Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Aren't you buying a house or something??

Yes, we are buying a house. I can see why there might be some confusion because this process started in JANUARY. And no, we have not officially bought anything yet. The reason I began the "God Choices" series was to document some Spirit-led decisions in my life to lead up to the story of our house purchase. God has been all up in this business! But it hasn't gone the way I expected at all (which I guess was my own point the whole time with these decisions...funny that I didn't see that coming!).

My plan is to chronicle the house journey, leading (God willing!!) to the actual purchase of our house (which is currently scheduled for Sept. 7th. Yes, that means this will have to be done quickly!). I hope that our stories will do several things--entertain you, inform you of what to expect from this process, and encourage you in the belief that God is working all things together for your good!

On January 18th I posted that we were officially looking for a house, and I talked about some of our fears and concerns. I guess I always thought that it would be fun. And maybe it is for some people, but it really hasn't been for us. We didn't know what to expect for our price range and we didn't have a vision for potential. We also weren't super aligned with what we wanted. So, we had a lot to work through just in the beginning stages of searching.

TIP: Discuss with your partner (if buying with someone else) what you NEED. Yes, talk about what you want, but make sure you spend a lot of time discussing the non-negotiables for you. There are plenty of things we would love to have, but not all of it is a deal-breaker. 

TIP: Look online at what the options are for your area and in your price range. Get a good idea of what your options are before looking in person. I think it just helps you be more realistic when your'e actually looking. BUT--don't base everything off of pictures online. They can be VERY deceiving! And sometimes they may not do the place justice. So consider that, too. 

We signed with a Realtor who was very nice and helpful, but he was only available to work 8-5 Monday through Friday. Well, that's when we work, too! So it was very challenging to try to look at houses during lunch breaks.

TIP: Find an agent who is willing to work with you (show houses, draft contracts, etc...) during hours that are convenient to you. The more flexible he/she is, the better. 

We found some houses that we were interested in, but none of them worked out. The first house had a roof that was 30 years old. It appeared to be in good condition, but we knew that it would likely need to be replaced in the next few years. For that reason, we were only willing to pay a certain amount for it, even though we really liked the house. The sellers wouldn't budge, so we walked. It was a hard decision, and we still drove by that house frequently, wondering if we made the right choice. It has since sold, and I feel good about the decision. Roofs are one of the most expensive things to get repairs or replaced.

TIP: Consider the roof!! 

The next couple houses were foreclosures and they were right next door to each other. We loved the neighborhood, though the area around the neighborhood wasn't terrific, and it was just a little further than we were hoping from work and church. The houses were listed well below their actual value, but were both still out of our price range. We decided to make offers on both of them, much lower than asking price. The choice between the two of them was tough because one was in better condition and prettier, but it was smaller and had a few features that I didn't love, and it was more expensive. The other house was bigger, had some cool features (the bathroom was much better!!), it was cheaper, but it was in worse condition. We made offers on both. It was actually accepted on the cheaper but bigger house! We moved forward with the inspection.

TIP: Definitely do an inspection, even if it isn't required by your bank. And compare prices for things that need to be fixed to see how much you're really talking about.

After doing the inspection, we realized just how much work that house needed. The people who lived there really trashed the place. There had been a fire in the kitchen, and several parts of the cabinets and counters needed to be replaced. There was a hole in the wall of the living room. There were some missing doors. There were terrible scratches on doors and walls (from jumping dogs, it seemed), and the carpets all needed to be replaced. The whole place stunk of animals. We could have afforded the house itself, but we did not have enough money to put into all those things that needed to be fixed before we could even move in. We tried to renegotiate for a repair allowance, but we were denied. We walked. I recently found out that it sold for cheaper than we had offered, but I still think we made the right choice. We wouldn't have had that money for repairs no matter how cheap they sold the house to us.

After all that, we decided to take a break. That was in March. We stopped looking and we voided our contract with our realtor. We decided to book a cruise for our anniversary in May since saving every penny for a house wasn't that necessary anymore. We went about life, with little to no thoughts of house shopping. We decided we would leave it up to God. If He wanted us to buy a house, we would know it. Until then, we were just waiting.

Then the week after our cruise in May, we heard from God! More on that to come!

