Every autumn, a divine tug summons birds from all over the Northern Hemisphere to migrate from cold climates to the warmer climates in the south. My family received a similar tug in the spring of 2006, to move from Smyrna, Delaware to Leland, North Carolina.
As I write this, over a year later, we still have not stabilized our home, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. When I committed to my new job last year, as pastor of Victory Free Will Baptist Church in Leland, we got stuck in the home sales slump that many have experienced.
After cleaning, painting and replacing carpet, my wife Diane, and I were hopeful that our house would sell right away. Our house went on the market the end of June, prior to a pre-planned mission trip to Paraguay, with the hope of having many offers to pick from when we returned in July. Through June, July and August we had only a few showings, which broke our momentum and shredded our plans, but increased our faith. Our plans were to sell the house right away, to get a new home before school started and to get the kids in school before the new school year.
Since it would only be a few weeks (or so we thought), I would commute back and forth each weekend to make good on my commitment to my new job. This meant commuting 500 miles each Friday from Smyrna to Leland, teach and preach on Sunday and commute 500 miles back to Smyrna by Monday morning. As August approached, we had to switch to “plan B”. The kids needed to get enrolled in school, and start soccer practice and marching band. We discovered a temporary housing shortage in Leland as we hunted for rental property for a temporary home. There wasn’t anything affordable without a long term commitment. For the first week, Diane and my boys Niles and Nic stayed at a friend’s house in Topsail and commuted 45 minutes to band practice and soccer practice. That got old real fast, with the long drive and the price of gas being over $3 a gallon. Miraculously, a mobile home came up for rent on the same street as our church, without the commitment and at a great price. We were very excited to find a two bedroom, single-wide trailer, even though we were leaving behind a 2800 square foot home, thinking we would only need it for a month or two.
Back in Smyrna, I stayed behind to work and pay the bills. We entertained house showings that started to trickle in. Each showing gave us a frustrating list of “problems” with our beautiful home—the layout of the house was weird, the bedrooms, bathrooms and basement were too small, the counter tops were showing their wear, the back yard wasn’t big enough, the commute from the city was too far—you get the picture. Being a problem solver, I got frustrated with problems I could not solve. Diane got frustrated because she wasn’t there to help me. Each weekend when we were reunited, became a time to vent frustrations and reassure each other. It was and continues to be a faith testing, maturing and strengthening time for our family.
By Thanksgiving, I got tired of working in the corporation to pay off the mortgage, but it was still not sold, so we lowered the price. We hadn’t even gotten an offer, much less a second showing. We celebrated Thanksgiving in Delaware, with family and friends. I packed my bags for Leland, leaving Diane in Smyrna alone, to take care of the house, the dog and the cats and to coordinate some enhancements to improve the image of the house. For Christmas, we celebrated in Leland by lowering the price of the house again. Diane came down for a few days with our oldest son Nate, a senior at the University of Delaware. While she was here, we spotted a bargain on a house near River Croft. For months we had been looking for a new home, but could not find anything we both wanted and could afford. By Christmas Eve, we had a signed contract and the home was ours the end of January. It needed some work before we could move in, but there was time, or so we thought.
At the end of January, Diane finished coordinating the renovations to the house in Delaware. It looked like something out of a magazine, but we still did not have any offers. We lowered the price for the third time. She turned off the appliances, packed her bags and the pets, locked the doors and came down to the mobile home in Leland. April arrived with a viable offer, which we accepted. Now the challenge was to get the house in Leland in move-in condition by the end of May. We had stripped the entire downstairs for a new kitchen and floors. The carpenter was working extremely hard to keep up with our to-do list. Luckily we still had the mobile home, so we wouldn’t have to live in all the dust, but we were all getting tired of living on folding chairs and inflatable beds.
As I write this, it’s crunch time. We have to pack, attend Nate’s graduation, and move out of the house in Delaware by May 31st. We should have the house in Leland ready when the trucks arrive, but as of this date, with 3 weeks to go, the new floor boards are still stacked in the living room, the new kitchen cabinets remain stacked neatly in the garage, the bathrooms are unfinished, the walls need to be painted and… We know the plans God has for us are awesome, but there’s an old saying that goes—“if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” When things get us down, we join him in his laughter as we look forward to our wonderful new home in Leland.