For some reason, all the trials and tribulations we’ve been through these past two years are things we’ve been afraid to share. We’ve felt embarrassed, ashamed, and even inadequate. But the truth is, we have no reason to feel that way.
I’ve started and stopped this post many times. I’ve felt the need to be honest, but then I’ve felt the need to keep quiet. I’ve worried that by saying something it would make people think less of us or see us in a different light. And then I realized that it’s not us that created this situation. It’s us that fought through it to do the right thing. And it’s us that have been working tirelessly to make sure we get through this. We haven’t sat idly by and watched as our world sank. We have straddled ourselves and our situation to buoys and life jackets and done everything we can to stay afloat. And that is nothing to be ashamed of.
It seems there are decades worth of stories wrapped up into our house, and yet we’ve only owned it 4 1/2 years. When we bought our home in April of 2011, we were looking for several things: land, more square footage, and a great school district. We weren’t afraid of a fixer upper because that meant we could make it whatever we wanted. And a fixer upper did we find!The house was excessively outdated in every form inside and out. There wasn’t a single room that didn’t have ten layers of wall paper to scrape off and flooring that needed replaced, and the bathrooms! Oh the bathrooms! One boasted a baby blue tub with matching toilet and sink, blue plastic tiles on the walls, and disgusting carpet to boot. The other was even worse. The kitchen needed gutted, and the metal cabinets – that would’ve been totally awesome – had been painted over numerous times (past the point of me ever wanting to attempt to scrape them), and the shelves were all rusted. Talk about a super place to NEVER want to put your dishes up!
Even with all the negatives, it was our diamond in the rough, and we were excited to spend the next ten years slowly refinishing it all. Unfortunately, our “diamond” turned out to be a cubic zirconia. A few short months after we moved in, we started our first demo project, discovered the house was full of mold and had to move out.
We spent the next 2 1/2 years fully gutting and remodeling our home. We even had to replace the foundation, and that meant lifting our house, moving it to the backyard on beams, pouring the new basement, and setting the house back down on its new foundation. New electric, plumbing, insulation, you name it. Everything was replaced. We even had to replace a number of the studs and all of the siding. We essentially built a brand new house. At the end of the day, it would’ve just been cheaper had we gone that route.
When we bought our house, I was so excited to be putting down roots. I had grown up in the same home for 19 years, and I was more than motivated to offer the same to our children. I looked forward to being able to unpack and get settled into our new life. When we were packing things back up just four short months later to move out, it was heartbreaking to say the least. But, I held onto the fact that I would be able to get settled once we finished our house. My grandma graciously offered the four of us to stay with her, so we loaded up our basic necessities and headed to her house. We stayed there four more months, but it was becoming difficult to work on our house because of the drive between our place and hers. One of our neighbors had a rental of theirs open up just three houses down the street from ours, so we jumped on the opportunity. Paying a mortgage and rent was not the easiest of situations, but it was a lot easier to make progress on the house when we were within walking distance from it.
The rental house was much smaller than our own home, so we still had majority of our things in storage. But we were able to have a space of our own and rooms for the kids to have a sense of “normalcy” during this time of upheaval in our lives. Of course, being a rental, nothing decorative came out. No pictures, no wall hangings, just the basic necessities and a few extras to make us feel like life was still going on. It was a great opportunity in many ways during that time of construction. It not only taught us what we can live without, but it also taught us appreciation for what we do have and that anything extra is just fluff.
We got our Certificate of Occupancy in August of 2013, and I can’t tell you how good that felt! Let’s just say I was overjoyed with tears! We still had a long way to go and didn’t even have flooring in, but we could be back in our own home. We worked tirelessly through the birth of our third child, through the holidays, and into January 2014 when we finally finished everything. It felt amazing! Our home was complete, and we could finally start unpacking.
The time during the remodel was so up in the air. We aren’t contractors, and this was our first remodel. Projects we thought would take a couple of weeks turned into a few months, and we were constantly being let down when we thought we’d be further along than we were. It was stressful, not to mention it constantly wreaked total havoc on our emotions. That longing for feeling settled only grew with every passing day that we were unable to obtain it.
Just one month after we finalized the last details on the house, we received a huge blow. The company Brandon worked for was closing down their office in our town and closing down his entire division company-wide. Talk about a hit we didn’t see coming! Around here, aircraft is where the layoffs are, and aircraft is where my husband has stayed away from to avoid that very thing. We would’ve never imagined being put in that position by a well known, world-wide corporation. It was at that point we realized we might not get to stay in our forever home after all. Once again, unpacking ceased. Hello unsettled emotions! How I’d missed you! Wait, no I didn’t.
He spent the next four months (there’s got to be something with us and the number 4! I’m just now realizing that!) tirelessly looking for work. In the meantime, his severance package was running out, and we were running out of options. We called the bank to let them know the situation and see if there was anything we could do before it got to the point where we couldn’t make a payment on time. They had a program we could enter that allowed us to make smaller payments for a set amount of time, and then they’d re-evaluate our situation once we completed the program. We started it, and eight days later, Brandon got a job.
