House Hunting Adventures v. 3

Lesson Learned v. 3: Don’t Force Feelings

G and I are loving being homeowners. We are continually working to make our new house a home and have completed a number of projects thus far. These include demolishing the wall between the dining room and living room, repainting six rooms, reflooring five rooms, trimming rooms, and hanging blinds. We both have the week of Christmas off in order to gut our bathroom and remodel. It has been quite the adventure already!

It seems crazy that we’ve only lived in our house for a little over two months. Not even four months ago we were casually house-hunting. I’ve shared with you our first six house visits here and here, but I have one final story in that journey to tell. It took visiting three more houses for us to find our little lovely corner of Southwest Michigan. Here are those final three tales…

Family friends lived around the corner of House #7 and brought it to G’s and my attention. This old farmhouse was exactly what we had been searching for: it lay on a beautiful country lot, it had a large garage and interior rooms, and it was within our price range. It had its quirks such as a door which opened to a brick chimney and awkward closet placements. However, we both shrugged our shoulders at those knowing we had witnessed worse issues. Following a tour of the first and second floors, we were pretty set to make an offer. Then our agent, Dawn, directed us to the basement.

Ah, yes, another basement story…

The basement was another dreary and wet Michigan basement. There was your typical cobwebs, dirt clumps, and steel support jacks.

That’s right.

Steel. Support. Jacks.

It seemed the house’s owners were attempting to prevent any sort of floor collapse from the early-season flooding by propping the entire house up with two jacks. These jacks were about a foot in diameter and rested at two opposing corners of the two-story home. In addition to the jacks, many of the floor rafters were strapped with steel bands where large cracks had appeared. Thankfully the day we visited was a calm, pleasant day outside because I worried what might happen if the wind blew.

Hundreds of questions flooded my mind. How long would this house remain standing? Were the jacks sufficient? What sort of additional support would be necessary in the future? Had an inspector seen this?

As we drove away, G and I discussed a lot of our questions and decided we would sleep on the house and rejoin the next day to talk more. We loved everything about the house. We wanted to say yes. We wanted to place an offer. But ultimately our gut told us that House #7 was not our forever-home.  So we passed and went on to House #8.

House #8 rested in a cute neighborhood close to the state highway. It was probably the most modern and cleanest house we visited, and G and I both liked it. A lot. There was a decent-sized kitchen, a large living room, a two-car garage, and each of the three bedrooms were decently sized.

Though we couldn’t disagree the house had a lot of potential to be our First Home, we had one concern. There was no property. Directly to each side of the house was a neighbor not even 10 feet away. The backyard was fenced, but was only about 30 square feet in size. This wouldn’t be a big issue if the house weren’t also one of the more expensive homes we viewed. Yes, that price included many modern features and the lack of much work needing to be done — House #8 was definitely turn-key ready. Yet we knew within a few years and a child or two we’d have to move.

Moving wasn’t a deal-breaker, but we had gone into our house-hunting adventure with an agreement we’d search for a home with “Forever Home” potential. House #8 held no future promise once our family grew.

Since we said no to House #8 strictly on the principle of size, I’m not sure why we ventured into House #9. This little place was a mere 780 square feet.

I guess we simply wanted to leave our apartment where our upstairs neighbor’s bathroom water was flowing down our kitchen wall. Ugh.

House #9 made for a quick visit because there was not much house to see. A kitchen, a bathroom, a living room — all small. Not to mention the two bedrooms which couldn’t accommodate our party of three (G, Dawn, and me.) let alone a bed sized larger than a double. It was a nice house, but did not fit our needs.

As we pulled the door shut of House #9, I turned to Dawn. The mid-July sun was setting when I said, “I think we’re going to wait and start hunting again in the Spring.”

G agreed, “We are getting disheartened, and with the extra time we can save more on a down payment and look into a higher house-purchase bracket.”

Dawn nodded knowingly, understanding our dilemma. We went into this adventure with no pressure and we easily could wait until Spring to find a house. There was the potential housing prices might increase, but G and I had already spoken on the topic and were willing to wait. We started walking to our cars. Then Dawn turned to us.

“No pressure, but there is one more house we could look at tonight. I showed a couple earlier who decided to pass on it. Its currently vacant so we could stop by since its on the way home for us both. It is a solid house.”

