It took eight exhilarating, exhausting days to journey across the country. And it took eight more days of a thrill-ride with Jesus to find a home. But we’re happy to let you know that Monday night, when Jan and I lay our heads on our pillows, it will be in a place we can call our own.
My morning devotionals during this saga have been reading through Psalm 90 to 105 in succession, one each day. I came to Psalm 105 in my devotionals this morning. “O give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples.” And our hearts are truly filled with thanks to God, and to you for your many prayers.
You might think it would be a simple thing to find a landing place in LA. But the housing market here is indescribably tight and pricey. We searched a swath of north LA from a small city called Santa Clarita in the west to Azusa in the east. Each day we would leave early from the home of Sharon H. in Anaheim (John D’s sister whose generosity and kindness in providing a safeplace for us and our furry children has been such a blessing) and make a 90-minute drive north to scour and search, poring over house/townhouse/apartment listings from numerous online real-estate sites. After 6 to 8 hours of this daily routine, we’d connect with Hannah for dinner and make the 90-minute drive back to Sharon’s.
For each place that catches your eye, you have to make appointments to see it, then fill out a detailed application for it (knowing as you fill it out that you will be one of dozens of others submitting applications also). Property owners and managers call all the shots and they’re looking for applicants they can trust. It’s very much a beauty contest. Coming to LA without jobs doesn’t move you to the top of the list.
But we knew that we had other compelling intangibles in our corner. We had good savings in place, top credit scores, a history of home ownership, and there’s always that pastor-card. Far be it from me to dissuade an owner from thinking, “Hey, if we rent to these guys, God might be on our side!”
After three days of being all-in on the search, we came to Sunday wrung out, hanging by a thread. We found a promising church to attend, and as we walked in that morning, I said to Jan and Han, “I hope the Lord has some encouragement for us.” Boy did he ever. Pastor Michael preached a sermon about how to hear the voice of God, using as his example Paul the Apostle who left his home in Antioch to become a missionary in Macedonia.
When God speaks he does so in his time, Pastor Michael said. God clearly directed Paul but it wasn’t non-stop, 24/7 communication. It was a sentence here, a prompting there, with long stretches of radio-silence in between, where Paul had to step out in simple trust. “It’s in the time of darkness, confusion and mystery that we experience God the most,” Michael said. “Times of silence are normal. God is doing something deeper in you to prepare you for the next step.”
Boy the elbows were flying between us when he said that!
Then Pastor Mike said when God speaks he does so one step at a time. He seldom gives you the full picture of what he is doing in your life. Abraham left home having no clue what God was up to, other than this promise he gave that he would give Abraham a son and a family. (Now I was on the floor doubled up in laughter, because time and time again, the Lord has pointed me toward Abraham as a metaphor for this journey we are on.)
“This is very hard for us,” Michael said. “We want to know the end from the beginning. We say to God, ‘I will obey if you show me how it will work out.’ But that’s not how any of this works. If we truly want to go into the deep with God, then it’s one step at a time.” Then he said this memorable line: “You will never experience Macedonia until you leave Antioch.”
OK God! Message received! Needless to say, we left church that morning with our hearts rebooted with hope.
So back to work Monday morning. And then Thursday it happened. We chose to fast that day and really seek God out. The phone rang that afternoon from a property manager from Santa Clarita. The owner of a very nice townhouse we liked had approved our application. And then…I’m not making this up…during the same phone call I received a second call from a real estate agent from the Azusa area saying the owner of the townhouse we liked there ‘loved our application’ and we were the only ones she was considering. “That’s unheard of,” a real estate friend said to us later.
Did you know that there is a bad kind of agony and a good kind of agony? I never knew that. Until that moment. Both properties and both communities made compelling cases for why we should be there. Santa Clarita was closer to Hannah and Hollywood, more spacious, and part of a subdivision we fell in love with. Azusa sits in the shadow of the San Gabriel mountains, and the townhouse we’d be in is right next to Azusa Pacific University, a wonderful evangelical college offering TNP (tremendous networking potential.) And the famous Santa Anita Race Track is ten miles down the road offering Janis TNP as well in the horse world.
The God who sees much further than we do nudged us in the end to Azusa. And as if we needed help with the decision: We visited both properties Friday to take one last look at each. In the Azusa home we found a bumper sticker in a closet left behind by the last occupant. On which were these words: I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Gives Us Strength. Meanwhile, one hour after we left Santa Clarita, a massive wildfire broke out along Highway 14, the road we took into town.
So there it is. Monday UPack brings that truck we loaded up two weeks ago, and the real adventure begins.
Which is what occurred to me the other day as Jesus and I had coffee. All of this craziness of the past three months has all been prologue. I can’t wait to see what unfolds as we get into the real story.