My first thought, after hugging my newly-hired husband, was one of complete, and total panic.
It was Saturday.
We were going to fly back to Indiana Monday morning.
We will be coming back to Philly in 2 short months.
We needed to find a house.
We had (rather audaciously) set up several meetings with realtors prior to our trip out there. Granted, it was at the recommendation of the church leadership, but I still felt a little presumptuous house-shopping before we had even been offered a job.
But on Saturday afternoon, we set off, compliant baby in tow, to look at several houses.
Remember the neighborhood described on our first drive through Philly? Well.... apparently our price range put us just a few blocks over from the terrifying pit-bull fights. As I held my nose in terrifying basements, and wondered if fifteen layers of paint would ever come off the window-sill, I looked in despair at my hubby.
We had talked of living in a rougher neighborhood. And we wanted our home to be a mission. We had prayed that God would give us a house near the people we were wanting to serve. But I couldn't shake the conviction that these houses would probably cave in from mold before we even moved to Philly.
Discouraged, we re-grouped on Sunday (Mother's Day), and looked at four more houses.
They were less terrifying, but Scott was clearly nervous about the home improvement projects, and my Mid-Western heart was screaming for some green space.
We had a simple (we thought) wish-list for our new home.
1. Plenty of parking (so we could have people over).
2. Lots of bedrooms (for all the children and stray grown-ups we are planning on collecting).
3. A little bit of yard.
And then we each had our dream item: I was hoping (after my little, barely-grown-from-a-kitchenette-kitchen) for a real kitchen, and Scott was hopeful that he would find a work-space for his growing collection of tools.
Apparently, houses in Philly don't have yards, parking, or square-footage. Most of the kitchens we looked at hadn't been updated since the '70s. And there were only moldy basements for Scott's future tool bench. I didn't think I was asking a lot. In fact, I was rather proud of my severely tempered expectation. But after finding out that we couldn't afford even the most basic, vinyl mass-produced home, at least, not if we didn't want to majorly blow our budget... I was completely demoralized. Every time I thought of increasing our budget, I would begin to cry... it meant that we couldn't adopt any more babies! I didn't need a kitchen that badly.
Then, Sunday afternoon, I got another feeling. After the success of the "Joshua feeling," I decided to listen to the little internal nudge. If it was foolishness, I would take all the blame. If it was really God working, then He could get all the glory. I turned to Scott,
"Okay... Don't laugh. But... I have a feeling."
He grinned... "I thought you thought "feelings" were kooky."
"Maybe I do," I said, only mildly chagrined, "But I just can't shake this... We need to call the "parking lot house.""
"Parking Lot House" was a listing I had found on zillow.com. The only outside view of the house was of a huge parking lot, with a rather hodgepodge exterior, and an unprepossessing side door. I had fallen in love with parking lot house... its wood floors, pretty kitchen, and big windows. But Scott had called the owner a week earlier, and they had been firm on their price: it was $10,000 more than we could afford.
Scott wasn't in love with "Parking Lot House." So, with that higher price, I dropped it.
But, after my niggling, we went back to zillow.com to see if we could contact the seller. The listing was gone. I was completely undeterred. We had to see that house. I just knew it.
Scott went back through his phone, and called every single Pennsylvania number he had contacted in the past week. Several embarrassing run-ins with realtors (who we had decided not to work with) almost deterred him, but I (seeing as I was not the one making the embarrassing phone calls) was unfazed.
Multiple calls later, he got a hold of the owner! We set up a visit time, bright and early, 8:30 a.m., Monday morning, the day we were flying out.
As we pulled down the street, we saw rows of Victorian "twin homes," an East coast fascination with sharing a wall with your neighbor... Some of the houses were lovely. Some, quite dilapidated. We pulled up to "Parking Lot House" and my heart skipped a beat... it was right next to a massive parking lot, and one of the most gorgeous churches I have ever seen.
Wish-list number one, answered.
The door was opened by a girl, about my age, who was hip-holding a precious little 12 month-old who looked like he could have been Grant's big brother. She led us through the double french-door entryway and the little, marble-tiled foyer. Although updates were needed, my heart started jumping at the potential. Two sitting rooms, tall windows... and a massive kitchen with granite counter tops and brand new cabinets. My heart probably stopped.
A huge backyard, a two car garage (i.e. future work-room), five bedrooms, an attic master suite, a front stair and back stair, newly redone hard-wood floors, a basement that didn't smell like six different fungi. My wish list with tons and tons and tons of beautiful extras!
But I tried not to fall too hard. It was still outside our budget. It was an amazing deal in Philly. But still outside our budget.
"Do you mind me asking why you took the house off the market? Do you have an offer?"
She smiled, "Well, no... it's not necessary that we move, we would just like to eventually, for my husband's dental practice... It's just..."
"We've just been hoping that we could sell this house to people who would have a heart for the neighborhood."
My jaw hit the floor, "No way! We have been praying that we would find a neighborhood that could be a mission field!"
She grinned. "Okay, I totally thought that you guys were Christians. This is awesome! In case you hadn't noticed, the neighborhood around isn't the best. It's not terrible. But it's not the greatest. We've never had anything stolen, but we wanted to move to an area where we could share the gospel."
As we chatted our way back through the house, Scott mentioned that he was finishing seminary in Indiana.
"Where in Indiana?" She asked, "Not Lafayette, Indiana?"
"How do you know about Lafayette, Indiana?"
"Oh," she replied, "One of my best friends from college... her husband is going to seminary there... It's called "Faith Bible Seminary" or something..."
Goosebumps ran up and down my arms.
"That's our seminary!"
There are only 19 guys in the seminary class. And she knew one of them. All the way from Philadelphia. We grinned at each other in delight. I had a feeling that we should be friends. And that we should buy this house.
Because we were willing to work without a realtor, and because I just think they're amazing people who are legitimately interested in sharing the gospel... they lowered the price of the house.
We sent in our purchase agreement and first check two weeks ago.
Tears fill my eyes as I write this. He didn't have to do this. God didn't have to give me all this wonderful goodness. But He gave me my wish list and tens upon thousands of details beyond. We are going to be owning our dream house, Lord willing, by August. In Philadelphia.
Now, tell me that God didn't have a role in that...