G and I looked at one another and shrugged. “Might as well.”

And with that, we drove into our future because that random little house ended up being our First Home.

Onto the next project, 

House Hunting Adventures v. 2

Lesson Learned v. 2: Angles Mean Everything

I know I’ve broken the news that G and I are now homeowners. However, it took us quite a bit of hunting to find the house we love. In my first addition of our House Hunting Adventures, you might remember that we visited three houses that had some serious foundation issues going on. Unfortunately, it seems with the high levels of rain this year, foundations were an issue for a number of houses in our area.

Oddly enough the next three houses we toured did not have foundation problems though. Instead, they had a lot more going on which turned us off pursuing them longer. We quickly found out pictures never tell the whole story. How in the world can some couples buy houses without ever going to look at them thoroughly?! There would be no way after these three (which looked great online) that didn’t quite meet up to our expectations. Let me tell you about our next little jolt in attempting to become homeowners…

House #4 was one I had been eyeing for a few days before I asked our agent to schedule a visit for us. The house’s online pictures held a lot of potential. The house was in a country setting, had a big barn, a large deck, and was a three bedroom, two bath. It fit our criteria to a T. Even when we began looking around the outskirts of the property and peeking into the barn, G and I thought this house might be a winner.

Then we took our first step inside.

Straight into the kitchen, I raised an eyebrow. Cosmetically, the house had a lot of issues that were not photographed. Where the angle in the picture captured a large, functional kitchen, in reality the entire left side of the room was unusable. The counter tops were severely cracked, cabinet doors were either falling off the hinges or gone, and the ceiling sported several spots indicating a leaky roof. Moving forward, the living room was so long and narrow that it would be difficult to place a couch inside the space. Then the bedrooms were so small that only a bed would fit into them with no additional space for dressers, nightstands, or anything. We realized the angles of pictures taken were misleading.

What looked so good online, was not good for us in many senses. G and I decided to not even look in the basement because we knew this was not the house for us. So we left.

And the kicker was, as we were leaving, I walked down the deck steps and fell over as my ankle rolled. A huge hole rested at the bottom of the staircase hidden by the uncut grass. I took that for another sign to be more hesitant in our search from online galleries.

It took an entire weekend for my ankle to heal enough for me to be able to walk. Once mobile again, G and I decided to venture to two other houses Monday evening. Learning from the previous week’s mistake, we chose to look at these houses strictly based on the information given rather than the pictures provided. (In all honesty, we looked at the pictures following the visits and they held no benefits to either house, so we wouldn’t have been swayed.)

House #5 sat on five acres and was over 2000 square feet, both interesting factors given the price point which was one of the cheapest we’d seen. Driving to the house, we actually missed the driveway because it was hidden by a lot of brush — something which G loved right away. The house itself was hidden from the road behind the brush as well. Sitting about 300 feet off the road and on a hill, the location was perfect. We wanted to live in the country for the peace and quiet, and House #5 definitely fit that bill.

Have you ever been somewhere that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up? You know, that feeling you get when someone is watching you or something simply isn’t right? I can’t explain why, but House #5 gave me that feeling.

Perhaps it was the unusual layout of the house. Two small closet-sized bedrooms lay on one end of the house with a large bathroom separating them from the kitchen with a partial wall. Then, on the other end of the house, sat a huge master bedroom with two rooms behind it. One would think these two smaller rooms would be a master bath and a walk-in closet as the only entrance is through the master bedroom. Strangely, though, these rooms both were additional bedrooms where the current tenants’ children slept.

Or perhaps it was the dark and dingy basement. We scared two cats out of hiding when we crept into the make-shift pantry downstairs. And we were left scratching our heads when we came across a single-stall toilet closed off by a cinder block wall… with a window. That is difficult to describe, but picture this: in the corner of this dark basement is a cinder block stall with a large window directly across from your washer and dryer. You open the door to this stall thinking you’ll find the utilities — furnace, hot water heater, etc. — but instead find one lone toilet with a single light bulb above it. No real privacy doing your business in this house.

Besides the oddities, though, the house just gave me the creeps. There were random holes behind doors where I swore – twice – I saw eyes looking back at me. There were hobbled remodeling jobs begging the question as to why certain things were the way they were (such as the three different tiles in the dining room.) There were the tight passages through the sellers’ hoarded belongings that screamed way more work than this house was worth.

