Category Archives: Family

Getting rid of the expectation of perfection

sabotage happiness

 

When I notice an underlying grouchiness in my spirit, a tendency to criticize all the people around me, that feeling that I can barely stand to be around anyone – then I know it’s time for me to do a little attitude-adjusting.

Lately, I’ve been feeling bristly. My kids have been accusing me of being too critical; they feel they can’t do anything right. They are bickering, fussing, pointing out each other’s every mistake. Sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake because it just dawned on me this morning that they are nit-picking and tattling and criticizing because of the tone I am setting in our home. Oh, I know – they can behave that way all on their own with no help from me. Trust me! I know that. But negativity and criticism are contagious, and I’m afraid I am the one who started spreading it.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been a bit stingy with grace. Or rather – maybe I’ve been a bit lazy with actual instruction and guidance. So it felt like I was giving lots of grace and then their disobedience and arguing and sloppiness and disrespect piled on and piled on until I lost it. Sometimes this process took a couple hours or an entire afternoon, and sometimes it took fifteen minutes of spiraling out of control. As it turns out, ignoring bad behavior or horrible attitudes — hiding in my room to sip coffee and nibble on dark chocolate while reading a novel, pretending I don’t have six children — is not a feasible long-term parenting strategy. It’s also not grace.

Instead of patiently and methodically and gently teaching my children, I’ve expected perfect behavior. And then I’ve lost my ever-lovin’ mind when they haven’t delivered.

For some reason, I got it in my head that because I have told them their whole lives to handle conflict by kindly speaking to the person and then calmly coming to me if that doesn’t work, I expect they will always handle conflict this way. Because I always handle conflict in a calm, level-headed way. Right? Ha!

I want them to do their chores with no reminders and not ever forget to plug their phones in my room at bedtime. Yet I get busy and forget to pay a bill, and by December I’ll forget to sign a homework agenda several times a week! And, trust me, my kids are old enough to know I’m not perfect. And they are old enough to resent my double standards.

When I expect perfection from my children, I rob our relationship of joy. You see, nothing can kill a relationship like the expectation of perfection. And, more than anything else, I want authentic relationships with my kids. Every time I hold up perfection as the standard and withhold grace, I sabotage my true happiness, my true joy in knowing and loving my children.

When I expect perfection, my children feel the need to hide and guard entire parts of themselves for fear of my criticism. But when I create an atmosphere of grace, my kids feel safe to be themselves in my presence.

So this morning, I am praying for grace to wash over me and fill up every crevice of my dry, crusty, critical heart. I want to soak in grace so that I can pour out grace, so that I can re-set the tone in my home.

 

4 Things Teens Want From Their Parents

 

 

campI spent last week with around 200 young people. Every morning, I sat around drinking coffee, listening to a group of 20 teenagers discuss things like minimum wage, abortion, poverty, same-sex marriage, welfare reform, the legalization of marijuana, and society’s standards of beauty. In the afternoons, I sat in a circle with 16-year-old girls and talked with them about what stresses them, what they love to do, whom they go to for advice, and what is important to them.

Every summer I spend a week at this camp. And every summer I feel like some sort of undercover agent, a mom infiltrating a society of teenagers and learning their secrets — which aren’t very secret at all, by the way. I like to think I’m giving back to West Virginia 4-H, the program which contributed so much to making me who I am today. But really, I am the recipient. I am the student learning from these young teachers. Spending a week with them and learning from them makes me a better mom.

Yesterday, I realized I’ve been selfish. I’ve kept this information to myself. Maybe you, my bloggy friends, need to learn from these young people too. Maybe we all need these reminders. So here goes —

First, I want to tell you that I’m always so impressed with these young adults. Sometimes the comment section of the internet can make you want to stab your eyes out with a fork so you’d never have to read another comment section again. The hatefulness and harshness and ugliness of the comment section can make us lose all faith in humanity. My morning discussion class at camp was a beautiful, lovely antidote to the internet comment section. These young men and women talked about hard things, controversial things. We boldly stepped right out into potential conversation minefields, but these kids gently and intelligently peeled layers and layers away to get to the core of the issues. They disagreed kindly and with respect. They asked questions and then truly listened to each other with an eagerness to learn. And they made me laugh a lot. This week, I was reminded that it’s easier to discuss hot-button issues when you share a sense of humor and laugh together. 