{Part 2}

Saturday, August 18, 2012

My Love Story With Scott Part 2

{Part 1}

I actually heard a lot about Scott before we ever met. As I mentioned in my London story, I spent five weeks in London with his sister Erin. Erin and I were both English majors with minors in writing, so we had several classes together. Each semester we got to know each other a little better, but it wasn’t until London that we became close friends. Nearly every day I talked Erin’s ear off about my romantic struggles. I had been with my boyfriend since I was 17 (though we were currently broken up), had been crushing on him since I was 11, and I tried desperately to ignore how crappy our overall relationship actually was. She tried to give me advice, and was a very good listener and a supportive friend the whole time.

One night, after a few pints at a pub nearby, Erin suggested that I just date her brother. I had heard her talk about her brother many times, but had never considered that we might date. To me he was just a name, Erin’s younger brother who I sometimes heard stories about. I laughed at her suggestion, but she insisted. She explained that we are so alike and have the exact same sense of humor. She said if we ever met we would flirt like crazy! I still didn’t take her suggestion seriously, but for the fun of it, I made her tell me more about him and show me lots of pictures of him on Facebook. It was an exciting idea, but I was afraid to give it much thought.

I had a bad habit of breaking guys’ hearts. Or maybe that’s giving me too much credit. Maybe I just had a habit of really pissing guys off. But there were a few other guys from the time I was 17 until I was 21 who I flirted with, spent time with, and some I actually even dated. And just when things would start to seem like they might work out, I would high tail it back to the other relationship and ditch whoever I had previously been spending time with. Sometimes I would try to stay friends with the guys, and sometimes I actually did (Chris Ahearn!!), but there were always scars. Damaged friendships. Tears. Frustrations. Hurt feelings. And I hated myself for it.

So the last thing I wanted to do was even play with the idea of dating Erin’s brother. What would happen when I ultimately broke his heart (or pissed him off!)? It would surely ruin my friendship with Erin. I couldn’t risk it. So I playfully considered it for that one night and then swept it under a rug, thinking that would keep the idea from popping up again later.

After returning from London, I immediately got back together with the boyfriend, just as I mentioned in the last post. And we made our promises to one another. Only a day later, Scott added me on Facebook and sent me a message, introducing himself and saying that Erin thought we should hang out. I broke the news to him, in an admittedly flirtatious way, by saying that much to Erin’s dismay we would not be able to get married because I had gotten back together with my boyfriend. [shows what I knew!] He wrote back a half-joking message of regret. 

St. Patty's Day 2008

We finally met one day when I was hanging out with Erin. She suggested I stay for dinner; we could eat at her fiance’s apartment. Turns out, her fiance lived with her brother. I admit I was curious about meeting him for the first time, after all the hype, and I later found out that Scott was absolutely frantic with anticipation as he prepared to finally meet me. Little did I know, my pictures and videos from London had already captured his interest. We had dinner at his apartment. He burnt the turkey burgers and asparagus, which I guess he was pretty embarrassed about. Honestly I was just impressed that he cooked at all. The night ended with him and Joe, Erin’s fiance, having a nerf gun battle in the livingroom. Not sure how that was supposed to woo me, but it somehow didn’t deter me either!

Time went on. I saw him on campus a couple times and said hey as we walked passed each other. That was all it was. Then one day I saw him pass by but didn’t say anything because he didn’t notice me. For some reason I decided to send him a message on Facebook telling him that I saw him. And so began days and days and DAYS of very long Facebook messages back and forth. What started as harmless flirting quickly evolved into full fledged love letters. It happened so fast I didn’t even realize how deep I had gotten until I was completely drowning in infatuation. 

Sept. 27, 2008 Our 1-year dating anniversary at a winery

Sept. 27, 2008 Our 1-year dating anniversary--camping! :)

After only a couple days of talking, I was on the phone with my best friend Hayley and I told her, “I think I like someone else.” The more I talked about it, I kept saying things like, “Well if I did break up with (boyfriend)...” And then I stopped myself and said, “Wait! Why am I saying that? Of course I’m not going to break up with him! Especially not for someone I just met!” And I kept telling myself that. How could I break up with him? I had never broken up with him for someone else. Besides, things were actually going relatively well for once. He was trying, genuinely trying, to be all I wanted him to be. He was even trying out churches with me, which was a big deal for him as a proclaimed atheist. Plus, I would only end up breaking Scott’s heart. I knew I would. I had done it to many guys. I couldn’t bear to do it again.

