Thursday, August 4, 2011

more of the story

When we got married, my Love had already been living overseas in Germany for almost a year.  He had found our (adorable) apartment and made new friends while I was finishing up my senior year of college.  As I got to know some of his friends and their wives, they talked a lot about the kind of person my Love was.  A servant.

He would help anyone in anyway.  He goes above and beyond being helpful.  He loved on them.  In the past, there were some who took advantage of his generosity but most just appreciated it.  We have had several arguments over the years.  I would question his motive for serving others.  "Do you just do things because you are a nice guy and that is the way your parents raised you, are are you doing it for Jesus?"  I know.  I was terrible.  It doesn't seem like a worthy argument.  But over the years I have struggled with knowing his heart.

God was faithful this year to bring up positive perspective once again.  When I was in the midst of counting gifts, we were having friends over for dinner.  My Love ran back to the kitchen as we stood at the front door to get our guest's salad bowl.  I made some snide comment about him getting lost on the way there because it was taking awhile.  He came back with the bowl covered in plastic wrap.  My friend put me in my place.  "Your husband is a servant!  Do you realize what a gift that is?"  Uh.  Um.  Ouch.  Suddenly I saw what I loved about him so much but had allowed to turn into resentment.  God was working.

Back in Germany though, my Love would invite friends over several nights a week.  I was overwhelmed.  I was introverted and exhausted being so social.  In our first year of marriage I had to communicate that there needed to be some boundaries to our hospitality.  He understood, but it was clear his heart was somewhere else.

When we moved back stateside, we started building our family.  We made new friendships as a married couple and we often had people over for dinner.  I was completely stressed out over it.  When they left to go home, I ALWAYS looked at my Love and said, "That went really well."  But the days leading up to it became an outward burden.  Completely cleaning every corner of the house that largely goes neglected around here (I am a terrible housekeeper).  I am talking a long list of all day cleaning.  Then a nice meal that did not allow our dinner guests to contribute or help clean up.

When Bundle Brother got to be about 3, he saw me bringing out the vacuum and his first words were, "Who is coming over?"  I laughed at first but then I saw it through his eyes.  He was observing my running around cleaning up as being stressful.  I never want him to think opening your home to guests is stressful.  It was self induced.  I really enjoyed having people over by this point.

God kept working.  He brought a mentor into my life here who has spoken so much truth to me.  She lives in nearby and would often pop in.  It completely freaked me out the first couple times.  On several occasions I had to push piles of clothes over on the couch so she could have a place to sit.  God was using her.  I mean it wasn't like I was going to leave her on the porch because I was anxious about her knowing the real me.  I welcomed her in.  She genuinely didn't care about the clutter.  God was working in me.  I told her once that friends and family would often make comments about my house always being clean.  My Love and I laughed every time.  If they only knew the buzzing about that happens before people come over.  My friend said that sometimes having a really clean house can be a problem in friendships.  It makes people feel like they can never measure up.  Um.  That was never my motive.  It was just me trying to be a good hostess.  I have never wanted to be Martha Stewart.

God was using all of that.  The popping over.  The conversations.  The comments from my preschool aged son.  I started stressing less and opening myself up more.  Clutter continued to linger and floors often did not get mopped before people were invited over.  I was not stressed.  I let them contribute to the meal now but still don't let them clean up after dinner. ;)

God has been doing more here too.  This area is a hub for work travel.  We have gotten phone calls many times of people passing through and wanting to share a meal THAT NIGHT.  Had this chapter happened in Germany I would have been a stress case.  Not so much now.  I actually love it.  I have met all kinds of people and have the joy of seeing old friends again.  Sometimes there is dog hair chasing after their heals and other times it is Costco pizza for dinner, but the fellowship is sweet and the blessings are overflowing.  I still find myself saying, "Please ignore the clutter," but God is working in that too.

Because this area is very expensive to live, most of our friends live in apartments or townhouses.  We are renting and have a housing allowance from my Love's job, so we are able to afford a single family house.  We often host friends for dinner, holidays, and special gatherings.  We love it.  Our kids are comfortable and we have the space.  We have come to realize that it is our gift.

