Thursday, April 26, 2012

Home Sweet Home

Here it is... the whole story. The HOME story. Some of you know this adventure because you went through it with us. Some of you know bits and pieces. But, for posterity's sake and for the memoirs for the kids... I'm writing the crazy way God worked this whole thing out down on paper... or at least on a blog post. 

I guess I could start at the beginning... When we were looking for a place to live in Lancaster about 12 years ago. Jon was already living in Lancaster (Lititz actually) with his roommate from college's parents. They are an amazing family with a heart for... everyone. He loved living with them. He would live with them and work during the week and then come to my parents' house about an hour away in Dover, PA for the weekends. We were engaged then and we knew that we needed to find a place to live. We figured we'd rent, but we didn't really know anything about the area or about the apartments in the area. There were a few weekends that we did some apartment shopping... And we didn't like any of them. We were getting married in August. It was May. We still had no place to live. And just like that, Jon said he'd found a place. I remember clearly. He came to my parents' house and said, "We have an apartment." This was news to me. Especially since we had not discussed or seen this new place. Actually, I came to find out, neither had he. He just heard that this one place was decent and close to everything and in a good area. He went in and asked if they had any openings as of July or August. They had JUST had someone submit notification that they were moving. And it was the only apartment open. Two bedroom. Two bath. Bottom floor with a patio. Jon said we'd take it... and he never even saw it. No model was shown either. Oh gosh. I was a little leery to say the least. When my mom and I did get a chance to check it out, the former tenants had moved out and we were going in to get measurements of the windows so we could look for curtains. We walked in and... it was HORRIBLE!!! A pig sty. No kidding. Mystery stains on the carpets. Weird holes in the walls... My mom almost cried. There was a crew of people there assuring us that they were putting in all new carpet and fixing and painting the walls in the entire place and fixing all of the other things that the former tenants had destroyed. Again, we were leery, but we decided to trust that it would all work out. 

When we moved in, we were pleasantly surprised that it had ALL been redone. It was a nice apartment. We liked it there. We loved the area and the setup of the actual space we had was great. Except that it was an apartment. It was very likely that the people that lived directly above us worked 2nd or 3rd shift and were part time cloggers or WWE wrestlers. The ladies who lived above them were two sisters who got into huge verbal shouting matches. Sometimes when one was outside walking their little dog and the other was on the balcony. And then there was the unibomber who lived across the hall. Okay, so he wasn't really a unibomber. At least, we don't think so. But, he never came out. And the one time that we happened to open the door at the same time as he did, he looked at us creepily and closed the door and went back inside. Freaky!!! We began driving through neighborhoods in the area to see if there was anything we liked. We always kept returning to this one little development that had lots of mature trees and cute houses, but was only a few minutes away from where we were at in the apartment and close to just about everything. True that we hadn't ventured very far in our searches, but we knew we liked the area. It was just outside the city but about halfway between Jonny's job on the eastern side of Lancaster County and mine on the western side. When we finally looked for a house, we sat down with the realtor and said this is what we want. We also had driven by this little cape cod on Fruitville Pike (about 3 miles away from the apartment) and saw a "FOR SALE" sign in the yard. We asked them if we could check that one out. My mom came with me for the first showing. Heck, it was the first house we really looked at. It was the Monday after Thanksgiving (aka: first day of buck season!) Jon had to work, but I was off school and my mom was off as well. No one was living there. It was right on a main road, but had three bedrooms, a huge back yard, and, although it needed a new kitchen and bathroom, was loaded with character and... I LOVED IT!!!! I called Jon and we scheduled a second showing when he got off work. That was about 6pm. He liked it too! We found out that there was another offer on the house so we put in an offer and hoped for the best. We got a call that the seller had accepted our offer. That was 8pm. In a little over 8 hours we had gone from living in an apartment to promising to purchase a house!!!

Our Fruitville Pike house...
Remodeled kitchen
Our back yard!
The living room
Holy crap!!! What were we doing? For real? It was a crazy whirlwind. Was this how things worked? In a month we were moved in. Over the next few years we redid the bathroom and kitchen. Much better now. It's funny. Because we moved there and started going to a new grocery store that was closer to the house, we met someone who would eventually lead us to a whole new group of friends... some of our best friends for the past 8 years now. Crazy. We loved the proximity to everything, but we now lived on a busy street. Not my favorite. Luckily, our back yard was pretty big and led to what was eventually turned into a community park. We put a fence up (to make sure the dogs didn't get out) and used the back of the house mostly like the front. However, the dogs did get out and one of them got hit on the busy road. This was our first dose of "this house isn't going to work forever." We began having children and when Avery was born, had to turn the guest room into a nursery. We still had an office and our bedroom though. Then, Sam was born. There goes the office. Avery moved into the office bedroom and the "office" got displaced to share our dining room. We knew we were running out of room. Baby and kid stuff was taking over our house. Jon and I had discussed wanting to find a bigger house before Avery had to register for Kindergarten. We didn't want to have to just get her started somewhere and then move her. But we had time. Sam was just turning one in a few months and Ava would be four at the end of March. We had time. 

