So… how did we get to the place where my husband would walk away from his dream job with the Department of Justice, we would sell our home, give away 60% of our possessions and purchase a RV… HAVING NEVER BEEN CAMPING A DAY IN OUR LIVES? Well, the simple answer: JESUS.
Our original plan was actually a shorter version of our current situation. My husband planned on taking a leave from his job. We were going to rent (or purchase) a RV and travel the country for the summer, sharing the message of Be The Change Youth Initiative and raising money for Make-A-Wish Texas Gulf Coast and Louisiana. We felt like this was the “practical” next step, and if nothing else, an epic way to spend the summer. On December 17th (2018), this was our plan. But, the Lord threw a HUGE wrench into that plan on December 22nd.
Having worked for the federal government for years, our family was used to my husband’s sporadic announcements that we might have to go a few days, or weeks, without a paycheck. Sadly, it was something we expected to happen at one point or another. So, when it was looking like the federal government was headed towards a shutdown at the end of 2018, we didn’t think much of it. When we went to the bank in January to see about getting a loan on our house, we never considered the possibility of being denied. NEVER. I still remember the loan officer’s face as she told me the news. She felt so bad and admittedly embarrassed. Our credit score was over 800. But, the rules were the rules. Jamie technically had no income coming in, and by the second week in January, the possibility of a prolonged shutdown was growing.
Our original plan centered around our bank extending us a loan for the RV and the ability to rent our house in Portland, Maine, during the summer season. It actually was a great plan… adventurous, and not “too crazy” or financially irresponsible. But, that stupid government shutdown, right? At the time, that’s how we felt. But, truth be told… seven months removed from the ridiculousness… that shutdown was another obstacle in the road, directing us down a path we NEVER would have chosen for ourselves. NEVER.
By mid-January, the shutdown had no end in sight and Jamie’s supervisor told him to brace for a prolonged stretch. And then my husband proposed the unthinkable: Selling our home. If you know our family, you would assume these words would be coming from my lips, not my husband’s. Our home was our safe place, our safety net. But, in some ways, it was also tying us down and keeping us from the life we were meant to live. (Something we couldn’t see at the time.) Selling our home seemed a little too radical, even for us. But, we took the step and asked the Lord to close the door if it wasn’t His plan.
We had a friend, and fellow believer, who was a real estate agent. We told her our predicament and asked if she could help us list the house. In Maine, January is the WORST possible time to sell a home. People are recovering from over spending during the holidays and winter is settling in for an extended visit. She did a community price analysis and came back with a selling price that Jamie and I both felt was too high… not for the market, necessarily. We just wanted to be aggressive because there was a timetable we were working off of. Hearing our concerns, she thought it would be a good idea to lower the price buy $20,000. And in that moment, Jamie made the decision to leave it at the original price. His rationale: If the Lord was truly calling our family to take Be The Change Youth Initiative on the road, He’ll sell it at that price, on His timetable. (And if we don’t sell it, we’ll have our answer.)
We listed the house on January 25th and our friend scheduled an open house for the next day, which also happened to be the day we left for our yearly trip to Florida. As we pulled out of our driveway, headed to the airport, people we’re pulling into the neighborhood to see our house. I remember the phone starting to vibrate as soon as I placed it in the security bin. Sydney was embarrassingly annoyed, which made me chuckle every time it started to rattle in the plastic container. By the time we made it to our gate, the text count was over ten. Apparently a couple had fallen in love with our house… especially the scripture art all over our walls. (This might not seem like a big deal if you find yourself reading this post from the southern comfort of the Bible Belt. But, in Maine, it’s about as weird as blooming trees in February. It just doesn’t happen.) Then they went downstairs to check out the basement and found all my books from seminary. They immediately came upstairs and pulled our friend aside to ask if my husband was a pastor.
For those who know us… you know how hilarious this is. Um… yeah. No. He is not a pastor. Not even close on his BEST day. (His words, not mine.) Our friend told them that he wasn’t, but that our family was doing God’s work, which was the reason for selling the house. Looking back, and knowing how this all played out, I can only imagine how this looked from their perspective.
By the time we arrived in Florida and had gotten settled for the night, we received an offer from the couple, along with a letter. My husband opened the letter, an explanation of who the buyers were and why they wanted our home. The husband WAS a pastor at a church within walking distance from the property. They had two little girls and another on the way. We had created a home made for their children, including beds built into the walls. He wrote about how they would try their best to live intentionally in the community… something that ministered to my heart. (Leaving that community was the only thing holding me back from this grand adventure.) Even before reading their offer, I knew they belonged in our house. But, it was more than that… I truly felt it was THEIR home. We were just getting it ready for them.
I remember what happened next like it was yesterday. My husband made a joke. Something along the lines of… “Great! These guys are in ministry, which means they have NO money… and you’re going to make me sell it to them anyway… because they’re in ministry!” The three of us laughed, Sydney had joined us for the conversation. We all knew it was the truth. I’m a sucker for people doing the Lord’s work, now more than ever. It’s not for the faint of heart… and it’s not usually filled with people having deep pockets.
In the middle of our laughter, Jamie opened up the offer. His facial expression immediately changed. The words coming from his mouth are not appropriate to repeat. He looked at me, eyes wide, “You’re not going to believe this. They offered us $20,000 MORE than our asking price.” In that moment, all three of us had a different reaction. Sydney looked as if someone slapped her across the face. Her shock was palpable. Jamie just laughed, while I steadied myself against the bed and wept. In that one moment, the Lord made Himself known. We placed the fleece before him, but He did more than answer our prayer. He shut down any doubt we could have possibly clung to.
Here’s a confession: About a year ago, I prayed a simple prayer to the Lord. If He was to call our family, or our children, into music and/ministry, that He would make it clear to my husband… so undeniably clear that any drastic, life-changing decision would come from him and not me. This offer on our house was the Lord’s answer to my prayer, because, almost immediately, my husband texted his supervisor that his time at the Department of Justice was coming to an end.