My family moves a lot. We’ve lived in 10 different houses in the last 19 years. My husband Mike’s career had taken us from Puerto Rico to Pennsylvania, and to our newest home near San Antonio, Texas, to name only a few of our stops. I have relocating down to a science, with garage sales before and after each move, letting go of anything that isn’t practical. Even so, with each house, there’s an adjustment period, a time for settling in and hoping the place will feel like home. Reality can be cause for second-guessing.
That was the case two moves ago, to a house in New Hope, Pennsylvania. With our many addresses, I wondered if God even knew where to find me anymore. I was having trouble reaching him to get some direction.
I’d had my heart set on living in New Hope, an artsy, cute-as-a-button town of only 2,500 people on the banks of the Delaware River, not far from where Washington made his famous crossing. There weren’t many houses for sale in the area, and none seemed suited to raising a family.
“I have one more house,” our real estate agent said. “Two stories and a basement. But it needs some work.” We went to check it out.
On first sight, I could see that this was a house with “good bones.” Mike agreed. The structure was sturdy and reliable, built to last, with real care and attention to detail. I loved how the kids’ bedrooms were across the hall from the spacious master bedroom, upstairs. I imagined tucking our two children into their beds and padding right across the hall to sleep soundly, within earshot of a call for Mommy in the night. The huge basement would be perfect for a comfy couch and the television, a place where we could all hang out together.
Sure, the carpet needed replacing; the walls begged for a fresh coat of paint. I considered the dated kitchen with its green Formica counter. The unfinished basement. But none of that mattered to me. I focused on the hand-drawn growth chart on the pantry door. Its measurements were faded, as though the owners had begun the process of erasing it but couldn’t quite bring themselves to complete the task. I imagined measuring our own kids, Olivia, 13, and Evan, 10, against the same door. The thought alone made me teary-eyed. I imagined the home-cooked meals I would make in the quaint kitchen, all of us sitting down for family dinner in the comfortable dining room.
I weighed the fixer-upper against the other options and lobbied for us to choose “the house with good bones.” We bought it. It didn’t take long for reality to set in.
The kids and I moved on our own for the start of the school year. Mike was still tying up loose ends with his job in Puerto Rico. He flew to Pennsylvania every weekend he could, but our brief days together as a family were filled with renovation projects and endless trips to the hardware store. We managed to paint a couple of rooms. I saw Mike off one Sunday after his visit had passed in a blur. I waved to him and prayed to God. This isn’t turning out the way I’d thought. I know I’m late in asking, but please help me get some clarity before I talk to Mike.
But no guidance was forthcoming. The kitchen appliances were a challenge with every meal I cooked. The basement, while it did become our family hangout space, remained more of a cave. The carpet had yet to be pulled up.
Even with Mike’s work finished in Puerto Rico and him home for good, we saw that we’d taken on too much. The kids were only getting busier as they made new friends and joined extracurriculars. Our do-it-yourself repairs were put on the back burner. And so began a parade of contractor appointments, reviewing quotes and plans, which was nearly as time-consuming as the work we managed to do ourselves.
As the school year came to a close, Mike and I still hadn’t committed to a contractor. “It’s been a year,” I said one night after dinner, “and we’re getting nowhere. I think maybe we should start looking for a new house. One that requires less work and allows for more family time.”
“I see your point,” Mike said, “but are you sure?”
That was the problem. I wasn’t sure of anything. Hiring a contractor would mean we’d live with disruption for months. It seemed less and less practical. But could we walk away from this house with “good bones”? If we were going to move, summer was the best time to do it. My head was spinning with indecision.
“I’m going to have a garage sale,” I told Mike. Decluttering was always a good idea, no matter what we decided to do. Maybe it would help me sort out my feelings.
I woke early the next day to begin the daunting process of laying out items on tables at the top of the driveway. Everything needed a fair price. I marked a tag and felt silly. Was I really counting on a garage sale to give me direction?
Mike walked out to add something to our wares. “I want to sell my drill,” he said. “I think I could get 10 dollars for it.”
“Ten dollars? Really?” Maybe I wasn’t the only silly one throwing this garage sale. The drill was ancient. It would be a miracle if someone would pay a dollar for it. But Mike insisted the right person would see it for the deal it was.
All morning long, people streamed up and down the driveway, looking for treasures. I watched with amusement at each shopper who inspected the drill and then put it down again.
By early afternoon the tables were picked over. I started boxing up the unsold items. While I worked, an older man parked in front of the house. He walked up the driveway, scanned the tables and went straight to the drill. He picked it up. I was sure he’d put it back down, just like everyone else. Instead he approached me, drill in hand.
“I’m Dave,” he said. “My wife and I have dreamed of moving to this neighborhood, but it seems like there’s never a home on the market.” He waved the drill and reached for his wallet. “I would like to take this off your hands.”
Could this be the message I’d been praying for? “Would you and your wife like to see the house?” The words slipped out of my mouth before I even knew what I was saying.
“That would be wonderful,” Dave said. I explained that the house wasn’t officially on the market, that we had only been considering selling it. I confessed that our plans to fix it up had overwhelmed us. I didn’t want someone else to make the same mistake.
That afternoon, Dave returned with his wife to tour the house. As we walked through it, I saw it as I had originally: its charming, homey, inviting layout. The well-lit rooms. I pointed out the walls we had painted and shared our vision for the unfinished basement. Could I let it all go? God, I wish I knew what to do for sure, I thought. I didn’t want to string this couple along.
I led them up the stairs, the couple several steps behind. Their whispers floated up to me, and one remark changed everything. “Honey, this house has good bones,” Dave said.
It was as if God himself was speaking to me. He’d found the perfect buyers and used our garage sale to do it. Dave bought the drill that day and the house two months later. As I handed him the keys, he gave my hand a squeeze. “Time to put that drill to use,” he said.
That summer, we moved to a home with nearly an identical layout, but one fully updated, perfect for our busy family. And of course that wasn’t our last house. Chances are we still have another move in our future. I’ll be ready for that next relocation, because as I said, I have my system down to a science. But I’ve added a spiritual step at the very beginning: Pray about it first.
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