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A Place to Call Home

Updated: Jun 10

This is part of our Faith Journey Series. If you want the full context, click on this link to read the earlier posts:

Ralph writing

Courtney writing

We left off our last writing sharing our struggles with juggling work, learning, and building our online business. Three months after we enrolled in Flipped Lifestyle and four months after Tradeway, there was no end in sight for completing the construction project I was working on. I was growing weary of it.

As described in our last post, on the night of December 5, 2022, we were discussing having me leave my construction job to pursue the stuff we invested in when I shared with Courtney what I concluded: we would not be able to qualify for a mortgage without my w-2 job. We needed to buy a house first, but God had clearly shut the door on buying a house for the past six months.

On the morning of December 5, about twelve hours before I had any idea that Ralph would tell me that we needed to buy a house first, this is the prayer I had written in my journal: "I'm sorry for getting short-sighted with housing in Florida. You brought us here. You will carry this out until completion." The Holy Spirit was preparing me and I didn't even know it.

After Ralph said that we needed to buy a house first, we immediately jumped on the computer to look at houses. Would God open a door? There was only one way to find out. We were ready.

This time around we knew where we wanted to live. We believed we needed to remain in the town God put us in. We had many reasons for why that was:

Coming from our home in Akron, NY with 10 acres, surrounded by trees and across from a field, we still longed to be in the country. This area still had country roads. We see dirt bikes, golf carts, four wheelers, and go karts. It was country for still being in Central Florida.

Close by was a family that we met through a mutual friend at church. This friend connected Melissa and I at a women's event at our church. It was at this event that I learned that Melissa ran a homeschool group called, "Wild + Free." This group is where our boys and I have found really great friendships.

To have a family close by whose lives are centered around Jesus, parent similarly, homeschool, lead worship, love to travel, the outdoors, and physical fitness is not only a gift, but a work of God. After moving 1200 miles away from our incredible community, we didn’t want to pull ourselves or the boys away from these budding friendships.

Before we had made our big move down, we had found Discovery Church. We immediately connected with the pastor and felt at home there. Within a few months, I joined their worship and media team and Ralph their guest services team. This was the church we wanted to raise our boys in so we didn't want to live too far from it.

There is a group of moms right by our house that get together often. We have gone over for holiday parties and have even borrowed decorations from one of the wonderful moms, Lauren for a party. The boys also loved to play with two boys down the street from us. We met a man named Bill Merckel that walks his dog by our house that I figured out he knew the Lord in our first interaction. We enjoy talking with him about the housing market as he is a real estate investor. Early on, Bill had advised us to wait to buy a house. We're glad we heeded his wisdom.

Within four months we had found lasting friendships, were serving in a great church, and the drive to work for Ralph was manageable. It was really clear that God was being intentional with where he placed us in Central Florida. We had two obstacles though. When there was a house for sale, it would sell fast or it was out of our price range. If we wanted Ralph home, we needed to keep our expenses as low as possible.

That night when Ralph said that we had to find a house first before he could come home, there were only two houses that met our criteria. We emailed our agent, Ted Viator at 10:00 P.M. and asked if we could look at them the next day. The next morning we received word that we were good to view both houses that day. We were officially house hunting again.

In addition to the houses flying off the market, the interest rates had doubled since we last looked. They were now around 7%. Bill Merckel had told us that his first house purchase had a 13% interest rate so I wasn't' super discouraged by that.

We had to be even stricter with our budget. I called our mortgage broker, Troy Tiedemann to do some number crunching. Troy gave me a number that Courtney and I agreed we didn’t want to go past.

The first house was workable. The second house was better, but only 997 sq ft. We had already put in two other offers for houses the same size.

A smaller house went in line with our simplistic ideals. Less clutter and less to maintain. The more stuff you have, the more it controls you. We wanted to live simply. As much as we loved our previous home in NY, we felt like it took away from family time. We felt directed by God to reduce the workload with our next house purchase.

