Part 3 - How we finally got out of it...
It's been a while since I wrote part 2 of this tale so you may want to back up a little to understand what's coming...but, yep. You read it right. 5 years to sell our house back in Marlin. Quite a different ending from the quick 6 weeks that it took us to get out of debt from Cassie's car! So, if the title of these postings has been about another good gift from the Father, what's the gift? The house in Temple? The provision of all the money we needed over the years just to pay bills? Well, those were amazing gifts. We are grateful. But that's not the gift I'm talking about. In this case, the gift was the 5 years it took to sell it. He couldn't have chosen a more perfect gift for our family.
When we began that school year, we waited a few months for it to sell. We really didn't have much of a choice. You've already heard about how our football season goes around here. Wayne had no time to help get the house ready to rent. I knew nothing about it. So, we just sat on it, paying two mortgages. Though the payments were a lot for our single income family, they weren't causing us not to eat. We just did without a lot of the extras that we were growing to like. We prayed together every night for it to sell. Night after night. But the season came to a close with no offer and we went ahead and put out the word that we could rent...only month to month while we waited for it to sell. We heard from someone right away. We priced it just to cover mortgage and insurance and got a young woman who was coming in to teach at the Christmas break. Perfect. And it was...for about a year and a half. Then she moved.
Tried again for a while and didn't hear much. Football was rolling around for the third time and I was starting to get worried. Finally we ended up getting a young, single mother who happened to be one of Wayne's former students. Didn't have the deposit, but could pay it out. Whew. Money in the bank. Felt good not to think about it. Life sailed on for a few months like that. She was late a few times but always came through. We continued to put aside a couple of months rent and had some extra from summer school money. We continued to work on getting completely free of debt ourselves. Then the call from her. She couldn't pay rent because of other bills. Could she pay us back in a few months and just make next month's payment? We talked it over, knew her situation with her young son and said sure. Then it happened again in about 3 months. Sure, not a problem. Then two months in a row. By this time she owed us about $2500 dollars with more to come in just a few days. She was open about it, never ducked the calls. What do we do? By this time she'd been in over a year. We'd never even received the deposit. We told her we'd need to talk about it.
The Lord gave us that time to talk in the form of a gift from an older couple in our church, the Winburne's. Nancy and Leroy had a guest house that was actually more like a large suite of rooms attached to their home in the tiny town of Little River. Their's was a modest home, nothing fancy. But they loved to host people and every now and then would ask a young couple if they'd like to use their guest quarters to have a night away from the kids. Just to be together was such a treat for Wayne and I, so we loaded up the kids to a friend's house and off we went, all of 10 miles down the road for the first overnight we'd had from the kids in their lifetimes!! (I'm not kidding. We'd never been away from them.)
We ate dinner with them, beautifully prepared and graciously served. We sat outside on their back porch and marveled at the silence that we missed so much from our growing up years. We talked about everything from the girls to his job to ministry to our marriage to our goals...finally getting around to talking about our finances and the rent house. We sat in amazement that the Lord had done so much for us in that time. We'd never gone without...not only the basics had been provided, but extras abounded. The girls had gifts at Christmas and birthdays and even a meal or two out a month. And all that with two mortgages. We couldn't have imagined it 5 years before. We were debt free now except for the houses and more resolved than ever not to charge our lives away again. We talked about the young woman in our home and how much we sympathized with her, but was it wise just to fund her life? Should we hold her accountable for what she owed us? We saw from time to time what she had in the home and worried that she was just taking advantage of us. We knew there was also a boyfriend living with her recently. Couldn't he contribute and was that okay with us given what we believe? What to do? We prayed together that night and put it aside for the evening.
The answer hit us as we were driving home. We were talking about Nancy and Leroy. How much it meant to us that they opened up their home to us. How they had opened up more than that to us since we'd known them. They felt like grandparents to us. We loved them so much. Then the question came up...what if it were Nancy and Leroy in that house in Marlin? What would we do then? Answer was quick in coming. We'd tell them not to worry about the money. They were welcome in our home. It would be a privilege to pay their rent. We'd do anything we could to love on them. They could have our car, our possessions, our money...they're our family.
Just that quick the Scriptures opened up before our eyes...
Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' Matthew 25:34-40
The least of these...not the greatest of these...not the ones you love the most...not those who have the most and are giving it out to you. Whatever we do for the least, we do it for Christ.
I'll admit it. We rationalized for a while. I think it says what we do to other believers, doesn't it? I don't think they're Christians. And should we enable them to continue to get away with being irresponsible when we felt like she could pay for at least part of it? But it pounded home finally. If Christ needed a home, we'd give Him the best. If Nancy and Leroy needed us, we'd give whatever we could and take out a loan for the rest. Then that's what we do for her. So, Wayne called that next night and talked to her. Told her that she didn't have to worry about moving. She could pay us what she could, when she could. He told her that we were doing it for Jesus because if He were here that's what He'd do. We told her of our hope outside of money and houses and that we would be glad to help with anything else if she needed it. Just let us know.
She paid us from time to time. Sometimes for a few months in a row until the next fall when she got hurt on the job. No AFLAC duck to come in and pay the bills. No problem. Just work on getting well and take care of your little boy. That lasted until Christmas when she called to say she was moving; she'd found another job in another town. She hoped she could work on paying us back. Oh, no. Wayne told her. You owe us nothing. It was our pleasure. Really. Just remember that Jesus is the one who told us to do it for you. Think about Him for us.
It never rented again. We just kept it up for the next year, wondering what He was doing. Then one day Wayne called me out of the blue. A realtor in town wanted to know if we still wanted to sell our house. Sure! We never really thought that it would go through until all the papers were signed. And what did we make on it after all that time? Funny. We had to bring a check with us to get out of it. Fitting end to the story, we thought. As we drove away from Marlin, Wayne and I couldn't believe that it might be the last time we come there. We arrived in that town so very different than the ones who left. The Lord had been so gracious to give us, not money, but life...to bless us not with a profit, but with a openhandedness to money and possessions that changed the way we thought about everything we bought...to grant us hearts that were a little closer to His...to grant us a freedom from our possessions that has lasted to this day.
So, I understand how simple it seems that we were rejoicing over the provision of Cassie's car...but I also want you to know that it's been a hard fought battle for our heart by His Spirit to get us to the place where we would wait on His provision...not go into high debt...not seek after the newest and best and have it now...and to be ready and willing to give it up tomorrow if He calls us to it. He has brought it home to us that we own nothing. He owns it all...and the cattle on a thousand hills. He'll give us what He gives us...and withhold what He withholds. He is right to do both and deserves the same praise from us because He is our treasure. The rest is just pretty firewood.