Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Our Foreclosure Journey: Part 1 - The biggest blessings come on our most difficult days

1 John 5:14 - "And this is the confidence we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us."

My prayer is God will use us - to be a light for Him in our trials and to someday encourage others. Good people lose their homes. Christians go through foreclosure. I try to remind myself I am not a bad person and that God has NOT abandoned us. This may be the very thing He is using to answer our prayers.

I have been reluctant for a few months to share, as this is very personal and honestly, very humbling and humiliating. We are not crying out for hand-outs! Our needs are met. We are blessed, even when we struggle financially.  My goal is to share how God is ever at work in our lives.

Quick background: We purchased our home 10 years ago, when I was 19, and we had 2 incomes and 1 child (and one on the way).  It was the height of the market and in our naivety and excitement we bought more than we could afford (with some creative financing). 

Fast forward to now.  The property has declined in value and we are upside down, as are many others. It is falling apart everywhere - I won't bore you with details but it is livable for the most part, but barely. 

We have one income, 4 children, all with health issues and 3 with autism, that I homeschool. Dan and I also have health issues - in fact my hard working husband who turns only 32 this month has arthritis already, thanks to his manual labor job and 80 hour work weeks. Our medical costs and prescription expenses are through the roof! Difficult pregnancies have caused us to fall behind as well.

We now have debt - student loans, a bed (Dan and I have both had back surgery already, so this was important), repairs to our vans and our home, appliances - 7 were replaced in a 3 month span this year, and medical bills (such as dental surgery and eyeglasses). 

The bank is a credit union and does not participate in any of the government programs meant to keep you in your home and avoid foreclosure. They will not allow a short sale, refinance, reammortization, deed in lieu, etc. We have come to them many times in the past 6 years pleading for a hardship workout and been denied.  

After much prayer, we chose not to pay our mortgage in October.  There are not enough funds to cover credit card bills, medicine, daily living costs, AND the mortgage. My party sales/consulting business was not successful, a part-time job is not wise or profitable, and Dan can only work as much as the company allows (often 60-75 hours a week or even more). If the money is not there, it's not there.

We spoke with a government HUD counselor and were advised to transition to more affordable housing. This is the wisest and least prideful decision for our family, as painful as it is to leave our home behind. My husband and I feel at peace with this and believe it is the only way out - and it is God's intention to move us.

I did not realize it would be so difficult, so painful, so emotional, so... nasty. I thought the bank would be amicable, or at least indifferent (paperwork communication only). I was wrong.  We awoke Monday morning to find that our accounts had been drained, we were left penniless. 

Convinced there must be an error I went to the bank.  Our mortgage lender happens to be the same bank we have our checking and savings accounts with, Richfield Bloomington Credit Union. I waited with the baby for Donna, the mortgage lady, to come down. We went into a conference room off the lobby with the door open. 

I let her know there was nothing in the terms of my mortgage that allowed them to steal my money without our permission and without warning.  She claimed it was in the terms of the checking account agreement that they can take funds we owe them.  I said we tried to tell her last year we could not afford the house and she disagreed.  She told us to stop tithing for starters, and that we could come talk to them after we've missed a payment and have debt, which at the time we did not (aside from a student loan). 

So here we are, and they are not playing nice. My daughter needs meds refilled today for her life threatening asthma. We need gas to get to work. Christmas is just a couple weeks away. What the heck?! She personally put the transaction through and seemed to take pleasure in our circumstances.

I said I wanted to close my accounts, she said "I think you should." and walked into the lobby.  I said "I wanted to ask -"  and there, in front of a bank full of people, she says emphatically "Frankly Nicole, you've told me you do not intend to pay your mortgage so we have nothing to talk about."

I begged God for the strength to keep standing, to not fall to the floor in tears at that very moment. I was humiliated - yet had to stay another 30 minutes to ensure my accounts were closed, all while Baby Bruce was tired and very fussy. 