As I spent time in the discussion class and with my group of girls and one-on-one with campers and at meals with these young people, I listened hard. I listened for what was deep in the words they said. And I came away with four main things kids want or need from their parents.

1. Our kids want us to put down our phones and really listen to them. I hear adults talk about how kids these days are always looking at their phones, but we are just as guilty — maybe even more guilty. Our kids need eye contact with us. They want to know they are more important than whatever we are doing on our phones – more important than a status update, more important than Bejeweled or Candy Crush or whatever. I am sad to say that I’m guilty of this too often, but I am trying to do better. I’m trying to put down the phone or close the laptop or stop whatever I am doing and look my kid in the eye whenever he wants to talk to me. The teenagers I spent the past week with want to talk to their parents, but they don’t want to compete with Words with Friends or Twitter.

2. Our kids need us to provide downtime for them and allow them to say No. Teenagers are stressing out about their AP classes and sports and band and choir and college admissions tests. Their schedules are full. They worry about having enough time to do the piles of homework they have in addition to all their extracurricular activities. They need us to tell them over and over and over again that we only want them to do the things they LOVE and that it’s OK to say NO to everything else. They need us to give them time to sleep or play board games with the family or watch funny videos and laugh together. Our kids feel a lot of stress and pressure, and they need us to help alleviate that instead of add to it.

3. Our kids need to know that we love them, no matter what. They need to know that if they fail algebra or choose not to play a sport or sit on the bench the entire season, we will love them. If they disagree with us, if they get pregnant or have an abortion, if they are gay, if they smoke pot, if they go off to college and become Calvinists, if they drop out of band, if they get a tattoo, if they don’t get a part in the play — no matter what, we will love them. Our kids need us to tell them often that our love for them is not based on their performance. They aren’t earning our love. It’s free and plentiful, and they have our love simply because they belong to us. The young people I know want to please their parents, and they are worried about letting their parents down. We have to assure them and reassure them and reassure them that we love them. No matter what.

4. Our kids need us to be honest about our own shortcomings. When we make mistakes, our kids need us to own those mistakes and apologize. They need to see that we are human, that we fail and learn from our failures. They need to see us humbly confess when we have messed up. Our kids want us to tell them we’re sorry when we are wrong. When we are too proud to admit our own humanity to our children, we rob them of an authentic relationship with us and we rob them of the opportunity to learn how to humbly grow and learn from our mistakes. The teenagers I know want genuine relationships with their parents. And they can’t have genuine relationships with parents who aren’t honest about their own shortcomings.

So there you have it — the four big things I heard from young people last week. The good news is — friends, we can do this!

We can put down our phones and look our kids in the eyes and listen.

We can give our teenagers downtime and let them know we don’t expect them to do forty million extra activities and make straight A’s in every AP class their school offers.

We can tell our kids we love them often. We can praise who they are more than we praise what they do. We can straight up tell them we will love them if they flunk math or score on their own team’s goal or squeak their way right out of concert band.

And we can be honest about our mess-ups. We can apologize when we lose our cool or when we overreact. We can tell our kids about that speeding ticket we got or about the time we missed curfew.

We can do this. These four things are totally do-able, Parents.

Let’s start today – pick one of these things to do right away. Then please let us know in the comment section what specific ways you’re doing these things for your kids. Let’s use this comment section to help each other out and encourage each other. Let’s be like the young people in my class and listen with an eagerness to learn from each other.

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People Skills

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I’m writing this on my phone. And this is my view. So if I don’t make any sense, you’ll understand why.

