A couple of weeks ago at the end of a very tough week for various other reasons too, the Estate Agent told us that the owners of our dream house had accepted someone else’s higher offer.
We knew in theory it was ok - God knows best, He has always led us before, His ways are higher than ours, His plans have worked out so much better than what we thought was best many, many times.....but despite all that we felt bewildered and disappointed. We wavered between accepting peacefully that we had pushed that door thoroughly and that God had closed it, and feeling total confusion about what we thought God had said to us....Have we given up too easily?...Were we wrong all along?...Is God going to step in and miraculously win us the house?Maybe this will all still happen in 5 years, 10 years – maybe we’ve simply got the timing wrong. Maybe God doesn’t want us to do the work we feel we’d love to do with young widows and widowers.....maybe, maybe, maybe......
We also have the option of another house just down the road which would work for us as a family, is in a good location for us but doesn’t really lend itself to the widowed young work...We’re not very good with indecision. We desperately want to be settled in our own house, without the enormous rent bill we are facing each month (we see everything in terms of university fees for 5 children...) and to be honest the state of limbo we have been living in for almost 2 years as a new family is beginning to take its emotional toll on both of us. Sleep in particular has been evading us and we need plenty of energy to cope with 5 teenagers! So, in our disappointment and confusion we lost our enthusiasm for looking for houses. It all just felt too hard.
We ground to a halt.Then one morning, I woke up with enough enthusiasm to have another look at possible houses we had previously discarded for various reasons – and came to one we had viewed last September but decided wasn’t right. It had a smaller garden than our dream house had – that garden was the most beautiful ‘sanctuary’ garden and we could see it being a wonderful place for grief stricken people to retreat to (as well as a great place for the kids to play!). This house also had no garage (though had footings in place to build one), was in a tricky position for school runs and was on a very quiet country lane which we wouldn’t really want our kids walking up alone in the dark....and we felt it was overpriced. The price had been reduced several times since then, however; I would be driving the children around on the whole and could always meet them with the dog at the end of the lane; maybe we could compromise on the ideal garden and longer school runs? On the plus side, it had loads of space inside and had potential for having people to stay – perhaps we could convert the garage once it was built? That had been our plan with the dream house. Off we went to look at it with two daughters in tow. All was as we remembered. The one new development was that we discovered the owners had planned to have an annexe as part of the house, so drainage and plumbing were in place for easy conversion. Craig and I caught each other’s eye as they explained this....we went away deep in thought. The children were very enthusiastic and couldn’t see why we didn’t jump at it more quickly. But we were still wracked with indecision. Was this God’s plan? What about the dream house? What about the down sides? Why didn’t we feel more certain? How could we hear God's guidance? The decision just felt too huge.
My Bible study group (a group of very lovely and very wise ladies!) has been following a study about prayers in the Bible. I have found it really helpful to think about different ways of praying. I spent my Monday morning dog walk laying everything before God. I asked yet again for our dream house and told God just how we felt we could use it for what we felt He’d put on our hearts. I listed promises from the Bible, thanking God for answered prayer, telling Him all about our indecision and how we just did not know what He wanted us to do. I told Him that we felt like we were out on the water and didn’t even know which way the land was any more. As I prayed, I realised that what we really wanted wasn’t actually the dream house or any particular house – it was just to know that we were on God’s paths and not straying from His will – so that’s what I asked for. When I told Craig about it later, he said, “And was this a two way conversation? What did God say?” Good question!So, the next day I went back with our lovely dog Sam for the other half of the conversation. I had woken with the words of the Amy Grant song based on Ps 119 in my head – ‘Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path’. I apologised for not listening and asked God to bring something from the bible to my mind that would help us in our confusion; something to settle my mind that God hadn’t left us alone, that He would lead us to the right place and that we were still on His paths. And here’s what I felt He said:
As I walked round the corner into the woods I came to a tree in the middle of my path. I see it every day but had never noticed how the path neatly splits in two to go round it then meets again and continues on. Both paths lead to the same end. Neither is better than the other. Perhaps God could lead us on His paths in more than one way and we could still end up where He wanted us. Perhaps there isn’t always only one ‘right way’ to go...
Ahead of me, the path twisted and turned. I noticed that you couldn’t see what was round the bend until you walked almost to the end of what the eye could see – then the next section of path became clear. We need to keep walking even when we can’t see what is round the corner. We don’t get to see the end of the path ahead of time, but it doesn’t mean we should stop moving.
Running alongside the path is a lovely clear stream (Sam likes paddling in it!). As I looked at it, into my head came the words ‘You lead me beside still waters’. So I decided to read Psalm 23 as I walked. I looked it up on my phone – though I know it really well I’ve got a mixture of versions in my head and I wanted to read it clearly. The rest of what I felt God say to me are in the words of the texts I sent Craig later in the day:-
v3 – ‘He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.
Felt like it was speaking directly to us – just what I asked for yesterday!
“v4 – ‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley...’Our valley is dark! But it promises that even when we can’t see them, He’s guiding with His rod and staff.
“v5 – ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies’I think our biggest enemies are grief and death – but God has good things for us even in their perpetual presence. Ps 27v 13+14 again!
“v6 – ‘...and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever’That’s the house we really want to be in J. And wherever our house is, He’s there and it’s His.
The following day, the verses in Living Light which I read every day were all full of the same promises. Ps 119 v 105 was there again, and so was Ps 23 v 4. And two more that I found utterly reassuring:‘If you leave God’s paths and go astray, you will hear a Voice behind you say’ “No, this is the way; walk here.”’ Is 30v21
‘Since the Lord is directing our steps, why try to understand everything that happens along the way?’ Prov 20 v24God hadn’t left us floundering – just because we felt in the dark, it didn’t mean that He had left us. He wasn’t going to let us make a big mistake – He was guiding us whether we felt it or not! We needed to keep walking, keep taking the next step, and He would take care of the rest.
So, here we are, several days later. After prayer, consideration and listening to wise counsel from dear friends, we are waiting to hear whether our offer on this new house has been finally accepted. It feels daunting and we are almost too cautious to allow ourselves to get excited. But we know that whatever happens, God IS guiding us, as He has been throughout these last years.
Let's see what happens this week !