Hi there! Please go and grab a coffee or a snack, then get ready to settle in, this is a longer post, but I promise you, it’s really great story. I’ve been journeying through the things God has done in my life so far, and this is a great one. I hope it inspires you, it still inspires me. Share it if you think it may encourage someone you know.
In the spring of 2005 my husband and I found out we were expecting baby number 2. We lived in this lovely older home near the lake in central Niagara. We had enjoyed around 5 years there and most of the memories were good ones. It was a well thought out floor plan that accommodated our small family quite well. It was a quiet neighborhood and we had a large lot that boasted a lovely covered deck and sprawling gardens that included a fish pond and waterfall. The hours I spent in that backyard will always remain in my memory as some of my most peaceful and happy.
My father-in-law lived with us in the basement apartment and we had worked through the difficulties of sharing living space early on in the living arrangement, for the first couple of years my sister and other students lived with us as well as our 2 cats. It was the home we brought our first born miracle home to. We shared many family dinners there, many gatherings with friends, life groups, parties…
We didn’t really “need” to find a new place, we did have enough space to remain comfortable, we would just lose some work space, the baby would have to share a room with his/her big brother…but we thought, “it wouldn’t hurt” to see what’s out there.
A friend of ours, Nathan, was just starting out in real estate and we thought we’d give him a try… we mentioned to him about what we were looking for, price range, size – a little bigger, an additional bedroom, more property – but we still needed an in-law suite/ apartment for dad, and we still wanted a quiet neighborhood…we needed easy access to the highway to reduce the amount of drive time to work…
Nathan pulled together a few viewings and we set out to ‘look and see” – when we pulled up to what is now our home, we looked at each other and said – “ya…no” – It had several marks against it in our book – it was in Niagara Falls – after having lived in St. Catherine’s for over a decade, we knew there was a stigma about the Falls…that it was less classy… and the house was HUGE.
Not just a little bigger, but way TOO BIG. It was beautiful though, a chalet style cedar home with gorgeous hardwood floors throughout, and unique hand-designed plaster ceilings. The owner had custom built the home for his multi-gen family after a trip to Switzerland inspired him. He joined us on the tour, showing his pride in the details…Every inch was well planned and used for storage and use. It had a fully enclosed apartment upstairs with 2 huge bedrooms, a loft a gourmet kitchen and 2 balconies…
The ground floor boasted 4 large bedrooms, a full bath and a large formal living room. But no kitchen, he was willing to put one in…the unique home wasn’t selling as quickly as they’d hoped. The basement boasted a full kitchen another 3 piece bath and a full family room. There was a giant 2 car garage and separate shed and a bachelor pad above the garage. All of the bathrooms were bigger than any we’d ever had in any house previously. The décor was from the 80’s but the bones of the house were just unmatched – wood and ceramic floors throughout, oak cabinets, vaulted ceilings… There was giant vegetable garden with a makeshift green house and fruit trees and a brick oven…plus there were fig trees in the sun-room, which reminded me of my dad… and yes, it had a sun-room. It backed onto a hydro field and a reservoir so there wouldn’t be any neighbors building behind us, on the outskirts of the city, we were close the border and national monuments/ parks than the actual city of the Falls. The neighborhood was definitely quiet…but who were we kidding? this house was too big for our family of 4 even with dad… and WAY out of our price range. We laughed about it, Nathan said he had brought us just to get an idea of what kinds of things we liked in a home… it was a fun tour… and we moved on, looked casually at other homes and didn’t really think about the house again.
Consciously that is.
Turns out both Chris and I were having dreams about this house while we were sleeping. But we both just brushed it off… it was too unique, and too big…and too much.
Then we had kind of decided to not move. That we were fine where we were, we would make due until the circumstances were better for moving… we were content where we were.
But then the owners of that house had asked their agent to call Nathan and ask him to ask us (that young couple with the little boy and another one on the way) to put an offer on the house…any offer, nothing would insult them…Chris and I just laughed…no… No! What we could afford would indeed be insulting. We wouldn’t even consider it…we respected them too much.
But then, the still small voice of the Holy Spirit gently asked…”Why haven’t you asked me whether I wanted you to have that house? Would you consider it, for Me? Maybe you can’t afford it, but I can…”
Dumb, dumb, dumb…I felt so small.
Later that day, I told Chris what I’d heard, and immediately we both repented.
In the New Testament, the word translated as ‘repentance’ is the Greek word metanoia literally meaning “after or behind one’s mind“. ‘Meta’ meaning after or with; and the verb ‘noeo’ meaning to perceive, to think, the result of perceiving or observing. Together they mean: ‘to think differently after’. Metanoia is therefore primarily an after-thought, different from the former thought; a change of mind and change of conduct, “change of mind and heart”, or, “change of consciousness”.
