This is our house testimony. It’s long, but sooo good. My hope is that it encourages you, and proves that God really does give us the desires of our heart, even when things appear dead and done with! (Plus, I've included lots of pics to help you follow along).
So, to start with, usually I have a strong knowing when it comes to what God wants me to do. It's almost a no-brainer at times. Especially with big decisions like buying a house. But this time it was completely different. When we started searching for houses to buy in February 2018, we came across Apple Valley on Zillow. The house wasn’t listed on any MLS websites, but it clearly looked abandoned and like it needed a lot of TLC. It was in the neighborhood next to our rental house, so Andy and I drove by one day and peeped in the windows, just to check it out...
When we saw it, all I could think was "WOW." This house had so much potential and it was huge! (5,200 sq ft.) It was exactly my style and had the much needed extra space for our business!!!
Front of Apple Valley House:
View from peeping in front door:
The entry way was unbelievable, and I was already imagining having dress photo shoots in this area!!! I couldn't wait to get inside and have a better look...
So I reached out to the HOA to see what the deal was with this home. They informed us it was a foreclosure house, and had been empty for at least 3 years! They also referred us to a realtor in the neighborhood who knew much more about the house. We contacted him, and he filled us in as much as he could. He knew the house would be listed for sale on MLS soon, so we waited….
On March 15th, 3 weeks later, Apple Valley was listed on an auction site called Hubzu. In order to bid on the home (and have that bid accepted), you had to have a rehab loan or cash to purchase the house. This is because the water and electricity were not allowed to be turned on in the home prior to purchase. Without water or electricity on, a house will not pass a bank appraisal for a normal house loan. Andy and I knew this could be a very risky purchase, so we needed to see the inside of Apple Valley, and see what we were getting ourselves into, before bidding.
We toured Apple Valley two days later and found the house to be amazing inside! By amazing, I mean tall ceilings in every room, wood paneling, crystal chandeliers, and a huge game room that would be the ideal place for Lilies of the Field to operate. This house was just my style and perfect! However, there were also other issues such as large holes in the walls, obvious water damage all over the ceilings, and places where the Sheetrock was just...missing. Nothing in the house had been updated (toilets, tubs, etc) and everything was still in all of its totally tubular 80's glory! Haha.
So, like I said, the PERFECT house!
But for real, I knew those cosmetic things could be fixed and this house was perfect to me! Andy had a little more trouble seeing it all, but he also agreed with me. Our main concern was the cost to repair the home. With no electricity or water on, it was too hard to tell. What if the whole roof needed replacing? What if all of the plumbing needed replacing? What if the AC's didn't work? What if the pool equipment didn't work? What would all of that cost??? We just had no idea...
Just a few pictures of the Apple Valley issues:
So we prayed about it together, and just said, "God, if it's for us, then Your will be done! We don't want it if it's not what You have planned for us!" Then we took our leap of faith, and started getting our financing in place to bid.
We got pre-approval for the rehab loan and calculated what we could afford to pay for the house. However, our current budget would not allow us to bid very high. A rehab loan includes the cost of the house plus the cost to do repairs. The interest on a rehab loan is also much higher than a standard loan. We really didn't want to do this kind of loan, especially since there was no way of knowing what repairs the house needed, but for the time being, it was our only option (unless God just gave us the cash, which we also prayed for). Then we entered the bidding ring still not knowing if God was giving us a "yes" or a "no" on the house. It wasn't that God was silent during this time. We still heard Him every day, but on this one issue we were clueless. So we just stood on the verse, "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight," (Proverbs 3:6) and then we went for it!
We soon discovered however, that we weren't the only ones interested in Apple Valley. We also discovered that if the house auction didn’t meet the bank's reserve price, it went back up for another auction cycle of 6 days. Every time the house was re-listed though, the reserve price was lowered.
Andy and I participated in many auction cycles, hoping the house would finally be lowered to our price. However, some people were able to pay more than us and wanted this house too! As the months passed by, Apple Valley went under contract twice. The first time it happened, I cried, but said, “Ok, God. You have something better!” The second time it happened, I thought. “This isn’t going to stick,” and it didn't stick. Again the house popped back up for auction.
I kept a record of every auction on my phone:
You would think we would have just given up after losing the auction so many times, and thought "Hey, God closed the door over and over again, here's your sign!" But I kept thinking "God is just lowering the price for us. I've got to try again..."
But as much as we wanted Apple Valley, we didn't put all of our eggs in one basket. During this entire period from March-July, we looked at houses for sale on the internet every day. The trouble was we weren't seeing ANYTHING we liked. Even houses that were hundreds of thousands of dollars more (and totally out of our budget), were not to our liking. Also, on top of all of this, the house we were currently renting was up for sale too! Our lease ended July 31st, and we had to be out, house or no house. We literally had no idea what was going to happen, but we refused to buy a house we didn't love and we knew God would take care of us because He always has!