In a few simple words, I did not like this house.

When another real estate agent pulled up to show the house to another family, I about ran back to our car in order to leave. Getting far away from this house was more than I could ask.

I sighed with relief as we journeyed to the second house of the day. Away from the country, we entered a neighborhood filled with a diverse community. It was an older community, but the houses seemed to be in good shape and taken care of. House #6 was on a dead end street and beside a tree line hiding one neighbor from view. On the other side, was a neighbor who appeared to live in a tent. He sat watching us with a 24-pack sitting beside him as we walked around the exterior of the house.

Though I was not opposed to a small, quiet neighborhood, G was not a big fan of anything other than country-living. Seeing a neighbor so close and having his eyes on us the entire visit was not ideal. Given the fact House #6 also had no back yard, we had pretty much made up our minds on the house before ever setting foot inside.

It was unfortunate of the setting, because the interior of this house was actually the best out of all the houses we were shown. It obviously had been remodeled recently, and smelled of fresh paint and new carpets. The rooms were decent sized, the layout was functional, and there were no ghoulish chills.

But again: location, location, location. G and I loved the house for what it offered, but having no yard and no privacy was not an option for us. We departed the week’s findings with a little bit of a heavier heart, and wondered when we would find the correct mix of location, functionality, and warmth to call a house our home.

We continued to look, and our next set of houses were very tempting, but alas, it was still some time until we found our perfect little fit.

So, until our next hunting adventure, 

Bathroom Remodel: Inspiration

As the excitement of buying a home is nowhere near wearing off, G and I are constantly crossing out, reorganizing, and creating new ideas on projects we want to do to our new house. The house is a great little place already, and it has perfect bones, but it is in need of some modernizing. Plus both of us are handy, creative, and excited to make this little place our own.

One of our first BIG projects will be remodeling our bathroom. This is our only bathroom in the house (though we have plans to add an additional full bathroom downstairs in the faraway future.) The bathroom currently features a walk-in bathtub, small entry to the hallway’s linen closet, and an oddly proportioned laundry chute. Honestly, the shoot is only 3 inches wide and wouldn’t allow more than a pair of socks down it.

Being our only bathroom, when we finally bite the bullet and begin our remodel, we want to have all our plans laid out and materials purchased to make the project as quick as possible. This means we’ve been having a lot of fun walking through Lowes and scrolling through Pinterest for design ideas. We have many ideas of what we like, but I still have a few questions and prospects rolling around my head. So I’m bringing my ideas to you, friends, and asking for advice and suggestions before G and I begin stripping our only bathroom and remodeling.

First, our current layout. Our bathroom is long and narrow.  Currently, the left-hand corner directly inside the door is partitioned off and hiding the HVAC system. This is also where our unhelpful laundry chute hides. To the right of the door is a half-door which opens to a linen closet accessible through the hallway as well. The walk-in tub takes up a lot of space on the right wall as well, and a small vanity and toilet sit on the left wall along with a medicine cabinet and wall shelving unit. The walls are wallpapered with a floral design, and the flooring is laminate tiling.

The pictures above are proportionate to our bathroom’s measurements and show a very simple layout of what we are seeking. I would like to eliminate the laundry chute altogether and have the wall directly to the left of the door painted and blank. Being the bathroom is long and narrow, the space is limited and I want to make the room feel as large as possible. This means we are aiming for as much openness and lightness as we can create. The walls will be painted a light bluish-gray and the flooring will be the same as throughout the entire house: light pine with streaks of gray.

As we move into the bathroom, to the left will remain our vanity and toilet. We were leaning more towards a dark walnut vanity, but after perusing Lowes’ options and tackling Pin after Pin of bathroom-scapes, we decided to find a white vanity instead. We want to keep in mind that we’re aiming to make the bathroom feel larger than it is, and the dark cabinet would make for a shock with a white toilet and white bathtub at the base of the room. We felt white was more subtle to the overall ambiance. G likes vanities which have symmetry and bases to the ground for easier cleaning purposes. I, however, am liking styles more like the one in the bottom right-hand corner above.  I can see a very cute basket with towels resting on that lower shelf — ideal for my inner-host to squeal with joy.

