Reality sometimes bites our kids.

We gathered the kids around the dining room table. “You all know how tight the money’s been around here,” Nate started. “We’ve tried to cut back every way we could. Some of you have had to drop out of college. All of you have jobs. We don’t go on vacations or buy new cars anymore. But this stuff hasn’t been enough.

There is one thing, though, that we could do…” he faltered… “that would help us alot… that we’re going to have to do.” He paused. “We need to sell our house.”

After a hush during which I was sure I heard the roll of thunder, Birgitta, 13, responded with horror on her face.

“You mean MOVE?!”

My personal tears anticipating this moment had been shed days before, during prayer times for the kids looking at us now. My hope had been to remain tearless at that moment and speak light into the storm cloud forming.

“Maybe we’ll move to the country,” I chirped in a voice too high to be mine. “Weezi, you might get your own horse!” Our 15 year old looked at me through eyes full of tears, pursing her lips to hold back a sob… and words.

Nelson, 31, having moved out long ago, pulled toward optimism by pointing out how the four brothers could use country acreage to store rattle-trap cars and non-functioning go-carts. Although we appreciated his try, our main focus was the younger kids, and they were not doing well.

Getting through our half-hour meeting was like trying to swallow a pill that refused to go down. Reality sometimes bites, and it was biting our children. Although we’d been tempted to sugar-coat the news, we thought it better to let them have the whole truth, bitter that it was.

Five of our seven children had known no other home. The oldest two had only a handful of early memories of our prior house. As we watched their facial expressions define different inner struggles, it felt like we were yanking baby bunnies from the safety and familiarity of their snug burrow.

“Do we absolutely have to move? Who will buy our house? When will we have to leave? Will we take the animals? Will I have my own room?”

Our only accurate answer was, “We don’t know.”

The contract was formalized, and a FOR SALE sign went up in the yard. Gradually, over weeks and eventually months, resistance melted. Our address didn’t change. Other than occasional visitors marching through the rooms with clipboards, family life continued on.

Little did we know that by the time a serious buyer with a healthy checkbook would finally surface four years later, most of us would have come to believe the house would never sell, and we would never move.

Connecting the dots

“Ask, and it shall be given you.” (Matthew 7:7)

I can’t count the times I’ve quoted that Bible verse back to God while asking Him for something special.

Today I let my mind trek back to our newlywed days and an important request I made. In our first apartment there were four pieces of furniture: a card table, two chairs and a book case. We didn’t even have a bed.

But the reason we signed for that particular apartment was the Murphy, a metal fold-up bed permanently installed in a closet. At bedtime, it pulled down like the door on a dishwasher. In the morning, it lifted back into the closet, and the bedroom morphed into a living room. (We never had to “make the bed” because when it folded up, sheets and blankets slipped to the bottom anyway.)

The Murphy bed must have been named after a guy who never slept in one. If he had, he wouldn’t want his name attached to it. A bed with metal bands instead of springs is first cousin to a hammock.

As thankful as I was for Murphy, I began asking God for a real bed. Months went by, a new bed didn’t come, and I quit pestering Him.

But one day a friend called. “My grandma died, and we’re looking for a place to store her bedroom set. Are you still sleeping on the closet bed?”

Her grandmother’s exquisite furniture arrived the next week, custom made in the 1920’s, of satin wood from Australia. Movers hiked up three floors carrying not only a real bed but also a dresser, a high boy, a vanity, a night stand and a chair, each piece gleaming with polished inlaid wood designs.

As we arranged the furniture, chatting enthusiastically about its beauty, I never connected its arrival to my having asked God for a bed… until today that is, nearly 40 years later.

I was actually doing some asking for something else at the time. Although I didn’t hear God’s voice, out of nowhere the thought came: “How about less asking and more thanking… like for the bed AND FULL BEDROOM SET I sent you four decades ago, in answer to your prayer request.”

I was stunned. It was true! How negligent of me to miss the connection. But I guess that was God’s strategy, because immediately gratitude came pouring out of me in big waves.

I’m still planning to make requests but not to get stuff. Instead I’m asking God to show me how He has already answered my past requests without me noticing or thanking Him. Although I may forget what I ask for, He never does. I want to properly thank Him, even if it takes 40 years to finally connect the dots.

We didn’t really want to move.

What do you do when you absolutely must sell your house and it refuses to cooperate?

We’d bought 103 Creek Court in 1980. At the time, $129,000 sounded like a ton of money for a house, but our family of five, increasing by one more the following spring, needed room.

Life dealt a disagreeable surprise ten years later, however, when Nate’s thriving business went under, thanks to a governmental change in investment tax laws. Although we had the house paid off by then, when his income fell by four-fifths, we started over with a new monthly payment book.

Our brood had expanded to include seven children, three cats and a dog, all of whom wanted regular meals and a roof over their heads. Being desperate for dollars, we thought about selling the house at that point, but where would our menagerie go? Seeking to maintain a measure of stability when much had become unstable, we tightened our belts and stayed in the house.

But financial optimism dwindled month by month until it  petered out altogether in 2004. The better part of a year went by before we were able to haul ourselves over the “we-don’t-want-to-move” bump, but Nate and I met with a realtor that summer to finally do the hard thing and put our beloved home on the market.

Sitting in her corner office on a sunny day in June, both of us were quiet and sad, stained by defeat. But the rocky road we’d traveled while making our moving decision smoothed considerably when she slid her marketing analysis across the desk. “You’ll be surprised at what your house is worth,” she grinned, radiating anticipation like a parent watching a child unwrap a long-desired gift.

“Seven hundred and twenty five thousand dollars?!” we gasped in unison. “Are you kidding?”

“Hard to believe, isn’t it?” she affirmed. “Our town is absolutely red hot.”

Blowing on the growing flame of our enthusiasm, she added, “Most homes sell within a couple of weeks, some even higher than their asking prices. Bidding wars, you know.”

We didn’t know. How could a one hundred year old farm house that was always on the verge of its next repair bill be worth so much?  Seeing us frozen to our chairs in shock, she stood, reaching across the desk for a hand shake, which coaxed us to our feet.

“What do we do now?” I asked, searching for something to say.

“Sit back and wait for the offers to roll in.”

Once at home, Nate partnered with his calculator, and I kneeled down to clean out the messy cabinet beneath our kitchen sink, finishing with fresh shelf paper. “One less thing to do in the flurry before we leave,” I told myself.

That cabinet got pretty dirty before our house finally sold. The moving van pulled out just a few weeks ago, five years after I cleaned under there.