Fast forward to house hunting.  My Love told me that a friend and his wife were moving to our area in August and were looking for a place to rent for about a year.  He had this wild idea that we could look for a place with a nice basement so they could live with us.  Now mind you his friend has not asked to live with us nor has my Love mentioned to them that it is an option.  When we put the offer on house #1 he wanted to call his friend right away and open our home to him.  I was surprised.  "We don't even have it yet and he isn't even asking.  Let's wait."  When we did not get house #1 but were looking at perhaps getting them to build the same model, there were differences in the floor plan.  A guest room and full bath on the first floor but only an open rec space in the basement.  My Love was totally hung up on that.  Through the past couple of months, God made it clear that I needed to submit to my Love's decision and support and encourage him.  That because he was seeking God, I had to trust that the Lord would lead him.  It was hard.  I was completely annoyed though.  I tried to convince my Love that anyone who would visit us would not be hanging out in the basement away from us the whole time.  A guest space on the first floor was completely fine and considered bonus.  He wasn't caving.  Then God showed me that he was planting something in my Love's servant heart that I hadn't realized.  Had I been busy trying to control everything like in the past, I wouldn't have been sensitive to seeing it.  But because I was now submitting (first to the Lord), I saw it more clearly.  My Love was ready to open his home to a friend who wasn't even asking to live with us.  I mean, my Love was actually looking at homes to buy with his friend in mind.  I laughed.  "You are picking a house based on a friend moving here who isn't even asking to live with us?"  I questioned.  "Yes!" he said with confidence.  God was working.  The plans were bigger than his friend.

When the door was closed on house #1, we found a beautiful $20,000 cheaper house with an amazing yard and deck but an unfinished basement.  I tried to convince my Love that we would have more money in our pocket each month and we could finish the basement in our time.  The house was nine years old.  I am not kidding people, he loved the house but he was the least excited person I have every met.  I am not sure if it was the anxiety of a big purchase or knowing the decision was entirely on his shoulders, but he was trying to rationalize all the good reasons.  It was driving me crazy that he was hung up on house #1 when it was no longer an option.  They had taken it off the market.  God was faithful to work through the process.  When the door was closed on house #2, I saw clearly for the first time that God was planning something big.  I was trying to settle into a more affordable house that met only our needs.  God wanted me to trust him with it all.  When you see something as going to be used for his glory, you have to trust that he will take care of the details.  The mortgage.  The extra expenses.  And that is what we are doing.

I told my Love that we really should only pursue houses with finished basements.  There was something planted there that I needed to consider even though it seemed like way too much house for this terrible house keeper.  My Love was excited about my openness.  Then later that day door #2 opened again.  We were really confused.  Especially my Love.  It was necessary though.  It helped us solidify exactly what God was calling us to do.  I was trying to settle into the house that had the least amount of risk, was the most affordable, and was all about us.  God wanted us to fully trust him.  When door #2 closed a second time, it was confirmed.  Even though the new build would require us to build a deck and fence plus plant trees, we had to trust him with what was his.  We could do that.

In the meantime, a house guest was staying with us.  Over a year ago, our church asked for the first time since we had been there if anyone had a space for someone to stay from another church who was in town for an event.  My Love and I both saw our guest room as available.  God has done huge things in me, people.  The first guest didn't end up staying with us, but the seed was planted.  When request 2 came a couple months later, my Love and I didn't hesitate.  I think M was with us for 10 ten days while she applied for work.  The seeds were being watered.  Six months later, another request.  This time the pastor said it was a single woman from our Body who was in a time of transition.  My Love and I did not even have to discuss it long.  Our home was open for any need.  I emailed the church and said that other than my parents being here for a visit (the last of several summer house guests), the person was welcome to stay with us when they left.  Come to find out it was KB.  My Love and I both felt immediate peace and excitement.  We had been praying for her every week for the past year as she left to enter the mission field and then was called to her sick mother's bed side in California.  We did not know her well when she left our church to go to Israel a year ago, but something in me felt close to her.  On her last day in July 2010, we were in the parking lot after church and I jumped out to run to her.  Even though she was surrounded by people talking her ear off, I knew God wanted me to tell her (even though we didn't know each other well) that my Love and I would be praying for her.  She laughed and thanked me.  A year later, she is living in our second floor guest room.  

It has all been so overwhelming.  To have KB here during this time of transition has been amazing.  Before she arrived, I felt God telling me something eye opening.  

