What will they do with all our stuff

“Downsizing in the next few years is a precious gift Rick and I can give to our children.”

I wrote that statement in March 2014. Before Rick became disabled in October of that year. Before he was diagnosed with cancer in 2016.

At the time, my parents were in the process of moving back to our state from Florida to live with my brother. A trailer of their possessions had come up north with my mother in November. My siblings flew down to Florida to help my father pack their remaining stuff into a moving truck, and drive back here with him. My parents already had had three yard sales to reduce moving expenses.

We had spent so much effort thinking about our children’s future that we had forgotten to plan for our future as our lives were winding down. The thought of them being faced with what to do with our earthly possessions was deeply disturbing. I imagine them bewildered. The fact that our oldest daughter is on the autistic spectrum complicated the situation. Better to give it away before then, I thought, while we still have the strength and will.

Our old house was 1600 square feet, 2400 square feet if we counted the mostly unfinished basement. We were not hoarders, but we had accumulated a lot of stuff over the 21 years in that house, 31 years as a married couple. Our house had a lot of built in storage and extra little rooms. Putting something away and forgetting about it was the path of least resistance. Still, when I thought about cleaning it out and getting rid of what we no longer used, it felt like a huge mountain I couldn’t climb. I sometimes felt a sense of despair.

I kept putting off “now.” I was too busy. Life got in the way. My job, my children, and my husband took up the available energy.

However, when Rick was diagnosed with cancer in June 2016 and the doctors set him up to be evaluated for a bone marrow transplant, the need to make a change became urgent. We could no longer take care of our house. In fact, due to his disability, and the earlier all out effort to get our kids through college, our house was in poor condition. Neglected. Run down. A hundred year old house with an open grey water drain in the basement was no place for a man about to be severely immune compromised by a bone marrow transplant. That was what I thought at the time.

“What am I going to do?” I prayed while doing the laundry in the basement shortly after the diagnosis. I think God heard that prayer.

A week later, we were looking at a condominium in Kentwood. Two bedrooms, plus an extra room off the living room. 1,338 square feet. Our oldest daughter bought it and signed the mortgage papers five weeks later. People from our church and some in our extended family helped us move. We rented a large dumpster, and they helped us throw away over half of the stuff we had accumulated in 31 years of marriage. What had seemed like a mountain was whittled down with the help of friends and family. They threw away the accumulation. We gave away the rest. It was such a relief.

God uses even the hard things in our life to bless us. I often look back at the hard places in our lives and see that time as a time of great blessing, even though it was very stressful at the time. God is faithful.

Provision

On June 10, 2016, Rick received the diagnosis of myelodysplastic syndrome (a rare bone marrow cancer). He started on chemotherapy the next week. We were told that his prognosis was six months to two years to live. Before he started the chemo, we were told that any fever of 100.5 and above was a reason to call the doctor, day or night due to his significantly impaired immune system.

Someone said to me on a myleodysplastic syndrome support group Facebook page “dust will be your husband’s enemy.” That shook me. We need to move, I thought. I remember going downstairs to do laundry and looking up at the rafters in the basement with dust all over them. Rafters I could not reach. I stood at the washer and I prayed, ” Lord, what am I going to do?”

God heard that prayer. Wrapped up in that prayer was the thought, How will I care for my husband in this house?

And it was as if he said, ” Now you will see what I am going to do.”

Saturday morning, July 2nd, I suggested to Rick that he could take some money out of his 401(k) to help our daughter Erin with a down payment on a condo. He agreed. The next morning, he said to me, “I’m sorry to disappoint you, but don’t think we are going to be able to find a condo.”

“I think God will provide a place for us,” I said. “Look how He has provided for us in the past. He provided a way for you to go to college and graduate with no debt. He provided a job for me before the kids went to college. He provided the money our kids needed to go to college, graduate, and kept us safe during that time of taking them back and forth to school. Don’t you think that if God provided all those things, He will provide a place for us to live in our time of need?”

Rick went to the computer. “I’ll look, but I don’t think I’ll find a place.”

A few minutes later, I heard “Well, here’s a place. Two bedrooms, two baths. Maybe we can go over and look at the outside of it. To see where it is located.”

I then sent an email to a real estate agent that we had been working with to find a condominium for Erin close to her job. I told her about Rick’s cancer. She replied that she didn’t think we would be able to find a place. 45 minutes later, she called me and told me about the place that Rick had found and we all went over to look at the inside of it.

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In a market so hot our real estate agent told us condominiums were getting 20 offers, God found us a condominium within 4 days of that prayer. On July 5th, Erin made an offer on a condominium in Kentwood, only two miles from the job that God had provided for her a year and a half ago. At 6:30 the next morning, we received a call from the seller that her offer was accepted.

On August 11, Erin signed the mortgage papers for her own condominium.

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Then God also supplied the help that we needed to move. Many from our church came to help us along with my Uncle Bill, my brother and my nephew, and our son; some of them sacrificed two Saturday mornings, one to help us move to the condo, and the second to clean out the house to get it ready to sell. Our backyard was a jungle.  The youth group came to cut down the brush and clean up the back yard.

What a testimony this was to those around us. They said they were amazed at how this all happened so quickly.

I sat in church the Sunday morning after we moved, thinking about what God had done. It was stunning. God’s hand was clearly evident in all of this. Praising God through the tears.