All I had ever wanted was my fairy tale story of falling in love with the boy across the street and living happily ever after. I wanted to have prom pictures hanging on the wall and have our guests ooh and aww over how cute we were being high school sweethearts. And we were comfortable. I didn’t have to worry about reading signs or acting a part. How could I ever start over from there? It was too much work, and I had too much to lose. On my own, with my own logic and plans, I would never, ever, have truly left him.

But God had different plans for me. My heart was changing and I could actually see my future morphing into a different picture. I could no longer look ahead and envision my future with my boyfriend. Suddenly, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to. It was more than forbidden fruit. I had an instant connection with Scott unlike anything I had ever felt. He was charming and made me laugh which kept me coming back for more.. But more than that, I felt almost a magnetic pull towards him. I couldn’t stay away. I couldn’t stop. We tried to stop the flirting. I tried to tell him I needed to take a breather and figure out what I really wanted. But neither of us could take it. We had to be together. We had to talk to each other. It almost hurt not to. And I wanted to see him, to be near him. 

Engagement Picture Dec. 2008

Dec. 2008

Honeymoon in Aruba
May 2009

It was a very difficult decision to break up with my boyfriend. Yes, I had broken up with him before, but never for someone else. Never for something so final and so hurtful. I prayed like crazy. I was hoping God would take away my feelings for Scott, just to keep it simple and to keep anyone from being hurt. But I was in too deep. Someone would be hurt no matter what I did. I was miserable and sick trying to figure out what to do, whose heart to break.

Ending that relationship was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. And I couldn’t even go enjoy being with Scott right away. I had to mourn. I mourned a lost relationship and a dream dissolved. I mourned the loss of a childhood friendship, and I mourned for the one whose heart I ended up breaking. I received mixed responses to my decision. Many were shocked, many were disappointed, and some were very glad and supportive. I couldn’t make them understand how I was a different person than I was only months earlier. But I was. I wanted different things from life, and I had a newfound confidence to defy boundaries and the confines of my own dreams. Sure there was romance and infatuation that moved this relationship along, but I believe with all my heart that God was behind it all. He orchestrated all these events and gave me the strength to do what I knew I should and what I really wanted. I was afraid at first that I would end up returning to the old boyfriend and breaking Scott’s heart, but I can honestly say that I have had zero desire to do anything but spend my entire life with Scott since the moment I let myself consider it. He is my favorite blessing, and has led me to believe that God’s plans are ALWAYS better than your own. Trust me. :)

And to top it all off, and to show how completely my heart was fear of marriage was no longer an issue. I had no doubts about marrying Scott. I did not need to wait until I had my own job and money and house. I trust him with my whole life. And we don't fight. Sure we disagree from time to time, but we don't fight. Our relationship looks nothing like any of the ones I had previously looked to for the definition of marriage. And I married him with complete certainty and overwhelming joy. 3 years and counting...the joy keeps on coming! :)

{God Choices: GSU} {God Choices: SOAR Leader} {God Choices: London}

Thursday, August 9, 2012

My Love Story with Scott (Part 1)

{God Choices: GSU} {God Choices: SOAR Leader} {God Choices: London}

Let me start this by saying that this series is going to end differently than I expected, but it will just go to show that God’s plan ultimately wins, no matter how tightly you try to cling to your own desires and interpretations of the situation.

Now, this story is one that I have been meaning to write, but have been afraid that I cannot do it justice. I’ve also felt hesitant because there is no way I could express the magnitude of the story without telling a fair amount of back story. Which means sharing personal information about family and past relationships. I hope you can take it for what it is--the story before the real story. I’ve alluded to this in my love story with Jesus series and in my previous post about London. This is the story of me and Scott. He is definitely my very favorite blessing and Spirit-led decision! Since it is so important, I will have to tell it in parts.

Growing up, I was constantly battling the convention of marriage. My parents divorced when I was 6 and my mom’s second marriage was extremely unhealthy. I would lay awake at night, listening to the thundering shouts and curses and the occasional boom and crash of something being thrown or smashed, and would swear to myself that I would never get married. I cannot count the times I packed my things with tear filled eyes, thinking that we were finally leaving, only to later be told to unpack and act like none of it ever happened. My mom would tell me that she couldn’t leave because we had no money and nowhere to go. Or they would make up and we would tip-toe around the house for a few days, or maybe weeks, trying not to upset the delicate facade of happiness veiling our lives.