"You know all this work I have been doing in you this year?  Part of that work was for KB's benefit."


God wants to use us.  To love on, serve and minister to anyone who he might bring our way.  At a moments notice.  My Love and I have never been so excited about something we have no idea about in all our years together.

I struggle with the newness of the house God is giving us.  I know that might not make sense but although my Love likes nice new things, I do not need them nor do I ever want them.  I'm the "if this TV works, it does not need to be replaced" kind of person.  Well God has other plans.  Perhaps we are the exact people to give such a gift to.  Don't get me wrong.  I fully intend to enjoy the beautiful kitchen and extra room for homeschooling, but I don't need it.  It isn't for me.  It is God's house to use however he wants.  He has been working in us to bring us to this place for many years.

So when we both knew we would just have to trust God with the budget, we asked the builder if they could put a full bathroom in the basement.  At this point it seemed non-negotiable to us.  They said yes, came to the table with their lowest offer and will be paying all the closing costs.

OK Lord.  We are really doing this.  We are trusting you.

And as a bonus, He is giving us a guest room on the first floor.  "We could have people living in our basement and have family and friends visit us!" my Love exclaimed.  It all seems like too much but we are overwhelmed by the blessing and opportunity to serve the Body of Christ however God sees fit.

So for now we are praying.  We are praying for the need that may be forming in someone.  God is building this house today for someone who will need a home.  It might be temporary.  It might be long term.  They may bring their own stuff.  We might be asked by the Lord to furnish it.  I do not know and for the first time I can say I am peaceful about not knowing.

The little book KB handed me the other day was amazing.  Trusting the Shepherd: Insights from Psalm 23 was just among the belongings in 3 suitcases worth of her possessions in this world.  God is so good!  I plan to buy up a stack of them and give them to the many people who will stay in our home because I expect many will be blessed by the space God is building for them.  I am overwhelmed.

First order of business will be marathon visitors.  We may be all sleeping on air mattresses after just moving into the house, but God's timing is perfect.  I can't think of a better group of people to break in God's house.  People who saw my closed off self eight years ago and now will be able to witness a willingness to let God use me/us for his good purpose in my weakness.

So Suhres, Merritts, and Martinsons.  Come on down.  May God get the glory.

To be continued...yes there is more.


Tarissa said...

Lex, this post was such a huge blessing to me. THANK YOU for sharing. Love you bunches.

amanda said...

I am so touched by your willingness and the growth that has occurred in you through God over the years. This post has ministered to me in so many ways. Thank you for sharing your story/testimony! :)

Kim B said...

Overwhelmed ... overwhelmed by His Grace, Goodness and Faithfulness to us. Thank you for sharing and letting us share in this season with you! Praying with purpose and in faith for all that God has in store ... love you guys ~k

tommysmommy said...

so cool to see what God has been preparing you for, or at least what seems like the beginning of it. How awesome to actually see it. You've been sharing all these lessons, the ways that He has been molding your heart and changing you. You've been so open, so aware of these changes knowing that God would use them for His purposes. Now we get to see the beginning. Who knows how He will use the house, but we know He will and we know you are willing. What an awesome testimony. Thanks for living your life and showing your heart on this blog so we can all witness this testimony of His handiwork!!!

Chanel said...

As I was reading this post, I felt this excitement building in my chest. Seeing God so clearly orchestrating each step in your lives, and witnessing Him pull out those seams to use you and bless you, has been an incredible tool in my own life. Thank you for your openness and honesty through out this process. That alone is a pretty awesome thing, Lex.
Looking forward to all that is ahead for your family!! And praying for you.

Molly said...

I have tears in my eyes. I'm just going to have to leave it at that.

Persicke Family said...

I love this post Alexis. It speaks to our hearts (as I just read it to Scott). Thank you for sharing this story of God's amazing work in your lives. I love how He weaves together the threads that is the tapestry of our lives. And so often it looks like a messy bunch of threads on the back side, but when you turn it around it is a beautiful tapestry! I love seeing your tapestry come together my friend!

Sarah said...

Love you, love the great Lord we serve--who knit us and grows us and molds us in His likeness through His Son and our Savior. Love love love to you, sweet sister--you are a mentor to this "older sister" of yours!