Finally, after over 4 months, I am sitting my tushie down and writing. I have had many, many thoughts and things I have wanted to share, but I have not been able to gather them together to form any kind of coherent sentence let alone blog post. I have been trying to find my way. I had very definite ideas about what living in a house again would look like and how I would respond to it. None of them were even close to what happened. It did not really surprise me that the house coming together was different than I imagined. I am very familiar with Isaiah 55:8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” I have repeated that over and over throughout my life to remind myself that God has everything in control. What surprised me was my response.
Late summer/early fall of last year I felt like I needed to go on an extended fast. Specifically, a 49 day fast. I had been reading through the Old Testament and was intrigued with the Year of Jubilee. For 49 years the Israelites could sell their land, houses, even offer themselves as slaves, to pay off debts, but in the 50th year, the Year of Jubilee, all land and possessions would be given back to their original owners and slaves would be set free. I felt like the Sanders family needed a jubliee, that it was time for restoration. During that time I attended a ladies Bible study at our church. Our study was on the power of our words and making sure we are speaking life over our lives, our children, families, etc. So I became the crazy praying momma, declaring restoration, life, direction, any good thing I could think of over our family. Toward the end of the fast Aaron received a letter from the company he had worked for in MN. He was informed he now had access to almost $30,000 from a retirement plan that had previously been unavailable. Believe me, had we had access to that puppy in November of 2013 we would have used it!!! Now, for whatever reason, it was available to cash out. Our rule as a family is that whatever seems like a no-brainer to our human minds probably needs to be seriously prayed about. This definitely seemed like a no-brainer, so we prayed. We told the kiddos about it and asked them what they thought. They all thought we should cash it out, but no one had the same thoughts about what to do with it. One thought for sure we should rent a house, one thought that maybe we were supposed to use it to help other people, one thought we should get a new vehicle and one was undecided. Since we were not in unanimous agreement, we agreed that we would cash out the money but hold onto it until we could agree on what we should do.
The kiddos had fall break at the beginning of October. Aaron and the kiddos stayed with his parents in Illinois and Amanda (the bestie) and I traveled up to Minnesota to see our families. We left Minnesota and went back to Illinois on a Sunday, which happened to be our “day of jubliee” (end of my fast). Nothing happened. Monday we left to go back to Tennessee. After we got Amanda home we contemplated our next move. We always needed to decide how long we were going to stay at a particular hotel. I had found multiple hotels while we were gone where we could stay for 3 weeks, but I wasn’t with the family to discuss it. Now that we were back, in Tennessee, there was not one single hotel, that we could afford, that had anything available for that long. We decided to find one to book until Friday. Isabella had a favorite hotel because of their continental breakfast so we stayed there. I suppose that is a good reason to choose a place. Haha! As we were getting ready for bed that evening we were all talking about what we should do with the money. We decided that we should just look to see if there was even anything we were interested in that was in our price range. Finding a rental house in this area is a miracle in itself. Anything that is remotely affordable is snatched up immediately. Even high-end rentals go fast. I did a search online and found 3 houses that we could afford. Two of them were set up so that a person could go and look at them without waiting for an agent. For the other one I sent in a request. We prayed together before we went to bed and asked God to make it abundantly clear if we are to move into one of these houses and to make the process smooth without us coniving to make things happen.
Tuesday morning the agent of the first house called me. I explained to her that on paper Aaron does not make enough to cover the rent of the house but that we had just gotten $24,000 (ouch on the taxes) and we could pay for six months or the whole year if that worked for them. She let me know that the company did not do that so we did not bother to go look at that house. Tuesday evening we went to look at the other two houses. They had the same monthly rent. One was in one of the neighborhoods we wanted to be in the other one was bigger, but not in a bus route for the kids’ schools. We went to look at the bigger one first and as soon as we walked in the door the kids said, “This is the house.” We went ahead and looked at the other one (in the neighborhood we liked), but knew that it was the first one we needed to go with. We contacted the rental company Wednesday morning and told them the same thing we told the first rental company; we were interested in renting the house, that Aaron does not make enough to cover the monthly rent, but that we had money set aside and could pay six months to a year in advance. They said yes, we could do that and asked when we wanted to move in. We told them we were living in a hotel and wanted to move in as soon as possible. They sent us the rental agreement to sign that night and gave us a move in date of Friday. The same Friday that we would be checking out of the hotel and would have been needing to look for another one to stay. So many more things happened after this, but I’m going to save those for another post because they are so fun and amazing and I do not want them to get lost in this one.
