Monday, May 5, 2014

The many-miracled (and not-short) story of our home

The past month has been a harder time for me than I ever expected….no serious suffering, just hard going….  and right in the midst of this, the Lord has provided for us more exceedingly kindly and generously than I surely ever asked or imagined.  The pieces He brought together for us make me shake my head and gasp with wonder at His sovereignty and love to provide for us so.

We arrived a bit earlier than expected into our new city, checked into our little room at the JinJiang Inn and met friends for dinner at their place.  By morning we planned to hit the streets hard to find our new home.  Except that there were almost no options for us…. anywhere.  We got to look at a nice place that was for sale, but we needed to rent.  The landlord assured us she wouldn't budge- even for cute blonde kiddos in her would-be tenant family:  She was only selling.  The other 8 - 9 owners that Matt called said the same thing:  no possibility of renting, they wanted only to sell.

There were two rental options:  both far from our friends' home.  One was tolerable inside but the complex was in a bad area for what we want to do.  The other rental option was gross (Matt thought it was tolerable, I hated it).  It was in a super fancy, fake-fancy, apartment complex (fake gold everywhere, super gaudy and run-down, spray-paint graffiti over the cemented-in courtyard).  It was spacious enough, but pricey and… did I mention gaudy and awful?

The next day we looked at a place, also for sale.  3 bedrooms, 2 baths (we were praying for 2 bathrooms) and happily simple…. no smeared rose decor, fake gold or fluorescent paint in the living room .  It was a fixer upper but just needed a little bit of help to make it really great. I loved it.   Matt loved it.  Same complex, same building even, as our dear friends that we wanted to live near.  A complex filled with precious kids playing on grass….  a thing we've only dreamed of before in China.  But it was for sale.

Just checking on options, we asked if the landlord would consider renting to us short-term if we could eventually buy?  The guy needed to pay for his next home purchase.  He needed to sell.  He's getting married and time is short for him to buy a new place an hour north in the city, near where he works.

But… he decided he'd let us move in if we signed a contract of intent to buy.  He would let us move in that day.

And then… oh the emails!  We had no idea what it would take for us to get a mortgage for a place here.  US mortgages wouldn't work for international purchases.  China mortgage wouldn't approve us either.  For both, our income is just too low to start with!  We sent two emails to see if friends could help:  possibly they could become the owners and we would be their tenants?  Or if they could give us a mortgage?  And then a mentor-friend of mine from high school days emailed to plan a short visit to see us in our new town.  I wrote back to her and shared about our situation.

It wasn't a straight shot.  I was still questioning…  Is the Father redirecting us?  Did we miss His leading somehow? Should we not try to live near our friends here?  (That was the whole plan we came for!) Should we hold out for some better rental option to come available?  How long should our family hunker down in room 726 at the Jin Jiang Inn?

Our friends here were praying hard and thinking of every possible option for us too.    He shared our need with his dad and this Canadian man we've never met, offered to put up his own property as collateral to secure a loan for us from Canada.  There were words like "this is something only Christians would do."  And I thought a label like Ready-to-die-for-someone-else Banking was appropriate.   Such a picture of the Gospel.

In the morning, it was the friend that I didn't ask, the friends planning to come for a visit, that wrote back to say they wanted to be a part of this with us.  We didn't know what that meant, but it was encouraging… there were little sparks of hopeful joy.  But actually, that might have been the darkest day for us….Both Matt and I felt under a cloud….  There was a tremendous burden of living such an unknown even though we'd only been homeless for a bit over a week at that point.  When will we have a home for our family?  What home will it be?  Will we be able to do what we've moved here to do?

The same morning that the first miracle-email came, we woke up to an ugly call from the movers.  Our stuff arrived on the truck and had been unloaded in the warehouse, but they planned to charge us three times the price stated in our contract for renting space there til we found a home to move into.  (The movers on this end were nothing like the polite guys who moved our stuff out of our last home.)

We tried to find temporary housing.  Called every option we could think of for a different place to store our stuff or a different home we could rent for a week or two or maybe just stay for a few nights…. Every. Door. Shut.  

But right about this time, there was one great encouragement:  To begin the long process to register Matt's company, we need an office address, and if we buy a home, it would be easier (more possible) to register it at our home address than if we rent.  Matt went to the local police station and the society office of the apartment complex and began chatting with the decision makers to find out if that would be possible- if they would allow us to register our company in a home in this complex if we bought.  Everything looked good.  This could save us hundreds of dollars a month!!  (Matt's company doesn't need an office in this beginning season, but we thought we'd have to rent one simply to be able to meet the requirements for his company to be approved.)

For these days, those mentor-dear friends kept at it with us, kept emailing us and then not long at all after hearing about our need (I think it was 3 days), they emailed to offer us a mortgage.  Only it wouldn't really be a mortgage (because of China's real estate laws).  It would simply be a personal loan and we really don't have adequate collateral, but we will pay it back and they simply trust us and want to be a part of the work in this city.  Crazy.  Awesome.  Jesus-style-awesome.  

