for conversations, events and decisions which, amazingly, will continue to affect lives, stretching into eternity.
Yes, I will leave with some sadness; but the overriding emotion is thankfulness to God for such a rich thirty years in it, and the excitement at having the privilege to do it again, differently, in another house.