It is finally time for an official move report. I posted on facebook a couple of weeks ago about our Wild Goose Chase. We have chased the Wild Goose all the way to Birmingham, Alabama (the city of Helena to be exact), and we now sport “Sweet Home Alabama” tags on our vehicles. It has been a wild ride, to be sure, and one that has been full of surprises–some good (like the blues band at the Mississippi Welcome Center and the lightning bugs sparkling at night) and some bad (like the UHaul’s inability to navigate the hill in our driveway and the a/c fan motor in our house that blew out, resulting in a visit from the fire department our first Monday morning here.)
Back to the South
Birmingham is a beautiful place, and the people have been warm and welcoming. It feels strangely home to both Bill and me, despite the fact that neither of us have ever lived in the state of Alabama. We both claim the deep south as home (I–Lousiana, and he–South Carolina), and we keep finding subtle yet definite signs that we are back “home”. Things like fireflies, tomatoes grown by every neighbor, smocked dresses on little girls, barbecue chicken, front porches, flowers by the thousands, summer rain showers, trees towering above the rooftops, and beauty at every turn all join together to give us the distinct feeling of coming home. Between our new house, which is much bigger than our old one, and the general Southern charm, we feel like we are on a perpetual vacation.
One of the first things we did, after unloading 2 moving truck loads up the hill and into the 2-story-on-a-basement home, was to purchase 2 white rocking chairs from Cracker Barrel so that we could fully enjoy our new Southern lifestyle. No more folding out camping chairs in the driveway to watch the kids ride bikes in the baking sun. No siree. Now we watch them from our rockers on our porch up the hill, thank ya Lord. And when all the fixer-upper projects are done, Bill will be making me a new swing for the other end of the porch, just like the one he built that we left for the new owners in Altus. I look forward to completing the front porch atmosphere with hanging ferns and big pots of flowers. Then I will truly think I died and went to heaven.
Our New Home
The home we found is quite a story of God’s provision. Back in April I had taken an exploratory trip to Helena to verify our sense of God’s calling that we were to move this location. I house-hunted with my mom after visiting the schools and meeting with principals, and I was hard-pressed to come up with the “right” home that suited all of our needs yet still stayed within our desired price range. We put an offer in on a big dream-home-to-be that was unfinished, figuring we would finish it ourselves, as long as we could get it low enough. We didn’t get it. Someone bid higher. Then, a week later, we put in a contract on a home a little smaller than our Altus house that was a beautiful home in a good neighborhood, even though it was a bit small. T-H-R-E-E days before the closing, two crazy random things happened with the appraisal and survey, and we opted not to buy the home. That left us with about 5 weeks to find a home, get a contract on the home, secure the mortgage, and close on it before our scheduled move date. All from over 800 miles away.
So Bill set out for the second house-hunting journey, with a truckload of our belongings to put in a storage unit while he was at it. While he was on the way, I began to pray, in a way that I had not before, truly calling out to God to open up His storehouse and provide for us a house that met our basic needs without requiring us to rent a storage unit or give up all of the things we love to do and have been gifted with. Remember, we made this move at His divine direction, so we felt that He would surely provide what we need to accomplish this plan.
First of all, we plan to both work from home. So we need an office space big enough for the both of us. Second of all, we cook several meals a week, so we need a kitchen big enough to do more than just turn around in. Third of all, we have a lot of stuff, which is because we do a lot of stuff, and we needed a place to keep it and do it. Sewing, crafting, woodworking, welding, photography, you name it. Skills require tools, tools require space, and we were both willing to give it all up to go where God leads. But really? Is that what He wanted for us? “If that’s what You want, that’s what we’ll do. But pleeeeze let us continue these gifts you have given us in this new place of service. You own the cattle on a thousand hills, so you must surely have a house that will suit us and that we can afford. And like, today…” This was part of my prayer.
Apparently God was listening. Perhaps He had been waiting ALL ALONG for me to really start believing that He had a house pre-selected for us and to just flat out ask for it. I didn’t just ask for the “right house”. I spelled it out in a 35-point list of the features that I believed our house required to meet our needs. As audacious as that sounds, there weren’t luxury items in those 35 things, like granite countertops or grandiose light fixtures. The list was really pretty basic, with things like: a pantry; a dining room; a laundry room; a fourth bedroom or office; a workshop or basement etc. I added a few extras like the front porch, fresh paint, and great neighbors, but I didn’t go overboard. And I have to tell you, this house I am sitting in, complete with 33 things from that list, came on the market the DAY Bill traveled to Helena to look for houses. It was a foreclosure, so it had the space we really needed all packed in to the budget we had allotted. I still have to pinch myself to find out if it’s for real.
Not only did God provide for us this great house, He put it right in the middle of tons of sweet of neighbors, in the school district we wanted, and with freshly-painted trim, doors, walls, new carpet and hardwood floors on the main. Now, we have had plenty of work to do to bring the rest of the house up to par, but the space is here, and the house is darling and perfectly situated on the top of a hill with a mountainous view.
I distinctly remember writing one of my very first blog articles, some eight years ago, about the fact that I am not a Project Person. Well, folks, I wasn’t then, but after 11 years of being married to Bill McKelvey, I have to suck it up and claim myself as a project person. It took me a long time to admit it, but I have completely become what I thought I would never be. (Never say never…) So, this house is perfect for us project people. Some of Bill’s projects thus far have included: replacing the condensate pump, running a gas line to the dryer, rebuilding several toilets, removing the broken storm door, servicing air conditioners, replacing the fan motor on an a/c, and installing a gazillion blinds. My projects? Scrubbing tile, cleaning windows, painting inside stinky cabinets (one of those not-so-nice surprises), and of course unpacking 5,000 boxes. There’s a whole lot of overspray left over from the painting crew, so we have some elbow grease yet to expend in places we wouldn’t have realized. And several appliance installations await, since the appliances were complete bombs.
Needless to say, it’s been a big-time challenge to move into a house needing so much work, but we have felt so very grateful to have this house to work on, that we have enjoyed most every minute of it.
We visited a big, fancy church today. We didn’t realize that’s what it was–we just sort of took a stab at where to visit. It turned out to be wonderfully welcoming, and the people took us right in and helped every member of our family get connected right off the bat. It is very odd to answer the questions of what brought us to Birmingham, seeing as how we don’t yet really know, other than that God led us here and we like it. The pastor’s sermon had three main points–God is Good, God is Great, and God is Gracious. And the statement I took home was that God will give us the grace to do the next right thing that He has called us to do.
God called us to move to Alabama. It has been a moment by moment faith journey. Uncomfortable? Yes. Uncertain? Absolutely. Scary? A little. But God is good. And He has the power to work His grace throughout our lives. That’s all I know at this moment. The next right thing for me to do is to go to bed. And the next right thing after that, besides take care of my family, is to paint some stinky cabinets. And sooner or later, He will reveal the next right thing for us to do, that will hopefully have a paycheck attached to it. Until then, we have only to trust.