It’s hard to make sense with this cuteness distracting you —

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At breakfast Sunday morning we were discussing popularity — not a bad, go-with-the-crowd-no-matter-what popularity. Maybe what we were talking about would better be described as a people-skills popularity.

Actually, first we were answering a question from the Question Jar. What is your greatest ability or talent? Jackson answered, Making other people happy. Making people smile.

And we all agreed with him. It’s not that he is a people-pleaser, though he may have inherited a touch of that from me. Jackson genuinely loves people, not throngs of people but people individually. (He noted that difference himself.) And, in turn, people love Jackson.

At field day, as I supervised the bounce house line, one little girl saw my nametag and excitedly exclaimed, “Are you Jackson Hatcher’s mom?!? He is so popular!!” And, for a fourth grader at his elementary school, he is.

So around the breakfast table, we discussed popularity and why people love Jackson. He isn’t popular in the way some kids are popular. He isn’t a great athlete; he doesn’t make the best grades; he doesn’t wear the latest fashions. No Elite socks halfway up his shins. No American Eagle underwear waistband an inch above his shorts. He doesn’t even have a cool haircut. His sister who plans to begin cosmetology classes next year practices on him. (Please feel free to take notes on my excellent parenting skills – yes, I let my daughter who has never actually taken classes in how to cut hair practice on her brothers. Because it’s free.)

Anyway, my theory is that Jackson is popular not because of who he is or what he does, but because of how he makes the other kids feel when they are around him. He truly wants people to feel happy. He pays attention to people. He listens. He shares. He is kind.

When a little girl was returning to school after dealing with some hard things, the entire classroom of children agreed in a class meeting that Jackson should sit beside her upon her return. Because he would make her feel welcomed and happy.

A couple of my boys had this teacher for kindergarten. She had this gift of making every student feel special, of making every parent feel like the favorite parent. When she spoke with you, you felt like you were her top priority. I remember talking with another teacher about this, and we agreed this must be how Jesus-on-earth was.

I bet each one of Jesus’ disciples felt like he was the favorite. I think every person Jesus spoke with had His undivided attention and felt special and important.

Obviously I am not saying Jackson is perfect like Jesus. But I am saying I think Jackson shows Christlikeness in the kind of friend he is to his classmates. He is popular because he makes each of his friends and classmates feel valued and important and special.

Oh, there are times he doesn’t. There are times he is selfish or distracted. There was the time he got caught up in the crowd and ended up making another child feel bullied. He’s not perfect. But he does have a gift, and it is really cool to see.

When he gets to middle school, the star athlete popularity or the cool clothes popularity might win out temporarily, and Jackson’s popularity may fade for a while. But I have no doubt that this gift of making people happy, of making people feel special and important and valued will be a huge part of the impact he makes in this world.

And in this way, I want to be more like Jackson when I grow up.

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On realizing I have three teenagers . . .

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Tomorrow, my three oldest children leave with the church youth group for a big, ten-day trip to Florida. Because my three oldest children are teenagers. Teenagers. Y’all! Seriously! Do you get what this means??!! It means — half my children are teenagers. And the others aren’t far behind. Griffin, the BABY!, for heaven’s sake!, is eight-and-a-half. Y’all! I am on the downward slope of raising children.

Excuse me while I go curl into the fetal position and rock back and forth in the corner.

PAUSE! I want to hit the pause button. Just for a little while. I do try to mentally hit the pause button or at least the pause-and-soak-it-in button. Last night, I forced all six of them to sit and watch a movie together — one of those feel-good, family movies on Netflix. I popped popcorn, and we all snuggled on the brown sectional couch for 99 minutes. Pausing time so I could have all my kiddos gathered close before three of them take off on a summer adventure with 50 friends. Those gathered-in, chicks-all-under-my-wings moments are precious these days.

