Sunday, August 2, 2009

Life as of Late

Well, again, it's been a while since I've posted. We've been busy enjoying our summer and trying to keep cool despite this unbelievably hot Oregon summer. These past few months have been jam-packed with one thing after another and we've only now began to settle down. Right now, Ben is upstairs practicing for a youth conference Pearl Bridge is playing at and I am thinking about how awesome our Father is and how abundant His blessings are. I must admit that I am feeling guilty with the realization that my laziness has prohibited me from really seeing what He wanted me to see. I'll try to explain more as I type.

Let me back-up a little. This past spring our nation's economic downturn started to really affect us. Ben's company down-sized and was unable to provide work for him and my hospital severely cut back on any and all overtime, leaving our monthly income significantly less than what we had been used to. We began cutting back on unnecessary spending and quickly realized that we needed to do something more drastic. I accepted the possibility of moving from our beautiful house (which we absolutely love) sooner than Ben did. In fact, Ben was dead set against moving at first. I began secretly looking at apartments and townhomes but became discouraged at the lack of options (very dirty, very small, very shady areas, gross, gross, gross). With the hundreds of postings I looked at, I didn't feel peace about any of them. Despite my lack of suitable housing finds, I kept feeling the leading to pursue moving so I kept working on Ben. After a day spent golfing with his friend David, Ben finally agreed that moving wouldn't be so bad, but we'd have to move to Troutdale, not Gresham and we'd have to be saving a significant amount of money a month in order to make traveling to Portland for work and school worth it. Oh, and pets had to be allowed because if we were sacrificing, we'd miles as well get something we really wanted out of the deal.

The day after we had this decision I found a cozy little place in Troutdale. It was the first place that had potential. We toured the place a few days later. It wasn't nearly as nice as our current home, but it was clean, quite and about to get a facelift (new carpet, paint & tile) but it was very, very tiny. As in 700 sq. feet. Tiny. However, the landlord was nice and we could tell that she liked us. We went to our car to talk and I was surprised by Ben's enthusiasm and readiness to apply. Our applications were quickly accepted and they even agreed to allow us to have a pet (we didn't know they weren't allowed when we first saw the place) and build a fence out back if needed. A few days later we signed the papers and were set to move in a month later (a day before we had planned to go back to Montana). After signing we then made a trip to Ikea to plan, as we would have to figure out storage solutions because all of our furniture was too big for the teeny place. We were pumped on our drive home. We felt peace and excitement. We felt like we could breath, and that we had been given a huge break. We were apprehensive in a lot of ways, but we felt totally blessed.

During the time we were waiting for our application to go through we had been researching dog breeds to see what kind of pup would do well in a tiny home but still be rough & tumble enough to take hiking and camping. We had decided a Miniature Australian Shepherd would be perfect and even began typing our 8-page adoption application process (the application said it would take 3-4 months to go through). I had also been looking on Craigslist just to see what kind of things were on there puppy-wise. The day we signed the papers and went to Ikea, we talked about a puppy the whole way home. When we got home I got on Craigslist (just to look) and amazingly, since there is rarely posting for young puppies, I saw an ad for a 12 week old pug/australian shepherd mix. I immediately emailed the girl, with no intention of ever hearing from her. The ad has been posted 45 minutes already and I was sure he'd have already been taken. 10 minutes later my phone rang. My email had been the first she'd received with 9 following within minutes. We were shocked. Ben agreed to go look at him, since we didn't think we'd actually get to take him home. We'd have to meet the owner, she'd have to like us and then see other options. We figured it was safe to go meet him and let his owner know that we were potentially interested. But, just in case, we stopped at the ATM. Just in case.

The situation in meeting the girl and the puppy were a little sketch (she didn't have a phone we could call and we were meeting at a mall parking lot), but we were willing to look past it. We prayed on the way over. Prayed for wisdom, peace and a clear answer whether to pursue this puppy or not. We knew that we were bringing a member into our family and we wanted it to be a dog we could love that way for a long time. We also decided that if either of us had any doubt when meeting the girl that we would decline our interest immediately.

