You’ll find Part 1 of The Story Behind the Name here.
In all my life, I never imagined what would feel like to be in the path of a giant rolling snowball until this point. I’ve heard people say that you can always cut back somewhere, but when you have no income and no money, it’s pretty hard to cut out everything.
Ideally, one wouldn’t take on as much debt as we had in the first place. That is the problem. Many times when things had looked bleak, we’d taken what we thought was a temporary step and used our credit cards or taken out a second mortgage, postponing the fallout that would inevitably follow. We had made many mistakes and by the time we had finally gotten serious and began to make changes, it was simply too little, too late. I hope you’ve never been in the path where I found myself but the fact is, if you haven’t you’ll have a hard time relating to what I will tell you next.
The months that followed were a blur. My husband and I were filling out applications, sending resumes, checking on job leads. Nothing happened with the exception of us falling further and further behind with the snowball rolling faster and faster. When my husband was working, I’d tried my hand at couponing and had successfully stockpiled food, with the intent of inviting friends and family over for dinners and fellowship, it turned out that my hoard of provisions fed us for nearly two months. At that time a family member gave us $50 a week for food, since we’d helped her through a rough patch. Ramon noodles, potatoes and beans became a staple.
When we first began traveling, a realtor had stopped at our house on three different occasions asking us to consider selling because he had a buyer. How I’d wished we’d have considered his offer. Our hope had been that we could get our debt paid and move back to Ohio for good. Besides, we had grown to think of our house as some sort of false stability.
We’d not yet missed a payment on our mortgage but we were struggling so we called our mortgage holder and spoke with them. They suggested that we consider a short sell, something I’d never heard of. Basically, a short sell is an agreed upon selling price that the mortgage holder will accept to release you from the loan.
We were optimistic. I called a realtor only to find that the short sell process isn’t as easy as the lender alluded to. Add to the fact that in one of our low points, we’d taken a second mortgage out on the house and things were beginning to look pretty bleak. The realtor would only list our house if both companies would agree on a price, which they would not do and according to our primary mortgage, we could only short sell our house if it was listed by a realtor. A real catch 22. I called four realtors. No one else would even look at our house. Why? There were far too many homeowners in our area in the same situation and the banks holding the loans were not easy to work with. Their advice? Live in the house and save money for when we’d be evicted. And speak to a lawyer, if we hadn’t already.
To make it clear, our mortgage was the last bill that we let slide. Our car payments, loans, credit cards, health insurance and utilities had already been ignored. .
We received disconnect notices on our gas and electric because we’d failed to uphold our end of an agreement on an extension, about the same time the lender threatened verbally to take my husband’s truck for non-payment. When it looked like it really couldn't get any worse, my husband got an offer. A company he’d worked for in Alabama wanted him to work, but only if we agreed to move. They were tired of us going back and forth. Not feeling like we had any other options, we packed up and drove away.
Things really didn't hit me as to what a mess we were in until one night in the hotel when my husband woke up with sharp pains on his side. He asked me to drive him to the ER, so I knew it was serious. My husband never willingly agrees to go to the doctor.
I left the kids in the hotel room with strict directions not to open the door for anyone. My husband was in a lot of pain and I was almost in tears. What would happen if it was his appendix like he thought and he couldn't work? We were already on the verge of losing everything. We didn't have the gas money to get home and didn't have the money to pay for the hotel room for the remainder of the week. I didn't know anyone that could check on the kids for me, we were alone, no friends or family.
And then I heard God tell me to trust Him. I didn't need friends, family or insurance all I needed was Him and to put my trust in Him alone. The following scripture came to my mind as clearly as if someone had spoken it:
“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” John 14: 13
That verse brought me such comfort. I began to pray and the more I prayed, the calmer I became.
At the hospital, we were never even asked about insurance. They escorted my husband to triage and had us wait. As we waited, I continued to pray. It was a busy night in the ER and several hours later, we were still waiting. As the hours ticked by my husband began to feel better. So we got up out of our seats and left. I walked out those doors with a peace that whatever lay ahead, God was with us. The road may not be easy, but He is faithful and He alone would meet our needs.
