Wednesday, March 1, 2017

On Making Big Life Decisions from 30,000 Feet in the Air

I won't admit how many hours I've spent pouring over real estate websites, hoping and praying the market will suddenly change and become affordable in our area. We've looked at some pretty trashed, tiny places, and even many of them have been outside our budget. Our lease in our apartment ends May 4th, and we have needed a plan for what's next. We've spent hours debating where to live, what type of commute to tolerate, housing prices, and school options. At the end of the day, it always comes down to one major trump card: we are committed to the girls attending a dual-immersion (Spanish) school, and the district we are currently in has plans for dual language curriculum through high school. Most districts have a lottery and end up with a wait-list, but we got lucky and got into the program last Spring while still living in Guatemala, and our other two girls have automatic entrance as siblings into the program. It feels like the most obvious choice, but one that makes housing more difficult.

We've been discouraged by what we've seen, and had just decided that a townhouse might be a great option for us, if the right one popped up.

In the meantime, MCC (the organization we were in Guatemala with), sponsors a "Re-Entry" Retreat, in which people who have worked with MCC throughout the world and have returned back to the US and Canada spend some time together talking about the process of transitioning back to North America. We had been planning for months to attend this, and left last Thursday morning. There were people from all over Latin America, several African countries, Bangladesh and China, and two of our Guatemalan team members were there, too.
So fun to see ex-MCC Guatemalan team members!
Thursday morning, on the way to the airport, I got a notification of a townhouse that went on the market, 76 minutes earlier, to be exact. We were standing by our gate, about to board our flight.

"Michael, look at this gorgeous townhouse." I tossed my phone to him. "The biggest floor plan in the whole community...I think we should look into it. This will go super fast."

The market has been crazy and homes get multiple offers, often over the asking price, within a couple days of going on the market. We weren't going to be home until Sunday night, and I knew that this home in such great condition wouldn't last on the market for long.

I started texting my realtor, using the wi-fi on the airplane to be in touch with her and our lender. My mom was going to drive up and look at it, but then we decided to just trust our realtor with that task. She had seen enough houses with us to know what we were looking for. By mid-morning there were already back-to-back appointments lined up to view the home.

By Thursday night our realtor had seen the place and we were ready to move forward. We stayed up late Thursday night writing a letter to the Sellers to accompany our offer, which we submitted Friday afternoon. We heard on Saturday morning that they wanted one more night to review offer(s) as one of the owners was out of town and there were several showings of the home that had been scheduled before our offer and deadline came in.

10:00 AM on Sunday, we were to hear if they would accept or reject our offer. Talk about a whirlwind!
California Redwoods

In the meantime, we continued to attend sessions at this retreat, discussing and sharing with others who had lived overseas, most for several years. We also spent a couple hours in Santa Cruz, enjoying the chilly yet sunny beach.

We shared our hopes and fears of coming back to North America, of leaving our work and our relationships in the countries where we were assigned. Despite living in unique places and cultures all over the world, it was incredible to hear how similar our hopes and fears were.

There were some emotional parts of the weekend. I found myself more and more nervous to hear about this home. We've been "back home" in Oregon for about 7 months, and living in an apartment has been part of our transition, but it's been temporary. We've been amazingly blessed by how rapidly Michael's role changed at his work. We have "adjusted" in most ways to being back in the US, but this last piece, finding a home and committing for at least a few years has been hanging there, waiting.

Sunday morning, the last morning together, we were focusing on our transition back home, on letting go of painful situations that may have occurred during our service, on looking for hope in our future, on being resilient and never, ever forgetting lessons learned.

We started singing "Great is Thy Faithfulness." At some point, my phone buzzed, and I knew it was the realtor. I was pretty nervous but knew I wasn't going to check my phone until our session was over.

And these lyrics reminded me that God has provided for us in so many ways, and will continue to do that, whether this specific home is the right one for us, or something else:

Great is Thy faithfulness! 
Morning by morning new mercies I see. 
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided,
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Finally, the service ended, and I stepped outside, tears still in my eyes from this sense of peace and realization that God will provide, either way.

"Well," said my realtor to me on the phone. "There was one other offer submitted, but they accepted yours. Congratulations!"

I immediately started balling. The stress of the past several months of looking for housing, plus the emotional weekend of processing everything about leaving Guatemala early, returning to the US, and the relief of finding a home, all came down at once.

I told Michael during the craziness of working up our offer, as we found a coffee shop on Friday afternoon to E-sign our official offer letter from a State away without having seen the actual home (the pictures were super helpful), "We can never do simple." (I was remembering last May, signing our lease via E-sign for our current apartment by using Michael's cell phone as a hot spot, while driving through the Guatemalan hills towards Honduras. We really do these things in the most complicated manner possible, right?)

Obviously, nothing is set in stone until Closing, which won't happen until the end of April, but we are excited, thrilled, relieved, hopeful. God's timing continues to prove perfect, even comical, in our lives. Michael leaves tomorrow morning for three weeks to Africa. And the Chapman Craziness continues.

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