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It seems like yesterday I was in the thick of babies and toddlers and preschoolers. I was changing diapers and singing nursery rhymes and teaching ABCs and reminding everyone to say please and thank you and use their words. And now, here we are. Just like that. Jackson recently asked me if I know who Edward Snowden is, and then he clearly articulated his opinion about the entire situation. Last week, Griffin explained how his friends often debated the Bible and God-stuff during lunch. All of my boys have recently started shouting Safety! after they fart before the brothers can yell out Doorknob! and start punching the heck out of their arms. **Ladies, in case you don’t have brothers or sons, this is an actual game teenage boys play. I am so proud of my thirteen-year-old son for introducing his younger brothers to this classy pastime.

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Lauren is half-way through high school, and Rach is right behind her. We’re talking SATs and ACTs and potential colleges. Sometimes we sit up late and laugh and talk, or we watch chick-flicks together. And sometimes we disagree about appropriate bathing suit styles or shorts lengths or how often a girl really needs Starbucks.

I am learning how to loosen my grasp and relinquish control while still loving fiercely.

This is not an easy thing for a momma to learn. But the next ten days will be more practice for me. Today, it’s been like my emotions are in a blender. All the feelings whirring around and around. So much excitement for all the fun they will have. A little bit of jealousy that they’ll have so much fun without me there to watch all the fun they’ll be having. A touch of worry and anxiety that something bad will happen while they’re out from under my care. (As if I have the power to prevent bad stuff from happening when they’re in the same zip code! Ha! Hello! Silas and his open-fractured arm would have something to say about that!) Oh, and an empty sort of sadness because I will truly miss them. Ok, I won’t miss the eye-rollling or the sighing or the Really, Mom? Really? reactions. But I will miss them. So, so much.

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Most days, I feel like I am so not ready for this. For children with feet bigger than mine. For children who drive and drink coffee. For children who have intelligent opinions about Edward Snowden, for goodness’ sake! But it doesn’t matter if I’m ready or not. It’s happening. They’re growing. They’re becoming themselves, people totally separate from me. They’re going on fun vacations without me. At least three of them are. Tomorrow. And I’m thrilled and proud and terrified and happy and sad and worried and excited.

Parenting to the Heart

I wrote this in June of 2008. And I sure need the reminder today. 

Just in case anyone else needs this reminder right now too. . . 

This morning, in his Father’s Day message, our pastor mentioned that our parenting should not be about performance.  We shouldn’t discipline to our children’s performance; we should aim for their hearts.

Now, I know this.  I really do.  But sometimes I forget.  The past couple weeks I have been so tired and so overwhelmed with my to-do list.  I got way behind on laundry and cleaning a few weeks ago and because of travels and more laundry and some sickness I haven’t caught up yet.  The giant mess in my kids’ room and the overflowing laundry hampers stress me out.  Stress and exhaustion and six children in an apartment are not a great combination.  So I desperately needed that reminder this morning.

Even when I know better, it’s easy to fall back into the bad habit of performance-based parenting.  It’s especially easy when I’m stressed and tired.  “I want you to obey because I said so.  And I want you to obey perfectly.  And I want you to obey now.  And I don’t want to have to think about your intentions or your motives or showing you grace or how I’m supposed to be building you up and showing you overwhelming, unconditional love.  I just want you to obey so my life will be easier.”

When I’m tired and stressed, I get angry too easily.  And then I respond from anger and not from love and certainly not from the perspective of forming the character of my children.  I just am irritated that I’m inconvenienced and that I have more work and that I’m dealing with the same exact problem for the sixth time in the past hour.  And I forget that my irritability and horrible example will just result in more work as the same irritability and anger shows up in my children’s attitudes.

Duh!

So I needed the attitude adjustment this morning.  I’ll probably need it again tomorrow morning.  I’m slow that way.  Fortunately, I know from experience that the Holy Spirit will whisper reminders to me in the days to come.

