Friday, January 27, 2012

A Really Good Gift

When we first listed our house for sale, someone told me that she would pray for the right buyer at the right time, and for everything to work out so that afterward, we could say, “Wow, that was totally God at work.”

Well, that did happen, and so I must share with you what I learned from the whole experience because I believe that without God, it wouldn’t have happened this way.

We basically listed our house to downsize to something a little less expensive and a little more affordable so that I could continue working part-time for the next few years when our kids are small. Our house was on the market for almost 3 months.

When we started looking for houses, we went through one house in particular that we both really liked. We had a really good feeling about the house, and I genuinely believed that it was “our house.” It wasn’t perfect; it needed lots of work, yet I still found myself really liking it. I figured that since I really liked something that I wouldn’t expect myself to like, it must be God giving me peace that it was the right house, if that makes any sense.

We put two offers in on that house, and both were rejected because we had a house to sell. We figured that if it was meant to be, our house would sell and that house would remain on the market for us to buy eventually.

That didn’t happen. I was kind of crushed, and I wondered why that house had seemed so perfect. We began using that house as a benchmark, and honestly thought that there wouldn’t be any other house like it out there in our price range. The thought that something better was still out there didn’t seem possible, so I denied that thought permanent residence in my mind.

As for selling our house—if you’ve ever had a house on the market, you know how frustrating it is. We developed a “code” for preparing for a showing, and we kept to the code, even when we didn’t want to. As my pregnant belly continued to grow, washing the floors continued to get more difficult. We kept on with it, though. I remember the sound of the vacuum cleaner turning on eventually made me cringe with distaste because we had cleaned our house so many times without selling it that I hated the sound.

There were several potential buyers whom we thought would end up being “the one.” We even had a person who had previously lived in our house for 20 years come through! If anyone was going to be the right buyer, I’d put my money on that person! However, we saw no offers.

Then one day this month, we got an offer. We accepted. We hadn’t found a house yet, so we had to act fast.

Somehow, our discussions with our agent turned to a particular house that we had seen on the market but originally weren’t interested in. After a series of events, we ended up very quickly buying that house. A further few events led us to make a decision and take a risk in order to keep the house, and I know we ended up making the right decision.

There are two thoughts that have resonated in my mind these past few weeks:

First, if events hadn’t transpired exactly as they had, we never would have ended up with the house we bought, which is a really good and perfect house. Now that I’m on the other side of this experience, I can see and understand how God has masterfully choreographed a series of events to take place to bring us to where we ended up. Even the disappointment we experienced in losing out on the first house we loved was necessary to bring us to our new house. Moreover, He choreographed events and decisions that would grow us spiritually and teach us some really valuable lessons.

Second, during this whole process, we vocalized countless times that we would have to end up making a sacrifice somewhere. We assumed that buying a house in a lower price range required a sacrifice—whether it be size, quality of construction, location, number of renovations/repairs needed, number of features, etc. Here’s the big “however”: Somehow, we ended up “downsizing” to a house that requires no sacrifices whatsoever. In other words, we’re “downsizing,” but we aren’t.

I grew spiritually through this experience because I learned first-hand the generous, giving nature of God. He gives us gifts “just because.” He gives us gifts with no strings attached.

What was the most amazing gift you ever received for Christmas or for your birthday or just because? In my opinion, the greatest gifts are not the ones you ask for and thus expect, but the ones you never imagined you’d ever receive because they were too perfect to imagine—the ones you never expected because they were too good to expect. The greatest gift is the one that you can marvel over for days, weeks and months after receiving it—in awe that someone put so much thought about you into it and really did find the perfect gift just for you.  

My house-selling, house-buying experience is just one little example of how God loves to bestow gifts on His children. I can’t comprehend this situation in any other way than being a gift. We didn’t ask for it. We didn’t deserve it. We didn’t know it existed or was possible. We even grumbled and complained and were frustrated so many times, like immature children who want to make sure they get something good for Christmas and get upset when they find out they aren’t going to get what they thought they wanted. Thankfully, our childish complaints and tears of frustration didn’t deter God from handing us such a wonderful gift.

