Those were the two words that sent stabs of pain through my heart a few weeks ago.
Even now as I sit here typing this, knowing the story has a happy ending, I ache with the sinking burden I carried deep in my chest for days after that conversation.
In March my husband accepted a call to serve as pastor at a new church which meant relocating our family to New York and selling our home in Colorado.
The next step was to meet with a realtor and put our house on the market.
A House Well Loved
Mike and I knew our house was…well loved.
We have 5 children. We were foster parents to 35 children.
Our life is busy with the kids and church ministry. Two of our children have significant behavioral needs. (Until I had done this type of parenting, I did not understand the wear and tear this will cause on the structure of a living space.)
Over time we’ve patched holes and replaced broken items in ways up to our standards, but it was not show-home worthy.
None of this mattered to me (or even occurred to me) until this move came about. I was too busy worrying about making it.
But you guys, for years and years and years I let people into my house and never gave it a second thought.
I said, “Come on in, friends,” and I meant it.
Sure the carpet was old. Yes the cats had torn up some corners. (We had even duct taped one corner in the kids’ room. Call us Beverly Hillbillies.)
The paint had seen better days. There were scratches and scuff marks in the doorways.
The banisters were wobbly from 1,000 times I yelled to the boys, “This is not your Superman practice area,” but it didn’t stop them from trying.
There was stuff crammed in the garage, basement and attic, because 7 people lived in this house for 16 years. Some of it was too much and some of it was the reflections and equipment of a busy, full life.
Boxes of photos. Camping equipment. Hiking gear and 7 bicycles with matching helmets. Fisher Price Little People I’m saving for the grand kids.
The counter tops and bathroom fixtures were not the newest and greatest. Our money went to special education advocates and groceries for growing teenagers.
The Conversation and the Questions
Yet when we sat down with the realtor that day, and after a walk-through of our home he said, “I would say in the condition it’s in right now, you should list this as just above what a foreclosure would go for,” my heart sank.
Mike and I looked at each other after he left, not saying much yet so much communicated between us. We each knew what the other was thinking without speaking the words aloud.
This is the home we had created together, and those words stung.
We made our choices.
We chose more foster children when we could have chosen more investment plans.
We gave away money when we saw people who needed it.
We gave hours and years to our church family instead of the next higher paying job.
We adopted into our home, our hearts, and our lives two challenging, complex children who have changed the course of our forever.
It’s not been easy, this life. In fact, we’ve been down some of the hardest roads.
Should we have made other choices? Spent more money on the house over the years? Given up ministry and gotten other jobs?
Dare I say it — had fewer children?
Yet when we look back on each decision, there was no question at the time that we were following God’s will for us.
What Happened Next
I told you this story has a happy ending, and indeed it does.
Mike had three weeks off in between finishing his ministry at our Colorado church and before he moved to New York for the next one. We decided to pour all our energy into making our house beautiful.
The market in Denver is smoking hot right now, and we knew any improvements we made would be worth it. We didn’t have much money to invest, but together with our teenagers (who were an incredible, working as hard as any adult), and the help of friends, we put in sweat equity.
Sweat we did. We scoured, painted and scrubbed. We worked until we fell into bed so exhausted each night, we could barely move.
Then we got up the next day and did it again.
When the day came for us to leave for Mike’s installation service in new York, the house was ready.
It was indeed, beautiful.
The Happy Ending
Since the Denver real estate market is good, people had told us to expect to receive several offers on our house while were gone. We were hoping for 3-4 offers.
God blew us away.
The house had over 110 showings and over 300 people came through the house in 4 days. Our neighbors texted us to tell us cars were lined up down the street waiting to see the house.
We had 25 offers to purchase the house, many well over the asking price. Even our realtor said it was much more than he was expecting, and that he hadn’t ever seen anything quite it.
Were we in the right place at the right time? Yes.
Yet I see more. I see God’s hand of provision, making a way for our family. I see a sign of confirmation that we are following his call in our lives.
Before and After — The Photos
I took these “before” photos for our family. I wanted us to have pictures to remember the house just as it was.
There was no clean-up whatsoever.
The perfectionist in me does not want to share these pictures with you. I long to only share the “after” photos. It’s so much easier to share the prettied up, nice pictures once we had everything together.
But that wouldn’t be the holy mess, would it?
I share these in case you are embarrassed by the condition of your home, and you need someone else to reach out and tell you it’s okay.
That if you’ve made other choices in your life, I’m not judging you.
That if your priorities have been different, I understand.
That if you haven’t had the money to fix it up, if you have piles of laundry or stuff all over, if you had more kids instead of a nicer house or newer stuff, I get you.
That your mess can still be holy.
Also see this post: How We Made $25,000 From Staging Our House to Sell
Have you ever been embarrassed by the condition of your home?
Thank you for sharing! I don’t feel so bad now. But you have kids and I don’t!!! My life was working and drive time and illness. Now that I’ve retired, I’m working on decluttering and cleaning. Between injury from a fall. Gads!