How small minded had we been? So we were content…but maybe He wasn’t. Maybe He had things he wanted us to do, that would require a bigger house and more land and easy access to the sights and the border. We were approaching His provision from our small human mindedness, and He was trying to get us to see it from His perspective… from an eternal one. We were limiting Him. We’d been taught to store up treasures in heaven… that real relationships were more important than bigger, better homes and filling them with stuff…and that’s still true, they are…but we soon found out that when you have people stay with you, live with you, share life with you… that relationships can go deep. We had learned that small and simple was good… and it still is, but sometimes, sometimes bigger means you can do more. That God can do more…for everyone.
Repentance in this instance, meant that we needed God’s help in how we approached the whole situation…we looked at it like this: perhaps we were supposed to have this house, but perhaps God just wanted to get us to think differently in general… regardless, we felt liberated. True repentance always brings liberty.
First we examined our own hearts and minds… what the limits had we put on our own thinking… we explored everything from the overly proud, to the overly humble thoughts – we didn’t want to insult family members who had smaller homes (who did we think we were?); were we trying to “keep up with the Jones’ – we had wealthy friends who could indeed afford a home like that, but we knew we couldn’t…we’d made mistakes in investing already… would we just repeat them? We didn’t want to be “house poor”…but would we be? How would be explain it to our friends and family when we clearly didn’t need so much room… We began to realize that we were more worried about what people thought than we realized. We needed to change our perspective. Then we changed our thinking on finances and what was available and possible to us. Then we made sure we kept listening.
Sometimes when you have something that you know it was impossible for you to get in your own strength, then you never quite look at it as your own, but that it’s really HIS and you really are just a steward…and you are more willing to say yes…to anything. Also, we have found, that when it was impossible for us to get it on our own, we are more likely to keep looking to the One who provided it, to sustain it for us, to help us “keep” it…as long as it’s needed…and hopefully, to let it go when we need to.
We went on another walk through of the house… this time with dad and a few other family members, but also with open minds, eyes and hearts. The owners asked us to sit for a coffee. It was a short but nice visit. We could see ourselves in this house…we could see glimmers of what God might do here…
We contacted Nathan, and put an offer in that we hoped wouldn’t be too insulting. They counter offered. Our parameters were really small. We put in our final offer, thinking it would be rejected. It was. We were OK. We were free, our minds had been liberated, regardless, and that was worth it all.
That night, Chris had another dream. It woke him up…he couldn’t sleep. He felt like God told him to write them a letter. In it he thanked them for even considering our offer, for their time and that we were thankful for the experience. He explained briefly about our financial limits, but that it was fun even dreaming about it for awhile. He wished them all the best. I read it the next morning, it was beautiful. (and I thought I was the writer in the family – ha!) We sent it via Nathan, not expecting to ever hear back from them.
That night, Nathan called us, laughing…his excitement palpable… they wanted to give us the house for our final offer… WAY WAY WAY below list price…probably below market too. He shared how at the final meeting he had given their agent the letter who gave it to the owner, and then owner asked him to read it to the room…he said at the end of the letter not an eye was dry… and then, the owner had said… “These are good people, a young family, they will love my house, they will be good for the neighborhood”…and then after a pause…”let’s give it to them.”
The whirlwind of moving while in my third trimester is a story for another time, as well as many of the challenges we’ve encountered after saying yes to the house. But I want to give you a brief glimpse, of how God had used us through his/our house to be the blessing He knew was needed…
Little did we know that we’d have not 1 but 3 more kids and a couple dogs, and that we’d eventually be homeschooling, and use every inch of the house in that adventure alone…we knew so little of what God had need of.
That very first fall, just weeks after we moved in, a sister got married and all the extra rooms were filled with family members who had traveled to come to the wedding. Then another and another sister got married and we filled the rooms again and again. Chris’ dad lived with us until he passed away, we shared many happy memories with him, including our last Christmas together, in this home. We’ve had several people stay with us in the bachelor apartment – many recovering from divorce or financial ruin. We’ve had women and children in crisis stay with us, large families needing an “affordable” place to stay while on vacation, and about 25 long and short term students board with us from Asia, Europe and South America. We’ve been able to host missionaries on furlough and we’ve had family and friends that needed a place to crash following loss or just needing a temporary home. We’ve hosted large scale celebrations and countless small ones. The second kitchen and family room has been great for holiday gatherings and summer retreats from the heat… the yard has hosted chickens, a large veggie garden, tents for the kids and their cousins, the fruit trees have fed us in the summers and winters from preserving… The extra room and ability to take in borders has sustained us through financially tight seasons, and the closeness to the border made it possible to get cheaper gas and sometimes groceries with ease. The lower mortgage has been a blessing, and while we’ve not always had lot’s of cash to bless people with, we’ve been able to share all that we do have – a place to rest, something to eat, somewhere to be loved with God’s love, to everyone that comes through our doors.
We have incredible neighbors who’ve become good friends, and when we go for walks at night, sometimes it feels like we live in the country. We’ve grown to love Niagara Falls even more than St. Catherine’s, especially our little corner of it and take great pride in showing visitors our lovely part of the region… we know that our season here is far from over, but we learned a long time ago to not put limits on what God can do with the space you make for Him, as well as the space you let Him make for Himself. If you ever find yourself in Niagara, please don’t hesitate to call, we just may have room for you!