But then we didn't. Well, sort of. The day before Sam's 1st birthday we found out I was pregnant with #3. Due in October. Hmmm... where would we put this one? I mean, we could double kids up in a room. No problem. But would we do that and then have to move in a few months anyway? And how long did this whole house selling/buying process take? How did it work? Would we be here with our house on the market hoping for someone to buy it and having potential buyers coming through our house when we were in the midst of having a baby? Crap. Now what? We had been doing the "open house groupies" thing for a while to see what was out there. We liked a few, but not a bunch of the others. Pretty sure we saw a brothel at one point. We kept hearing that you should put your house on the market first because you never know how long it takes to sell a property. The buying is the easy part. So, we finally decided to put our house on the market and start our "official" search.

There were a lot of people through our house. Ten showings in a week. And then... an offer. Two, actually. We finally decided on one of them and had our house under contract. In a week. Hallelujah!!! But now we had to find a place to live!!! We made the sale of our house contingent on finding another (so we weren't homeless) and we only had about two weeks to make it happen. Well, in two weeks, if we didn't find a place, the buyers of our house could decide we were taking too long and get out of the contract. 

We were probably the biggest pains in the butt to our realtors. We went to a bunch of houses. Some were on busier roads than we wanted. Some were, set up in an odd manner or had lots of neighbors looking in on us. Some were ok... Not many impressed us. Only a few. And they had some other issues (being further than we wanted to be, or having kid bedrooms and our bedroom on different floors - which we didn't want, or being too stretching on the current budget.) The goal was to be getting OUT of debt with the profits from our house. It was not being house poor because we bit off more than we could chew with the new house. On Good Friday we, again, were on a tour of houses to see in the area. No luck. (Pretty sure the owners were hiding in one of them while we were there, and another had about 90 varieties of wallpaper plus other updates that needed done... for out of our "comfort price.") We had to figure something out. I was getting frustrated. We had about a week left. My parents had said we could move in with them till we found something. Which was looking more and more like what we were going to do. Or we could move to York County where we could get a lot more "bang for our buck" but we liked our area and we had a life and friends here...

Jon, who is my perfect completer, had no such issues. He's calm. Like, I'm pretty sure that all of NJ and eastern PA could fall into the ocean with one big swoop and Jon wouldn't bat an eyelash. I can just see it now. "Sweet. We're closer to the beach." That would be his response. This is his kind of calm. But, you see... it's more than that. He TRUSTS GOD!! With everything.  He and I finally sat down TOGETHER and prayed about the housing situation. We'd been praying individually, but don't you know, the scripture says in Matthew 18:20, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." We stood on the promise that God would take care of us. We are more important than the birds, and they are taken care of. We trust Him with our SALVATION, yet why was it difficult to trust Him with things like housing? Because, we thought we could do it ourselves. Finally, we knew that if we needed to live somewhere temporarily, that would be fine.  Even if it was a commute, even if we weren't where we thought we wanted to be. God would make sure that something better came of it. And... wouldn't you know it. The next day, Jon checked out a real estate site... and found a house in that exact little neighborhood that we used to drive through when we first moved to Lancaster. We asked our agent if we could see this house (as well as some others, just in case...) But, it was most of what was on our list!!! 
Our Roosevelt Boulevard house

Dining room leads to screened in porch

Living room (needs new paint) :P 
Back yard with play set! Kids are happy
We went to see it two days later. And my parents got to be there for it too. It was great. Four bedrooms... with the potential to add another down the road if we wanted a bigger master. All the bedrooms on one floor. A second bathroom on the main floor. Hardwood floors. Finished (although ugly) basement. Screened in porch. A swing set. Gas heat and an outdoor already included gas grill. Backing up to... nothing. A protected wetland. All of this on a cul de sac right down the street (less than two miles) from where we live now. This was even more than we had asked for. And it was in our budget. Yes, the house needs love. Some paint, a fence, a few updates, and a little revamp of some of the areas. But even the "uncool" parts have "cool" potential! We knew God had answered our prayers. But... if it didn't go through, if they didn't accept our offer, we were still at peace about it. It would work out. It took a few days, but on the night before our contract contingency for our current house was up, we  were under contract on our new house!!! Can I get an AMEN?!!! We are trusting that this will happen. We are excited about the new house. But even if, for some unforseen reason, we are unable to move in...  we're okay. No more "Mandy-freak-outs" on the horizon. We both know that God is in control. He has ways and plans we don't understand (and may never understand.) I'm working on being as constantly calm as Jonny... but I'm not sure that's in my personality. I'm getting better at it though. Thanking the Lord for His provision every day in every aspect of our lives. He truly is our source. For EVERYTHING!!!