The coolest thing about this whole process was that God kept Andy and I in total peace the whole time. It's easy to be peaceful when things are going right, but you have to choose peace when they aren't. Now I'm not saying there weren't times we never felt uncomfortable with not knowing where we would live, but the very second we felt uncomfortable or like our peace was failing, we would immediately run to God and get His truth. Andy and I spend time with God and in His word every. single. day. Not because its a chore, but because we truly need Him every single DAY! We love Him. We love living in His peace, and we will never ever go back to what life was like without him or it again. And thank God we had His peace, because we still had a long journey ahead of us!
I'd also like to add that we didn't share our house journey with too many people while we were going through it. We shared with a few friends that we knew would stand with us in prayer and agreement, but that's about it. The thing is, most people just aren't going to understand you, especially when you take a leap of faith like this. They just think you're crazy! Haha! So we kept it between God and our closest friends/family.
Also during this time of bidding on the house, I would walk by or drive by Apple Valley constantly. I would pray over it. dream about. Imagine what it would look like all fixed up. I would tell God I was the "Apple Valley of His eye," and I even got one of my besties to come inside and pray over the house with me!
Kara and I praying over Apple Valley on July 1, 2018
And when I say dream about how I would decorate this house, I'm not exaggerating...
Here's my "Apple Valley Decorating" album from my phone:
I believe Faith is "picturing it done," and I had that part down! Haha!
Apple Valley even became a running joke between Andy and I. Whenever He was spicy with me though text, I would respond with this seal meme, and the words "You better buy me Apple Valley...."
When he was spicy at home, I would randomly whisper "You better buy me Apple Valley..." and we both would laugh so hard! I was totally joking...but totally serious. Haha. I would even do it to God sometimes, and he would laugh and wink back at me in my imagination!
By the time Apple Valley went under contract for the third time, Andy and I had just moved out of our rent house. It was now the beginning of August and we still had no house in sight. We packed up all of our belongings, put them in storage and moved into a furnished Airbnb house, hoping and praying it wouldn't be long till God found us a new home. Of course I would ask Him what was going on, and He would just tell me it was all under control and handled. That He would give me the desires of my heart and we would have a fabulous home." I chose to trust Him.
Then on Aug 6th, my Grams passed away. She was 92 and had told us she was ready to go, but it was still sad. However, she left me an inheritance that would help us so much. You see, when we started Lilies of the field, we started it with our own cash. That cash could have been used on a house, but we chose to trust God and start the business instead. Through my Grams, God had just given me back the cash I had used on the business plus some. I was so grateful to her and to God for such a blessing that was much needed! We received the inheritance extremely quickly too, but still there was no house for us to buy...
My Grams and my Seeester:
On September 5th, a month after being in the Airbnb house and with no potential houses in sight, Apple Valley closed and actually sold to another person.
Aaaand I can't even describe to you how I felt that day. I cried and cried and cried! It was like I was grieving again just like I did for my Grams! It was so unlike me, and so NOT peaceful, that I started apologizing to God. I then asked Him, "What's wrong with me?! "Why am I acting like this?! "I trust you!" "I know you have something better for me!" "It's just a house!" "Why am I being SO ridiculous?!!!"
God respond immediately saying, "Melissa, it's not just a house, it's a desire of your heart. I need you to recognize it's a desire of your heart."
And that floored me. I wanted this house so much, but I wanted what God wanted for me much more. Sometimes you think if something doesn't work out, God must be saying "No." But sometimes when something doesn't work out, God is saying, "Don't give up." When He told me the house was a desire of my heart, I thought of the verse "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4) I then realized this was a "Don't give up" moment...
God was saying He WOULD give me THIS house. But how? Then I suddenly had a thought: "Let's see if our realtor can find the new owner of Apple Valley and have him sell the house to us?"
Note: Of course God gave me this thought, but I didn't realize it until later...Sometimes He sounds so much like us, it's hard deciphering at times!
I immediately emailed our realtor and asked him to see if he could find the new owner. Because our realtor is also on the HOA board for Apple Valley (the same one who gave us info on the house in March), he was able to do some research and locate the owner's email. He sent the email out that day and the new owner responded the very next day saying he would be interested in selling the house to us "As is, for a profit."
Apparently the new owner lived in California and was planning on flipping the Apple Valley house and selling it. He said that even he almost didn't get the house, but was able to push the bank into selling it to him because he was an all cash buyer.
So we negotiated with the owner for the house for over 2 weeks. There were highs and lows. There were times I thought, "This isn't going to work," but then I would think, "But God has taken us this far so it has to..." Our realtor was also amazing. He was excellent at negotiating and being patient with the owner while everything got squared away.