We want to have a  large mirror above the vanity. Though we’re torn if this should be a darker tone or brushed nickel like our hardware. As our theme in the bathroom is outdoorsy, I am looking for a frame that is rustic-esque.  Above the mirror would rest a light, and I am really digging the fixture above because it looks a bit like candlelight. With our hardware brushed nickel, the bathroom’s ultimate color scheme will be cool and relaxing.

To the left of the vanity and mirror will be a recessed medicine cabinet. I am trying to decide if I prefer the picture hiding the cabinet or the open cabinet. Hmm… what do you think?

Moving past the vanity we find the toilet. This is pretty straight forward, right? Above the toilet, though, would be something similar to this:

I have never been a huge fan of shelves above the toilet and would rather have the wall decorated with a cute outdoors-themed sign and greenery. I’m loving the simple flower pails in this image and could easily replicate this to add some texture to the bathroom.

Moving on to the right side of the bathroom, we will find a soaking bathtub and shower. We plan to encase the shower in white subway tiles and have a recessed shelving unit similar to the larger one pictured below.

Directly to the right of the entrance door, we are going to close off the linen closet to the bathroom and only make it accessible through the hall.

Last but not least, we registered for our shower curtain and received it as a wedding gift. It is so beautiful, and I cannot wait for it to be the final touch to the bathroom. The grayish-blue trees match our wall color perfectly, and the white background will only help with making the bathroom appear larger.

I’ll update on our bathroom remodel when we take the first swing of the sledgehammer to the walls. Until then, please feel free to share any advice or suggestions which you feel might extenuate our future bathroom!

Thanks so much, friends, 

House Hunting Adventures v. 1

Lesson Learned v. 1: Look In The Basement First

I know I’ve mentioned it a few times before, but here it is officially: G and I are house hunting. Our current apartment lease is up in August, but we have the option to renew for another year if we would like. Though it looks like this is the most likely route we will take, we are casually working with a realtor and viewing potential houses. It has been a fun experience so far because we are able to see what we like and dislike, what we’re willing to compromise and not, and not feeling rushed as we look.

The Michigan housing market where we live is absolutely crazy. There are double the buyers than there are sellers, and that leads to many houses only being on the market for hours before they’re under contract. Though we do not feel rushed to purchase a home, if we ever do come across one we love and can picture as our own home, then we have to be prepared to JUMP. Luckily we haven’t felt that urge yet, but we sure have come across some very unique adventures in the houses we have viewed…

House #1 was a beautiful farm house built in 1900. I came across this house on Zillow and decided to drive by it one evening with G. We walked around the exterior and peeked in the windows after it became quite apparent the house was vacant. From the outside, we loved the look of this place. From looking in, though, we were a bit worried. It seemed as if the entire place had been gutted! The kitchen was bare save for a few hanging cabinets and the living room boasted a raw floor. Still, we were curious to see more as the price was ideal and the property fit our wants.

When we met with the owner and took a tour inside, our fears were confirmed. The house was completely gutted. The main floor bathroom had plumbing exposed and a wall missing. The upstairs bathroom was bare bones. Plus, the floors were uncovered, the stairs were shaky, and the windows on the South side of the house were missing.

Now, G and I are looking for a home in need of a remodel. We both are quite handy and love the idea of using our own elbow grease to make a house into our dream home. But House #1 would require way more manpower than feasible for first-time home buyers. We had no doubt we could make this place an amazing home, but it would take months to finish to even be livable. Deciding against the pains of attempting to receive home improvement loans or opting to live with either of our parents again as newlyweds, we said goodbye to House #1 and began looking through housing websites again.

House #2 was another farm house that looked great from the pictures online. (For anyone else house hunting, how many times have the pictures fooled you? We’ve gotten tricked a couple of times!) When we arrived, we took a quick walk around the property and I was really feeling it. Large backyard, out in the country, mature trees, pretty landscaping, and enough room to build G’s must-have pole barn someday. The house’s shingles would need to be covered as soon as possible, but changing the outside appearance didn’t seem too worrisome either. Overall, I was impressed.

Then we went inside. The interior wasn’t too bad either. The social gathering rooms were large and the kitchen had a lot of room for being very functional given a change here or there. The bedrooms were rather small but the house was built in 1900 and that comes with the territory.