Aim for the heart of my children.  Look for their motives and intentions.  Praise them liberally.  Don’t lump them all together and take out my frustration with one’s behavior on everyone else.  Show forgiveness quickly.  Look them in the eye.  Listen to them when they want to talk.  Have fun with them.  Laugh often.  Hug them.  Remember their ages and set my expectations accordingly.  Respond with love.  Expect mistakes and misjudgments and misbehavior; they are still learning.  Spend time remembering the moment each was born and the overwhelming joy I felt.  Keep in mind the Golden Rule.  Keep in mind 1 Corinthians 13.  Love them.  Love them.  Love them.  

 

#TBT ~ Distraction

A ThrowBack Thursday post for you. I wrote this in October of 2007

soccer4This was just before a game, but it happened in the middle of games too. 

Soccer season is winding down. We’ve had four children playing for the past month. The girls play on a team on Mondays and Wednesdays and two of the boys play on a team on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Those Tuesday, Thursday games are quite entertaining. Kindergarteners and First Graders. If you haven’t had a good laugh in a while, go watch 5 and 6 year olds play soccer.

Last night, I stood next to a mother and father and we laughed for most of the game. Some of the children spent more time rolling around on the ground than standing up playing. At one point, three kids kicked at the ball. They kicked each other, but none of them made contact with the ball. One little boy is fascinated with the chalk lines on the field. He spends the majority of each game walking the lines, stomping and watching the chalk fly. Occasionally, he bends over and rubs the chalk with his hands, covering his palms in white chalk. One little boy was standing on the sidelines, waiting for his turn in the game when the ball came near. Quickly, he ran on the field and picked up the ball with his hands. He was so excited to touch the ball that he completely forgot the rules, nevermind that he wasn’t even supposed to be playing at that moment.

 

soccer3It’s important to stop for teammate hugs in the middle of a game. 

It reminds me of my older son’s, Caleb’s, first season. He played defender, which really means he stood around near the goal and his coach hoped he wouldn’t do too much harm while a couple little boys actually played soccer around him. Caleb loved to play in the dirt. He dug so many holes in the field that first season it looked like a groundhog had made his home there. Ever the class-clown, Caleb also loved to make his teammates laugh. So he fell down often. On purpose. Just to get a laugh. His favorite part of every game, though, was to lift his jersey up over his face and wave his arms wildly while screaming, “Who turned out the lights?” It was a sure-fire way to make his teammate Max double over laughing. All while the opposing team was racing past them with the ball ready to score a goal any second. Max’s competitive parents weren’t Caleb’s biggest fans.

Watching these little kids get so totally distracted from the game can be very funny. It does make me laugh to see the goalie climbing the goal posts or waving to his sister when he should be ready to defend the goal. They are little and they’re still figuring out the game. Their distraction is cute sometimes.

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But I’ve been thinking. I tend to face life and my relationship with God the same way these little guys play soccer. And it’s really not funny or cute at all.

I have a tendency to get distracted. I watch the sidelines; I watch the other players; I obsess over whether my teammates like me. I focus on something totally unimportant, like the dirt or the chalk. I don’t keep my head in the game, so to speak.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “. . . forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Paul maintained his focus. He pressed toward the goal. He didn’t stop to play in the dirt or compare himself to his teammates. He didn’t stop to wave to his mommy on the sidelines or stare at the big dog somebody’s dad brought to the game. Paul did not approach life like a Rookie League soccer game. (I know, it’s a very deep, profound, theological thought. It will probably shock you that I haven’t been to seminary.)

I don’t want to approach life like a Rookie League soccer game. I want to maintain my focus. I want to keep my eyes on the prize. I want to press toward the goal. I want to “lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” (Phil. 3:12) I want to press forward to maturity and perfection. I want to keep my focus on Christ’s Kingdom.

How about you?

 

 

The House Story

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You guys! I have been anxiously waiting to tell y’all this story for a while now. This is the house story. Oh, I love telling stories! And I am so glad God gave us a fantastic house story to tell for years to come. But if you know me, you know this won’t be a short story, so grab some coffee or a snack and settle in.