As much as we didn’t like living in the rental for almost a year, we could see why God hadn’t opened up the door on a house. Before, we had been looking for something like we had had in Akron, NY: another fixer upper with property and privacy. However, as we settled in Florida, we became at peace with the idea of smaller.

With all of the outdoor activities we were doing, we didn’t need or want a lot to maintain around the house. We believed we should simplify as much as possible so that we could be more present with our boys.

The second house we had looked at checked a lot of our boxes. However, the asking price was $35,000 over the number that we had set for ourselves. With the other seven houses we had put offers in, we had offered well over asking price due to buyer competition. This house had been sitting for over a month for unknown reasons. We decided to come in with a lower offer and see where it went.

On December 7, while waiting for a response from the seller, I wrote this prayer in my journal: "You already know the outcome, God. If it is to be for us, you will make it clear. I trust you." The next day I was praying for intercession with the seller and only wrote, "It seems to be a good fit."

On the morning of December 9, I prayed again for intercession on "the house that we haven't heard about yet. You will move mountains if it is to be the house for us."

At night we were praying together as well. We have learned that great peace comes through prayer. We were not worried. We carried on with our days like usual having the utmost faith in what God was doing on our behalf. After a house we had wanted didn't pan out, we would just say, "shut door" and move on.

We waited for three days before the seller responded to our offer with a counter offer. We countered with the maximum number that we had set for ourselves. To our surprise, they accepted. We didn’t get too excited yet knowing that we still had to go through the inspection process, but we were off to a great start. After the inspection, we did a little more negotiating and landed at the exact price that we talked with our broker about.

I didn't believe that this house was actually going to be ours until after the addendum was signed around the 18th. On December 20, I simply wrote in my journal to God about it: "Thank you...for swinging wide the door to this house we are buying." We were getting this move in ready house for $35,000 under asking price which was almost unheard of in this area.

Troy, our mortgage broker informed us that things were moving quickly and that it looked like we were going to close at the end of the month, which was only eleven days away instead of in the middle of January.

We had a trip planned to go to Buffalo for Christmas, but he told us that we could close on the house in Buffalo with a mobile notary. That is exactly what happened. After experiencing our first blizzard and visiting with friends and family, the mobile notary arrived at our friends house in New York to sign papers for the purchase of our first home in Florida. It had only been 25 days from the day we looked at it. What a whirlwind.

Only God could orchestrate for us to have a house that was in the area that we wanted, with a housing shortage, and for the price that we needed to be in.

I had written on our drive back to Florida from Buffalo this: We went from not even thinking about buying a house for months, to 'lets look at these two' late one night, to putting an offer in, and closing 25 days later on it. That is how God works. I am blown away.

We decided it would be easier to pay for another months rent to give us time to steadily move stuff in and clean. After already getting rid of quite a bit from our move out of New York, we still were going to have to further downsize. On January 30, 2023, we were officially out of the rental and in our new house. There was a lot of organizing to do.

At work, I had been temporarily moved to another project so I wasn't getting home until late. I had barely any time to do Tradeway stuff. I was mentally and physically exhausted. All of the chaos was still pointing to the fact that I needed to quit. I felt stuck. I didn't know when was a good time to quit, but God did.

Below are photos and short video clips from our trip to Buffalo for Christmas starting with our drive up. We knew the blizzard was coming so we were able to leave a day earlier and drove through the night. We chanted, "beat the blizzard!" as we rushed in and out of rest stops and gas stations. We drove in white out conditions and arrived at 10:30am. We are so grateful for how the Lord pushed us to keep moving forward.

The one minute video below is from our drive to our friends house on Christmas. We got stuck once from moving too far over to avoid some linemen from Georgia that came up to help. I have a photo of them pushing us out above. Ha!

My heart breaks for the lives that were lost in the blizzard. Buffalonians are tough. They know how to drive through snow. When it was all said and done, this blizzard was deemed worse than the famous one from 1977. It took many by surprise.

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