Anyway, we get there and a few minutes later we see a young girl carrying a ball of fluff towards us. When she go to us she immediately handed him to me and I was in love. He was so small, so soft and so sweet (I know all puppies are that way, but he was pretty wonderful!). We spoke with the girl and felt reassurance about the situation because she seemed to know a lot about puppies and about him. She had a paper with photocopies of his vaccines (sketch, I know) and a bag of his toys and food because she was ready for him to go home with us tonight. I was giddy, but Ben was pretty quiet. We went to the car to talk and I was expecting my wise husband to harness my excitement and tell me that now was not the best time for a pup and that we should wait. However, he was totally into this pup. He wanted him too. We both agreed that though the situation was not as professional or legitimate as we had hoped it would be, that the girl seemed trustworthy and that neither of us had bad feelings about her. Bridger (as we later named him) was ours.

We stopped at PetCo and Wal-Mart on the way home because we had nothing for a puppy and our home was definitely not puppy-proof. We were so excited when we finally got home because all we really wanted to do was sit down and get to know our new baby. He was perfect. Cuddly and sweet but still feisty and playful. We were so in love!

We began preparing to move, but it was very slow going. Little did we know that our plans would soon change. Throughout our process of deciding and preparing to move we absolutely felt the Lord's calling to do so. It was bittersweet in lots of ways, but neither of us doubted our decision. We were excited to downsize and to save money, but it was hard to think about leaving the home we loved so much. This was the first home we spent as a married couple (well, next door was, but we consider them about the same) and we had beautiful memories here. We also had a wonderful landlord who, despite us moving out, exchanged a month of rent for Ben working on the foundation below our house. That was such a blessing! Well, one day, while working on the house together our landlord gave Ben a proposition. He said that he was having difficulties renting the house and that he was bummed to see us go. Ben spoke frankly and said that it all came down to finances and our desire for a dog. Our landlord then said that he would have to lower the rent anyway and asked him how much we would be able to pay if we were to stay here. He also said that if we stayed, we could have a dog. This totally took Ben by surprise. He was talking a mile a minute when he picked me up for work. We crunched the numbers and figured that if we were to pay $900 a month we would make up for our travel expenses and be able to stay here and still save money each month. Ben met with our landlord the next day and told him our price. We were pretty sure that it would be too low and that we would be moving anyway. However, not only was our offer good, our landlord said, "How about $875? $875 and a pet and you'll stay?" Oh my gosh! Not only that, but since we were staying, our landlord offered us another month free rent in exchange for Ben's work down below. Needless to say, we stayed. We didn't have to pay for moving, we received 1/2 our deposit back on the other house and we didn't have to buy new furniture or appliances.

This entire experience was a total God thing for us. Our faith was tested when we were asked to move. We were willing to sacrifice our space and our situation in order to be faithful with what He has given us. However, in being willing to do so God gave us everything we wanted and more. He allowed us to stay in our beautiful (big!) home with a puppy we are crazy about and still be able to make ends meet each month. Now, our financial situation has not magically improved. It is a huge blessing to have our rent cut, but we are still working on being responsible with what we have. We are working on paying off our debts and trying to transition to a cash budget. It's a slow process and a long road, but we feel so blessed to not be traveling alone. God has purposefully set us on this road together and He is leading the way. He is marking our steps and holding us securely in the place where He wants us to be. Despite all I have seen, I still have to remind myself that sometimes. It's almost easier to not think about it, to take everything for granted and just be lazy. I have to consciously remember that I am blessed beyond more than I can dream. I have to make myself put God first (a constant struggle) and myself second. It saddens my heart that it is a struggle even when I know we have been given so much.

So, I'm still working. I'm still trying to figure out who I am and who He wants me to be. I'm making an effort to be more for Him and less for me. I want His joy and His blessings to shine in me. Please pray for me, as I am lazy and easily distracted. It's so easy for life to get in the way, and I am trying to battle it. No, I'm not trying hard enough, but I will start. I have to remember that His grace is sufficient for me and that His perfection makes up for my inadequacies.

Please Lord, held me be the woman you want me to be. Help me to encourage others in this hard time and help me to shine Your amazing love. Thank you for all we have been given, we are blessed beyond measure. Amen.

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