And then it all went scary quick:  another meeting with the landlord and we signed papers.  (We learned about a law that keeps buyers from turning places over too quickly but since this guy a young kid whose parents must have bought the place for him, had owned the place five years (the complex is 6-ish years old) he wouldn't have to pay extra taxes.  And there's rumor of a law that would lay heavy taxes on owners of multiple properties as well.  Two great reasons for lots of places for sale and none for rent).  The owner handed us the key and we went straight to the police station to register our family (and the company) in our new home.

This was the third of seven visits (long visits) to the police station that week.  Matt has done all this for us before and he's always been able to register his woman and children with him without us having to make an appearance.  (I've been so grateful for that as it's not always a nice situation for kiddos.)  He assured me our visit that day was totally normal, but I still took it hard.  We were treated with all  courtesy you'd expect to be given to dirty criminals.  Left to wait for hours.  Required to come back at a set time to meet people that wouldn't show up for a few more hours….  And there were three more visits for me and the kids, four more for Matt that week… in between the moving madness.

So, on a Wednesday mid April, we got keys, got the place cleaned up and called movers to bring our stuff the next morning and just one week- one scary, sad, hard, and then suddenly super incredible week- after arriving in town, we moved in to our home, a home we will own.  We never would have expected...

I was clearing stuff out of the new place (that the owner left and didn't want anymore) when Matt called me about the movers.  "I just want you to prepare your heart….  our stuff hasn't been nicely treated."   Dining room chair broken in pieces, most boxes gashed open, our one nice piece of furniture- an antique Chinese hutch- with two cupboard doors bashed in.  One computer screen crushed and many kitchen items shattered.  But there were only a few things missing…. and the box of photo albums was found- that was a bright find!  I shook with tears when I opened the box of our electric piano and my guitar:  it was all there, in good condition,  Praise the Lord for that grace.  Matt decided that a little bit of our savings from going with the super cheapest movers out there, would need to be slotted for a "Repair" line item in our moving budget.  I think in the end we saved well enough, but we still wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

The sweet guys that moved us in town, from the warehouse to our new house, did a terrific job.   {oops… I planned to get a photo here from my phone, but that got pick pocketed right off me this afternoon, first time at the local large veggie market, so you'll miss those shots.  Bummer.}

So far, for the record, the miracles of the Father's sovereign provision are:  giving us one fantastic place, and financing a loan to buy it, arranging that we should be able to register the company at this address and save hundreds a month for that, the location we could only have dreamed of, and the landlord agreeing to let us move in immediately- and oh yes! - he didn't charge us any additional rent for the three months we're living here until we pay in full…. he just let us move in with paying a deposit and agreeing to pay the purchase price (and we got a great deal) once the money has been brought into China, in three months time.

Second load of laundry in two weeks.  It was 60 degrees the day before.
So the miracles have been many….  but the hardship has been real too.  This has been by far the hardest move for me ever.  Somehow, despite my work and effort to plan and keep organized, our move has marked with utter disorder.  And our unpacking in our new place has been done over two + weeks, the first ten days of which were filled with repeated repair MESSES- the kind that break a wanna-be-clean mamma's heart. (I think I understated that...  our home was really not fit to be lived in for the first ten days we were here... but we had no where else to go.  Every room was covered in layers of thick construction dust and wet paint (over most the furniture as well as the walls)...)

Our kids have never lived with "travel rules" for so long:  more iPad time, more movies and screen time everywhere, terrible nutrition, crazy bedtimes, negligent mom and dad (on the phone with movers/landlord/police folks or cautioning them to stay out of hazardous something or other)… I think the very worst part for me was after we moved into this amazing place and needed to do a bit of work to it still…. living in the midst of that mess is what most nearly did me in.  I apologized several times for how hard all this was for me and once, when I was correcting Isaiah for something, he told me well, "Mom, this moving time is hard for all of us."  Sweet boy.  He's right.  I tried to quiet down with my requests. I love him so much.

There was also the deep breath and constant prayers on our two- week anniversary in our new home,  the morning we woke up to news of a terrorist attack in our city: bombing in the train station.  There's violence everywhere- probably more in America than China- but that kind of news does make you pray.  We are still so joyfully certain we're right where He wants us.  And how could we not be when the Lord has provided all this for us?

But we're not yet to the end of the miracles.  Not only do we have this long list of miracles, there's more.  From those first two emails we sent looking for help to get into this place, we got one final one back just a few days ago.  A group of friends, a sweet body of God-lovers where Matt grew up, decided to help us with our mortgage.  I can't even say how crazy a gift, how beautifully intentional, how excitingly supportive they are, how wildly grateful we are…..  May the Lord be praised in all this crazy giving and living...

Miracle after miracle the Lord has wrought to bring us into not only this city, but this very home.  We count it all His:  all our lives, all our home, our days, relationships…. all of it, all of us, all for Him.

Rejoice with us, dear friends, in the Lord's lavish goodness and purpose!  No plan of His will be thwarted!  He is good and His love endures forever….and for not only us!

more photos soon… a welcome tour of our new place (once we get it cleaned up just a bit better :)

1 comment:

  1. WOW! Jill it is amazing to hear how Father has got you settled in your new home. I can't wait to come and see.