First of all, let’s back up a bit. Way back in 1999, we bought our first house. I was pregnant with Rachel, and Patrick had just started a brand-new job. We bought a much smaller and less expensive house than we were approved for because the job was so new and, besides, we just didn’t want to be house-poor. So we got this cozy little 1200 sq. ft. home that needed some work and had plenty of quirkiness. And y’all, we lived in that little 3-bedroom, 1-bathroom house as our family grew and grew and grew — until 2007, when we had 6 children. We had just never had any peace of mind about moving to a larger home. And besides, I was having a baby every 15-20 months, so who had time to move!?!

Then we felt God’s directing us to move to Florida to serve with an international mission organization there. So we sold our house and moved to an 1100 sq. ft. apartment in Florida. But we had 3 bathrooms there, so there was that benefit! I’ll tell you the truth — because we had been in that tiny house, it was easier to move to the apartment. If we had ever gotten a larger home, I may have thrown a bit of a temper tantrum about giving it all up to move to that third-floor apartment.

So after 4 years in Florida, we felt drawn to leave the mission organization and come back to Virginia. We rented a large home in a nice subdivision with double the space we had had in Florida. It was a pretty home, but there were things we didn’t love about it. When the owner wanted to sell it and we didn’t want to buy it, we had to find another rental home. So we ended up renting this older home we’ve been living in for a year. It has a little more square footage, like 2600, and it’s in a fantastic neighborhood.

Back in February, we talked with our property manager about purchasing this home. The owner wanted to sell, so we started the process of buying it. We knew about some repairs we would have to make, but we were shocked when the inspection showed MAJOR foundation issues. We cancelled the contract with great disappointment.

That was a Thursday afternoon. Right away, I started looking for other homes for sale. And right away, I was discouraged. Early Friday morning I looked at the listings online again. After scouring the lists of all the houses for sale in our school district, I explained to Patrick that we just were not going to find the space we had here for the price we wanted to pay. We had an upper price limit, which would keep our mortgage payments about the same as our rent has been, and we were not going to go above that price. So I doled out the dose of realism, “Look, we just aren’t going to find a house with a living room, dining room, den, AND basement space for the kids in our price range. Let’s get our minds settled on that, and we’ll find something that we can be content with.”

As I was looking online that Friday morning, Craigslist Rentals kept popping into my head. Each time, I thought, “No, I don’t want to rent any more. I want to buy,” and I did not check Craigslist Rentals. Finally, after the thought had entered my head 3 or 4 times, I actually said out loud to myself, “Fine! I’ll check Craigslist For Sale!” But there were no homes there that were large enough and in our school district. So I continued to refresh Realtor.com.

When the Craigslist Rentals thought came to my mind another couple of times, I thought, “Hmmmm. Maybe there is a house on that listing I need to see. (sigh) Ok, I’ll check.”

Right away, I saw this house for rent one street over from where we are living now. The picture showed this smallish-looking brick ranch, but the description said 3800 sq. ft. “This has to be a typo!” I thought as I clicked on the pictures. But the pictures just kept going on and on and on.

You people need to know – I am not a bargainer or negotiator. When I go to a yard sale, I pay the price that is on the sticker. I don’t ask, “What will you take for this?” I don’t ask people to throw in this box of stuff with this other box of stuff. I just am not a wheeler-dealer. But that Friday morning, before I could think long enough to talk myself out of it, I called the number on the Craigslist Rental listing. When the man answered, I said, “I’m calling about the rental. Would you want to sell that house instead of renting it?”

He sort of stuttered around a bit and said, “Ummm, uhhh, well, no. Not really. I have a different house I am planning to sell this spring, but well, no, ummmm, no, I hadn’t really planned to sell that one. Ummm, well, why do you ask?”

Later, he would tell us that several people have asked him to sell this house, and he always said no. He didn’t even know why he asked me that question, the words just came out of his mouth!

I told him that I lived in the neighborhood and it wasn’t working out for us to buy the house we’ve been living in. I explained that we love this neighborhood and absolutely need to stay in this elementary school district. We chatted about the school because his daughter went there for a while and they loved it too. We talked for probably 20 minutes. Somewhere during that time I mentioned that we had moved here from Florida and that we chose this part of town because a very good friend of mine, Julie, taught at that elementary school. As it turned out, he and his wife know Julie. She had taught their daughter and they had become friends with her.

