Unless the Lord Builds–or Buys–the House

barn-frontIt was 11 years ago that Penny and I decided that a certain 60-acre tract between Oak Grove and Bates City, Missouri was the place for us to put down roots for the long term. We bought the place despite a few red flags that might have (or should have) warned us away. Somehow Proverbs 3:5 and not leaning on our own understanding comes into play here, at least in hindsight. Declaring discretion the better part of valor, around five years back, we moved back into town in a house just a couple of blocks from where I was raised.

Have we done it again? A few months ago, a unique house was advertised to be sold by auction. A re-purposed barn, this structure has stood in place for over 110 years. Penny went to the open house–I was otherwise engaged–and fell in love with it. We liked the place immensely, but the projected price tag was too much for us. Eventually, we simply prayed: “If this is to be, then let it be.”

So then what happened?

  • We put in a low-ball bid just to show that we were interested. Although we were outbid, the auction didn’t meet reserve. The auction company called, suggesting that the owners were open to offers. We offered considerably less than what they had wanted, and they accepted.
  • But wait, we still own a house and cannot afford to support two houses at once. Our old house was listed on December 29, although the preparatory work had been done before Christmas. At 9:30 on the morning of December 29, people came to see it. They made an offer that evening. We countered and reached agreement during the afternoon of December 30.
  • Did I mention that our old house desperately needed paint? Have you ever tried to get an exterior painter in January? Our agreement with our buyers involved them accepting the house as-is and us giving a slight financial concession. Just not having to struggle with getting a painter was easily worth that price!
  • Although the winter of 2018-19 has been fairly challenging, the days on which we moved were, although cold, quite workable. A few days before or after would have been considerably more challenging.
  • Good friends and reliable family provided plenty of help and several invaluable vehicles. Who can expect to have a friend who owns a huge box truck?
  • We owned both houses for 11 days. Those days made me nervous. We’d already committed a huge chunk of money (and pretty much all our cash) to the new house. We had no guarantee that the sale of the old house wouldn’t flip at the last minute. On Sunday, one day before that second closing, I confessed to Penny that I felt anxious. But why worry? It went off without a hitch.

In short, everything seems to have progressed as flawlessly as we could hope. Even when we had obstacles, they were overcome in ways that suggested that God was in this process. Now our calling is to redeem the grace that has been showered on us.

Yesterday, our grandkids woke up in that house and went to church with us. I think there might have been some nerf gun wars in our huge attic before we left. In the afternoon, our daughter-in-law hosted a dozen women from her church.  Thomas and I went out to the unheated and very rough “West Wing” of the structure to consider how it could be transformed into livable space for his family. Soon, the winter weather will pass and we’ll lay out our garden, planting those seeds of potential. But then I suppose we already have begun to sprout some seeds.

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. –Psalm 127:1


Better Homes and Hovels (Hebrews 4:8)

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. (Hebrews 4:8)

Three years ago, I moved in at the top of Shamayim Hill, living for the first time in my life, in the sort of place that I’d always dreamed of. After the documents were all signed, somebody–I can’t remember who–handed me the keys and congratulated me on my new home. It was a couple of days later that we actually managed to move in.

Contrary to the “lifestyle” and home improvement ads that we see on TV, life upon coming in to our new home did not consist of shady dinners on the back patio and barefoot romps across painfully green grass.

Instead, we had to eradicate half of the wasps in the western hemisphere and remove somebody else’s junk. One evening, as I walked in to the house from a long day’s efforts, I stopped and thought, “I have enough work to last me until…” I paused and then realized that the work would last forever.

When Joshua stopped the flow of the Jordan River and cleared the way for the people of Israel to enter the Promised Land, he did not take them to a land of ease. Yes, they took possession of orchards they did not plant, but the cultivation of those orchards fell to the new owners. The people of Israel did not enter into God’s rest any more than I entered into a life of rest upon moving here.

My rest will not come from any of the booths at the home show or the promises of glossy TV ads. My rest will not come from some mythical end to all my labors. My rest comes in midst of my labors as I adhere to the God who created me and emulate the Messiah who provided my justification.