Next came the basement, though, and that’s where things turned odd. For anyone who does not have the pleasure of knowing what a “Michigan basement” is, let me tell you: a Michigan basement is the term used throughout the state for a crawlspace that was later excavated to the depth of a basement. They are cold, dingy places that usually have dirt floors and cement walls. Basically they’re a space for storage and utilities, and nothing more.

Most farm houses in Michigan sport these kinds of basements if they are not crawlspaces. We were expecting this sort of space when we walked down the stairs. But what we found was so much more…

The basement in House #2 had a wall at the far end. Looking from the entrance, you could see rocks had fallen from the man-made hole used to install a new HVAC system. Next to these rocks was a door. Carefully we opened it to find a muddy room stacked with piles upon piles of dirt-filled bags. At least 200 filled bags lay against the foundation walls of this house, and we began to fear their necessity. Were the walls about to cave in? Was the basement flooding and this was the owner’s makeshift solution? We didn’t know, and we didn’t care to stay around to find out.

Leaving the crumbling house, we departed with our realtor to House #3. House #3 was a nice little ranch overlooking the local river. After severe flooding in our area a few months ago, we weren’t sure what “river front property” might mean with this house but decided to try our luck. In this case, the river lay 30 feet below the house’s rear and provided a beautiful overlook. The property had a lot of foliage, which G and I loved right from the start, and the house itself looked to be in good shape from the front. I remember pulling into the driveway and G saying, “Now this one. This one I like already.”

I definitely agreed by the time we took the tour of the main floor. The rooms would need updating but I could picture hosting family holidays in the living room and watching Disney movies with my future children in the family room. The master bedroom boasted an entire wall of windows which reminded me of our honeymoon cabin, and the kitchen was big enough to make me giddy. Plus the house had a three car garage attached that tickled both G’s and my fancies! For him, the garage meant space for his welding tools and future car projects. For me, it meant enough room for me to squeeze my car in during the winter months even with all his toys. It would be a win-win situation.

However, when we ventured into the basement for House #3, we began to feel a bit nervous. (There is something about basements; I think for the future I’ll just not go downstairs anymore.)

House #3’s basement was really nice. It had a finished section for entertaining complete with a word-burning stove and a door that exited the rear of the house to bring you within five feet of the descent to the river. The basement could be a beautiful space for game nights, and G and I envisioned building a deck out the backdoor looking over the river.

As I was perusing the space I found something incredibly troubling and all my future vision bubbles started to pop. The closest corner to the river’s embankment seemed to have been repaired. The entire corner was sunk nearly an inch lower than the rest of the flooring which made us worried about the foundation. Fearing the worst, we stepped out the basement door and took a look at the exterior of House #3.

And our fears were confirmed.

A half inch wide crack sprawled the house’s read wall. From the basement to the main floor, the crack traveled nearly ten feet and looking like one little push would make it web even further. For a house we were falling for, we were quickly realizing it was also falling… quite literally.

With an unhappy sigh and shrug of our shoulders, G and I decided to move forward with our house hunting and will be continuing to look with our agent for our first home.

We’re curious where our adventures will take us in the future…

Until next time, friends,

 

Vices vs. Verses: A Testimony

There has been a lot of discussion in my church lately on the importance of personal testimony and how individual stories can impact the world. Giving testimony on one’s faith is empowering and gives honor and glory to God because we are relaying the story of how He saved us. Peonies ‘n Mint, though loosely based around random discussion on what Life brings to the table, has grown to include more and more discussions on faith and belief as well. I do not usually dive into topics that may cause conflict, as I’m sure anything centering around religion may, but when it comes to my faith, I’m going to choose not to be afraid and go there…

I was blessed to have parents who felt the importance to have me grow up in the Church. I was baptized two weeks after my birth into the Lutheran faith and attended church regularly every week following. I began school in a Lutheran day-preschool at the early age of four. From there on I was given Bible lessons every day up through senior year in high school. I had to memorize Bible verses on a daily basis, I attended chapel services at least three days a week, and I was taught the stories of the Bible as an academic course. To say I knew the Bible like the back of my hand is an understatement…

Having religion as such a central part of one’s education should be a wonderful thing. However, I’ve come to believe that growing up in such a fashion leads to two very different types of people: the one who centers all thinking on his or her faith OR the one who takes advantage of that education and rebels. I am ashamed to say that for a long time I fell into the latter category.

