He Still Provides

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The migraine was back. After nearly two months of combing through endless lists of apartments for sale, we had managed to sift them down to three options, all with their respective downsides (as we used to call them: “The Windowless,” “The Fixer-upper,” and “The Pricey”). The one we were going to view as a last-minute opportunity sounded, by all accounts, too good to be true. This one, “The Big Surface,” was a first for us in Georgia—all the rooms had windows, it came fully furnished, and the price was deeply discounted by mistake. When the owner agreed to settle for the wrong price, we agreed to consider looking.

We were told that purchasing a property in Georgia would be a fairly straightforward process. It was going to be a piece of cake. It should take one day. Two days, tops. Here’s a very condensed journal:

Day 1
We gave Dima the good news that we were proceeding with The Big Surface, and he was thrilled to put the wheels in motion. “I can’t believe how great of a deal you’re getting,” he said. We asked him to ensure the current tenants received their 30-day notice starting today. We will fly out of the country in three days. Time will be tight.

Day 2
We want to document everything we notice about the apartment to make sure there are no serious problems, plus to take an inventory. Chris arrived at the apartment on time, only to find out the tenants went out to celebrate a birthday. No one else had the key. Chris plans to go another time. I am starting to doubt my patience and my people skills.

Day 3
Chris found a real estate attorney. He needs some property numbers to check for any red flags.

Day 5
We finally received the property documents and forwarded them to the lawyer, but he is not in the office for the rest of the week. I feel like ants are crawling all over me. Patience does not always suit me.

Day 8
We got an email from the lawyer today. The property is actually two smaller units renovated into one. They were never merged in the paperwork, meaning there would be two separate transactions. Now, the apartment size makes sense. That’s not the only discovery. The apartment also has a mortgage on it. That’s what I call a surprise! I spill onto the floor like a bag of slime. “Don’t get your hopes up. This might not work after all.” I take a big breath, trying to chase disappointment away by thinking of blue flowers in a field.

Day 9
The owner assures us that he paid the mortgage in full years ago but never updated the information with the Registry Office. He will do that first thing when he arrives. He also promises to merge the two properties and spare us the headache. He was supposed to arrive last week. He now informs us all the flights are booked, and his travel by bus will take longer.

Day 14
Two weeks and a few hiccups later, the owner is finally here. Only, he is not the owner. His wife is. Surprise! But he has power of attorney to finalize the transaction. Chris visits the apartment again. Surprise #2: The tenants didn’t get the memo they need to move out in two weeks. However, we did give notice to our landlady and bought our plane tickets for furlough, so regardless, we are moving out in two weeks. We might be homeless very soon.

Maybe I will go for a late-night run to let off steam. Hmm. I don’t even run during the day.

Day 17
Chris meets with the seller again. Slightly inebriated, the seller assures us that he will go and update the mortgage soon. We are getting antsy. We asked Dima to check if the apartments we considered before are still available. We feel that local sellers are more reliable, and we are afraid this purchase is not going anywhere. Dima makes the ultimate move, known as “calling the wife.” She is furious when she hears we might step back. Ouch, that must have hurt!

Day 18
The mortgage magically disappeared overnight. The attorneys are giving us the green light. “Thank you, God,” I whisper. The property is now officially clean. Or should I say properties? The owner promised to sort it out in 24 hours.

Day 20
Forty-eight hours later, Mr. Owner admits defeat. The process might take three weeks. We agree to leave it as two properties and merge them after the purchase.

Day 21
We feel for the tenants in our future home. They have to leave the country in a month, but we need them out much sooner. Our landlady agreed to let them move into our current place for the remainder of our paid lease. It coincides with their departure. Problem solved! We will have a place to move our things before we leave for furlough.

Day 22
Our lawyers are working on the contracts. We ask a good local friend for some advice. “Well, you go to city hall with the notarized documents, and you should have two or three well-built friends with you; just some manpower in case the owner changes his mind between receiving payment and signing the deed to you. Under any circumstance, do not let him out of your sight on the day of the transaction.”

Our eyes got wide. We seriously need prayer.

Day 23
I notice Chris repeatedly slap his forehead, and I chime in to make sure he is okay.

“We sign the documents tomorrow. Mr. Owner decided he doesn’t want to sign anything before he sees his money. So basically, he wants the payment before making a contract. I can feel my hair turning grey,” he groans.

There’s no chance in a million years that we are risking that. After all this time, we are back to square one. For the first time since this ordeal started, I break down and sob. Some pre-Christian thoughts invade my soul. At this point, we are already packing up our house. We move out in a week and still don’t have a home. It takes all the determination in the world to live up to my prayer and leave it all up to God.

Chris spent all day on the phone with the lawyers. At one point, he gets precious information that our bank might offer a service for a safe transaction, where both parties do their part of the agreement simultaneously. The risk is eliminated. The seller is okay with it. Whew!
Day 24
I stay home and pray all day while Chris, Dima and the lawyer meet with Mr. Owner and his team to draw the papers. Around 1:00 p.m., I get a phone call. “It’s done!” Chris is exhausted and ecstatic. I take the children for a victory dance between packed boxes. I pray, laugh and cry. All that is left is for the paperwork to come through by the end of the day.

The phone rings again. “Tonight, we are going out to celebrate with Dima. Let’s take a break from all the madness.” I can hear Chris smile.

While dining, Dima compulsively checks the online registry for updates. “Oh, look, it says it’s mortgaged!”

I stop breathing, with my fork still in the air. I look at Chris. He’s laughing. So is Dima. “Don’t do that to my heart,” I sigh, then laugh as well. “You really got me for a second.”

I look at the deed. Everything is perfectly fine. All the changes are official now. The guys are shaking hands happily. We now have a home. The Georgian project has a home. We can now afford to stay where our calling is.

Days 30-33
Right before Sabbath, we make it into our new home. It desperately needs a good cleaning. All we have been able to do is make a path between boxes. Our furlough suitcases are packed in a corner. We will get a chance to unpack in four months. Our journey is far from over. This is just a new beginning.

Three days later, as we flew out of Georgia for a much-needed furlough break, we knew we would be equally excited to return.

Days Before Christmas
After our return just before Christmas, while we worked on transforming our new house into a home, we once again understood that, as humans, we can’t see too far forward. But we can see a long, long way back. And everything points to this: He has a plan here, and we are a part of it. He knew what we needed so long before we did. He was working on this even while we were losing hope. And once again, with minutes to spare, He provided. He always does.