Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Part 4: A funny thing happened on the way to St. Louis

I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.

My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.

Psalm 130:5,6

Well, for those of you who have been following this series, this section will be a little easier on the eyes, as we will bullet-point much of the action. Here goes:
  • Next up was the appraisal.
  • The appraisal included an inspection of sorts, and if the house didn't cut the mustard, the deal was off unless things were fixed.
  • We had concerns that without some basic simple cleaning and repairs, the house would not cut the mustard.
  • Dave informs me that its supposed to be "cut the muster" not mustard, and I am so embarassed. I want to assure everyone that I really didn't think you could cut mustard, though one of my children does now -- AKK!
  • The house was as-is, so the seller would do no work on the house.
  • Since the loan hinged on the appraisal, we pondered: Should we get permission from the sellers to do some cleaning and repairs (cracked windows, missing vent covers, peeling paint)? (We were told this was permissible.)
  • We tried to work out an arrangement with the sellers, but were not able to.
  • We realized: Duh, if we want the LORD to show us his will, let's not force anything. We said, "Order the appraisal."
  • The week of the appraisal, the area received torrential rains.
  • The appraisal was A.O.K. except for the basement. There was some water in the basement. If the basement was shown to be waterproofed, it would be approved.
  • I should point out that the appraisal demonstrated that taking a trip to St Louis, fixing windows and peeling paint, etc. would have made NO difference in the outcome of the appraisal. The only thing that came up was something we could do nothing about!
  • Waterproofing the basement would cost $3,500. 00 .
  • We didn't have $3,500.00.
There are other interesting details I am leaving out, such as the fact that the basement had been waterproofed, and the sellers provided documentation to prove it, and the waterproofing carried a 20 year transferrable warranty. And that the loan officer assured us that would be good enough for the underwriters (foreshadowing alert). But I am jumping ahead.

As we waited, the Lord really did refining work in our lives through the waiting. You know how the native Americans could find a use for just about every single part of a bison they hunted? Well, the LORD can use ALL of our circumstances to accomplish his will.

For example, we knew we had to be content. Ok. We were content.

Here's what we were content with:

a) Staying in Wisconsin and Dave finding a local job, or,

b) Moving to St Louis.

However, here is what we had:

c) No idea what would happen.

C. was not our choice, but that is what the Lord wanted to use in our lives, with all the implications thereof. Just pressing on with daily things and NOT knowing. Not renovating the house (so we could more easily function as a family of 15 in it), not fixing it up as a normal home for a family of 4 (so we could sell it). As the seasons began to change, I started pondering: where will we put the snow suits, boots, scarves, and mittens? (These were things which we had already systematized and had many ideas for improvement, but none of that was conducive to marketing a house.)

There was a lot of time that we spent waiting for emails and phone calls during this time. We continued to hover in "maybe" mode Dave continued his weekly commute to St Louis. Fall began to set in, the days became shorter. We continued to wonder, not just when would we move, but when would this all be over??????

Our perspective got a much needed improvement after receiving a phone call from a friend one afternoon. She was asking for prayer. Her 10 year old daughter had begun staggering, vomiting and having extreme headaches. She was life-flighted to Madison where they found she had ruptured a blood vessel in her brain. The blood vessel was not supposed to be in her brain, but had never caused problems until now. Her prognosis was uncertain, and brain surgery was a possibility.

We began to pray, and asked to be called if anything changed.

At 3 AM, we received the call that their daughter was going in for surgery. It seemed like a long wait, but later that morning, we heard that surgery appeared to have been successful.

Next we heard that some of her organs were showing signs of shutting down.

In ICU, she was in critical but stable condition, sedated, on a ventilator, kept chilled and loosely covered to help prevent swelling in the brain. Her organs seemed to be improving a bit, but the doctors were hoping for quicker progress.

The concern with waking her up from sedation was the pressure in her head. It was carefully monitored, and found to not be decreasing as they would like. So, they continued to keep her sedated, and her parents rarely left her side.

The days passed in ICU. Her dad would lean her baby brother over her feet, and he would happily tickle her toes. But her only movement came from the ventilator, which kept her breathing like clockwork.

Her mom and dad really leaned on the LORD and were almost constantly by her side. While the hospital staff was always positive and helpful, no promises were made. She developed pneumonia after some time on the ventilator.

