Last weekend we traveled to Pennsylvania to visit one of my good friends named Nathaniel (You may remember Nathaniel as the guy who jumps out of windows to avoid changing diapers from one of my previous blogs: Seven Serious, No Nonsense Tips for First Time Parents). Nathaniel, despite many good people’s sage advice, moved to California several years ago. Shortly thereafter he got sucked into the California black hole of crazy and dyed his hair blue, therefore confirming that living in California leads to questionable behavior. We kept in touch but inevitably you kind of drift apart when you live 3,000 miles away. Then, a few months ago he had a seizure and was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. They successfully removed it and now Nathaniel is doing well and recovering on schedule. Anyway, all this led up to his visit to Pennsylvania, where his parents and siblings live. I knew I had to take this opportunity to drive to PA to see him since it was a lot cheaper than flying to California.
Nathaniel and I had lived together several years ago in his brother Andrew’s house which was smack dab in the middle of the city of Reading, PA. We had many, many late night talks on God, girls, and the eternal ramifications of eating too much Little Ceaser’s pizza. He had just moved back from Hong Kong where he was involved in some mission work. Nathaniel’s spiritual life had been transformed during this time and so when he moved back and lived in the same house as me, his experiences inspired quite a bit of positive change in my own life. It’s safe to say that Nathaniel changed my life, especially since he’s the one who told me to stop being a wimp and to just ask Janice out. “Go for it,” he said. I did, and I’m thankful he kicked me over the edge.
Ever since I went over that edge and began pursuing Janice, children have been popping out of nowhere. I mean, I know how that process works, but it still boggles my mind that the process actually works. Kind of like praying. I know how it works but it still surprises me when it works. Once you have children pop out of nowhere, you have to take care of them for at least 18 years (legally, anyway). This involves dragging them along to PA when you visit an old friend. I use the term “dragging” not because I don’t like having them around, but because they literally cause resistance while you’re trying to move in a particular direction. When we stop to eat, Adi eats so slow that we have to scrape the mold off of her food between each bite. Elliot insists on freaking out over every little burp and fart that he experiences and this causes Janice to climb over several seats to comfort him. I should just accept this as normal and move on, shouldn’t I?
“My biggest high risk investment is my Dodge Caravan,” I said, laughing to ease my boredom. It was true. The power steering pump began making noises about half an hour after we left our house for Pennsylvania. Inside I wondered if maybe I was being a bit careless with my life. My friends seem to be getting somewhere and in the meantime I’m selling almost everything I own and relying on other people’s generosity to accomplish what God is calling our family to do. They seem to be doing well and living stable lives while the future of my family is completely uncertain. God has been faithful so far though, and I know this is the direction He’s pointing us, so we’re left with no choice but to keep taking small steps in that direction.
Speaking of houses, we were looking for a new place to live in Ohio. My plan was to swing by Ohio on the way home from Pennsylvania to look at some potential homes. We’re officially at 88.5% support (although unofficially we’re much closer than that) and so we were instructed to begin looking for a house to live in! MMS wants us there as soon as possible. Our moving date is tentatively set for the end of May or beginning of June, Lord willing!
I should take this opportunity to explain the difference between official and unofficial support. Support becomes official when it gets deposited into our support account. Once that happens, we’re notified by MMS Aviation that we have a new official supporter. Unofficial support means that we have a verbal commitment from an individual but it hasn’t come through into our account yet. So technically it’s not official.
I was shopping around on Craigslist, Facebook, and multiple real estate sites for a place to live. We have a budget of $750 per month for housing and as it turns out, that doesn’t give you a lot of options. The one realtor I talked to said it’s tough to find a house in Coshocton right now because of the oil and gas industry booming in the area. A lot of people are moving in and need temporary places to live so rental prices are up and options are limited. Great, I thought, Just great.
To make matters worse, I had some unreasonable standards I wanted the house to meet. I wanted some sort of yard, maybe even a garden so Janice had an outlet for her green thumb. Otherwise our home would be filled to capacity with potted plants. I wanted three bedrooms so we could have one for Janice and I, one for Adi, and then one for guests if people wanted to come visit us. It also had to be within half an hour of the hangar. It also had to be under $750 per month. There were very few houses that met all those criteria. Two, in fact. Most of the other rentals looked like the Taliban was running an improvised explosives assembly line in the house and something went horribly wrong. And yet they still wanted obscene amounts of money for their little squalor pot. I’ll live in a squalor pot if it’s super cheap but expensive squalor pots are intolerable.