The main thing we needed was for the new owner to turn on the water and electricity so Andy and I could get a proper house inspection and try to get a normal loan for the house instead of the rehab loan. A normal loan would be less expensive and allow us to repair the house at our leisure. Basically, it was the only way we could afford the house. The owner finally agreed to it.
When our inspector went through the house, he found the house to be in pretty bad shape. There were roof leaks, tons of pipe leaks, holes in the walls and kitchen appliances missing. The pool had been covered for years and we had no idea what was underneath. The only good thing about the house was that the air conditioners were working...(Oh man). By this point, we knew the house would need a lot of expensive repairs, but if God helped us buy Apple Valley, we knew He would help us fix Apple Valley too. No Faith, no gain right?! Plus I had an inheritance now to help with repair costs! It wouldn't cover everything (not even close) but it would pay for the new roof and new plumbing we decided the house absolutely needed...
So we executed the contract with the owner and focused on our next biggest problem: getting approval from our bank for a normal home loan.
Getting a normal bank loan is usually pretty easy. Andy and I have perfect credit and plenty of funds, but the house you purchase with your bank loan must also be in good, livable condition.
"Houston, we have a problem." Hahahahaha!!!
Apple Valley wasn't livable, but we needed to make it look livable. Our prayer was that the house would pass the bank appraisal and then we could do all the major repairs the day after we owned it. If the bank required repairs before we closed, we would essentially be risking all of our repair costs and the house still could not close, and not be ours.
At first we thought, let's just repair the holes and paint over the water stains. So we hired a team and they got the job done. Then I had another thought. "Let me go clean the house a little too."
Note: Also, definitely a God thought I realized later...
Y'all, I don't even know what I was thinking. First of all, I knew there was no water on in the house. So I brought bottles of Windex and paper towels, thinking that would be enough to spiff the place up...
You know that saying "Seeing things through Rose colored glasses?"
Well, I was so in love with the bones of Apple Valley, I never even noticed the layers of dirt and goo and maybe even animal pee that caked the place! But God knew exactly what was needed to clean the house and sent me a helper in the form of a man named Luis.
Now, Luis was hired by the owner to keep watch over the house. However, when Luis came in and saw me cleaning, he stopped everything he was doing and started cleaning too! Now if that's not incredible enough, let me elaborate.
I'm not talking a little dusting here or there. This man cleaned. He mopped. He scrubbed. He hauled buckets upon buckets of warm water to me from his place. He brought me cleaning supplies. God had sent me a cleaning machine. Then when I realized the house was going to need more than one days worth of scrubbing, I came back the next day to find he had stayed late, and mopped the kitchen, cleaned the carpet and vacuumed the entire house!!!
And did I mention he did all of this work FOR FREE?!!! Not ONCE did he ever ask for money or to be paid!
WOW God. WOW.
Of course, I couldn't let him do all of that work for nothing, so I did give him some cash. I also got the opportunity to pray for him the first day where he was filled with the Holy Spirit and God healed all of his back pain! So Luis was blessed too :)
Pictures of us cleaning:
Later he told me "Something" told him to help me clean. I told him that "something" was Holy Spirit. Haha!
It took us 3 days to clean the house and it was DISGUSTING!!! I mean, gross. Imagine what a dirty toilet looks like when it sits for 3 years with poo in it? Ewww. But guess what? When the bank appraiser came out, he ran through the house and passed it! He actually passed our non livable house as livable. Talk about a miracle!!!! God knew the house needed cleaning and He knew I needed help (even though I was clueless).
So fast forward to today. It Is Saturday, Oct. 27th, and we closed on Apple Valley yesterday.
Can you believe it?!?!!!
8 months. 8 long months of praying for a house and we finally have the house of our dreams (until we build our own chateau of course!)
I've laughed, I've cried, I've praised, I've thanked, and it still feels so surreal. I mean, this house still needs so much work, but I'm so excited! God could have just given us the cash for this home and made it easy, but then our faith wouldn't have gown. Our friends wouldn't have seen us walk this journey out in peace, Luis wouldn't have a healed back and be filled with the Holy Spirit, and honestly, it just makes for a better story! What I thought would take a couple of months, took 8. When I thought all was lost with this home, God made a way. He gave me the desire of my heart, and I know he has bigger plans for this home than I even realize yet. It makes my cry happy tears all over again just thinking about his goodness.
None of this was easy. All of this required faith, choosing his ways, and taking risks, but God helped us every step and we were able to do it with Him in joy and peace. I can't wait to make Apple Valley beautiful again and show y'all all the before and after pics too!
So commit your plans to God, and He WILL align your steps! Just hang in there and don't give up!
I hope this post encouraged you today, and I've also included a journal entry from God and what He told me about Apple Valley, right after we found the new owner. It's pretty amazing :) Bye Lovelies.
Letter from God: