For those who have been waiting with baited breath for my long-awaited personal update–you can exhale now. And sorry for the discomfort I may have caused you.
For the past couple of months, I’ve been working on something (and waiting for the results), keeping fairly quiet because I wanted to be able to tell the whole story. Now, I finally feel I can talk about it.
We became homeowners this week, for the first time in nearly 20 years. We bought the townhome we’ve been renting for the past 2 years from our landlord.
This might not seem like that big of a deal–people buy homes all the time–but when I share the backstory, you’ll see that this comes as an intense personal victory for me.
Years ago, shortly after moving to Texas so I could take a worship leader position at a small church, our small family bought our first home–a small but comfortable place five minutes from the church. We were young and dumb at the time, got ourselves overextended, didn’t have the wisdom to deal with it, and didn’t have the income to recover from it. We ended up losing the home to foreclosure three years after buying it. It was a highly stressful time because while we were going through this, we were under pressure to keep up appearances and a busy schedule at the church, and while we did our best to keep our chins up…we could feel the shame, stigma and judgment from people in the know. It was a black mark, something that deemed us unfit. At least that’s how it felt.
Fast forward to our ten-year stint in Tulsa. If there was any place in the world where we felt “called” to be, it was Tulsa. We felt a deep spiritual connection there, at least at the beginning. My wife and I had met in college there, and had always felt like we’d moved away prematurely. When we came there, it was a homecoming, and we determined to make a lifetime commitment to the land. We determined to live and die in Tulsa.
Some people might not understand this in the way I’m trying to explain it, but when we returned to Tulsa, there was also a deep spiritual resistance to us, almost as if the city itself didn’t want us there. You can take that for what it is–that’s how it felt. While we did our best to put roots down in that city, it was as though the ground hardened beneath us, and every attempt we made to establish ourselves there failed. We struggled financially the entire time we were there. At least three different times, we made a genuine effort to acquire real estate, and were thwarted each time, even when we were absolutely convinced that it was God’s will. The entire time we lived there, we felt like we were in exile in our own hometown. There was something about owning land that had deep meaning for us–it meant we were established and permanent and part of a community. But it never happened. As much as we longed to make a home there, we could never really arrive “home.”
When we felt released from our assignment in Tulsa and moved to Denver, I’ve never had a stronger sense of “starting over” in my whole life. Not only were we in a brand-new place with only a couple of people we’d known previously, but in the meantime, my entire paradigm of what “church” and “ministry” were had been shattered, and I felt like I was rebuilding my very sense of identity from scratch. I had a sense of hope for the future, but also a strong sense of loss from the past. I cried out inside to be established, to have restored to us everything we felt had been stolen. My heart cry for the past several years has been, “God, please bring us into our full inheritance.”
Over the four years we’ve lived in Denver, we have seen a consistent increase in our lives each year. My writing career has prospered, and after years of painting hundreds of paintings, The Wild One is now seeing income as an oil painter. But to be honest, we kind of gave up on the idea of owning property. Not only had the mortgage crisis of several years earlier put us well out of qualification range (we thought), but we’d seen all the people whose mortgages had gone underwater, and we were grateful that we didn’t have that problem. We felt God had provided the places we were renting, and we were thankful for His provision.
Over time, the housing market has fully recovered in Denver, and with all the people moving here, housing has become a real commodity and rents have skyrocketed. When our landlord notified us in February that he was planning to sell our townhome at the end of our lease, we found ourselves in a quandary. We had a space that suited each of our artistic needs; we knew we had just about the best rent in town, and we couldn’t possibly afford what we’d have to pay for a comparable space (assuming we could even get it, given the demand).
We reached out to a lady we found on the Internet who specializes in helping artists acquire housing in Denver, and she turned out to be an angel in disguise. It was she who first suggested we try to buy directly from the owner. We hadn’t planned for home ownership, had nothing set aside for a downpayment, weren’t even thinking along that line. We’d figured by that point that home ownership was for other people, not for us. But we felt strongly we should take this road and see where it led.
To our amazement, it led to qualifying for a loan with very little money down, striking a great deal on the townhome with the owner, and an appraisal that wound up giving us nearly $10,000 in instant equity to start out. Our new friend put us in touch with a mortgage broker who also specialized in helping people like us, and he worked out a great deal.
The process wasn’t without its hiccups. Things were silky smooth right up until a few days before we were supposed to close, when the title company raised a question about the legal description on the townhome, which ended up putting the entire deal in jeopardy. The closing was put on hold.
I don’t mind admitting that this crisis brought out every insecurity and fear I’d developed over the years–from the stigma of the past to the many times we’d tried to buy before and been thwarted. But along with all these fears came a determination that it was time to push through the obstacles. I won’t bore you with the details, but once again our angel-in-disguise brought wisdom to a situation that at the moment had seemed hopeless. I followed up on her advice, did some research and footwork on my own, and somehow was able to resolve the discrepancy to the lender’s and title company’s satisfaction.
Monday afternoon, we closed. Three weeks late–but we closed, and with more money to spare than we’d expected, at that. We had started out believing we couldn’t possibly get a mortgage without at least $30,000 or $40,000 to put down. Total outlay at closing: $160.
God is faithful.
So that’s my story–what I’ve been dealing with over the past couple of months. Buying this townhome marks the end of a long period of wandering, as well as a short period of intense stress during the transition. But it also marks the beginning of a new era, a new season. It is a blessing for our whole family, but I had no idea how significant it was for me personally until it actually came to pass.
This is not our “dream home.” We don’t figure we’ll live here forever. We see it as a place for us, for now. But owning it establishes us in a way we haven’t seen since the mid-1990s. It’s restoration, a removing of the reproach. A strong personal victory. And because Denver’s thriving market will no doubt cause this place to appreciate in value, it is also an investment. I am fully convinced that owning this place is part of the answer to my prayer that God would bring us into our full inheritance.
And there’s this: no one can tell us we have to leave.