Shortly after we decided to start getting the house ready to sell, our dearest most darlingest friends, Cameron & Anna Ingalls (and their little boy Asher!) came into to town to stay with us for a few days. They were so supportive and spoke so much life and truth into all that was happening in our crazy journey. On the last day that they were here, Cameron offered to snap some shots of our family of 5, and he was asking us where we would like to have some photos taken... any special place we'd like to capture at that moment in time. Chris and I looked at each other and just knew.
This place that had transformed us in such a way that we would never be able to live RIGHT NEXT DOOR to someone and not even know them ever again. This place that taught us to be true neighbors and kingdom bringers to the people God has placed tens of feet from our own front door. This street that means more to us than I can even begin to wrap words around, that stings my eyes with tears every time I think about how God is calling us away from it.
Leaving these neighbors will be, hands down, the hardest part of this whole entire process for us.
While we were taking the photos, we both felt a bitter sweetness. We knew these images were going to be forever important to us... a commemoration of what God had done here. It felt very significant, like a stake in the ground.
This was really going to happen, wasn't it?
One weekend after Cam & Anna left, I woke up feeling really burdened with an urgency about... something. It took a couple of hours for me to fully wake up and put my finger on what I was feeling, but I could NOT shake it all morning... like I was going to miss something really important and I needed to figure it out quickly. Later in the morning, I suddenly knew what it was. We needed to talk to the neighbors a couple of houses down from us about buying our house. We didn't see these neighbors very often, but we knew that they had bought another house on the street a few months prior and turned it into a really nice rental property. I told Chris that I felt like we needed to talk to them, like now. Chris said he'd been feeling the same way, and wouldn't you believe it, when he went outside, there they were out in their driveway! This was a rare opportunity. I all but pushed him out of the garage to go talk to them about our house. heh.
As it turns out, they were interested. After a few weeks of going back and forth to figure out all of the details, they told us they wanted to go ahead with the deal.
What this all meant was:
1. We wouldn't have to show the house at all! No signs in the yard! No realtor fees!!
2. They agreed to the price we needed in order to get all of our equity out of the house.
3. They also agreed to let us RENT THE HOUSE through June, when Ezra finished first grade, and then month-to-month if we needed, so that we wouldn't have to move out before we knew where we were meant to end up. (!!!)
4. They wanted Chris to do all of the painting in this house and another house of theirs, which in the long run would allow us to rent the house for even less than we were paying in a mortgage before. We could be saving money!
5. When we finally figured out where we were supposed to go, we would be able to just... go, because we weren't tied down by anything anymore.
6. As we talked back and forth over the contract, we even got to strike up a friendship with these neighbors that we hadn't had in the past!
It was crazy. All of our questions about how to sell the house and what it would all look like were answered in one fell swoop. We could not have dreamed up a better scenario if we'd tried.
During this time I also started doing a bible study at my church on the book of Ezra in the Bible. This book is (obviously) dear to me, seeing as how my eldest son is named Ezra (that's another cool story altogether!), and God had been speaking to us about Nehemiah from the beginning of all of this stirring. What I learned from that study was life-changing... mainly that God really is sovereign and He stirs the hearts of men (even men who don't know Him!) in order to bring his plans to pass. Over and over again in the books of Ezra & Nehemiah, it talks of how God had "stirred the heart" of pagan kings and Israelites - people who loved Him and people who didn't - in order to carry out His will. Crazy, unthinkable stuff happened... all because God stirred someone's heart to answer in a certain way or provide a certain thing. I realized in this study that God writes history in advance, and I don't need to worry about my future or any detail of my life because HE is in control! I also came to believe more and more that God really was stirring my heart, and that I needed to listen to all the tumult I felt inside of me and stop trying to just shut it down all the time.
One night, not long after I started the Ezra study, Chris had fallen asleep out on the couch in our living room. At around 3:00 in the morning, he was woken with a start when he heard a voice, a female voice, coming from near the head of the couch that said, loud and clear, "The time you're spending with Ezra will be very helpful." He sat straight up and peered in the darkness over at that side of the couch. He told me later that he thought I had been standing there, talking... but no one was there.
At first he thought the voice was talking about our son, Ezra. But when he shared the dream with me that next morning, I just knew that it was talking about all the truths I was learning in the study on the Book of Ezra. We were, again, completely blown away. God doesn't really speak this loudly to His children anymore, does He??
Oh yes. He DOES.
Right before he'd been woken up that night, Chris had been having a very realistic dream. He said in the dream he could see my blog. At the top of the blog, in big bold writing, it said "In Hope of A New Day", and there was a picture of my old neighborhood where I'd grown up. (I grew up in a rural area outside of Reno, on a little street called Wintergreen.) It was just a short flash of a dream, and then he had been woken up by that audible voice.
Needless to say, we started to believe that God really does speak in amazing and mysterious ways. All of these things felt like dots on a page, and nothing was quite connecting just yet, but we started to believe without a doubt that they were going to. I tried to write down every dream and situation that felt significant, so that I wouldn't forget.
Chris told me one day shortly after he had that dream that He felt like He needed to repent for always saying "If we're going to ever move again, God is going to have to speak to me from a burning bush!" He started realizing that he had been putting parameters and boundaries around the way he thought things should happen. He even apologized to me, saying he never meant to make me feel like he was being stubborn or hard-hearted towards God and wasn't hearing my heart and my desire for newness. I thanked him for his sincere and humble apology, and didn't think much more of it until I went to pick up Myer from his school a couple of days later and found this sitting on top of his Lightning McQueen backpack:
I knew exactly what it was when I saw it, but I turned to Myer and said, totally exasperated, "What IS this, buddy?"
One of his teachers who was walking by stopped, looked right at me, smiled, and said, "Why, it's a burning bush!!"
I could not stop laughing. I texted this picture to Chris as soon as I got in my car.
Apparently, God also has a sense of humor.