2017: No Looking Back!

It was a Saturday night in July of 2015 when my husband and I stood in the kitchen, with tears in our eyes, discussing how we both felt a strong urging to sell our house. You know—the one we *had* to have and just simply could not live without. The one in *the* only school zone that could ever be good enough for our kids. The one with all those extra square feet we *needed* to store all of our excessive amounts of stuff. The one “God gave us.” The one we suddenly realized was consuming so much of our paychecks that we couldn’t even take a family vacation, much less that mission trip they announced in church. We both felt it—that still small voice in our hearts and minds that told us it was just too much. The voice that told us both—at the same time—to sell the one thing we had desired most just 2 and half short years prior.

We knew what we needed to do, but it took us a while to follow through.  We had doubts and fears about letting go of our American Dream.  It was only a month later when I had that panic attack in the kitchen floor.  Then, two months later, our preacher started the 4 week message series about Haggai called Life.Money.Hope, which gave us a very clear message to get our priorities straight! That’s when we finally listed the house…but only by owner so we could get all the money out of the house that we could. We thought we *needed* that money to pay off all of our credit card debt and student loan debt before we could ever get out of this hole we were in. God clearly had other things in mind, but sometimes he doesn’t reveal all the steps of the master plan.  He gives us one step at a time. Step one (listing the house) was complete. But what was step 2?

We found out the next step in January of 2016. My husband was laid off from his job, which was really an answer to prayer, but that is a totally separate blog post! What happened after that was providential, to say the least.  He found another job that paid his exact salary within two weeks, so he never missed a paycheck. His severance payment from the previous job was enough to give 10% to the church and then still pay off all of our credit cards. Step 2 (pay off the credit cards): complete.

Moving on to February 2016: we were so confident our house would sell in the hot-market months of spring that we decided to start actively looking for our new home.  Although our finances were starting to look more promising without those credit card payments each month, we were still looking for smaller and cheaper.  Unfortunately, there was nothing affordable in “the” school zone. After a few all-day Saturday excursions around areas of town that I’d never even considered living, we somehow ended up in front of this one lot in a neighborhood that we did not even know existed.

Lot 17. I can’t describe with words what my heart felt as we sat there staring at this giant, beautiful tree on the lot.  Peace may be the closest description. But not just a calm, “peaceful place” kind of peace.  I’m talking more like overwhelming peace. (I realize that is an oxymoron—but I mentioned it’s hard to describe, right?) There was something about Lot 17 that made me not want to ever leave. I just wanted to sit there and stare at it forever. And apparently, my husband felt the same way because we just sat there, staring, for a really long time.  This did not make any sense to us at the time, however…Step 3 (find Lot 17): complete.

Then reality set in and we remembered that we were “supposed” to be looking for a cheap, small house to suffer for our past mistakes and building a brand new house was certainly NOT the plan. {It’s not unusual for me to try to circumvent God’s plans with my own, but it’s so hard to recognize it in the middle of the storm.} God seems to always have a way of reminding me that his plans are better than my plans. And I am so grateful for His mercy and grace.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”  Isaiah 55:8 (NLT)

March through June was a tough time of waiting, doubting, searching, praying, and questioning. Our house didn’t sell—not even an offer. After 10 months of waiting, we hired a realtor in July and our potential profit margin dropped significantly. We knew God told us to sell it, so we continued to obey, regardless of the money. We also continued making trips to Lot 17, like moths to a flame.  We prayed for clarity about that lot and about building a brand new house even when we felt like we were not worthy of it.

In the midst of my struggle to understand what God could be doing, I decided to google “Lot 17 Bible.”  I knew Lot was a person in the Bible, but I didn’t know what else I might find. The verse that came up first in my search was Luke 17:32-33: “Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.” Hmmm…. Lot’s wife? I had forgotten about her. I vaguely remembered reading about her in Genesis, so I found that story again. Genesis 19 tells the story of the angels appearing to Lot to tell him to get his wife and daughters and flee the city of Sodom.  In verse 17, the angels tell them, “Run for your lives. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley.”

Do not look back.

Well, guess what Lot’s wife did? She looked back! She longingly looked back at all the luxuries and sinful pleasures of the life she was leaving behind. “Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it.” This was absolutely God speaking to me. What was I clinging to? Why had our house not sold? Could it be that we were still clinging to that lifestyle in our hearts? We were not quite ready to move on without looking back.

In August, during our church’s “21 Days of Prayer,” we were finally ready. We went to Lot 17 and prayed. We prayed for God’s will to be done. We prayed that God would give us wisdom and discernment to build, if—and only if—that was His will. We didn’t understand it. We couldn’t fathom why God would want us to build a brand new house when we still felt like we should be punished somehow for getting caught up in our mission to “keep up with the Joneses.” After we prayed, I looked up to the sky and saw a swarm of vultures overhead. Once again, I had that same overwhelming peace that I had felt there before. I knew I could completely and whole-heartedly TRUST God and His plan. I went back to read Luke again that night…

“Remember Lot’s wife!  Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.  I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left.  Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”

 “Where, Lord?” they asked.

He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.”  Luke 17:32-37(NIV)

vulture-pic

Step 4 (let the old life die): Complete. The old life was dead and there were vultures to prove it. (This is an actual picture from that day! Pay no mind that I took it because I thought they were hawks…haha!)

Exactly one week later, we got the offer for our house. A month later, we were building. We were building a home—and a new life. No looking back. No longing for the “American Dream.” God has given me new dreams; I have a new life in Him. Obedience brings blessings. We are tithing, our budget sheet tells us we’ll have the student loan paid off in about a year, and we haven’t used a credit card since 2015. All praise, honor, and glory be to God—the Father of new beginnings. 2017 is here—no looking back!

~Jamie

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