**Warning: this is a long one. :) This post deals with kind of a personal issue (finances) but I believe in sharing with each other for the purpose of encouragement and learning, even if that means admitting to failures or foolishness at times. :) **
Brett and I have dreamed of owning our own home long before we even started dating. We would drive for HOURS as friends, looking at homes in various neighborhoods throughout Portland and dreaming of our futures. We had very similar tastes and I remember now some silly conversations that Brett and I would have about loving a particular neighborhood and thinking, maybe someday we'll be neighbors. (Even though I know that secretly we both wanted to occupy the same home someday...) It brings a smile to my face to think of how innocent and unaware we were of our future together. God is so good. So so good.
I got my real estate license when I was 23, a relatively young age to start a profession that relies so heavily on referrals and a sphere of influence. I certainly wasn't going to find any clients in my friends for awhile; most of them were still in college or trying to get established in a career. Despite that, I had a very successful start and found myself making a good income with the Lord's assistance. I have some miraculous stories of deals I have done. I have sold homes to people that I met at open houses just by luck. I have sold a house to a client that I found in CA who purchased her home sight unseen. A lot of hard work and long hours has gone into my career but it can be a blessing financially, that is for sure. Brett and I decided during the real estate boom of 2005 that it was time for us to purchase a home, at the height of the boom really. Prices were just going up and up and we thought that if we didn't buy now, we may not be able to afford a home for a really really long time. A lot of it was motivated out of pride to be honest; I felt silly as a Realtor not owning my own home. Plus, it was such a great investment....home prices were going up monthly and from the time we started the building process (July 2005) to the time it was complete and we moved in (January 2006), the home had gone up in value by thousands of dollars.
Qualifying for our home was not easy. I made more money then Brett but had bad credit. My income didn't "count" because I hadn't been self employed yet for two years yet. Brett had okay credit but technically not enough income. So we did a stated income loan and paid for it, 6.5% on our first and 10.5% on the second, ouch. Brett's credit needed some help before we could qualify for the home though. When we first applied for our loan it became clear that his score was going to need to go up before we could close on the loan in June. We disputed things, wrote letters, etc. We were able to get Brett's score up by nearly 100 points. There were still some challenges with qualifying along the way though, and I became kind of desperate. I begged and pleaded with the Lord to help us get into this house. Not because we needed to move, not because of anything vital, but simply because my pride didn't want to have to tell our friends and family that we weren't able to close on our house. It was 100% pride. I remember listening to worship music and almost hearing the Lord say, "Are you SURE you want this house? If you want it, I'll give it to you but are you SURE?" and of course, I said yes yes yes!!! I didn't really stop to think that maybe the Lord intended for us to make a better choice in the future; for me it was all about the now. I didn't ask the Lord to guide and direct us; it was more like me telling the Lord what the best option for me was going to be.
On January 10th, 2006 Brett and I became homeowners. We had built our home and selected all the upgrades that we thought would make for a beautiful home and it turned out just lovely. We were very naive with our first home purchase and as many older people can relate, sometimes you don't know exactly what you want until you have a lived a little longer. I didn't' realize how important a yard would be once we had a family so our backyard is TINY and unfortunately not very private. But it's something and for that, I am grateful.
Okay, fast forward a couple of years. The real estate market plummets, along with a large portion of my income. Buyers are having trouble qualifying for a home, sellers are having trouble selling their homes and I take a pregnancy test that turns positive. All of these are factors for financial trouble. :) Brett and I got behind on our property taxes because we had elected to pay them all in one big lump sum once a year, an option that no longer exists probably because of people like us. Come November for two years, we simply did not have the money to pay our property taxes. Obviously our mortgage company started to get cranky when THEY had to pay our taxes and they decided that we either were going to have to come up with a large sum of money to pay them back or they were going to take our house. I panicked. We had just had Emersyn when all this started happening. Because of the delinquent property taxes, they had jacked our payment up beyond our means to pay and we were growing more and more behind. We spoke with the mortgage company and explained our situation. They offered to help roll the taxes into our payment as a way to get caught up. Their solution was to increase our mortgage payment by over $500/month for quite awhile. Having just had a baby, there was no way this was feasible.
I remember going into Emersyn's nursery and just crying at the thought of having to leave our home. I panicked when I thought of how our friends and family would judge us. Yes, we had made some really poor choices financially and the Lord showed us incredible lessons, some that I will share at another time. I wouldn't go back and change a thing about the times that could be considered *wasted*. I am a better person for all we have been through and I think that if we skipped all the ugly things in our lives, we would miss out on becoming who God intends us to be. I felt the Lord telling me that I needed to trust Him with our home and hold loosely to it. If it was something that we needed to be released from, I needed to trust Him and not let my pride get in the way AGAIN.
For the last 20 months we have worked with our mortgage company on a loan modification. Thanks to Obama (never thought I would say that), mortgage companies are able to modify existing loans to work with homeowners. With all the homes that are in foreclosure and being short saled, I was discouraged if this was EVER going to work out. There were SO many times that we thought about just walking away from the house. We could find a rental home in a WAY cooler area and even a cooler house. I dream of living in a single level someday. :) But I felt morally obligated to stick with our house. We had signed a contract to purchase it and I felt like the Lord was providing a way for us with the mod potential.
Last week we got the final paperwork for the loan modification and it is better then I would have ever imagined. We were able to get our rate negotiated down and without going into too many details, we are now in a better position then if we were going to rent. I feel so blessed and I 100% know it is because we were obedient, have been tithing consistently, and have been trusting the Lord in the area of our finances. **Side note: we have had many friends that have been unable to get loan mods because not every mortgage company is the same. We each have our own story and I believe there are blessings in every situation if we look hard enough. I consider this to be a miracle for our family and even if we had have to move, that would have been a different post but the same blessing of provision, just in a different way. :) My husband was hesitant for me to share our situation in fear that it might seem like *bragging* but I believe in bragging about the Lord's blessings in our lives for the purpose of giving Him the glory. If anyone reading this has been unable to get a loan mod, I don't believe that is the Lord NOT blessing you, maybe He's just blessing you in a different way that will make more sense someday. Okay, that was a long side note..... :)
The Lord truly longs to be gracious to us and I am so grateful for His mercy. He had every right to take away our house from us; we haven't been the best stewards with it or with our finances over the years. But God is so much like a parent; He just wants us to learn but not always have to punish us. This has been a stressful time, full of a lot of uncertainty and I have yet another testimony to add to dozens others about the Lord's faithfulness.
I decided to write this out for Emersyn to read someday and also for any of my blogger friends that might relate or need encouragement in the area of finances or provision.
We are so excited to know that we are staying in our home. We have big plans of going through the entire house and re-organizing, de-cluttering and perhaps even some redecorating. I would like to paint; actually I would love to hire painters but that isn't going to happen so instead, we will paint. We are going to really clean out our guest room and get it organized. We have a lot of storage spaces that aren't well utilized and that is totally up Brett's ally. He can reorganize like nobody's business. It is exciting times for us. :)
Thanks for letting me share.