As the days passed, the family hoped to get closer to waking her up, but there seemed to be something always coming up that made it not such a good idea. One night, her mom told me, "She's just got to get better."

Regardless, the family had assurance, that no matter what, their daughter knew the LORD Jesus Christ, had repented of her sins, and was safe in the LORD, whether she lived or died. It was in the LORD's hands.

But the day came to wake her up from sedation, and she opened her eyes. She was unable to speak because of the ventilator, but she continued to take baby steps towards recovery. There were good days and hard days. There was concern about how much, if any, damage was done to her brain.

Finally the ventilator tube was removed. She began to walk and talk again. She went home.

Today she has no apparent long term damage, praise the LORD!

The LORD used that family's trial in many ways, including in our family. How much more we realized what it is to be in the LORD's hands. Not to know either way, but to just wait on the LORD. The other stuff will happen later; for now, wait.

So we kept waiting. And waiting. You know, it seemed like it took forever for the loan officer to get back to us.

We realized why when she finally got back to us.

"Never mind the issue about the waterproofing....

I've still been working on loan approval.

I'm really sorry, but

you're not getting the loan after all...."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I spy...

It was just a normal game, until Gideon asked,

"Is it the fire dehydrant?"

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Part 3: A funny thing happened on the way to St Louis....

"Go to now, ye that say,
Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city,
and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow.
For what is your life?
It is even a vapour,
that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

For ye ought to say,

If the Lord will, we shall live,
and do this or that."

James 4:13-14

Again, we continue with our testimony of "the long, dark escrow of the soul" which began here and continued here.

(This is a lengthy prologue, before getting back to our story....)

It was 1997.

It was our second day of our first trip to southern Mexico.

We had risen extra early that morning, because a delay on our first day cut our travel short. The drive to our final destination required a total of 24 hours on the road, but we had only gone 6 hours the first day.

As we approached mid-day on our second day of travel, we felt optimistic that we were making good time. Soon we entered a little town, the name of which I cannot recall. Traffic slowed, and smiling soldiers advised us we would have to stop for a parade.

We shifted to park; the van was still running, the air conditioner working hard against the heat and humidity. We waited a few minutes, as the temperature in the van slowly rose. Without the van's forward motion, our air conditioner was no match against the tropical heat of mid day.

We looked out the windows for clues that traffic would soon begin to move. No such clues.

Our tour guides, Uncle Bob and Aunt Jane, whom we were following, got out of their pickup truck and opened the tailgate. They began to make lunch. Right on the road.

For as far as we could see, the other stopped travelers were emerging from their vehicles, visiting, stretching their legs, or walking to the gas station to buy sodas.

Now this town was really a crossroads for several regional highways, so there were hundreds of vehicles stopped that day. I suppose if you could see the town from above, the vehicles would form a big asterisk, with its tangents steadily growing longer...

Eventually, we realized that the "parade" was actually a protest against the government! The townspeople, assisted by the soldiers, had secured a captive, yet inattentive, audience. Somewhere many yards away, we heard people with bullhorns. But on the highway, it was time for lunch, or a walk to the restrooms, or a game of tag for the children...

We were able to get to a phone and contact our hosts, who informed us, "Don't worry, they'll probably be done by dark."

So, back at the van, we ate our lunch. We watched and marveled at all the other content trapped travelers. Nobody complained. There was no outrage, no horn honking. It was as if we were in a different world, where people realized that things like this happen.
There were no assurances that you'd arrive at your destination at a certain time. We were starting to realize the wisdom of a basic piece of advice that the missionaries always offer to first-time visitors to Mexico.

"You have to be flexible."


Believe me, it takes much less time to read these long posts than to relive the actual events! We thank the Lord for the lessons we learned through this time of waiting for Him to show us His will!

As we finally entered escrow at the end of August, we had the feeling that it would not be long until the family would be moved down to St Louis. So we began to allow ourselves the mental gear-shifting that that would entail:

  1. We'd start packing boxes. Packing up things that were non-essentials would help eliminate clutter, except, wait, where do we put the boxes? Hmmmm....
  2. We'd start un-Kleining the house. Kleining a house can mean many things: painting walls tangerine or purple, installing two sets of triple bunks in each bedroom, hanging parasols of wet mittens above the dining room table, or planting three dozen tomato plants in the backyard. We knew enough about home-selling to realize it was time to un-Klein. Having a couple of vintage wringer washers, or a couple of school buses, in our front yard, affected a style of decor which did not seem to attract the average homebuyer.
However, we didn't get too far into these tasks before our loan officer called with some news...

