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?