Claiming The Land

Months ago I wrote about how I was praying for a Year of Jubilee. I wanted a season of rest, very specifically a rest from cancer, and all the worry and pain my husband's cancer treatments inflict on my heart. God, in his grace, has since given us six months of "stable disease", six months without treatment.  What I didn't realize when I prayed for a Year of Jubilee was how much God would call out in my heart the other purposes of this specific season of Jewish law. During Jubilee slaves go free, and for months God has been showing me one place in my life after another where I wear the chains of slavery. I am slave to old wounds, slave to what others think of me, slave to approval, slave to fear, and shame, and guilt. And I am slave to so much sin. 

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (Romans 7:15)

God placed bright lights on my slavery, and honestly I didn't always respond very well. Oh but grace! Grace began to whisper and then to shout, and the words that grace speaks are LOVE. Pure love. 

Some chains broke, some began to loosen, some still have a long way to go. But I know that it is the work of the Spirit to free me and it will be done. In time. Through love. Not through my natural attempts at shame or striving, but through love. 

As this new year began, I started looking at a different aspect of the Year of Jubilee. There is a clear message of place in this season. A call to trust God for our "land". A call to give up land that you've claimed that doesn't belong to you and take back, reclaim, land that is rightfully yours. 

In a society that lives off the land, land means more than just home, it means place and purpose and work. Your land was your place in the community. 

And so I've been asking God a question... 

"What is my land? Where is the place that is for me and only me to claim and occupy?"

So often in my life I think I have shrunk back from claiming land that could have been mine. I shrink in fear, in uncertainty, in self doubt, in self consciousness. I don't want to do that anymore. 

But I am no stranger to the other side of this either. I have often tried to claim land that probably (or in hindsight, clearly) wasn't for me. I have spread myself thin, dipping my toes in lots of different communities, in lots of different activities, in lots of different work and dreams. I don't want to do that anymore. 

Here's what I do want: 

Only the land God has for me. 

Only the place He's written my name on. 

Only the seat at the table that He directs me to. 

I'm not really sure what this will look like. For the last month it had meant canceling a lot of things, not going to a lot of things. It's meant being home a lot, because the one place I'm certain is for me is my place with my husband and my children. I don't say that with any since of obligation, or chauvinism, or old wounds of "a woman's place is in the kitchen." I say it because I love my husband and children, this is where my love is, this is where my vows are, this is my family, my roots, my clear place. 

But I know it's not my only place either, and I feel sure that there is land, purpose and place in community, that God has for me and my family that we haven't claimed. So I continue to pray. 

A few weeks ago this prayer took a very tangible turn, and it resulted in very clear and physical leading that I don't want to forget. Because here's the thing, in this day and age our place and purpose doesn't have to be dictated by our physical, tangible, geography, but it will always, always, be influenced by it. 

So as I prayed for place, I began to pray for tangible, physical, geography as well. We've been living in a rental, borrowed land, for two years since moving to Arizona. We've been living far from our kids school and from many of the people who we consider part of our close community. 

So every day as I drove the 30 minutes to take my kids to school and the 30 minutes home again I began to pray for a house. And I began to pray super specific, for necessary things and unnecessary things. Above all though I prayed that we wouldn't move just to move, but that God would move us where he wants us, to the house that has our names written on it, the place that would put us where he wants us and enable us to be the people he wants us to be. 

I remember one day in particular, when I got super honest with my own heart and with God. I told Him I really like our rental now, that although I wanted to move, I didn't have any urgency to leave this place. This house has been a safe haven for us the past two years, it fits us well. I don't want to leave it unless I'm absolutely sure that the next house is a place God picked just for us. I didn't just want a move, I wanted a calling, a calling to a specific house. 

Well friends, today, only a few weeks after that prayer we are 14 days away from a close date on a house. And I can say with confidence, God picked it for us. 

Soon after that prayer I told my sister I thought Bryan and I should start casually looking at houses, no urgency, just looking. She instantly got on her computer and found a handful of houses within the few blocks surrounding her house. One of them, the one with the blue door, stood out. It was a bit more expensive then I wanted, and a bit bigger than I thought we needed. But I kept feeling nudged towards the house with the blue door. I think I looked at it on line every day that week. 

That weekend a dear friend of ours who is a realtor took us to see a handful of houses. We went to the house with the blue door first. It had nearly all of the necessary things I had prayed for and many of the unnecessary things I had asked. It was essentially turn-key and would need little to no work, which is very rare for the area we were looking in. We loved it, but our guard instantly went up. We looked at a bunch more houses that day but none of them met any of our requirements. 

