BY BARBARA MCCOURTNEY
I was a divorced and broke 54-year-old, living in a rented apartment with my two foster daughters. My furniture was early-American garage sale. My car was on its last leg, and I was on a fixed income.
As I took inventory of what seemed to be a pathetic life, I somehow knew it was going to be OK. I trusted God instead of my circumstances. He had always cared for my needs and wasn’t going let me down now.
One thing weighed heavy on my heart, however. I hated renting. I wanted a place of my own so I could pick out my own paint and decorate any way my heart desired. God, please let me have a place to call home. But how? I had no money for a down payment and on my income I was sure no one would approve a loan.
I was a good money manager who tithed regularly. I expected that God and I would work together to accomplish this goal. Was I being unrealistic? Yes, but God is unreal. I gave it to God and was very specific.
Lord, thank You for all You do and all You have given me, but Lord, I want a house of my own, a big house. Please, Lord, something nice: a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house with a large kitchen, so my foster kids and I can fix meals together. And Lord, could I please have a living room and a family room, so my kids would have a place to hang out with their friends? No stairs. Something in this same school district, with a yard for my dog. Oh, and a heat pump would be good. And hardwood floors. That’s about all, except, Lord the type of house I want is more than double what I can afford, but You know how much I want this. Thank You.
When I finished praying, I smiled, wondering how God was going to pull it off. Was God going to drop a house in my lap or should I look for one? Probably both.
With a tight income and no down payment, my options were limited. Some new condos down the road from me advertised “No down payment required.” After looking at them, I discovered that they were clearly too small, not at all what I had prayed for. A friend suggested a manufactured home, but the idea of something like a trailer or mobile home didn’t appeal to me. After reconsidering, I looked at some new manufactured homes and was amazed. These spacious, beautiful homes had everything I wanted, but were too expensive. Back to the drawing board.
Since manufactured homes depreciated so quickly, I decided to look at used ones. A brief search led me to two. The first was on a rundown lot next to a tavern. The owner opened the door to a dark room with paneling and stained carpets. The smell of mold and dog feces overwhelmed me. I almost cried. The next house was the same price as this one. Assuming it would be in a similar condition, I didn’t want to bother looking at it. I had already made the appointment, though, so I decided to look at it and then go back to my pathetic life.
I wound down a country road, dotted with huge evergreens and wild lavender and yellow flowers. I finally pulled into a long driveway with a huge home sitting on a grassy hillside. I looked around, trying to figure out where the stinky little dump of a manufactured home was.
A smiling lady greeted me, “Hi. I’m Kathy. Come on in.” I stepped into a bright, huge living room wondering if she was about to lead me to a shack in the back. “We just put in hardwood floors, but it really needs a fresh coat of paint. We figured the new owners would want to pick out their own colors.” I nodded, unable to speak as the realization hit me: This was the house for sale. It was beautiful!
She showed me three oversized bedrooms and two bathrooms. Everything I wanted. In each room, I kept mumbling, “This is really nice.” She led me to the kitchen, which looked like something from a Better Homes and Gardens magazine: huge, with ivory ceramic tiles on the floor, green tiled counter tops, gleaming white cabinets, a large island, and new appliances. “This is really nice,” I mumbled again.
The smiling lady said, “After remodeling this place several times, we decided to have a house built.” I just kept nodding. I asked her again about the price, thinking she had made a mistake. “Nope. We just need to get rid of it. Let me show you the rest of the house.”
“More?” I asked, wondering if I might get lost.
“Yes. It’s almost 2,000 square feet.”
I followed her through the kitchen into a cozy little family room, a laundry room, a pantry, and a nook for a small office. This is where I would hang out if my kids wanted to have friends over. The lady walked to another door. What else could there possibly be? I wondered if I was on “Candid Camera.”
The mysterious door led into a huge bedroom. “Two master bedrooms?” I asked. She nodded and smiled. “This is really nice,” I repeated for about the tenth time, drooling over the huge walk-in closets. We walked through the bedroom to another door that lead to a spacious master bath with two linen closets.
After the tour, I told her how much I loved her home and wanted to buy it. She agreed to hold it while I checked on a loan. My joy turned to tears when I discovered that no one lends money on used manufactured homes, even if your name is Donald Trump. After three days of phone calls, I called the owner, gave her the news, hung up and cried. It was time to forget about owning a house.
Three months later, my grandmother, who had been in a rest home for five years, passed away. God bless her, she left me $12,000, a nice down payment for a tiny house or condo, but not for my dream house.
When I got home from the funeral, my phone rang. A cheery voice said, “I don’t know if you remember me, but . . . I’m the lady who had that mobile home in the country.”
Of course I remembered the most beautiful home I had seen for the best price. “Yes. How are you?”
“We’re fine, but we’re ready to build our new home, and no one can get a loan on a mobile home, so if you still want it, we can carry the loan and work out the payments, but you will have to pay for moving it.”
This lady doesn’t know me. She hasn’t checked my credit. Why would she offer this?
“We chose you,” she continued, “because you were so appreciative, and we wanted your foster children to have a nice place to live.”
Tears of joy flowed freely. The cost to move a mobile home was $12,000, the exact amount my grandmother left me. I found a perfect little mobile home park a mile from my apartment, the last spot left in our school district.
It turned out that moving a mobile home didn’t include hooking up the plumbing and electricity, installing steps or skirting, and numerous other things. Not a problem. My mother had set aside some money in case I ever bought a house. It was enough for everything I needed, including paint, curtains, furniture and a little for savings. My total payments were far less than I asked for, leaving enough to I could make car payments.
There it was. A beautiful four-bedroom, three-bathroom home, with new furniture and decorations, a nice yard, a car, and a savings account. And a heat pump. And it would all be paid off in ten years. Ta-da! God did it! He always does. I looked for a house, then He dropped it in my lap. He is so good.
One last thing. About a year after I bought my house, I saw Kathy, the lady who sold it to me. She told me that I had inspired her and her husband to take in foster kids. She has two.
God had it all worked out. A big, big house. It’s my Father’s house.