How many times have you said, “we’ll do it later, when the time is right”? Or, perhaps, “we’ll do it someday, when we’re ready”? Many couples say that about having children, as if there will be a sign flown behind a plane to let us know when the day to start a family has finally arrived.
Sometimes we say it about going back to school, making a big house or career move, or even reconnecting with an old friend or finally forgiving someone for something no one really cares about any longer, but pride still gets in the way.
We’ve all been there, sometimes more than a few times. When we moved last year, we made one of the “later” promises, right after we did something else too many of us make a habit of doing: bargaining with God. Ours went something like this, “Listen, God. Clearly you think we are good at hospitality—seeing as how you keep sending people to live with us year after year. But we need a break, don’t we? Please, can we have a little break? Maybe you could give us a house where people can live with us, but not really with us. How does that sound?”
And so it came to pass that we bought a house with an apartment above the garage.
But the whole place was a wreck. It had been abandoned by a family who just up and went to Alaska a few years prior (true story). We fixed as much as we could initially and moved in. That “as much as we could” did not, unfortunately, include the garage or the apartment.
Sure, we had told God we would keep being hospitable if he gave us a separate space for people, but how were we supposed to fix it up when our previous house still hasn’t sold and the money isn’t exactly growing on trees these days? He didn’t really expect us to make good on that promise immediately, right? I tried not to think too hard about it. It was a nice idea… we’ll get around to it sometime. I assuaged some of my guilt by reminding God that he’d already sent us a Nicaraguan exchange student (who we love and adore).
Then another missionary wrote to say she was moving back to the States—to our town, specifically—and would be looking for a place to crash for a few months. Gulp. Wasn’t this exactly the type of situation for which we had envisioned using the garage apartment? She visited last summer and said she expected to be back in the States by Christmas. Would the apartment be ready?
Given the rodents and critters who called it home last summer, I’m shocked she was even interested. Maybe she caught our vision for the place, or maybe she was just desperate. In either case, I told her it would likely only happen if we finally sold our other house.
By the middle of December, we had two cancelled closings and a pile of more debt. It wasn’t looking good. But our friend didn’t know that. She wrote to inquire, “No pressure at all. But your place is my first choice for housing! I’ll be traveling a bit, and won’t arrive until sometime in February.”
After that message, I opened the door to the apartment for the first time in months and was horrified to see that all the autumn rains had found their way inside the ceiling and walls and through the floor. It was a mess too big to ignore.
Why did you give us this apartment only to have it cost so much?
Maybe, sometimes, the cost is part of the gain.
Yada yada yada, and the apartment renovation we had put off for ten months became a necessity. Despite my doubts, God provided the perfect handyman at just the right time, and he even provided the funds to hire him.
It was hard work, with hours and hours spent doing the very same thing we did last February: renovating and painting. As we neared completion, I started to think about all the “stuff” we’d have to buy to get the place ready for someone to actually use… but before I could stress about it, I made a list of everything (from towels to beds) and posted it, prayerfully, on our church’s “needs and leads” Facebook group.
The very next day we picked up a great stove that someone was giving away. A few days later, we had offers for just about everything to stock the kitchen. Then one day someone dropped off some towels and dishes, and asked what else we needed. When I mentioned I was planning to buy two new twin mattresses, I was told to give them the bill. I replied with a shocked, “Excuse me?”
That couple not only bought the beds, but also sheets and quilts. And then yesterday, as we were hanging curtains and painting doors, another family pulled up in truck and unloaded a dining table and chairs.
With a rocker from my mom and a love seat from my brother, the place doesn’t look half bad! Our daughter even found this perfectly labeled pillow:
Today our friend moves in, and I cannot ignore the irony as I look at the calendar: it is exactly one year after we moved into this house.
So much has happened since then. Sure, the apartment has been completely renovated, but I’m not talking about the literal transformation of that space. I’m thinking more about what has happened in me over the past year.
I hit some real low points. These past few years, I feel like God has been stripping me down from everything I had built myself up to be in the 35 or so years prior, in order to show me what does and doesn’t matter.
I know, that’s a bit of a can of worms to open after I’ve already written 900 of my normal 1000 words for a post like this. It’s fuel for later posts, I’m sure. I suppose my point for today is this: we typically spend so much time planning and waiting and preparing for those future events that will happen when we’re perfectly ready for them to happen… so much so that we might miss them altogether.
Did we have the money to fix up this apartment? No, not really. Did we have the time? Only if we made the time. Is it exactly how I originally envisioned it would turn out if we had more money or more time? No, but it’ll work.
God provided enough time and enough money for it to happen according to his will, not ours. I’m so glad he sent that rain and provided a leak in the roof to give us the incentive we needed to finally make good on our promise.