We came home thinking and praying about the house with the blue door, but both secretly saying good bye to it, because we weren't sure we were ready to move on it as quickly as we would need to in order to get it before someone else. We also weren't sure we could really afford it and we knew the owners had already turned down one low offer. 

That night our landlady sent us an email telling us she'd like to sell the house we've been renting. The next day she officially gave us 30 days notice to move out. Suddenly we had our urgency, but we still weren't sure we could afford the house with the blue door. 

We went back to the drawing board and looked at a bunch more houses. We only found one other house that met our requirements and felt livable for us, but it didn't stir anything in us. We both kept thinking and talking about the house with the blue door. 

One day standing in the kitchen Bryan said, "I think we need to make a big ask. I think we need to ask God to give us this house and to give it to us at a cost we can afford." So we started to pray. 

I went back to the house with the realtor to see it again, and though I didn't want to admit this to anyone, walking in the door already felt like coming home. 

We started working on financing and my anxiety attacks started. For me it wasn't just the fact that it was a bit more expensive than I'd like, I wasn't sure I was really ready to buy at all. I wanted the benefits of buying, like being able to re-do things, make things more accessible for Sage, paint etc. But I didn't want the liability. Bryan's cancer is stable, but we have no idea how long it will stay stable and all I could think about was the liability that would fall on my shoulders if it didn't. 

And then we were told that because we still have another mortgage (a condo we bought when we were first married) we couldn't qualify for enough to make an offer on the house with the blue door, in fact we were a bit too tight for most of the houses in that area. 

We felt discouraged but kept praying. I started praying for some unforeseen way that we could have the benefits of owning without all of the liability. That's when my parents went and saw the house, decided it was perfect for us, and offered to buy the place for us, with the understanding that we could buy it from them once we were ready, and if something happened to Bryan and we never were ready then they would take care of selling it or renting it or whatever needed to happen - the benefits of owning without all the liability, exactly what I prayed. 

While all this was going on the owners got another offer on the house, a high offer, but a contingency offer, and they refused it.

We decided to make a low offer with the understanding that they would probably negotiate higher. My parents hate negotiating, and Bryan and I aren't fans of it either, so I quietly prayed that they would accept the first offer, never imagining that they actually would.  They accepted our low offer right away. 

At this point we felt awed and grateful, but we knew there were still lots of things that could go wrong. 

The next time we went to the house there was a note from the owners saying how happy they were that a young family was buying their house and how happy they had been living in this house. There was also a stack of boxes and tape they had left for us. Tears welled in my eyes as I walked through the house again. 

When the house appraised it appraised for exactly, to the dollar, the amount we had offered and they had accepted. When the inspection was done there were some minor little things found, but only two bigger things. One was the roof which we had already known about and factored in going into the deal. The other was that there is a leak in the master bath room. Someone wouldn't normally say that a leak in the master bathroom was an answer to prayer, but for me it was a little bit. The master bath was our least favorite part of the house and one of the things I wanted to do to the house was re-do that bathroom and make it accessible for Sage. I thought we'd have to save up for a while to do it, but the leak gave us urgency. Rather than ask the sellers to fix things we decided to ask for a credit to go towards the roof and bathroom. I had a set number I was praying for and they agree to that. 

Oh, and we were also able to set a close date that was less than 30 days out so that we would close three days before we needed to be out of our rental. 

Friends, I know all too well that things don't often work out so smoothly in life. But sometimes, purely and solely by God's grace they do. This house feels like it has our names all over it, like it's exactly where God wants us. It feels like a gift given to us by someone who knew us really well. And I want to remember this time, document it, and call it to mind. 

Now my prayers have shifted. Now, I'm praying for paths to place, to the place in community that is FOR ME, that are as clear as this move has been.  I'm praying for what my friend Morgan calls "holy nudges". The kinds of nudges that lead me to pray big bold asks. The kind of nudges that make me say, "That's not possible" and then let me watch and participate as God makes it possible. 

I don't want to fight against walls. I don't want to try and claim land that's not mine to claim. I also don't want to shrink back from the big asks, or from the places God has for me. 

I just want to follow the Spirit. 

I want to claim just what God leads me to. I want to claim the places that are mine, and for me, and have my name on them, nothing more and nothing less. I want God to fight for me, and my work to be the work of love, grace, and prayer, the persistent work of simply marching around the walls of Jericho with trumpets calling forth praise, the work where God gets all the glory cause it's all him, all His grace. Grace upon grace upon grace. 

Grace and peace,

Bethany

UncategorizedBethany Stedman