Upon entering my higher education years, I left daily catechism to begin studying in a public university. In a better world, I would have matured throughout my college years into a steadfast and faithful woman of God. I should have taken the time to read the Bible on my own, revisiting familiar passages in the Word. I should have pushed myself to dive into devotions and actively allowed prayer into my life. I should have searched and joined Bible Study groups on campus to share in fellowship with my fellow believers. Instead, I allowed my past knowledge to be enough and left my faith on the back burner.

It isn’t surprising, then, that when I was faced with my first real trial in Life that I turned my back on God. I experienced the first true pain in the twisting shadows of heartbreak. I should have clung to God and His encouraging words such as 2 Corinthians 12v9: But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Rather, I blamed God and played the victim saying He had turned His back on me.

To make matters worse, I not only closed myself to God, but I opened myself to many vices of the world. I was no longer Ashley, but some foreign wraith of the girl who once prided herself on reciting Bible verses in front of her church congregation. I began to drink heavily. I was well known at many local bars, finding myself on first-name basis with barkeeps all over the county. It was rare for me not to close down a bar on any given Friday or Saturday. I found any and all worth in the compliments I received from men I met at those bars. I tried every unhealthy diet in the book because I was solely focused on looking and acting the part of a good bar-fly. I began to associate with people of the same ambition. I swore, I lied, and I didn’t give a damn about my reputation.

Acting in this manner led me to be an extremely lonely individual. Feeling lousy, depressed, and of no self-worth, I jumped at the first opportunity granted me at a real relationship. Enter Army. I blamed all my hardships on life on that starting factor: my breakup with X. So, naturally, I believed beginning a new romance would provide me with the self-worth necessary to make me happy.

The one positive thing to come from this stage in my life is that I became an extrovert. When you don’t care what people think, you’re much more prone to talking to strangers and being more social. With an increased bravado, I agreed to a blind date where I met Army for the first time. In retrospect, there wasn’t much to our initial attraction past looks. I suppose he intrigued me because we seemed to have common lifestyles: we both liked to drink, we both liked to workout, and we were both lonely.

Those similarities worked for a while, until they didn’t.

God brought me to my senses in a very clear and pungent way. (Literally.) One day in early summer, Army and I attended a festival at a local winery. It was typical that our time together centered around alcohol, and the day started off well enough. We pitched lawn chairs in the winery’s vineyards facing their outdoor stage where several bands were set to play throughout the day and we headed to grab growlers of our favorite beverages. In a streak of pure brilliance on my part, I had stayed up late the night before, ran a 5k race that morning, and opted out of eating any food whatsoever prior to the festivities. So the 64 ounces of sangria was all I had in my system. Things only continued to go downhill from there and a series of very unfortunate events (points of which I am still too ashamed to divulge in public) transpired. Ultimately, the afternoon concluded with Army screaming obscenities at me while I bawled in front of over 500 people. It was, and remains to be, the single most embarrassing moment of my life.

Though Army apologized profusely the days following this horrendous event, things never felt the same after that festival. We became distant from one another. Looking back, its clear that was the beginning to our end.

It was also, blessedly, the start to my new life though.

It’s funny how deep and impacting embarrassment can strike you. I had dealt with other situations with Army, such as getting kicked out of establishments due to his temper and witnessing him want get into fights for as simple of a reason as someone not moving forward in line at a grocery check out… But nothing struck me quite like that festival. I realized that I was associated to such anger, and that didn’t sit right with me. I didn’t want to be the type of person who belittled strangers, who allowed others’ impertinence, who was arrogant and only cared about her own well-being. I no longer didn’t care…

With the feeling of utter shame, I began to reflect on my actions, and lack of action. I looked in the mirror and, though I no longer saw a crying, sniveling little girl, I still didn’t like my reflection. In the mirror I saw a girl who prided herself on her vices. She was vain. She was mean. She lied and swore and looked down on people because she somehow thought she was better than them. And something — buried deep, deep inside me — broke.

I knew I had to change.