Sometimes receiving a perfect, amazing, valuable, special gift can be really difficult. I think many people would prefer to ask for something and know what’s coming. I think many people would prefer to get what they think they deserve—no more and no less. I think many people, including myself, think they know what they want or need and stubbornly tend to reject any other ideas before they’ve even seen or heard them. Maybe it’s human nature.

Through this series of events, we had to decide to take a risk and accept the gift God was laying out on the table for us, even though we didn’t feel we deserved it.

God has an abundance of specially-selected, better-than-expected gifts for all of us because He loves us completely and unconditionally, but it may take some time and experience to grow accustomed to receiving them. Why not start today and open yourself up to receiving and accepting gifts from God—especially the gifts you may not feel you deserve?

James 1:17: Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, Who does not change like shifting shadows.  

Sunday, January 15, 2012


I had been doing so well at blogging consistently every week, and then life just got in the way. However, my lack of blogging over the past few weeks does not reflect a lack of wondering or thinking or questioning things; in fact, I think I have been doing more mental processing lately than usual.

Over the past few weeks, I have been contemplating the concept of perseverance.

Here’s why I’ve been thinking about perseverance: I have been rigorously exercising what I hope is perseverance over the past couple of months while my house has been for sale. If you’ve ever sold/bought a house, you understand completely: it’s not always a fun, easy, straightforward process. It really necessitates perseverance—how else could you handle selling your house (unless you’re one of those lucky people whose house is snatched up a couple weeks after being on the market)?

To share with you my thoughts on perseverance, I have to explain my thoughts on bravery.

I’ve been reading A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (yes, another great medieval fantasy). Near the beginning of the book, the character Bran is watching his father, Eddard, execute a criminal. Bran is only seven years old, so naturally, he’s a little afraid of what he is going to see. He asks his father if you can still be brave even when you’re afraid. His father replies, “That is the only time you can be brave” (Martin, 1996, p. 18).

I thought that was interesting. Before reading that chapter, when I pictured someone who is brave, I pictured someone fearless when others would be afraid. However, Martin has presented a very different perspective: we can only exercise bravery in the face of fear—when we are afraid. This suggests that a brave person isn’t necessarily fearless; a brave person just recognizes the value or the necessity in facing his/her fears and not letting those fears get in the way of things that are more important (in Bran’s case, keeping his eyes open and watching the execution so as to prove his strength as a “man,” his political standing as a Stark and his likelihood of becoming a knight). The whole situation scared Bran, but he controlled his fears for the sake of something more important, thus exercising bravery.

I wondered if the same logic can be applied to perseverance. I have been starting to wonder whether you can really “persevere” if you are frustrated, disappointed and in the middle of throwing up your hands in the air and exclaiming, “That’s it! I give up! I can’t do anything about this anymore, so I’m just going to let things happen as they will.”

What is perseverance? I found two dictionary definitions:
1.                   Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
2.                   Continuance in a state of grace leading finally to a state of glory.

Before this week, I always thought that someone who persevered basically had a calm smile, faith and patience and experienced peace no matter how long something threatened to last for or how frustrating something threatened to be. I pictured someone happy and calm as ever while a series of stormy, time-consuming, challenging events kept appearing and trying to break that person’s resolve to remain steadfast in patience.

In light of what Martin’s characters said about bravery, I wondered whether the only time you can truly persevere is when you are faced with a long, frustrating wait. Maybe perseverance only comes once you have waited longer than you thought you ever could. Down the rocky, seemingly endless road called “Waiting,” maybe there is a point where the maps stop plotting the route, where you’ve done all you could do to navigate yourself through the territory of Waiting, you have thrown your compass in the woods off the road in frustration so that you have no idea where to go, and you pass a sign that reads “Congratulations, You Have Persevered!”

What do you think? Can we still persevere even when we are ready to give up? Then what?

 Perhaps a state of perseverance can only be achieved once we have passed the point of patient waiting and peaceful faith and have come to the point of panicky stress and precarious bewilderment. Perhaps at that point, at which we have gone further than we thought possible, we have reached that state of grace (like in the definition above)—that state of grace in which we stop hoping or trying for something specific to happen, boldly walk past that sign that reads, “Congratulations, You Have Persevered!” throw our situation up in the air and let God have a chance to catch it in His hands and do something about it. Is that where perseverance can be found? Is that how we reach a state of glory?

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God and His rule.” Matthew 5:3, The Message