I am sitting in our daughter Amy’s kitchen right now, realizing that in about 24 hours we will report to the MTC (Missionary Training Center) prior to our leaving for Australia. Getting to this point has been quite an adventure, quite a faith building experience, and a lot of work. – And it all started over three years ago.
We had been living in the home we built in Lindon for about 13 years when Bob started feeling an urgency to go on a mission. He wasn’t yet retired, and I was still working in real estate. We also had a large home on too large of a lot (not the one pictured) – definitely not the kind of home we’d be comfortable leaving empty during a mission, and definitely not the kind of yard we were comfortable leaving to another’s care. We loved the neighborhood we we had been living in for nearly 20 years and hated to leave so many dear friends, but it felt like downsizing was the right thing to do at this stage in our lives. And although we had a relatively small mortgage, we wanted to get rid of it as well before committing to a mission. So, the process of simplifying our lives and preparing for a mission began.
We had let a few neighbors know that we were interested in selling, but didn’t do much more than that while we prepared the home for the market. One family that we knew expressed some interest, but we didn’t come to terms. But as soon as we we ready to sell, the husband showed up on our doorstep one day, ready to buy. (Miracle #1) In October of 2014 we sold the home, downsized our belongings and put them in storage, and moved in temporarily with one of our children, since we hadn’t found a home to buy yet.
About two weeks later, my husband Bob got up one morning and offered one of those special prayers to the Lord. He asked for help in finding the right home in the right location for us. Thirty minutes later he went to his email account and found a promising new listing on an automatic update list I had set up. He had a meeting soon at work, but called me about the home. I hurried out to see it, and the features it had matched both our wish lists and served our needs so perfectly, it was uncanny. (Miracle #2.) It should be noted here that we had been looking intensively for most of the past year, and hadn’t found anything that felt quite right. We bought the home and moved in and settled into our new neighborhood about a month after moving out of our old home – after exercising that leap of faith in selling it.
We submitted our mission paperwork in November of 2015, about a year after the move. When our mission call came in December, we were really surprised that it was seven months away in July of 2016. We had never heard of a call that far out! However, we soon came to understand that the Lord’s hand was in it. (Miracle #3 coming up.)
As Bob was winding down his career, it became apparent in February of 2016 that his father in Arkansas was no longer really capable of living alone. After learning that he was in the hospital with a bout of pneumonia, Bob went out to care for him. It was obvious that the time had come for more assistance; his father would have died if a neighbor that had not seen him for several days had not came by to check on him. Bob tried to reason with his dad, but he was adamant that he was unwilling to move away from his home in Arkansas. With his father’s health problems, loneliness, depression, memory lapses and scary driving, leaving him there was a stressful proposition. The visit ended badly. Bob came home full of concern and frustration. Leaving on a mission to Australia with his father in that situation was just not comfortable, and would likely be a distraction. Yet, all we really could do at that point was pray for help.
The second Wednesday in April Bob approached me in the morning and said that he had a strong feeling that he should go back to Arkansas, and left the very next morning. When his father opened the door to him, he was embarrassed because his face looked terrible – all black and blue with a broken nose and an apparent concussion from a fall. When Bob took him to the hospital the next morning, his doctor said to him, “Maybe it’s time for you to consider going to live in Utah.” Bob didn’t say anything, but instead helped his dad do some needed repairs around the house over the next few days. On one of their trips to town (he lived in a very rural location in the Ozarks), his dad became very frustrated and did a little rant about how he no longer knew how to get to stores he’d gone to for years, and how he didn’t even know how to get home from the familiar place where they were at the time. Bob expressed that these memory lapses had been a concern for him, particularly after he had decided a few weeks earlier that he would make the move, then changed his mind the very next day. His father then related that after making that decision he had become overwhelmed after packing one box for the move. He knew it was more than he could handle. Bob then told him that all he needed to do was make the decision, and we would handle the rest. That decision was made, and he never wavered after that.
Bob ended up staying in Arkansas for four weeks doing repairs, getting his dad ready for the move, and his dad’s home ready to sell. I drove out with Bob’s sister’s husband Greg for the last week of that month to help get the home cleaned up on the inside and ready to sell. It was a tremendous amount of work, but we accomplished it all and headed back to Utah. We soon got him settled into his own apartment in a very nice assisted living center. After just a few days he asked Bob, “Why didn’t you talk me into coming out here sooner?” He absolutely loved his new home, and all his new friends. (Miracle #4.)
The move presented an additional obstacle, however. We were to leave on our mission in about six weeks. Even sharing the cost of the facility with his sister, the monthly financial burden it placed on us was not insignificant. It was now important to get his very old, rundown rural home in Arkansas to sell quickly to eliminate his father’s mortgage and pay off some substantial bills to free up funds to help defray the cost. We asked our family to help us through prayer. The home was under contract to a cash buyer within a couple of weeks, and closed last Friday along with two adjacent lots we had purchased from his dad years ago to help him out. (Miracle #5.) This closing also occurred on the last business day before we were to enter the MTC. (Miracle #6).
Now it is late Saturday night. We enter the MTC on Monday morning. Bob was not comfortable leaving our home empty for 2 years, and I was not comfortable renting it out to someone I didn’t know furnished, so 18 months after moving in we packed everything up and put it into storage again. We found a great family to rent to, and have friends and neighbors looking after some of our affairs while we are gone. Whew! It’s been a long and busy journey, but with the Lord’s help, it feels like we’ve been able to move mountains … and build more spiritual (and physical!) muscle in the process as well.
(EPILOGUE: Not being sure of the best picture to use for this blog post, I used one of our “downsized” house – Miracle #2.) And after all these challenges, I also had this happy thought occur! I realized that missions also mean less housework, and no yard work! I’m ready for that – after all these moves, a mission should feel like a vacation in comparison! In addition, Bob also suggested that I use all the rent money to pay for some remodeling I want to do when we come back. (Miracle #7?) I jumped on that one, have now put it down in writing, and am holding him to it! 😀 )