Now, these were the early days of the mortgage crisis, and lenders were really cracking down on any signs of impending foreclosure...the most obvious of which is a late payment. A late payment? Why would we have a late payment? We had never had a late mortgage payment.... that is, until right before we set out to purchase a house during the early days of the mortgage crisis!!

We had always made timely payments using our bank's online payment system. It was a no-brainer. However, on one occasion, the mortgage payment amount fluctuated. Dave noticed that the system just paid the set amount. So, to ensure we always paid the amount due, Dave utilized a payment feature that would make the system pay whatever the "amount due" was for each month (rather than the same amount each month)

However, the first month he used it, it bombed and read the amount due as zero. No payment was made at all.

The bank promptly notified us of the missed payment...at our previous address in Texas (where we lived when we got the loan for the house!). Of course, mail forwarding didn't work after 3+ years in Wisconsin. (Don't ask me why they wouldn't think we'd be living in the house for which we got the mortgage, but they did not. )

So, by the time Dave discovered the error, we had been staked out by private investigators, checking to see if we were still in the house! When Dave realized the glitch, a phone call to a friendly bank representative at that time, way before our escrow began, seemed to have cleared all this up. Our bank recognized it was an honest computer error, and they assured Dave it would be rectified.

However, none of that was not showing up on our credit report, which our loan officer promptly informed us. To any lender, our name was mud. Because of the massive amounts of loans in foreclosure, our computer error had made the sirens go off, we were assumed to also be on the brink of foreclosure, etc. A few phone calls to our lender to try to get to the bottom of this availed nothing.

It was like peeling a big FDIC insured onion.

We explained this to our loan officer, and she told us not to worry, just wait until the next month's payment hits our credit report. At that time, she would pull a current credit report, and things should be fine.

So we waited.

We began getting strange letters from various sources, giving offers of help to avoid our pending foreclosure. Ug. Apparently, word was getting out.

At this point, we began to realize that we had better put a hold on packing, and just be flexible, and let the Lord show us what to do. Of all the times for us to have a computer error like this, He had allowed it to be right during the loan approval process. There was nothing we could do. We realized it was no accident as far as God was concerned. Maybe this was the Lord closing the door on the move to St Louis. Maybe He had a better plan.

In the meant time, Dave's weekly commute to St Louis continued. Daily, we battled keeping content and being patient. We could do nothing to move forward but wait for the next month's timely payment to hit our credit report. But we had much less assurance that we would be moving at all. Un-Kleining was on hold, because the Kleining was essential for daily living.

The house in Wisconsin needed many things to accommodate our family size, but we knew that we needed to ensure we had resources for closing and moving expenses...IF we moved to St Louis.

The garden and grounds, garage, etc. needed to be decluttered to make the house more attractive to buyers, since we would not be living in the country any more...IF we moved to St Louis.

(But if the St Louis deal fell through, then all that "clutter" would come in kinda handy...)

This was really a time of wrestling with the circumstances. But there was really nothing to wrestle with. We simply had to wait.

So, we returned to the reality of when you have to wait, you just have to keep doing what you are supposed to do. We got up in the morning, we had devotions, we prayed, we did chores, we cooked, we ate, we studied, we worked, we shopped, we had campfires, we got together with friends.

For some time, our friends knew of our possible move to St Louis...pending the sale of our house, pending the purchase of a place down there...pending.... Weeks went by with no news. "We may be moving, we don't know yet." When introducing ourselves to people we learned a pretty succinct way of describing ourselves:

"We are from Wisconsin and we may be moving to St Louis,
if the LORD wills.

During daily devotions, we often sang a song recorded by Steve Green that has become a Klein favorite:

I don't have to have the plan in hand
I don't have to have the end in sight
All I need to do is follow You,
wherever You lead,
and do what You've asked me to.

Trusting in You with all my heart
Following You all my days
Whether I can or can't understand
I'll acknowledge You in all my ways.