I lined up appointments to see the two potential houses that I found, but we had time for maybe one more visit while we were in Ohio and I wanted to see as many houses as possible while we were in the area. I scrolled through the local Coshocton real estate Facebook group to see if I had missed anything. I scrolled pretty deep into the feed and found a simple listing that said, “Farmhouse for rent. $600.” That’s about it. No pictures, nothing more listed. It was shared many times and had maybe 100 comments on the post. It was also several weeks old. There’s no way that’s still available, I thought. Even if it’s available, it can’t be a nice house. A farmhouse should cost way more than that. Still, it couldn’t hurt to message the guy. I messaged him, mentioned we’re moving into the area because of MMS Aviation (landlords seem suspicious of out-of-staters so I like to mention the circumstances and give them a local connection), and I asked if I could see it the next day. Usually people on Facebook ignore your inquiries or act like you’re a member of the Taliban who secretly wants to start an assembly line for improvised explosives in the basement. It generally takes a week to get a meeting set up but this guy named Flapjack McStevens messaged me right back. “I’ve had lots of interest. Here’s the address. Just text me when you’re about an hour away.”
On Monday we left my parent’s house at 6 am and arrived at the first house at 12 pm, right on time. We walked through the house. The listing had clearly said “No pets” but judging by the carpet condition, the previous tenants kept an entire herd of poop throwing monkeys locked in the living room. “We’ll just buy a rug,” I said.
Janice glared at me. “I don’t think a carpet shampooer will get that out. Besides, our kids will be playing on that.”
That’s true, I thought. I don’t want our kids getting some exotic monkey transmitted disease. I turned to the realtor who was trying to hide her own disgust. “I’ll let you know,” I said.
We went and looked at the second house. “Meh,” Janice said, “It’s a good location.” It was right in Coshocton and only about five minutes from the hangar but the landlord seemed unwilling to communicate. It took him five days to respond to questions and he refused to send me pictures. Still, if I wrung his hands a bit, maybe we could rent it.
I had texted Flapjack McStevens, the farmhouse guy, but he never responded. “Well,” I said to Janice, “Let’s go to the park, let Adi run around and get her energy out, and maybe this guy will text me back. If he doesn’t, we’ll just head home.”
As we were at the park, it occurred to me that Flapjack McStevens had made it sound like I was to just show up and that I didn’t have to wait for him to give me permission. I decided to just go to the address and see what happens. We stuffed the kids back into the car seats and drove to the farmhouse which was just north of Dresden. We pulled into the driveway and was astonished to find a pleasant, light gray farmhouse nestled in between rolling green pastures and framed on three sides by a hay field. A little creek was on the backside of the hay field, not to close to the house but still accessible if we wanted to go splash around.
My enthusiasm was tempered by the fact that no one was around. I knocked on the door, still not convinced that I was at the right place. After several attempts, I turned to go back to the van and drive home to Michigan. Just then a four wheeler came blasting down the road and pulled into the yard. A guy jumped out. “Oh hey! I forgot all about this! I left my phone in the barn.” He shook my hand. “My name is Flapjack McStevens. Dude, you’re so lucky you caught me. I was just going to grab something here before I went back out into the field.”
Flapjack seemed like a great guy. He took me on a tour of the house. It was an old farmhouse but he had just replaced all the carpets, painted some interior walls, brought the wiring up to date, reinforced the foundation, checked the plumbing, installed double pane windows, and added more insulation to the attic. The house had four bedrooms and one and a half baths. It has a big back yard, a large patio out back, and an updated propane furnace. It was perfect.
Flapjack said the house sits right in the middle of their 120 acre farm and so he didn’t want to sell it. He had a renter lined up but they developed medical issues and had to move away. He was left with an empty house that he didn’t know what to do with so he listed it for rent on Facebook. “I had all kinds of interest,” he said, “but everyone either had four dogs and two cats or smoked or wanted to put in swimming pools or hot tubs. I didn’t know what to do. I never rented a house before so I don’t know what I’m doing. I just want someone who can stay here and keep everything nice.” The more we talked, the more I became convinced that not only was this house an answer to our prayers, it was an answer to Flapjack’s prayer as well. “When you mentioned MMS, it rang a bell,” he said. “Then I remembered, there’s a guy that goes to my church who is involved with MMS.” Turns out that a staff member at MMS goes to Flapjack’s church.
I was extremely pleased with this turn of events but still I had to double check. “You want $600 a month for rent, right?”
“Yes, $600 a month is fine.”
Janice, bless her heart, was concerned for the well being of Flapjack’s financial affairs. “Are you sure you’re charging enough?” she asked.
I glared at her. Flapjack McStevens assured her that he just wants someone he can trust living there. “In fact,” he said, “You can use the carport in the driveway there and if you have any bigger projects, you can use the garage beside the house.”
“I have a motorcycle project.” I said.
“No problem. Put it in there.”
I know God answers prayers but I’m still surprised when He does.
Please pray with us as we want to be OFFICIALLY fully supported by the time we move out (May 25th or so). Enjoy our blog? No pressure but if you decide you want to join us on this adventure, get support info by clicking here.
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