I was a giddy mess on Thursday morning. We had coffee dates with two of our friends and we were going to surprise them by showing them pictures of the house and then telling them we would be moving in the next day. I loved it!!! I had the giggles all day and was no doubt rather annoying. Their reactions were everything I hoped and, being the awesome people they are, were excited and giddy right along with me.
Friday morning we met the rental agent at the house to get the keys and go over leasing rules and what not. I was still a giddy mess at that point. Then the agent handed us the keys and left and that is when I did not know what to do with myself anymore. It was real. This was not hoping for something to change, this was not a short reprieve from van or hotel living by staying in someone else’s house, this was our place, to move all of our things into, not just our suitcases. This was those stupid storage units finally being emptied. No more standing in the rain to find and swap out clothes, no more tearing through boxes to find the items the kids need for school the next day, and having no idea where it is. No more days planned around the hours of the Rec. Center, so we could make sure we are all able to shower, no more looking for free things to do and places to go on the weekends because we did not have our own place to go back to. It all hit me and I laid my head on Aaron’s shoulder and cried. And cried, and cried. That evening we packed up the first stupid storage unit into a truck. Our boys are big tough guys now so we had that thing emptied and in the truck in less than 2 hours. Whoop! Our amazing friends came over to help us unload everything. I stood in the house and occasionally bossed people around, but was mostly quiet. Mulitple times I caught the bestie staring at me. Finally she said, “I keep waiting for you to freak out! You’re so quiet!!!” Haha! I must be pretty predictable! Lol! I don’t know what was going on, I think I must have still been processing everything.
We moved into the house in the midst of theatre madness. Alex had a role in “Arsenic and Old Lace” at his high school. Aaron and I love volunteering for the theatre productions so we unpacked the essentials and continued on with the theatre madness. As soon as the play was over I had 3 opportunities to be a vendor at holiday craft shows and markets. I was making caramels every spare moment. I happen to make ridiculously amazing caramels and they sold like mad. I think I made around 3,000 of them from the end of October to the beginning of December. Then we had another theatre production (a smaller one), visiting family for Christmas break, back to rehearsing and prepping for another theatre production, helping friends in their very successful business venture and, of course, the everyday crazy that is the Sanders family.
I completely understand that most people have very busy, eventful lives so there is nothing special or spectacular in what we were doing, but I have not been able to find where I am supposed to be. I have been busy, but I feel like it is running in circles busy, not productive busy. As I said, I have not been able to find the words to write (I think I’m making up for it though). The best way to describe it is if you could see my brain, all the words are busy dancing around in there instead of making any kind of formation. Rather fitting for me, really. I have expressed my frustrations about this with friends and with Aaron and recently he said something that really helped me. He told me I had been on “war footing” and now I have to find what to do with myself in a new place. He has used that phrase for himself frequently throughout this faith journey, but I have never applied it to myself. He is right, I was on war footing. I didn’t recognize it because his war footing is very intense and serious and almost angry. My war footing looks like ensuring everyone is safe, fed, comfortable (as much as possible), encouraged and happy. I had a daily routine for this war footing and suddenly my footing shifted. I knew the day would come, but I didn’t embrace it like I thought I would. Like a sailor that longs for land after months and months at sea; so happy to finally be on that land, but needing time to find “land legs”.
This post marks the point where I find my new footing and begin running, with all my strength, into this next season of the adventure that God has for us.