Though I am pressed on every side,
I am not in despair
My faith in You will carry me through
Though I may not see where You're leading me...

We would sing that song everyday, and just smile at each other, because the words rang so true! We knew we were on a ride.... with the Lord. He would do what was best.

So, we just left it with the Lord. And for a while, it did not seem like it was going to happen. We continued to get ominous junk mail, the days went by without a word from our loan officer. Dave's weekly commute made him weary.

Nearly every day, we had family discussions about the contingencies and possibilities. But it came down to waiting. That was what the Lord was teaching us. We often told the kids, "It really does not seem like we are going to get that house in St Louis." We said that because we knew the value of them learning to be flexible. It is so important in life! We all needed to remember that. The main thing was being where God wanted us. Wisconsin was fine for us, and we knew the Lord would make it work somehow. If the Lord did not want us to move, we did not want to move either.

On one day, it was Rebekah's birthday, we were all enjoying a lovely fall day at the state park, playing volleyball and making sandcastles. As we did nearly daily, we were chatting about things related to the move. We kept everyone aware of how Daddy's job was going, what he was doing, and the latest on the house and loan. Again I told the children, "I really don't think there is any way we are getting that house in St Louis."

Just then, I got a call on the cell phone. It was the loan officer.

"Your August payment finally hit, and your credit report looks great.
You are approved.
I know you are getting the loan."

I was soon on the phone to Dave who was in St Louis and gave him the latest update. At that moment, it seemed we were "go", but we knew there were some more details to be taken care of first. We figured it would be wise to still say, "If the LORD wills..."

We tentatively thought we would be looking at the end of October, give or take...

Since it was mid-September, we thought the end of October was pretty tentative.

But it was not tentative enough....!

The story continues here.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Walking with the wise - part 2

So far, here in St Louis, we have successfully made friendly contact with every neighbor we have met. This has been reassuring to us, as we are now living in "town" and we have the only bus on the block.

However, there was one neighbor, an older man who lives across the street, whom we hadn't spoken to or
waved at. The boys noticed he would occasionally stand in his driveway and stare towards our driveway, where our bus is parked, with a blank look on his face.

He never smiled or waved. It had to be a "get rid of the bus" look. How else could you explain such a thing?

Most of the winter passed in this way. But one day, this same gentleman knocked on our door. He explained that he and his wife were given a huge bag of bagels, and if we wanted them, we could call his wife and make arrangements. He handed me a paper with their name and phone number and house number. He wasn't gregarious, but he wasn't mean. I was unsure of what to say, but rather than put it off, I just called right away.

"I am so glad you finally called! We are so excited you moved in! We
didn't even know your name or phone number. We had six children ourselves! Do your children like to play games? We get free bread once a week and never know what to do with it....." and on and on! She chatted for about 15 minutes about church, the neighborhood, children, how great it is that we homeschool, etc. It was so funny! Since were were getting ready to go to church, I offered to have Zak go by and pick up the bagels. Zak and Noah went over and brought back a large bagful of deluxe bakery bagels (not the ones in tubes).

"She's just like Grandma B," Zak said. Grandma B is the nicest older lady
you have ever met! So, in Grandma B's honor, we named our neighbor "Grandma P".

But Zak also said, "Mom, they have the absolute WORST view of the bus! It's
all you can see of our house from their window!" That was ironic, that the neighbors who are the friendliest to us are staring at the least flattering part of our bus! Perhaps she had a soft spot for us, but he was irritated by the bus?

A few days later, Dave and I walked over to say thanks for the bagels and drop off a little thank you gift. We were invited in, and Grandma P lamented that "Papa" wasn't in.

What she said next explained why he would frequently stare at our bus from his driveway, and it absolutely floored us.

"Oh, I wish Papa was here to meet you.

You see, Papa was a church bus driver for 50 years.

He knows everything about buses inside and out.

He is dying to see your bus!"


One evening, we loaded up the bus for Wednesday night prayer meeting. Since our driveway is steep, we block the rear duallies with big hunks of limestone when we park. I pulled forward, and the boys pulled out the rocks. Suddenly, the brakes seemed to slip, and within seconds, we realized we had no brakes. The only thing keeping us from rolling into the street was that the transmission was in drive!