As it turned out, the program created numerous problems for us. It basically put us in a “pre-foreclosure” status credit-wise, and won’t reverse that until almost two years after the program was completed. What that means is that according to the bank, we’ve made our payments and are current on our mortgage, but with any lenders running a credit check (for instance, if we decided to move and needed to get pre-approved for a home loan) it would show we are currently in pre-foreclosure on our home.
That came into play six months later when we were re-evaluated. Although we have no other debt aside from our mortgage, Brandon’s new job cost him almost $20K a year cut in pay. Even with that loss shown and it evident we could no longer afford our mortgage at the original rate, the bank deemed us able and refinanced our loan along with tacking on the last six months of payment difference from the lower mortgage payments during the program. At the end of the day, our payment didn’t just go back to what it was before the program. It increased. By several hundred dollars a month!
In an instant, any sense of comfort was taken away from us. It was now more evident than ever that we simply had no choice but to move. We rushed to de-clutter, stage our home, and get a realtor on board. On January 9th, 2015 our house hit the market.
We were hopeful it would sell quickly, and by everything we had been told with the numerous people we met, it should have. It had so much going for it: fully remodeled, land, great school district, and still close enough to town and conveniences. We watched as review after review came in from the showings and anxiously read the remarks. In the eight months our house was on the market, we only had one person make a negative comment. They didn’t like the layout. That was it! All the others came back with positive reviews, the realtor followed up, but somehow, it’s like our house just disappeared off their maps. Time and time again we questioned if we had made the right move.
During that time, there were three different houses we looked at and got serious about. One of them we even made it so far as to jump through ridiculously high hoops to get pre-approved (remember that whole credit issue from the program? At one point, we were even told we’d have to rent for a year before this program would wipe off our credit so we could buy – and from the very bank that put us in the program! And I really didn’t want to have to go through another temporary house situation.). Each of those three houses – all of which had been on the market for a very long time with little to no action – suddenly had offers on the table when we became serious about them. Can anyone say God?! It was totally Him! At one point, I even remember finding out the news about one of the houses while I was standing in my kitchen, and I looked up at the ceiling and said, “Okay, God. I get the picture! That one wasn’t it!”
By the time July rolled around, we were all spent. The stress and frustration of unknowing was getting to all of us. I was so afraid to bring up my thoughts to Brandon that maybe God was telling us we weren’t supposed to leave. I didn’t want to sway his decision because of how I felt, so I kept it to myself and spent weeks praying fervently for God to show me what He wanted us to do. In August, I finally felt strong enough to talk to Brandon about it. I was truly feeling by that point that God was telling us to stay. As it turned out, Brandon had been feeling the same way! He was just afraid to bring it up to me! We made the decision right then to pull the house off the market. After all, God had gotten us through eight months of payments we never thought we’d be able to make – let alone be able to put food on the table and keep the lights on, too – and He would get us through the rest.
Once the decision was made, we instantly knew it was right and exactly what God wanted for us. The weight of the past months was immediately lifted, and suddenly, I got that feeling of settlement back. The months were going to be long and hard and full of stress – and they still are – until next April when we can refinance and try to get our monthly payments to a more bearable number. But they are so worth it to be in our home and knowing this is the path God wants us on for this moment in time.
Here we are in the middle of November, and I’m finally starting to unpack everything that we’ve been packing, unpacking and re-packing for the last 4 1/2 years. In all this time, not a single picture has been hung, not a decoration put on the wall.
A big goal of mine was to get my home office set up so that I could have focused work time instead of dragging my laptop from room to room and to have a place to be organized business-wise. We were finally able to start tackling that this past weekend. I got my desktop set up, I excitedly unpacked office supplies (it’s amazing how giddy some pens and white out can make a girl!), and the settling in of my office has begun.
One of the things I wanted to do was to hang a peg board to host a “command center” above my desk. Fortunately for me, Brandon had a spare board in the garage I could use. I immediately set to painting it, and by the evening, it was dry and ready to be hung. Being the amazingly gracious husband that he is, Brandon hung it for me since my impatience couldn’t wait another day to see it on the wall in all its glory.
It may not seem like much, but this peg board represents so many things for me. It is the very first thing we’ve hung on the walls in the house in the almost 5 years since we bought it. This. This means we’re here to stay. This means I feel so confident in that, that I’m excited to screw things into the studs and put holes in the walls to hang things I want. This is comfort and closure and happiness all wrapped up in one 4′ x 4′ peg board. And there on that wall hangs the confidence that God’s got this. He’s got us, He’s had us the entire time, and He will continue to carry us through all the remodels and bad bank programs that life throws at us. All we have to do is trust in Him and let Him guide the way. And in the meantime, I’ll hang up decorations like there’s no tomorrow cause Honey, We’re Here To Stay!