Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life (Prov 13:12).
Fall arrived. And there came a clear point when one spell broke, and I knew I had turned the corner. Who can describe the profound relief and gratitude of knowing the worst is behind? It’s the best fuel for courage that I know. Though private struggle continued, one major stress after another began to slip quietly to the side.
Our offer went to the bank, and they took their turn warming it with their bums.
By the beginning of October, I began to taste the fruit of all this growing—a quieting, a mysterious slowing of an internal timepiece. I cooked pretty foods. I learned to interact with people when my life was in chaos. We had less on our schedule and more impromptus—gathering leaves, drinking tea, reading stories, taking hikes, celebrating fall.
I had sins to repent of, and spent hours processing.
On October 4, Ryan suggested a fasting day, in which he and I would pray about The Gray House and seek the Lord’s will. By now I felt almost certain that it was the home for us, but I feared the long, hard waiting. So we prayed. Ryan prayed that we hear definitive news that week. I joined him, quailing.
We got news alright.
- The owner of The Gray House was apparently unwilling to disclose information essential for the short sale to proceed.
- The house was scheduled for a sheriff’s sale the beginning of November, at which time the bank would almost certainly bid up to 100% of its debt and reclaim the property. Then they would fix it up, if they thought it was worth it, and resell it for a lot (to recoup their losses) or let it languish until time and old age did the rest.
Jesus, we said, we need a miracle. Help us to start letting go…
Here is how a sheriff’s sale works: Primary creditor (usually a bank) shows up at the sale to bid. Any other bidders are welcome. Buyer pays cash in full by the end of the day. And whatever old liens are held against the house by other creditors may be passed on to the new owner.
We hired a lawyer and began research on the property title. We got financial and pastoral advice. We talked with our parents about loans. We talked numbers. We prayed for miracles.
Our lawyer came back with news.
Good news: There were only two mortgages on the house, both held by Citi. So if Citi settled at the sheriff’s sale and let the property go, we’d have it free and clear.
Bad news: The combined amounts of the two mortgages totaled upwards of $100,000.
Bad news #2: Our landlord was interested in selling the house in which we were living. He didn’t want to kick us out, but… How serious were we about getting this other property? Could we sign a 6-month lease agreement so he could list it but give us enough space to find something else?
“Pour on the water,” said Ryan. “We want to know this is from God’s hand.”
November 4 came closer. We had seen the house only one time. We agreed to attend the sheriff’s sale prepared to bid. We arranged a private loan, and transferred the money to our account, knowing full well we might be wiring it back to the lenders in a week. We decided on parameters—we would bid up to $60,000, plus costs and taxes. Maybe we would get it, maybe not. Ryan read me the story of Jonathan and his armor bearer—“Come, let us go… It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few” (1 Sam 14).
At 10:00 am on the morning of November 4, two very nerved-up people walked calmly hand-in-hand up the courthouse steps. Ryan knew just where to go.
Within a matter of minutes, the house would be ours, or gone semi-permanently beyond our reach. We found our way to a small green room and tried to relax in chairs against the wall. I was a child, cold and fidgety. The bank representatives sat with their backs to us, the clerks on a platform facing. We were given a schedule of events. Down the list a ways was M—– property, 21205 Hunter Rd, Meadville.
The first property came up for sale. A bank representative bid. Another couple sitting against the wall hemmed and hawed. How do you bid? Well, say something. Do you want to bid on this one? I don’t know… “Going once,” said the clerk firmly. “Do we have another bid? Going twice. Sold.”
“And the M—– property. Do we have a bid?”
The bank bid, their standard $1 plus costs and taxes.
And I heard Ryan bid, a lowball offer.
My hands were shaking.
The bank bid again.
Ryan bid again.
“Just one moment,” said the bank rep. “Can I do a little figuring?” Absolutely. He whipped out a calculator and punched some numbers.
Ryan bid again.
The bank man’s turn. “Bidding $58,664.22* plus costs and taxes.”
The world stopped spinning. And 22 cents?? Come on. This had to be their last bid.
Ryan’s voice came, strained but determined, “Bidding $60,000 plus costs and taxes.”
One of the clerks spoke up. “Uh, I didn’t get that last number. The bid before this. Did you get it? Can he say it again?”
“Okay. And the next bid?”
“$60,000 plus costs and taxes,” Ryan repeated.
“$60,000 plus costs, plus taxes,” parroted the clerk. “Next bid?”
“Do we have another bid?”
The bank rep looked up. “It’s his.”
Breaking wave of glory.
Tears at my eyes.
“Sold, to the couple in the back.” A twinkle our way. “Congratulations!”
We walked from the room the owners of a house. Not just a house—The Gray House.
We knew we faced months of grueling renovation. We knew we were headed for the third move in eight months. We knew we were in for many showings on our rental. We knew we faced unknown years ahead. What did it matter? Jesus had kept His promises, had done the impossible for us.
We named her Skye House, and moved in on January 14 in the middle of a lake effect snowstorm.
We were home.
And for the next month, all our new neighbors kept telling us, “How’d you get the property? We were waiting for it to come up for sale…”
Praise Jesus, we were home.
*This number is the closest reconstruction we’ve been able to piece together of the bank’s final bid. It was certainly that precise, and that close to our margin. PTL.