Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Post-test Revealed

I let you down easy last night because I figured half of you were about ready to slap me. I wasn't practicing to perfect the art of the cliffhanger for some weird writing class assignment. I was just giving it to you guys the way God gave it to us. We got a piece here and a bit there as each new day dawned. I'm highly suspicious that he planned it that way because he knew, for our frail human hearts, ignorance really needs to be bliss about ¾ of the time. Can I get an amen? Not too loud...remember..I'm Presbyterian. Loud noises with religious connotations frighten me!

We were absolutely blindsided by our landlord's sudden request that we vacate ASAP for his convenience. We were, well at least I was, hysterically blindsided by the news that we might qualify for a home loan less than 2 weeks after our Chapter 13 was discharged. Perhaps those who are wiser in the ways of the world than I was then would not be shocked by this reality. But, I had consigned myself to the relative comfort zone of rental housing for the rest of my life. In fact, there were a LOT of perks to the option as long as you had a good landlord. All things considered, ours was superlative until he bobbled that last phone call. Given the circumstances, who could blame him?

For the next few days after his call, we groped our way thru the darkness listening to the voices of our real estate agent and her mortgage loan officer friend guide us to the light. I was terrified (surprise, surprise) every minute of the day and night. I was afraid we were wasting our landlord's time as well as the 2 women on a crusade to get us a house with our name on the loan. I knew my life. In my life, the rug would get jerked out from under us at the last minute sending everyone back to square one in the rental housing market. If I had been in possession of any breath left to hold, I would have held it.

The flurry of phone calls those first 3 days led to a scavenger hunt of monumental proportions. Where's Waldo pales by comparison. Remember the time frame? It was late summer of 2008. Everywhere you looked, retail dirt in our county was on the move. Commercial expansion was at a feverish, frenzied pace. That market was rivaled only by the housing market. In our area, the housing market was a shark tank. Chum was in the water, and the sharks were in feeding frenzy. In the 2 weeks or so that we looked, we made offers on 5 houses.

In every single situation, we'd get word that another contract had been accepted within an hour or so of our offer going in. Was God giving us a signal? Walk away and rent? Keep looking? Ha-ha, I'm playing with you, and it is fun? The wear and tear on my nerves began to show. I finally collapsed in an exhausted, teary heap caught between a rock and a homeless place AGAIN. I still questioned the Realtor as to how we could buy a house with virtually no down payment. She shared the news of a special no down payment program. As we were told, there were only 2 of those programs left. Both were ending soon, and we qualified for 1 of them. Are you kidding? Financial lepers like us? Surely they had us confused with someone else!

We received the news that we would have special hoops to jump through. These hoops were for social and financial lepers like us. There'd be extra documents to produce and an epistle to write explaining how we'd sunk so low from such lofty heights. Oh goody, goody, goody! Yet another opportunity for us to grovel at the feet of the more powerful. Little did I know how God would connect some dots for me.

Four years before we had visited with our bankruptcy attorney and heard him say that, in the final analysis, no one would care if we filed Chapter 7 or 13. He had encouraged us to take the easy way out and file Chatper 7. As soon as we went to court, our troubles would be over. Oh, yea, we'd carry a scarlet 7 on our forehead for 10 years, but who would be counting except us? If we opted for that messy old Chapter 13, we'd be under the oversight of the court for 4 years while they garnished our income every month. The upside for the option would be that we'd lose the scarlet 13 on our foreheads in only 7 years. Yipppeeee! I had chewed my tongue till I was virtually drinking blood as I told Jeff I'd trust him to make the decision. Yea, inside, I was screaming, “OH, PLEASE; OH, PLEASE; OH PLEASE!! PICK CHAPTER 7!!!!” After all, no one was going go care anyway! Many a month I looked back on our 'mutual' decision with loathing always wondering, “What if we had filed 7?”

Now, as we navigated the tricky waters of this new house hunting campaign, word trickled back down from the mortgage loan officers, their bosses, and the underwriters whose altar they bowed down before. Somebody did care after all. In our case, it was the underwriters. Seems they were mighty impressed by our story and especially the part about how we opted for Chapter 13 to honor our debt when we could have taken the easy way out and filed Chapter 7. Will wonders ever cease? God has a way of connecting dots when you least expect it. I've got a few more recent dots I'm hoping he's at work on. I'll get back to you on those situations. Stick around for the 411 as it happens. If it happens.

Finally, we found the new house that had good bones. Smirk. I didn't know it was infected with rehab-itis nor that I was in for a bad case of it. Ignorance is bliss. Have you not figured that out by now? Jeff was at the office when I first laid eyes on it. I called him hardly able to stand or talk as both my voice and knees were shaking. “I've found a house. It has good bones. It has good flow. It'll be a great house to entertain in. It has a creek. It's on a cul-e-sac. I'm sorry you aren't here. I'm making an offer.” I figured if I could trust him on that little Chapter 7 vs 13 thing, turn about was fair play.

Guess what? We were a back up contract. I'd roll around on the floor and laugh out loud except it wasn't one bit funny, God. I dragged myself back home figuring God was keeping me in my submissive place since Jeff hadn't been there to eyeball the object of my future infection. The Realtor and I decided to take a break because I was about to send her to the local psych ward with a case of customer induced duress. So, when she called the next morning, I was understandably curious. “The first offer fell thru. I told them we'd come back for another look to insure we want our offer to stand.” Jeff met us at lunch. The contract was signed, sealed, and delivered. We would close on September 6. And, we did.

Every single soul that knew what we had been through navigated those heady days with us. I'd say we were all equally slack-jawed. My good God had redeemed my faith in him. Does that sound cheeky? I sure don't mean it too. I felt like King David dancing before the Lord. I had endured. I had finished this part of the race. I had lived to see restoration this side of Heaven. It would lead one to sing and dance, “Hallelujah!” if one weren't a high church kind of Presbyterian girl, that is.

One or 2 last things: 1) Remember that $3K in the bank for a newer used car? Turned out it was exactly what we needed to pay our part of the closing costs and the movers to haul our stuff the 4 miles from the house in the garden-hood to the house with case of good boned rehab-itis. 2) For the first time in our 19 year marriage, we went to a home improvement store and bought something together. We bought a bucket of paint.

You have to understand that when a couple has been haunted by monsters who have hidden in the shadows since one spouse's childhood, everything about a marriage gets complicated. The affected spouse really needs to make sure they are never, ever surprised by even the simplest things like how pictures are hung and colors of paint are chosen. This joint purchase of a single gallon of paint represented a milestone of celebratory proportions. I had died and gone to heaven. All I needed was for the coroner to show up and confirm my diagnosis.

Before I could open that bucket of paint, the stock market would take a sudden, unexpected dive. First it bobbled enough to get my attention. Any wife of a consulting engineer knows you don't tinker with the stock market and stay employed. It bobbled and then it tanked. Jeff's company went from hiring 70-year-old men out of retirement one day to laying off as fast as they could the next day. I tell you this information for the literal truth it was. We didn't wonder if Jeff would get laid off. We just wondered what day. I put the can of paint in the back of the closet and stopped unpacking. What was the use?

At first, I thought I'd pass the test if that is what it was. I figured maybe, just maybe we'd already been through a 3 year stint of unemployment so that I could rise up as a paragon of virtuous faith. I could tell everyone else how you could do it and survive while God kept us solvent this time around. Hey, it might be a good gig if you could get it. Only, I didn't.

Isaiah 54:10 (
For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

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