I know how hard it was for you to do what you did. CONGRATULATIONS!!!! And I pray your new home will be as much of a blessing to you as this one was.
We have 14 kids including one with FASD and severe autism. Not a single room of our house has been unscathed by his raging. Bedrooms don’t have doors (he broke them) and walls have holes….yes, I am embarrassed by it but we cannot afford the repairs in terms of time OR money.
I admire your honesty and completely relate to your situation. It is more important to have a home filled with love and a family comfortable in their own space every day than to have a model looking home at all times. I always strive for a middle ground and at least have it decent enough in case anyone stops by unannounced, but this is not always the case….(ok, at least the first floor ;), the upstairs is usually up for grabs and we can always close doors. 🙂 Thank you for making us moms feel better and God bless you in your moving adventure.
Thank you, C! I agree about the first floor. I usually try to keep the living room looking decent. Mostly because the clutter drives me crazy and I need at least some space where I can retain my sanity.
Wanda J says
It was so good to hear that your home sale went well!! I think of you often and miss you and your family here in Colorado. You are and always have been such an inspiration to me. You are such a gifted writer and know how to express the real heart of the matter. God be with you and bless you in your new home.
We miss you, too, Wanda! Thanks for your comment. Love you bunches. xoxoxo
Thanks for sharing. While I don’t have the good reasons you do for my house to be an embarrassing mess, it still is. And I still invite people in. Last year as I was once again hosting the annual cul-de-sac party I started, we were all sitting in our crammed, just cleaned up enough garage to fit people and tables in, I thought – “how odd that our garage is the least likely house to host this at, but the people with the much bigger and perfectly clean and organized garages didn’t offer. If a choice in life is to keep a house eligible for a better Homes and Garden cover, or invite people over, know which choice I’m making!” But then, there are those super-human people who do both. Maybe as I hope people don’t judge me too harshly, maybe I should do the same for them.
Cathy, I LOVE LOVE that you hosted a the party in your messy garage. That’s just the type of thing I would do. 🙂 You go, friend. You welcomed people in and showed them that it doesn’t have to be perfect. I’m convinced everyone has a mess in their lives somewhere. It just might not show up on the outside. Hospitality is about making people feel welcome. I love this comment.
Sara, I have only ever felt alcove in your home. And once inside I always thought, “I hope to build a home as warm as this.”
Love, not alcove. 🙂
Awe, thank you Claudia! Your comment is making me cry. Miss you! xoxo I feel the same way about you and your home. I would say you have already succeeded.
wanda robinson says
Thank you Sarah. I am facing some of the same problem but not with any of your good reasons why,but I do trust Jesus and what do realtors really know outside of money? I know we must do our best and let God work it all out.
((HUGS)) Wanda. I know it’s stressful with all these big decisions!
Theresa Buck says
I love how you always keep it real!! Your home is well lived in and shared by a well loved family!! I always tried to fix up a house to make it our home and it wasn’t always the best but we were thankful for being able to have the blessing of a home at each step in life. You did a beautiful job of fixing it up to sell and now as you said God has provided a way to move on with your beautiful family. Thanks for sharing your experiences and always being willing to share even when it’s difficult because I am sure you have helped a lot of people as they struggle through the same issues. You are an inspiration!!
Thanks so much for your comment, Theresa. You are so right that God has always provided us a home and we are very blessed. So many other people do not have what we have.
So awesome for you and your family. God indeed provides all we need and more! He knew all the Godly works flowing from that house and he could only bless that! Congratulations and happy new life in NY!
Thank you, PJ! God does provide.
Amy Kufahl says
Hi Sara- thank you for sharing. I met you in Arizona in February at the best practices conference. It was a blessing to sit in on one your sessions on being a pastor’s wife. My husband just received a call to a different church. We have 2 mortgages in a small town in Minnesota. The church that called him knows this. The reason we have 2 mortgages is a long story but the thought of having to sell our house is frightening because we had had one on the market for 1 1/2 years. I know this probably is not the time for us to take another call given our financial state but I’m struggling with the call process being so open to our church. I wish it could be more private. I also am struggling to be open to the Holy Spirit moving us because of our financial situation. I hope our story ends with a happy ending too. Thanks for sharing.
Amy, I will be praying for your situation! I can totally relate. I have struggled over the years with our family situation (and finances) being so open as well. Even writing this blog post, and the one that I’m publishing tomorrow, Mike and I discussed it at length how much I should say and how I should say it, as it could be misconstrued. Ultimately I felt it was worth sharing and could help other people. It’s not easy being in the spotlight of ministry at times. Our last call (from IN to Colorado) our house took almost a year to sell and we took a loss, and were moving into a much more expensive market, so we have had a difficult real estate situation from a call situation. Many other pastor’s families go through the same thing. I feel like God is showing us how He would provide, but it took 16 years to realize. Which is not unlike Biblical stories. Our timing is not God’s timing and he sees a much bigger picture. Feel free to email me anytime if you want to chat directly. God will provide for your situation, too!