I saw the look on the bank tellers face as he worked his magic at the computer, staring down at the keyboard to avoid my glance. I wanted to tell him I'm a responsible person.  We give to charities, missionaries, and pay tithes at our church.  We make meals for those in need and live without luxuries - we do not have nice cars, furniture, or take vacations.  Our house is not exceptional - it is 999 sq feet on each floor (two levels) but the basement isn't even finished. It is over 50 years old with broken windows and doors, crumbling stairs, and a cracked driveway.  The ceiling is falling off in chunks downstairs and the bathroom wall was torn down due to mold from a pipe leaking. 

My husband works HARD. I word hard too - caring for the children, homeschooling, taking them to various doctor appointments and therapies, getting groceries and making meals for our family. We try our absolute best to maintain the yard and keep the dishes and laundry clean. We are not lazy. We are not generally foolish with our spending.  We are real people with challenging circumstances that result in great expenses (mostly medically). 

He wouldn't have cared and it really doesn't matter.  The only thing that is true about me is what GOD says is true.  I have yet to find anywhere in scripture it says "Nicole is trashy, fat, evil, a loser and stupid." It feels true most days, but I'm my own worst critic.

So I prayed for God's provision for our family - that I could sell several things on Craigslist that I had listed, that Dan would have plenty of overtime opportunities, that our expenses would be minimal, and that my children would have no worries - that their Christmas is blessed and carefree.

It is very scary to have nothing, no money at all.  While being wealthy does not ensure happiness it is certainly terrifying to have none.  I have 4 children, from 10 months to 12 years. I know we can get by on little, and even with nothing in the bank, we have more than SO SO many. All the same, I cried. I called a friend and just let out an epic cry session.

God told us He will supply our needs and we are not to worry about where we will live or what we will eat. Here is my faith-building trial.  Will I run TO Christ - or away from Him? I choose to put my hope in Him, the Author and Perfecter of my faith. 

Psalm 120:1 "I call on the Lord in my distress, and He answers me."

"Only people who don't know God are always worrying about such things.  Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. But more than anything else, put God's work first and do what He wants. The other things will be yours as well." - Matthew 6:32-33

In the hours that followed my meltdown I have seen God at work in our lives like never before.  His provision was immediate and abundant. Dan was called in for extra hours on Tuesday. A stranger gave us an envelope of cash.  I sold ALL the American Girl items I had listed to sell to one person. I even found a package of toilet paper in the laundry room I had no idea was there!

There are still things that make me sad.  I will miss our home and our yard and all our pets - and the memories we have made. Dan and I both moved a LOT growing up.  This is the longest we have lived in one place. Leaving it all behind is both sad AND freeing.

I'm so excited to see God at work in this! A smaller home, such as an apartment, will free us from the burden of THINGS.  Downsizing our toys and possessions has been a perfect opportunity to teach my children about the difference between treasures in Heaven and earthly treasures.  I'm excited for less to clean and no yard to care for - and when things break, as they often have around here, I don't have to fix it myself! Oh - and to have Dan work a bit less would be amazing, the poor guy is run ragged.

Jesus said "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." - Matthew 11:28-30 

I can learn from His character - free of bitterness and anger in His circumstances. Trust in God for all my needs. I can give my yoke to Him and the two of us will carry the burdens together - I am not alone. 

Just as I care for my children, to supply for their needs and protect them from burdens, my God cares for me.  As His child He will provide for our needs and shoulder our burdens, offering me comfort.  

 **Since I posted this yesterday I have had an outpouring of support and encouragement. I feel crazy loved and blessed! Which is helpful, because holding in my feelings can cause loneliness. I deeply treasure the encouragement and support of others, thank you for blessing me. 

I have been asked how people can help (thank you).  At this point our needs are met. If you are local and hear of a home for rent, let us know.  We have 6 months of mortgage free living ahead of us so in a couple months we will be caught back up financially. :)