A House-sized Banana

Below is a story written by my dear friend, Jen, about the large bunch of ripe bananas she and her husband, Chris, received last year. You can read more about Jen and Chris and how they met and married in the ripe banana story from April 2013: (Why) Fridays Are the Best Day of the Week to Get Married!

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This is a “Ripe Banana Story” per request of my lovely friend Hillary:

Chris and I had only been married a wonderful 4 months when a clear blue urine strip confirmed my suspicion we were pregnant. We were out of town, part of a wedding party of some friends of ours. I was bursting to share our joy but it was our friend’s special occasion so we hid the excitement and limited the celebratory dancing to the privacy of our hotel room.

Immediately a flurry of hope, dreams and excitement occupied my thoughts and mind. It was hard to think about anything other than the miracle that was growing inside me. My heart was so full. On the drive home from the wedding we started talking about our condominium. Then reality hit me: Where would this new baby sleep? We lived in a 735 square foot, one bedroom condo and already felt our living space was cramped by our large 85-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback. How would we make room for a baby too?

I had originally bought the condo back in 2007, right before the market crashed. Many folks lost their homes through forced foreclosure and short sales. I had been fortunate to have been able to hold on to the condo during this rough economic time, however the value of my condo dropped significantly. So, even after owning this property for 7 years I believed we were unable to even think about getting a larger home, since my condo had not gained any value.

After much discussion and weighing the pros and cons of renting a bigger place, we decided we would be patient and wait a year. Having a large dog limited the number of rentals even available to us, and we felt it would be wiser to save the extra money we would have spent per month on a rental property (Sonoma County is unbelievably expensive!).  We decided to plan on sharing our one bedroom with our new baby for her first year of life.

I would love to report that I have had a fantastic attitude during this season, but honestly I started growing increasingly frustrated with our situation. My wise husband, however, would just encourage me to be patient. He assured me the Lord would bless us with something great in the right time.

Around October, a good friend of ours started talking to us about our plans to move into a bigger place. I was discouraged and told her I didn’t know what to do since I did not believe we could sell our condo for any profit. We most likely would not qualify to buy another property and renting was an expensive alternative. She suggested meeting with a realtor and a lender to see what our options were.

After meeting with the realtor and lender, we were pleasantly surprised to learn we did have some options, but purchasing a new home would most likely be contingent on selling our condo. We decided to start going to a few open houses to see what was available on the market and to get a feel for what might work for our family.

Unfortunately Chris received some sad news from Uganda that a dear brother-in-law had unexpectedly passed away on October 31st.  Chris immediately flew to Uganda to grieve with his family and help with some family business. While Chris was out of the country I was still looking at houses with the realtor.

Now, I’ve never bought property anywhere other than here in Sonoma County, so I don’t know if this is the same everywhere, but here there is a lot of competition for property. There are people who have the ability to purchase property in cash, so those needing a loan often have a harder time getting their offers accepted. There is also the pressure to make a decision quick, and be the first to get an offer on the table and accepted before a more attractive offer comes along.

While Chris was out of the country, my realtor told me about a property that hadn’t sold for the original asking price. Also, the money for this particular house was to go to charity. Since the money was going to charity, we thought we might have a good shot at this house, as the seller might be more patient and willing to work with someone with a loan contingent on the sale of another property.

Before seeing the property in person, I looked at the pictures online.  I have always really loved the charm of older houses, and while looking at the photos I immediately was excited about it. But my husband wasn’t here to look at it, so I prayed for God to give me discernment and the eyes to see if this was the house He had for us.

Immediately upon arriving to the house I noticed the picture of the agent on the real estate sign in the yard. He is a long-time member of Hessel Church, where Chris and I attend (another connection is this agent’s cousin is also a missionary in Uganda and knows Chris and his ministry well). On the front door I noticed a little plaque with a cross and fish symbol I knew instantly Chris would love. In the back yard there are two Redwood trees. Chris was amazed when he first saw the big Redwood and Sequoia trees here in California. I knew it would be special for him to own property that had these particular trees. Additionally, this property also had an extra garage and workshop in the behind the house. Chris has many skills and enjoys working with his hands. 20150216_125757How perfect that this house would have a workshop space for him! While viewing the house, I also noticed a quote from Psalm 27, “The Lord is my Light,” carved onto one of the light switch covers. I knew it would bring Chris joy to see that.

From the first day I saw it, I knew I loved the house and called Chris in Uganda that night to tell him all about it. He was also excited about it.  The next morning I was taking our daughter for a walk around Spring Lake. I got a call telling me there were two other offers on the house and if we wanted a chance at buying it, we had just two hours to write an offer. Wow! What a decision to make on such short notice! Was it wise to make an offer on a house my husband hadn’t even seen yet? I decided to go for it and met with my realtor to write the offer. Here are a few more facts about the house that are important to mention:

  1. We found out we could get a loan for this house without needing to sell our condo first (this spared us the burden of putting our condo on the market and having to allow prospective buyers to come into our home while we were still living in it. This especially would have been an inconvenience with our 6 month old baby and large dog).
  2. The seller of the house turned out to be a missionary and friend from church. In fact, his wife had just sent us a sweet card in the mail just two days earlier letting us know she was praying for our family while Chris was in Uganda.
  3. We found out the “charity” the money from the sale of the house would be benefitting was actually three different Christian Ministries, two of which we have a close personal connection with: Mt Gilead Bible Camp and Conference Center, and In Faith Ministries. My friend who had encouraged us to start looking for a house, pointed out to me how amazing it is to know when we are paying our mortgage each month we are simultaneously supporting ministries that are building the Kingdom of God ! ☺
  4. When I called Chris on the day we needed to make an offer, he said he trusted me and was okay with my decision to move forward and make an offer on the house.

In the end, we wound up with an advantage over the other prospective buyers! Even though they were coming to the table with cash offers, we alone were given the opportunity to make a counter offer, thus putting our offer ahead of the cash offers (this is because the seller wanted to be generous to our family). We were happy to close escrow in less than 30 days! I truly believe the Lord saved this house for us. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. It didn’t sell at the original asking price, which kept it on the market when we began our search.
  2. Because the price was lower we were able to keep our condo as well (we are currently renting it and hoping to sell it after it regains more value).
  3. We are so thankful the Lord provided renters quickly; we were spared having even a single month when we might have been stuck paying for both the mortgage for the condo and for our new house ourselves).
  4. Our daughter now has her own bedroom and our dog has a great backyard to enjoy and get all the exercise she needs.
  5. The house is walking distance to my work and to the local junior college where Chris is currently taking classes to prepare for the GED exam.
  6. We are excited to know that the original owners were believers who used their house to serve the Lord- the extra garage and workshop in our backyard was used for many years as a Sunday School to teach the Gospel to neighborhood children. We learned they called this space “The Tabernacle”. We are humbled that the Lord would choose us to be the next owners of a home that has been used to serve Him, and we pray we will be faithful to also use this house to glorify him.

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Jen is a nurse and currently lives in Northern California with her husband, Chris, and daughter, Ssuubi. Chris is a pastor from Uganda and works with Frontier Force Christian Ministries. You can learn more about this ministry here.

The godly will rejoice in the LORD and find shelter in him. And those who do what is right will praise him. ~Psalm 64:10

But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do. ~Psalm 73:28

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