Time to Zakhar
Over the last month, I’ve been doing a Bible study with a group of women in my church called Jesus and Women. The author is a brilliant Middle Eastern culture scholar, Kristi McLelland, who brings to life concepts from Jesus’ culture and the original Greek and Hebrew texts I’ve never heard. This week, we explored the concept of zakhar. It’s the middle eastern practice of remembering God‘s faithfulness in your past stories with a forward-looking hope of God‘s faithfulness in your future. As I read through the Bible study, I realized I had been writing down my God stories for years as a way to remember God’s faithfulness. But, it’s been a while. Then, my best friend slapped me upside the head (figuratively) and asked me why I had stopped writing. “What’s wrong with you, Carmen? You need to write. You need to blog.” My friend articulated what the Holy Spirit was pressing on my heart. It’s not like God stopped being faithful. I just stopped writing.
So it’s time to write again . . .
Remember my life verse, Proverbs 19:21? My paraphrase goes like this: Carmen may plan all things, but it’s the Lord’s will that shall be done. The part after the comma trips me up every time. And, I’ve recently tripped all over myself again.
Joe and I have lived in Dilworth for 16 years. The story of buying our Dilworth house is, indeed, a God story (which I will save for another day). I have no doubt that it has been our perfect home to welcome four kids and raise a family. Dozens and dozens of times over the years I have sworn that it was our “forever house” and I was going die in that house. We’ve added on multiple times to make it work for our family and, we literally just finished the plans for our dream garage. Our architect sent us the final plans and submission packet for the historic district the last Thursday in May.
Although I thought this was the forever house, Joe has been itching to move for about five years. He says we are not leaving Dilworth, but Dilworth is leaving us. The new high-density construction around us has been overwhelming. And, in the last year, a new set of condos were built that overlook our backyard. So, at least once a month (for years), Joe has been sending me a house or property to view. Consistently, my answer has been, “No, no, no and, heck, no. I’m not leaving Dilworth!”
That last weekend in May, we were at the Redneck Villa (our doublewide on the lake where we spent every weekend during COVID) and an email from Zillow popped up: Back on the Market, Valleybrook Road. I clicked the link and the pictures triggered a vague memory of seeing the house before. I sent the link to Joe and asked if he had sent it to me. He had not. But, he remembered that the house had been on the market in 2018 and he had forwarded the listing to me then. Of course, I had responded to the listing with not just no, but heck no. Apparently, Zillow remembered I had looked at the house in 2018 and sent me the listing again. (Technology is crazy, right?)
Let me pause and say that several factors have changed for our kids this year. In January, long before COVID, we made the decision to shift schools for our kids. The boys were going to be reunited at Carmel Christian School this fall for middle school (after being at two different schools for the last two years) and Tattie decided to join them there for the rest of high school. This house, ironically, is significantly closer to Carmel Christian School. With three kids there, it made sense to entertain the thought of moving. So, for the first time on any listing Joe had EVER sent me, I agreed to go look at the house. The house listed on that Saturday and we made an appointment to see the house on Monday. I walked in and had an overwhelming sense of WOW. Joe just walked the yard, which is massive compared to our Dilworth location, and came to me on the back steps of the house. “Carmen, would you move for this house?” I thought about it and replied: “You know what? I would consider moving for this house.”
We made an appointment to take the kids back the next day but, two hours before the scheduled showing, we received a message that the house was already under contract. Door closed. No big deal. It was not meant to be.
I did, however, allow myself to start entertaining the thought of moving closer to the kids’ new school. I spent the next couple weeks flipping through real estate listings. Nothing worked for our family and nothing compared to that house.
Over three and a half weeks later, on a Thursday night, I received a text from an unknown number: “Hello, my name is Betty. I’m the listing agent for Valleybrook Road. Would you be interested in putting a back-up offer on this house?” A back-up offer? What is a back-up offer? I called my realtor friend and she tried to explain that it’s usually a way to get the first contract to close. It’s a leverage point for a seller.
