when you ask for grace, and get a house instead

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Creative Commons: Franco Folini
Friday evening. I've just served plates and the house is in that brief lull of quiet chewing. My doorbell rings, and it's my landlord.  He looks stressed. "I have a problem," he says. "The bank foreclosed on my daughter's house today. I hate to do this to you, but I've got to give you thirty days notice. I'm going to need this house for her."

It takes me a minute to comprehend what he's saying. My first thought is, can he do that? But my landlord is a good man and I already know I won't push back. I feel like a cartoon character hanging in mid-air just before he plummets. We'd planned on staying another year, at least.  As he's talking all I can think is, I don't want to leave our neighborhood. I can leave this house, but please let me stay in my neighborhood.

The next morning my family hits the pavement. The market in Denver is insane right now.  Houses are sold or rented in hours. Many never even officially go onto the market, and instead change hands by word of mouth. We decide our best chance is to talk to every person in our neighborhood.

"Hello! We live two streets over. Any of your neighbors getting ready to move?"All morning we ask the same question. I see a sign in front of a split-level home with a treehouse in the back, and I knock boldly on the door. "Are you firm on selling? Would you consider renting to a young family with good credit instead?"

No luck. We spend the weekend like this - in the sunshine, kids in tow, scouring the streets around us. A house goes up for rent on the closest cul-de-sac, but by the time we call two hours later, someone has already put down a deposit. Meanwhile we tell our story to everyone we see. A few people tell me, "I don't know of anything, but I'm going to pray for you."

But I don't pray. Because when it comes to this kind of thing - where do I live?  what do I do next? - I don't know how to pray. I believe God is actively creating our life out of the existing materials, rather than building our life with a prescribed set of people and events. That belief has been incredibly freeing.  But when it comes to life events, I wonder, what would I even say to God about them? I feel silly and hypocritical if I ask God to make life go my way. And I don't want the mental gymnastics needed to justify events if they don't. I leave the prayers for specific life events to people who can do it with a straight face.  It's the only faithful thing I can do.

Instead of asking for a house, I ask for grace.  I can't pray for tangible blessings anymore, but I can pray for spiritual ones.  Right now I know I need the grace to not panic, to persevere and remain upbeat. I don't want my faith to need us to live in a certain house, so I ask God to make me the kind of person who can be kind and calm no matter what is going on.

He answers my prayer in abundance. For four days I hang in mid-air and never fall. I just keep doing the next thing, making the next phone call. I make contingencies but remain hopeful we won't have to give up our neighborhood.  My husband and I both recognize how irrationally calm I am about the whole thing, and I quickly recognize God's fingerprint on my weekend.

Then, yesterday, my landlord calls back.  "It looks like the details may work out for my daughter.  Can you give me 24 hours?  I may be able to offer you a new lease and let you stay long term."

And I sigh with relief.  As I do, a thought crosses my mind:  There's nothing wrong with relaxing into the freedom of making your own choice. There's nothing wrong with praying only for grace. But don't forget God still wants good things for you.  Don't confuse freedom with nonchalance.  Maybe God orchestrates what house we live in, maybe he doesn't. Either way, God loves you. And He wants good things for His children.

I don't know where I'll live in a month.  And I
don't know how God's directional will works. I gave up that struggle a while back. But I do know this: when we pray for spiritual virtues, God responds. When I ask for grace in a situation, He gives more than enough. What I want to learn from these moments - the random up and downs that fill all of our lives - is not only to pray for the grace to get through it, but to pray for the faith to believe God always loves me. Not, "God loves me so I definitely will get to stay in my neighborhood, but if I don't it's because He loves me and He knew there was some nebulous unforeseen reason I needed to move."  Not that.  Just "God loves me. I am His, and He cares about my life. The end."


  1. I have a spiritual comment later, but for now... one thought about who not-small your house's neighborhood is in the scheme of life. In 1993, my parents left the decision about which one of two houses they would purchase and we would live up to me. Not because they trusted the taste of a 15-year-old, but because one house meant public school - a public school we toured that was much different than the public school system we came from, and the other meant private school. I'd like to say I was thoughtful about the implications, but really I liked the windows and natural light in the house I picked. Had I picked the other house, my school and our church would have been different. Would we have met our husbands by an entirely different set of circumstances? Maybe, I guess. But if you didn't, then those four sweet personalities that make up your life and ministry and family right now wouldn't be who they are (as I think a good bit of life is genetics as well as environment and soul, but I digress). I say all that to say that housing matters. Whether or not you think God has a specific one for you or not doesn't. But I don't think it's a small tangible thing to want to follow your gut (influenced by God himself/Spirit?) about where to live with your family.

    p.s. completely unrelated: does Blogger have Askimet or some other plug-in so you can stop spam but remove the sign-in for comments? I think you'd get a lot more traffic in comments to your blog if it was not restrictive to sign-in. Blogger is a pain with my phone and sometimes Safari. If I don't copy my comments to you before I go to post, they fade into Internet oblivion and I give up and sometimes don't end up leaving one.

  2. first sentence: who=how

  3. (As I write a comment and blogger deletes it, I'm feeling your pain. I hope that blogger is a short term home for me, and pretty soon I'll have a more user friendly site).

    You're right, Cindy. If you'd chosen the other house, we would not have met our husbands (at least not the way we did). Nor would we have met one another, because you ended up at Chrysalis through your church. I've never felt as sure a neighborhood was home as I do right now. It is the first place I've ever lived where I could fully imagine myself living there in 15-20 years. Maybe that draw is God leading us here.

  4. While we're giving Stephanie blog advice, here's mine. I want to be able to respond to your emails, because I always want to. And I can't. But it's such a pain to comment on my iphone so I just don't comment. So many conversations we are missing, Stephanie. So. Many.

    1. So many.

      I picked blogger because I know it (and I don't love wordpress) but it's a short term solution. I'm taking notes on what I need from the next site. Item #1 - make commenting and chatting through email easier.



Blog Design by Nudge Media Design | Powered by Blogger