But the Lord kept us safe, and we blocked the tires without a problem. A quick check revealed that the brake line had sprung a leak. We had just enough fluid in the line to prevent the electric back up brakes from kicking in! We gave thanks to God.

Still praising the Lord, we began to think of the next step. Though we were exceedingly joyful for finding out about the lack of brakes before we started driving the streets of St Louis, we wondered if this was the death knell for the bus.

We went for a nice walk around the block before heading back into the house. We discussed the interest of Grandpa P, and his willingness to give advice. So, the next morning, we asked him about the problem.

We were so thankful when he eagerly agreed to come by. He and the boys were soon under the bus, checking the break in the line and discussing what to do. To our surprise, he said it was a pretty easy fix, all we needed was some brake line and a flaring tool -- and he had the flaring tool already!

Soon, the work began. The re-connection was easily made, but the line continued to leak from the new connection, which was puzzling. As every thing was checked and double checked, the boys listened to our neighbor tell horror story after horror story about buses! This brought us parents great joy, as we have relatively few years of bus experience under our belts, and appreciated the opportunity to learn from some one with 50 years of experience! We are so thankful to the Lord for providing a helpful neighbor with time and wisdom to share with us.

After a few days, it was decided to replace the whole line. Another neighbor, who noticed us working on the bus, volunteered some ideas, and said he had tons of extra brake line in his shop. (This made us wonder if everyone on this street is a bus mechanic!) In what seemed like no time, the whole line was replaced, the leak gone, the brakes felt good and tight, and we were on the road again!

Now there's no stopping us!

(Maybe I should rephrase that?)

When we later had Grandma and Grandpa P over for an appreciation lunch, we listened to more of their stories...such as when Grandpa P's car broke down in a bad part of town, and as he walked down the street looking for an auto shop, he found the EXACT size wrench he needed to re-attach his belt in the gutter! He used it to get his car running, returned it to its location in the gutter, and was on his way. God is good!

We really enjoyed our visit with them, and they seemed to enjoy having us around too. It was funny when they asked us exactly how it was we happened to move into this particular house.

Wasn't it obvious?

"The LORD knew we needed a brake job!"

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Walking with the wise - part 1

I prayed a prayer for wisdom
just like a farmer prays for rain
'cause I knew that I must have it to survive in this life
And I stared out in the distance,
as it seemed so far away

And I waited for the lightning
but the lightning and the thunder never came.

So I took a look beside me,
to my left and to my right

and saw people full of wisdom
all around in my life

and it started to come clearer,
I began to understand

that my prayer was being answered,
its all part of God's plan

that if we walk with the wise, we will grow wise....

-- Steven Curtis Chapman

Socialization is such a popular topic when it comes to homeschooling. The implication is that children will miss out if they don't have lots of age-mates. They will be socially handicapped, etc. We think that is a bunch of bunk! Being around a bunch of age-mates is what handicaps us, whatever our age.

For example, young parents are handicapped when they just clique with their fellows. The memories we have, as young parents... so long ago.... pooling our ignorance, clueless about child-raising, and not even knowing it.

One friend would say, "I can never go shopping with my baby; my husband has to watch him while I go, otherwise, it takes too long." Does it get easier to shop with a young child who has never been trained to shop?

Another felt triumphant that she found a video which would hold her young child's attention so she could get her housework done without any interruptions. Hmmm....that will make the transition to chores a little difficult...

One mom (who will remain anonymous) used to feed her toddler macaroni and cheese every day for lunch, because "that's all Zak would eat". Ooops.

Anyway, socialization is truly important, and we are especially grateful to the Lord when he blesses us and our children with godly OLDER people.

What brings us so much joy is to see our children learning to appreciate the older and wiser. We are thankful for the Lord bringing so many into our lives.

I have learned to look for answers
from those born before my time
and I listen as they tell me what they've learned in their life
I talk to friends with understanding much deeper than my own
They give wisdom without measure I could never find alone....

What an answer to prayer has been a dear older sister from our church who has given generously of her time to teach our girls to sew!

Actually, we have had tidbits here and there of time with willing instructors in the past (such as our dear grandmas!), but we now have the space to work, and the Lord has provided generously!

Besides being very practical, sewing seems a great skill to facilitate teaching patience, humility (reading the instructions), attentiveness, etc.

What a sweet time of fellowship and fun! Thank you Lord for sister Irene!