Our first home was more than we expected – both in its physical form, and in the spiritual lessons we learnt. God provided in abundance, and encouraged us when doubts began to creep in. We lowered our expectations at certain times thinking perhaps things were not possible, but God exceeded that original bigger vision we had. Even the little things mattered and we love the testimony He has given us for this first home.
My husband and his housemates used to rent a house which became known as “The House of Restoration”. Indeed, over the years they were there, many people came away with testimonies of healing and experiencing God’s grace in that place. Five young men, so different in their walks with God, yet all devoted to Christ, learnt to walk in love, holiness and accountability. Now, as husband and wife, we have been learning what it means to run a household with all the bills and responsibilities that come along with that. We have decided to call our home “Ebenezer”, meaning “rock of help”, a declaration that we remember God who is our help and our salvation, and a reminder of our vision that our home and our testimonies would radiate with the salvation and strength of our God who loves the world, our God who loves us. Ebenezer comes from the story in 1 Samuel 7, where the Israelites experience victory against the Philistines at Mizpah. The prophet Samuel sets up a stone and calls it “Ebenezer” saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” [1 Samuel 7:12]
Ebenezer has already been home to many testimonies of God’s grace and we look forward to experiencing and witnessing even more in this house, our first home. Here are just some of the stories and testimonies we have so far.
A Home for the Prayer Room
As you look at different houses and think about a first home, the picture of that “dream home” starts to take shape. In the beginning, we had some big ideas for our home, though we were not sure how these would actually work out. We wondered if we should, rent, buy or build, if we should arrange joint ventures with friends, and how we should decide upon our home. Practical aspects aside, there were a few home features we both desired, including an ideal space for a dedicated prayer room.
Once finance, location and design were taken into account, we ran into a few difficulties. We quickly learnt about the different foundations, soils, pests, air-conditioning and light aspects involved with various houses and we saw many interesting designs. Some houses were strangely designed, some had hidden restrictions on use of the land, some neighbors were rather interesting, and we met a copy-cat parrot with a large tumour, along with a giant lizard. House-hunting was fun and it all led up to one particular day when the two houses we had been keeping an eye on arrived at auction. Up until this point, we didn’t really mind whether or not our house offer was accepted. Even on this day, we remembered some wise parental advice – “Don’t be desperate”, and our own promise from God, that when we arrived at that right house, He would give it to us.
So, off we went to the first house to collect our first bidding card. Surprisingly, despite the number of people there, nobody countered our very low starting offer. The agent pulled us aside, told us the reserve price, we kept our low offer and he called the national headquarters of the bank who owned the property. A couple of minutes later, he returned saying that if there was no further bidding, the house was ours (at that ridiculously good price). All of a sudden, a man from the other side began bidding furiously and we backed off once we reached our agreed threshold. We were not immediately unhappy since we had one more house later that day, but this became remembered as “the house that slipped away”. It was my husband’s favourite from those we had looked at thus far. The afternoon passed quickly and we made our way to the last house of the day, the other house in our top two. Once there, we sat in the lounge silently watching the bidders pass through. There was no way we stood any chance against these rich-looking businessmen. We didn’t get the house, and we returned home a little dejected that day, having come second at a few different sites.
In my disappointment that day, I looked through the now all-familiar real estate listings. There was one property near my parents’ home which was above our price range. We decided to look at it anyway and, despite the extensive carpet (it was even in the kitchen), the layout and location of the house was good. We were still sad about missing out on our two favourite houses but that was finished and it was time to look into our back-up option of building (we had found a small plot of land), or to find some new options. The price for this particular home had actually been recently reduced, which just lowered it into our “potential” category. It was old, but spacious and well-maintained with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. We were interested and put down an offer below the asking price. The real-estate agent seemed to like us and actually labelled the house off-market, even ceasing to hold inspections though we were sure many other people could have offered in the marketed price range, unlike us. The owners were sympathetic to our being newly married and only just out of university. The deal was made, and the house was ours!
I remember staring at my computer the day of the failed auctions, wondering if perhaps we had heard God correctly. I began to doubt that the house He was keeping for us really existed. On that same day, when we faith was at its lowest, God gave us the house. We liked it better than our previous favorite homes and we got the house without an issue. In the paperwork and inspections that followed, God lavished His assurance and gifts upon us even more. Little aspects, and big worries were all covered by the faithfulness of our Lord and our Savior. Moreover, our house had the perfect solution for our prayer room vision. There was no granny flat, no little bedroom transformation, and no shared lounge. The older design of the house facilitated a beautiful front room, perfect for our prayer room. It was exciting to finally set it up, and we have been enjoying our moments in the prayer room.
Every Worry Deflected
The process of buying a home can be stressful. Once our offer for the home was accepted, we organised the building and pest inspections. I wondered what they would find under the carpets and whether that would mean we withdraw our offer once again. Every time a little worry came up and we prayed, it seemed God protected us.
- The floors underneath the carpet were in beautiful condition. Even the kitchen floor, which initially looked black, did not need to be replaced.
- There were a few nibbled termite planks in one room, but a thorough inspection proved no active termites
- The possibility of asbestos was raised but tests showed no asbestos, the owners fixed a segment of the roof, and we were not charged for the asbestos test
Finance was another issue. I have learnt more now but poor hubby was initially stuck with the responsibility of making sure financial ends would meet, and I didn’t really understand the dilemma. Yet, it seemed that every time the stress built up, God tossed us a little surprise. The most memorable was during our getaway trip to McLaren Vale. My husband had been very stressed about our finances the previous day as we thought about the different mortgage lenders, their terms and conditions. We arrived in McLaren Vale and received a phone call from a bank we had only spoken to that day. It had been a last minute visit, the last bank we would ask before making our decision and honestly, we didn’t really think this bank would be able to give a better deal than the others. I watched as my husband took the phone call – his face lit up. He put down the phone and the excitement poured out – this was the best offer a bank had made us! When we met up to finalise the deal, we had a small setback – I had only just started working, and hubby was not an Australian citizen. However, our broker asked for an exception for us with both the state and national bodies agreeing to the request. Had this deal not happened, we probably would not have been able to afford a house with its mortgage payments.
The Little Gifts
We found that some of the things we wanted, but deemed unnecessary were actually present in the house. I’m always cold, so the late discovery of a well-working heat light in the bathroom was fantastic. We didn’t ask for fruit trees, but we have five of them in our backyard and the lemons are indeed a-fruiting. I always used to turn into my parents’ home at the little red postbox, a beloved marker of my old home street. Turns out our new house had a similar red postbox to mark the suburb turn-off. These small little discoveries brought us great joy, and it reminded us about how God knows ALL our thoughts, how He lavishes His love upon us, and cares even about the small things in our lives.
We have dedicated Ebenezer house to the Lord, and we look forward to this new stage of our journey with God.