I’d like to take a little time today to tell you all a story.
Something happened to me recently that I really would love to share with all of you. As many of you know, we moved up here from Arizona, and in the process we had to split our family. There are lots of reasons for this, a) our two older children are in school down in Arizona and we didn’t want to disrupt their studies but b) and maybe more importantly, we were moving up here on what we believed was the whim of God, and, more tangibly, on the charity of some friends who opened their house to us. And while that was wonderfully nice of them, they only had two spare bedrooms (and no previous experience with kids) so we didn’t have the room to put our whole family in the house!
We sucked it up and came, however, with the understanding that the separation was temporary and that we would bring the remainder of the clan up once we got established in our work, and in our own place. This took longer than we thought, and every day that went by without the money to make any sort of move at all, it got harder and harder. I began to pray earnestly (and repeatedly) that God would move for us and provide something that we needed.
Now I should note that we have a specific list. The bigger your family gets, I find, the more specific your list of needs are. And as time passed it became more and more apparent that we weren’t going to only be bringing up our other two kids, but my aging parents. That meant we needed a certain amount of space, but more than that, my parents age and health being what they were, we needed a certain layout. They can’t really tackle stairs, for example. With 3 kids and 4 adults we really needed there to be a washer and dryer. With three or four vehicles between the adults, we really needed somewhere with off-street parking. Above all, this had to be given to us at a price we could afford. The more I looked at the local house rental market, the more discouraged I got, because while I found many, many beautiful houses that would work, they were really expensive. Any houses I found that were in our price range were cracker-box small, or had all bedrooms on the upper floors, or had on street parking, and so on.
I prayed about this so much that I’m sure God, up in heaven, felt like I do when my son gets stuck on asking me for something and repeats himself over and over and over until I’m going “Ok! Teaghan! I heard you! I said yes! Give me a sec to do it, kiddo!”
But even though I repeated myself ad nauseum, I trusted that God had heard and was going to provide us with everything we needed. So as time went on, and I looked at about a-million-and-2 houses in the area, I began to amend my prayer. “Ok God, you know what we need, I won’t take your time with repeating it again, but I’m dumb. So when I find the one you want us in, put bells on it for me, so I know it’s the one.” I even began telling people, “Well, don’t worry, when it’s the one, God will put a bell on it, and we’ll know!”
I was joking.
One day, after praying, I came across an ad on Craigslist. A four bedroom house in Superior, Wisconsin(for those that aren’t local, that’s right across the bridge from Duluth) was going for $750 a month. “That looks hopeful” I thought to myself, so I shot off an email to the owner, who responded with a phone call telling me I could go look at it, but she had other people who were also interested. She pointed out that the other couple had not yet put in an application, so she was still showing it, but she didn’t seem very enthusiastic that this wouldn’t be a waste of our time. Well, I wasn’t about to give up that easily, so I set up a meeting with her the next weekend.
Fast-forward a bit to next weekend – we drove out to Superior, got to the house, and immediately fell in love. The house is large enough for us, the rooms are nicely-sized, and there’s even a single room on the bottom floor with its own bathroom so that my parents won’t have to go upstairs! I began to get kind of excited about it, but I kept myself in check and began praying silently (and somewhat distractedly. . . sorry, God) for God’s guidance. His will, I told him, not mine. The owner took us downstairs to show us the basement, which was huge. It came with several things that filled me with delight (such as a craft table for me to do my painting-type-whatsit on, and a fully functional ping pong table), but I continued to keep myself in check.
Daniel, Teaghan, and the owner headed back upstairs to look at some of the rest of the house, and I sort of lagged down in the basement, getting a better look at things. The owner still had a lot of stuff in there, so I was being careful not to disturb anything while looking. I finished my exploration, and turned to head back upstairs to join them when I noticed a plaster carving of the Last Supper, partially obscured by a canvas drop cloth that had been tossed upon a table. Smiling a bit, I walked over and picked it up to get a closer look. As I did, something fell to the ground. Not wanting to be disrespectful and leave it there, I set the carving down and bent down to pick up whatever had fallen. As I bent down my eye fell almost immediately on something lying under the table. Feeling a growing sense of amazement and disbelief, I picked it up to get a closer look, and what should my shaking hand be holding but a tiny Christmas tree ornament shaped like a bell. I stared at it, filled with a deep joy so potent I actually laughed, even while my eyes were tearing. I cradled the tiny ornament in my hand and made my way upstairs to show my husband. He laughed out loud, commenting on how that was incredible, and he couldn’t believe there was an actual bell! We shared the story with the owner, who also laughed.
We took the application.
We went home and filled it out, one for every adult in the house. My hand was cramping when we were finished. We called the owner and asked her how we might drop this off for her. She told us the days she worked, and the days she’d be at the house, none of which worked for us at all with our work schedule. But Daniel and I both felt a pressing need to give her the application. So on a whim I volunteered to drive out to Two Harbors, Minnesota, where she lived, and hand-deliver the applications to her. She agreed, and we loaded ourselves back into the car.
We arrived at her home, were introduced to her husband as, “the first people to look at the house today”, and were invited into her home. At those words my heart started to sink. The first people? How many people had looked at that house – people who had better credit, a smaller family, less children, less dog? What if she liked one of them better than us? I loved that house! I dreaded her telling us “No.” Then my mind returned to the tiny bell, and I squared my shoulders. “No way” I told myself. “God wants us in this house. I’m not gonna worry about it!”
As I thought this to myself, we were led into the living room of her home where, out her sliding glass door, I could clearly see an ornamental dinner bell hung on the porch. It was behind a beautiful cross hanging on the wall. I smiled to myself. I just knew God was reaffirming his approval for this direction.
That Sunday, Daniel caught up with our friend Tim, who attends our church. He told him about the house, the owners, and the bell-shaped Christmas tree ornament. As Daniel described the owners, our friend got a thoughtful look on his face. “Do you know their’ names?” he asked. Daniel told him, and Tim’s face lit up.
“I know them!” he said. “In fact, I saw the husband just yesterday. I’ll call them and let them know what I think of you!” He promised he wouldn’t lie, but that he would share all the nice things he felt about us.
One week later, we got the call that we’d been chosen to have the house. I don’t know how many people were looking, or how many of them applied. I know we weren’t the first or only family, and I also know that she didn’t call a single one of our references. It seems clear to me that this house was an answered prayer and a gift from God, sitting and waiting for us to come and take it. I don’t know about you, but the idea of God answering prayers in so tangible a way is very new to me. I’m both honored and humbled to be thought of so personally by the creator of all the universe.
So that’s my story. Now I’d like to open the door for you! If you have stories of tangibly answered prayer, I’d love to hear them. Tell me all your things!