A few years ago, Eric and I became accidental landlords when he was called to his current job and we moved at the height of the housing collapse. We felt that God really was calling him here and left it at "if we are supposed to go, the house stuff will get figured out". We lived in one of the places where the housing market was really terrible -- the community regularly topped lists of the worst places to try to sell a home because there was serious home inflation prior to the collapse. Our house was unsellable. But we had a friend who was looking for a rental at the same time we planned to move, so she became our tenant.
For a year and a half, we were horrible, long distance landlords. Our friend's rent covered our mortgage and anything extra came out of our pocket. We didn't make money, but at least we weren't paying 2 mortgages. Until last spring, when we found out our tenant was moving out of state.
We briefly considered keeping the house as a rental and using a property management company, because we were still underwater on the mortgage. But in the end, we are not landlords and weren't interested in being landlords. I viewed that route as a long, slow walk towards financial problems for us, additional stress, and a continued risk that it might be many years before our house was worth what we owed. After talking to real estate agents, financial planners, a real estate attorney and our CPA, we decided to take the hit up front to be done with the house and sell the property as a short sale.
What an experience!
The same weekend our renter moved out, I moved in with the kids. We lived in the house with basic furniture and a few toys, and committed to doing that until our house sold. Thankfully, we received an offer the first week we were on the market, and the short sale went through in what our real estate agent (who specializes in short sales) called "the smoothest short sale she has ever been a part of". We had to bring a sizeable amount of cash to closing, our credit scores took a hit, there was a loss on the house, but it was done. At the end of July 2011, I was able to move back up here with the kids. And it was done in early August.
Except the taxes...
No one could tell us what would happen with our taxes. Everyone knows the tax code is complicated, but the specifics of our situation made it even more so. In speaking with all of the different professionals working with us, the only commonality was a bottom line: "You'll just have to see how it shakes out at tax time."
And God tapped me on the shoulder, cleared His throat and said, "Do I have your attention?" You see, I am not a "You'll just have to wait and see" person. I am a "we have this much in the bank and I want to know 6 months ahead if we have what we need" person. And finances especially are my weakness - my biggest anxiety and the place where my faith is tested.
Our taxes were completed today, and now that we are at the end of this process, I can see how God has been preparing me and using this situation to grow my faith.
For YEARS, definitely since we started a family on a single income and probably before, I have been a worrier when it comes to money. Even the smallest unforeseen financial problem was thrown me off into an anxiety ridden tizzy. But I have moved from that person, to where I found myself this morning. This morning I was ok with the possibility that we may have to turn over our entire savings if that is how things "shook out". That is huge!! And it is all God. Using small things people have said, the Sunday School class Eric and I are teaching right now on the book "Fearless" by Max Lucado, Bible readings and devotions, God has brought me here.
Earlier today I picture God, coming to me with His outstretched hand. "Come with me," He gently said. And I walked with him to a beautiful overlook.... and He pushed me over. "This is an area where your faith needs to be refined and I am going to throw you right into it!"
But then I realized, that is not the way this happened at all. Instead, God took my hand and led me to a beautiful overlook, and then together we ran down the slope. You see? He has been here holding my hand this entire time. And in His hand, I have made it from the beginning of this process to the end, with faith that has grown. Not only that, but that momentum of running down the slope will propel me forward from here!
God has us in His hand. And when the time comes for a challenge to our faith, in whatever form, we need to trust in Him.
The verse that came to mind for me as I thought of my "running down the hill with God" image is from Deuteronomy: "Never will I leave you; Never will I forsake you." (31:6) And because I didn't know the Scripture reference, I looked it up online. It wasn't Deuteronomy 31:6 that came back as the search result, though. Instead it was this:
Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)
Keep your lives free from the love of money and
be content with what you have,
because God has said,
"Never will I leave you; Never will I forsake you."'
And I think that's pretty cool!
Epilogue (for Anna): I found out at 10am today that our tax documents were ready for us to sign, but waited 2 hours for the final answer about the bottom line. 2 "anxiety knob turned to 10" hours, but I knew there were people in prayer for us. And the outcome was beyond what I even dared to imagine! We are going to be ok, without tears or anxiety, without loans or me going back to work "too soon". Now my prayer is that I would have known we would be ok even if it did not turn out the way it did. Because God still has my hand.