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.

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