I don’t want to act as if my childhood was completely miserable. There were happy times. Plenty of them. And I lived in a neighborhood with all my best friends so even when times were hard at home, I could still find happiness right outside the front door. Even so, I never, ever wanted to be in the position my parents were in. I never wanted to be stuck in an unhappy or dangerous marriage because of money. I never again wanted to live with someone who could call someone hateful names and wish awful things upon them at the drop of a hat. And no one gets married thinking that will be what life is like, right? So, how could I be sure that my future husband wouldn’t turn out just the same? If I ever did get married, I wanted to be sure that I had full independence first. I wanted my own job, my own money, and a house in my name. That way I could easily kick him out or up and leave if I needed to.

But it was a battle. It was a battle because deep down I wanted to be in love and be loved. I wanted the same moments others get to enjoy. I wanted romance and a heart-stopping proposal. I wanted the perfect wedding day, with all my friends and family there celebrating. I wanted children, and I wanted them to have happy parents. So my convictions yo-yo’d, and though the thought of marriage terrified me, I knew that one day I would want it.

And there was a boy. (Isn’t there always?) He lived across the street, and we had known each other since we were 7. I first acknowledged my crush on him when I was 11. But we were just friends.

Finally, and I mean finally, we started dating when I was 17. Our first summer together was really wonderful. He was sweet and loving and I threw my whole self, body, heart, and soul, into the relationship I had been waiting on for years. But that summer didn’t last.

We would have fights similar, but not as bad, as the ones my parents had. We had lots of issues, trust being the biggest one. We would break up and get back together just about every year.

I really don’t want to stretch this out much longer because I don’t want to make it sound like this guy was a total creep with no redeeming qualities, but I also don’t want to go on about any redeeming qualities because it’s just inappropriate. I just want you to get a picture of what my life was like.

We went at it like this for 4.5 years. Sometimes I was happy, many times I was not. But I thought that was what love and life was. It was still miles better than the things I witnessed growing up. I was actually fooled into thinking our relationship was strong and healthy! But there was more heartache than I can even explain. Every time we broke up I was completely devastated. The first time I actually ended up in a hospital bed because I made myself so physically ill that I could not eat. I weighed 115 pounds (which is crazy small for me...I’m 140 now) and I looked hollow. 


The summer that I went to London was the summer that we got back together for the last time. We swore to each other that we were going to take it seriously from then on. No more breaking up. And I meant it when I said it, though it terrified me. I wanted a sense of security, but I never really felt it. I guess I didn’t fully believe that forever meant forever. And if I thought that it might mean forever, I started to panic. One time my dad took me to a jewelry store and asked me what engagement rings I liked. It turns out he was just distracting me while my sister bought me a necklace on the other side of the store, but I had a full blown panic attack thinking that my boyfriend was going to propose on Christmas. Clearly I was broken.

And then, after coming home from London and getting back with the boyfriend for what was intended to be the long haul, I met Scott.

Trust me, the story is about to get way better! :)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

God Choices: London

{God Choices: GSU} {God Choices: SOAR Leader}

Time for my next story on what I believe to be a Spirit-led decision!

I don’t really consider myself a risk-taker. And as I mentioned in my SOAR post, I was extremely shy growing up. Before the summer of 2007, the farthest I had ever traveled was to Providence, Rhode Island for a distant relative’s graduation. I traveled with my aunt and uncle, slept through both flights, and did not do any sight-seeing beyond driving to and from the graduation. In high school I went to Washington, D.C. with my best friend Hayley and to New Orleans with my other best friend Kaitlin, but both trips were with their families. I had never traveled any distance on my own, and I had no real desire to. I had always heard people talk about Europe as such an exciting place, but it never once occurred to me that I may actually go there one day. I assumed traveling abroad was only for the fabulously wealthy. And when would I ever have such an opportunity anyway?

Then one day, I was in my Creative Nonfiction class, and the professor told us we were going to the lab for class to watch a presentation about an opportunity to study abroad in London. I inwardly groaned, thinking I would be sitting through a boring class about old buildings and history classes, all things that I wouldn’t be able to afford even if I wanted to.