Though my husband was working, up to this point we barely had the money to pay our hotel room. We had managed to catch up on his truck but we’d fallen further and further behind on our home and to make matters worse, property values had fallen once again when a major auto manufacturer announced they were closing their plant in our town.
Our house fell into foreclosure. I was heartbroken, but I really thought that the Lord would allow us to obtain the money to save it. Even then, we made a trip home to pack our belongings. I know people move everyday but I can’t tell you how hard it was to pack up a home that we had dreamed of growing old in because try as hard as we could, we weren’t able to pay for it. I looked at our 1940’s home with all the cute cubbies and built-ins, the fireplaces that I’d loved during the cold winters, the tree outside that my boys had spent hours climbing and the fire hydrant that we’d painted to look like Uncle Sam during our cities Bicentennial Celebration and I looked at my daughters’ Tinkerbell room knowing that by the time we’d have a home again, she’d have outgrown her fascination of the Disney character. I could barely hold back the sobs that I knew would come.
We gave away many of our things, threw stuff away and kept very little. It was very emotional. To this day, when we visit our hometown, I can’t drive by our old home without getting choked up and teary eyed.
Looking back, the road was not easy. We lived in a hotel room until my husband’s truck was broken into and he decided he couldn’t stand it any longer. When we were at our breaking point, we got an unbelievably generous offer when someone offered to front us the money to buy a camper. Not a lot of money, just a couple thousand dollars, but we were confident that we’d find something that worked. You can read that story here.
After we’d found our camper, it became clear to me why we’d never been able to buy one before, though we’d tried many, many times. We didn’t need it before and we’d never have seen buying the camper as another way that the Lord had provided for our needs. And yet He had. And we were grateful and excited for this leg of the adventure. Besides that, the camper gave my children stability that they so desperately needed.
In October of last year, our house was sold, only 10 months after we’d missed our first payment. We tried to get help through different agencies, but the fact that my husband was working out of state and we didn’t live there just sped up the proceedings. Our house sold the day of the auction for over $100,000 less than it had been appraised for a year before.
I can’t tell you what it felt like when it sold. I thought I’d be relieved. I wasn’t. I became depressed because until it sold I firmly believed that somehow we’d have the money to save it and one day we could go home.
What happened next amazed me. One month after our house sold, my husband got a substantial increase of his workload, which means he began to make more money. Two months later he got an incredible raise that we weren’t expecting. We were finally able to buy something other than Ramon noodles at the grocery store AND we began to get out of debt paying off bill after bill after bill. Three months later, my husband got yet one more promotion. It seemed as though the debt just dissolved before our eyes. Last Friday, we finally paid off our trip to Disney World that we took in 2004! Tomorrow we will pay off our last remaining loan other than our mortgage.
In the past year we have paid off thousands of dollars in credit card debt, unsecured loans, two vehicles and the money given to us for our camper. We’ve also purchased a new-to-us conversion van, taken a vacation to Texas, and taken my mother-in-law and my parent’s on a cruise to Mexico without debt.
I would not wish for anyone to go through what we've gone through. And yet, I feel like the Lord gave us an opportunity to live our dream, even though it came at a price. Not only did we lose our home, we also lost friends and became the object of much gossip. On the bright side, my husband has a job, we have a new home (that we rent), our health is good and we are together. We have learned to live with much less and we have learned that our Father in Heaven is truly our Provider. We’ve also learned that facing foreclosure is not the worst thing that could ever happen in life. Unpleasant. Yes. Heartbreaking. Yes. A Blessing. Yes.
Today, I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have tasted the freedom that comes from a life without debt. I am confident that my children will not think about making the mistakes that we made and I’m thankful for the experiences and the adventures that the Lord has allowed us to have these past five years.
I’m grateful for this new home, our new church and the friends that have reached out to us. Slowly, I’ve learned to grow where I’m planted.
I used to be so judgmental. I remember hearing about people that were losing their home thinking how terrible they were and of all the mistakes that they’d made. I was never going to be “one of those people”. I’ve realized the same thing could happen to many, many people. Could you make ends meet if you lost 20, 40 or 100% of your income?
How do you relate to people that are facing foreclosure? Are you like I was, someone that prefers to see what changes they could have made and offer condemnation or a friend to those that are hurting?