Nonetheless, Joe and I decided it was worth at least taking the kids to see it. We were leaving town for the weekend so the following Tuesday, we took the kids back to see the house. On the way there, we kindly explained to them that they live in a benevolent dictatorship. We would certainly take their opinion into consideration, but Mom and Dad would be making the decision on this house for the family. I fully expected them to hate it, especially my rising Senior. The second time I walked in the house, I burst into tears. I can’t explain to you why. It was just an overwhelming sense joy. Joe immediately shot me a look of frustration and told I was a terrible negotiator! Surprisingly, all four kids gave the house a thumbs up. So, we placed the back-up offer on the house and waited. There was nothing we could do but wait.
Over the next few weeks, I did drove by the house a few times and prayed that God would give us a definitive answer. (I’m sure the owners thought a black Kia Telluride was stalking them!) On the very last day of due diligence, the first offer on the house was withdrawn and we went under contract on July 1st. Oh my word! It hit me that we really may move! Miraculously, we negotiated a closing date only 5 weeks later. It was the ONLY time I have off between now and the end of the year. The owners we incredibly gracious and willing to work with us on the timing. Despite being under contract and having a closing date, we still prayed that God would close the door if we were not heading in the right direction. During the whole process, I kept asking God why we would be moving. Why now? Why move to a bigger house we have kids going to college over the next few years? Shouldn’t we be downsizing instead of going in the other direction? Yet, everything continued to fall into place. The loan process went flawlessly. The inspections were smooth, and the owners agreed to fix EVERYTHING on the list of repairs. (Apparently, that never happens.) But, I continued to ask God for another sign. I’m so stubborn.
As I sat reading emails a week before closing, I saw a desperate email from our new school asking for a host family for a foreign exchange student that was a last-minute arrival. I’m not sure the Holy Spirit could’ve hit me in the gut any harder. God, are you sure? I read the email to Joe who was sitting across the room. I expected him to laugh at me (or throw his phone at me)! He paused. He thought for a second. And said, “Well, we would now have room for a student in the new house!” The exchange student is a young lady from Vietnam who is also a rising Sophomore, like Tattie. So, I went to Tattie first and asked her what she thought. She smiled and explained that now her dreams made sense. Although she had not shared this with us, she had been dreaming about a foreign exchange student for months. I then went to Trilla and asked her about the idea. In typical Trilla fashion, she started squealing and giggling. “Mom, don’t you remember two years ago when I told you I wanted a little Asian girl in our house? I was hoping you and Dad would adopt another baby, but this will work!” I went to the boys and they, too, were all on board. Even our Brazilian au pair was giddy about the opportunity to bring a new person into our home and shepherd her through the cultural transition to Teague life! So, I responded to the email that we were interested in hosting and, in 24 hours, we completed the whole host family application. Here’s the catch, we were scheduled to move in on Tuesday and she was to arrive on Wednesday. What’s a little more chaos!
As if I had not heard God loud enough about this house, the blessings of his faithfulness kept coming. Four days before closing, we had our final walk-through on the house. As we came down the back stairs, I saw a beautiful young woman talking to the owner. When she turned, we both gasped knowing that we had known each other in a previous life. We were buying the home from her parents and I had no idea. I melted on the floor and just wept. I realized that the couple selling us the home had a strong and vibrant faith. They built this house and had been praying for a family with children to fill this house with God’s love and grace. Sitting right there in the floor, we grasped hands and prayed with this family, the owners, and even the realtors, and thanked God for His provision in bringing us to this house.
“By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” Proverbs 24:3-4
“Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. For now, I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and heart will be there for all time.” 2 Chronicles 7:15-16
“But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15b.
So, when people ask me if I was looking to move, I can definitively say no. This house came looking for us! I want to remember, or zakhar, this story so that I am reminded of God’s faithfulness for my future. May you take the time to zakhar such stories in your life!