But when the professor started her powerpoint and told stories of her many trips to London and all the opportunities we would have available to us, I suddenly was more intrigued than I ever anticipated. I learned that I could take all writing classes and I was overwhelmed with the thought of sitting at a coffee house in London or out by the River Thames and writing something...anything! For some crazy reason, I was actually contemplating it! But how would I afford it? What will my family say? Am I even brave enough to do it?

Despite the questions and concerns, I was bouncing with excitement after that class. I just knew that going to London would be wonderful. It’s not like I had a lifelong dream of going there. I didn’t even really know that much about it! I mean, I knew where it was, and a few of the famous landmarks (mainly Big Ben), but it wasn’t as if I had a mile long list of things I had always wanted to do. My interest and excitement was pretty random. I started telling friends and family and they were all very surprised/impressed that I would want to travel that far away on my own. Okay, not on my own. I would be with a whole group of students. But I would be without family or close friends.

Things just started falling into place. I applied for a scholarship and was awarded $500. My parents each pitched in to give me some money for the trip, my dad bought me a new camera to take lots of pictures, and for Christmas my grandma and grandpa gave me an outlet adapter and a promise to fund the rest of the trip! I found out that a girl I knew from some of my English and writing classes was also going on the trip, so I would actually know someone! We were really excited to be going together, and started bonding immediately as we talked about our upcoming trip.

Maybe my writing skills aren’t as good as they should be because I cannot even describe what London means to me. That trip changed my life. It changed me. Even though most of the experience was foreign to me, both literally and figuratively, I somehow felt at home while I was there. I have never lived in a major city. I had never frequented public transportation or walked crowded streets to get to places. I had never even been on a trip where I planned my own activities and budgeted my own money. And there I was, across the ocean from my family, and making all those decisions on my own. And I loved every single second. I still dream about London, and sometimes I wake myself up crying because I long to be there again. I dream about Big Ben. I dream about walking along the river and hearing street performers in the background, smelling the sweet scent of candied almonds baking in street carts. I dream about walking down a street of wet pavement, weaving through the rich British accents, heading towards a pizza place, Cafe Nero, Pret, or Tesco. I dream about boarding the tube and minding the gap. I dream of Trafalgar Square and Picadilly Circus. Of all the parks--Regents and Hyde especially. And I laugh at all the fond memories like seeing a man on Dover Beach toss his clothes into the ocean and walk away, having a sketchy guy take pictures of us under a huge tree in Hyde Park, and going to the red carpet premiere of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, trying to catch a glimpse of someone famous. London has left a stamp on my soul.

Trafalgar Square

London Eye

You gotta have the double-decker bus with inappropriate ad!

My favorite. Big Ben <3

At Picadilly Circus

Tube Station (note: you are NOT allowed to take pictures in there! I found out!)

St. Paul's Cathedral

At Dover Beach

At Regents Park

At Hyde Park

In Dover Castle

I feel frantic when I try to think back on it and it suddenly doesn’t feel real anymore, it seems a little hazy, and my senses start forgetting, one by one. I have to go back and watch videos, look at pictures, and read all my journal entries...just trying to soak it all up again before it fades away completely. I hope there is never a time that London is only a vague memory of something I once did. I hope it is always such a part of me.

Regardless of if the memories fade, however, London gave me a passion for travel, culture, and a new sense of independence. I came home from London thinking that I could do anything. All the limits I felt before seemed easy to step right over and keep on walking. Because of this, my entire course of life shifted.

That friend who went to London with me? Her name is Erin. She’s my sister in law now. I had a boyfriend who I had been in an on-again-off-again relationship with for 4.5 years. It was an unhealthy and mostly unfulfilling relationship, but I thought it was all there was to real love. I thought I could do no better. That no better even existed. And then I met Erin’s brother Scott after coming home from London. As I got to know him better, I began to trust in myself to leave behind that other relationship that I wore like comfortable, ratty old jeans. London not only provided the opportunity to meet Scott, but also the confidence to pursue him. For that reason, in a way, as long as I have Scott, I’ll always have London.

You may call that all a coincidence or a lucky twist of fate. I call it God preparing the way for my entire future.
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