“Wait a minute!” he said, “You have a bunch of kids, don’t you?! Julie tried to get me to rent to you when you first moved back here, but I had a renter already. And she tried to get me to rent to you last year, but I still had a renter. I can’t believe this! Yes, you and your husband can come look at this house. I’ll talk to my wife. Now, I don’t know for sure we’ll sell it, but you can look at it.”

And that Friday evening, Patrick and I spent an hour and a half looking at the house and talking with this couple. We fell in love with the house immediately. The owner had completely remodeled the inside and finished the basement. Everything looked new and clean. We couldn’t believe it had been a rental for several years!

At some point, the wife looked at my husband and said, “Hey, did you have some health problems in Florida? I remember seeing on Julie’s Facebook page some prayer requests for a Patrick in Florida who had a bunch of kids and was really sick.” She had prayed for Patrick and our family four years ago, never knowing we’d be standing in her house wanting to buy it.

Finally, the man said, “Ok, tell you what. Y’all guys go home and talk about and think about it and if you want to buy it, make me an offer. We’ll go home and talk about it and decide if we really want to sell.” And we shook hands and got in our car. Make him an offer? Well, based on the prices of homes in the neighborhood and the style of the house and the size of the house, that left a realistic window of about $30,000 from low offer to high offer. That was a big window!

It was nearly 7:00 on a Friday evening. We knew this house would be a higher price than the loan we were already preapproved for, so I texted our friend at the mortgage company and asked when we might know for sure if we were preapproved for more, so we could know when an offer might even be possible. She texted back right away that she’d email me later. Within half an hour, she emailed the worksheets saying we were preapproved for our upper price limit of what we wanted to pay. It was 7:30 on a Friday evening!

Patrick and I talked and prayed that night and the next day. We agreed to meet the couple again on Sunday afternoon to make an offer. On Sunday, after we chatted a little Patrick told them our offer. The man reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper saying, “Well, we talked about the amount we really would like to get out of this house, and earlier this morning I wrote down the amount on this piece of paper.” He unfolded the paper and it was the exact same amount we had offered! Exactly! Not one dollar difference! Out of all the dollar amounts in the $30,000 window of prices, we had come up with the exact same amount.

All four of us stood there with our mouths hanging open. Finally, he said, “Well, shucks! We don’t even get to negotiate and that’s my favorite part!” She said, “I guess we’re selling y’all this house.” They had been praying that if they were supposed to sell us the house, God would make it really clear to them. And He did.

The week I called to ask him to consider selling it, they were in the middle of installing a new roof. After we signed the contract to purchase the house As Is, they continued to make some improvements to the house because they thought it was the right thing to do. They wrapped the wooden window frames in white aluminum; they added more insulation in the attic; he installed some lighting; they mulched all around the house. Their teenage daughter even planted pretty pink flowers in a couple planters beside the front porch as a housewarming gift to us! Seriously, who does this!? What seller makes the house even better between contract and closing?

Every little detail lined up perfectly. Conversations and friendships and Facebook messages from years ago all played a part in this house becoming ours this week. And it doesn’t even end with us — because they are selling this house to us, they are most likely going to buy some land they have wanted for more than ten years. Because a friend saw God work so incredibly and obviously in this house situation for us, she prayed and asked God to do this same kind of huge thing for her family, and He did that very day!

I have learned to be content in whatever size house we have. I have learned to make whatever space we have a home for us. But oh what a treat that we get so much space and that it’s ready for us to move right in!

When the first inspection had that awful, bad news, I felt such despair and disappointment. But I had no idea that God had something so much better planned for us. So. Much. Better! And He’s been putting all the pieces in place for years – long before I knew we’d even be moving back here! Isn’t He amazing?

My heart is full and overflowing with gratitude.