Change, however, does not come all at once. Change is a process. I used to think my life change began when Army and I broke up, but now I can see it actually began at that wine festival. That was the moment I truly saw the kind of person I was becoming, and I was disgusted. I slowly began to drink less. While still with Army, I began to opt out of the bar scene, and instead chose to go to the gym or stay home. When he’d suggest going out, I’d order water to his beer. Once we broke up, I decided I wanted to take a hiatus from the dating scene. I no longer wanted to find my worth in a man’s perception. I wanted to find worth in myself. I worked out consistently, I created tighter friend circles, and I started to research new hobbies and activities available in my community. And somewhere along those lines that deeply buried broken girl pieced herself into a completely new woman.

Yet, even after I had grown past my vices, something was still missing from my life. Try as I might, I couldn’t keep pretending I didn’t know what that something was either: a strong connection to God. My faith had truly not been touched since high school. And even though I was molding myself into a new person, there was no lasting mortar to make sure I wouldn’t come crashing down again in the future.

I’m not a strong prayer. I feel ashamed to say that because I’ve had better instruction on how to talk to God than most people do throughout their lives. But, I’m just not. I forget constantly to thank God for His guidance, for His blessings, for His continued work in my life. Nonetheless, God still heard me that summer day when I was online browsing for something new to enter my life. At the time, I didn’t even know exactly what I needed, but He sure did!

I found House while looking for a Bible study group at First Church. Out of the blue, a Facebook friend had posted that she would be starting a Bible Study at the church come September. The topic she posted about sounded interesting, and since I was wanting to try new things, I investigated a bit further. I’m not sure if I actually even made it to the page with the Bible Study topics… all I remember is clicking a button pertaining to a “20 Somethings Group”. I jotted down the meeting location and time and made a mental note to try to join the group the following week.

It took me three weeks to find the House group. House is a Bible study group for 20 and 30-year-olds which meets at a local beach during the summer months. My first two attempts, the group had been holding fellowship in the actual lake, swimming and playing games and whatnot. So I spent the first two weeks walking up to random groups on the beach, asking if they were the House group, and receiving confused looks.

By the third week, I had pretty much given up, thinking the group either wasn’t considerate of newcomers or the group simply had no interest and didn’t truly meet! So there I was, on that fateful August evening, sitting at my parents’ house, staring into the void when my mom asks, “Why aren’t you going to that Bible study? I thought you were going to give it one last shot?” Since I honestly had nothing else to do, I shrugged and drove over to the beach. Luckily, my fears weren’t validated: House had regrouped on the beach and I was finally able to find them! And, the rest is history…

With every passing week at House, my faith grew a little bit more. Not only was I participating in studying the Bible, but I was able to have deep and impacting discussions on the Word’s content with peers of my own age. After saying goodbye to my bar lifestyle, I also ended up saying goodbye to quite a lot of “friends” who didn’t understand why I no longer wanted to be fun. So, House also provided me with a new friendship pool. Not only were the members of House fellow believers, but they soon would be my closest friends and confidants.

I dealt with a lot of loss since joining House. And whereas I might have once crumbled over that pain, the people I met in the organization were exactly the sort of people I needed. Each and every one of them has strength and compassion unparalleled to anyone else I’ve ever met. I honestly cannot express how blessed I am to have them; they are simply great, godly people.

And while being surrounded by such great, godly people, its hard not to also become godly. I feel excited to join House for church every Sunday, I eagerly await Wednesdays to participate in our weekly Bible Study, I even organized my own women’s Bible study group — something of which I NEVER thought I’d see myself do!

It’s amazing to think that little over a year ago I didn’t even want God in my life. I didn’t want to care about what He wanted from me. I didn’t want to change from my sinful nature. I didn’t want Him to see what I was becoming…

Yet God always has a way of knowing exactly what we need when we need it. It’s easy to forget and want to rush things to our own timeline, but that never truly works out in the ways we want, does it? No, God is the only one omniscient of our futures and what is best for us.

So, though I continue to struggle against my sinful nature on a daily basis, I gladly welcome God into my heart nowadays. Vices will always surface in a sin-filled world, but the Word’s verses hold me strong in His ways. Philippians 4v13: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. This I know is true.


 

God works in mysterious ways to bring us to His saving kingdom. As I said at the beginning of this post, testimonies are used to not only empower us to share His Word, but also to glorify God. If you are willing to share, I would love to hear your own testimony!