November 4 is a golden day in Zook history—the day Jesus fulfilled our impossible dream.
Once upon a time, our family lived on a little brick street in Meadville, Pennsylvania. It was a darling little street, daffodils in the spring, fresh grass all summer, salmon and flame leaves in the fall, deep cold drifts through the long winter. We owned a pocketful of land on the corner of Fairview and Maple St. Ryan could mow it in 15 minutes. I had flowerbeds all around the house, to tend. First one son and then the second learned to ride bike careening down the slant sidewalk, learned to look both ways before chasing a ball into the street, learned that when we want to play hard, we go to a park.
We were happy there. But we knew from the start it was temporary. Ryan and I had enjoyed very similar childhoods—freedom, haymows, animals, the wilds. We wanted that for our family. For financial reasons, as well as the inscrutable-but-impeccable timing of God, we chose to buy a house in town, and save for a house in the country in five years.
But we hadn’t lived on Maple Street for more than two before the woman of the house began to yearn. Especially in spring. Sometimes you have to go without something before you know how much you need it. I needed nature. Solitude. Wide open space. Dirt.
Some people love living life Watched. That’s what social networking is all about. (Oh dear, I apologize. That slipped out. And you may now accuse me of living that way on my blog.) But I love living life knowing no one is watching. In town, I began to feel panicky. There is nowhere I can go where I am truly alone.
I began to take Sunday afternoon walks. Every week as my family napped, I’d grab an apple and an umbrella or a jacket, and head down my sidewalk. I did this for almost a year, from fall until the heat of deep summer finally discouraged me. Desperate for some space, I explored huge chunks of Meadville, and always I headed for the edges. I found the most enchanting places—a lake, a ravine, a graveyard, and woods and woods and woods. I fell in love with rural Pennsylvania—the deep gorges, tall hemlocks, clear streams, rich earth.
I began to dream. Jesus, couldn’t we have a little slice of it? Would you give us a Place? Do you think we could have a dog, and a garden, and room to play ball? I began to look for houses, falling in love with first one, then another, and my walks turned into anguished prayers trying to surrender this consuming dream.
We prayed. We got advice. We dreamed. And in April 2010, after four years on Maple Street, we listed our house for sale. We felt a lot like Abraham in those days, certain of our departure but not our destination.
We had a few houses in mind that we liked, but it was clear we could not make an offer on anything until our own house sold.
So we waited.
And showed our house to prospective buyers.
And dropped our price a tiny bit.
Only those who have ridden this roller coaster will really get it. Every showing a high pressure event, I wanted everything perfect, every time. No small feat with first two, then three small children. If I dust the top of the china cabinet, will they make an offer?
We faced inevitable letdowns.
They said they liked the house, but they really wish the carport were a garage.
Yeah, they liked the place, but they want four bedrooms instead of three.
Worst of all was the time the children locked the door on the way out, playing Big Bad Wolf in the last crazy moments before our departure, and the showing couldn’t happen at all. Oh, and also the open house nobody attended. And the showing when we were stuck at an absent friend’s house with the water turned off, and both kids had to poop.
An entire year of crying out to the Lord, of watching houses we dreamed of slip away… Then finally one day, it happened. At the end of March 2011, Ryan called and said the magic words, “Honey, we have an offer.” A beautiful offer, hardly worth countering. Then, oh then! The wild leapings of joy!
Now we were really Abraham and Sarah—moving date set, nowhere to go.
And I was in love with a house again…
More next time.