So now I come to you, with open arms. Nothing to hide. Believe what I say. So here I am with open arms. Hoping you’ll see what your love means to me…open arms.”Journey, “Open Arms”
Open arms. It’s my greatest fiat for the Lord’s work in my life. Picturing myself standing before the Lord, telling him that I give over complete control. I stand before Him with open arms. Acknowledging His control, and my willingness to yield to whatever He asks of me. Complete trust.
My prayer life has consistently been built upon the Lord increasing a virtue in my life. The past few years He has taken me on various journeys where I have learned to possess self-awareness, holy boldness, and a deeper faith. I have walked lonely roads with Him at my side. Last year, it was working on courage while building a greater trust in my life. This year, He is asking me to journey with my family physically. He has placed us on a mission.
In the fall of 2019, the Lord strengthened the call upon my heart to start looking for a new home. For a long time, I felt called to a greater hospitality in my home, but I had pushed it aside as I raised my young family. As I prayed for direction, I felt more at peace with this increased desire to open my heart and my home to others. I shared this call with my husband, who felt the same. He shared that the Lord was working on his heart as well. “We love through our family,” he said, “and bringing others into our home allows them to experience who we are to the fullest. It’s the greatest way we can bring others to Christ.” I couldn’t agree more. Spouse on board. Check. Now to bring the children into our mission so that our family’s plans could take root in their hearts as well.
One morning, during our family bible study, I told the children that we would start to pray for God’s plan for our family. It was to become the main intention for our daily family rosary/Divine Mercy chaplet. I shared with them that I believed that the Lord was calling us to move on from this home. My younger children took this news the hardest. This was the only home they had known. However, my teens were excited about a new journey and the excitement of a new home. My intention was clear. Every morning we prayed that the “new family that buys our home would feel the presence of Christ in our home. That they would experience His love here.” We also prayed in thanksgiving for the “home that God was setting aside for us” (this second prayer would become crucial as we searched for our home, trusting that God would give us what our hearts desired).
I remember praying, in the Spirit, for our new home. I asked God to bring me peace that this was His mission for our family. As I prayed, I heard his voice clearly speak to me. “This house will be my house. Do you trust that I will provide?” Struggling for understanding, I cried out, “everything I have is yours, Lord.” He was teaching me about His provision. He was showing me to lean into my understanding that His love for me was enough to move into mission.
As the months went by that spring, the Lord continued to teach me about His call upon my heart. It grew stronger each day. One day in prayer, the Lord laid on my heart that this mission would be much like His freeing the Israelites from Egypt. I would have to be willing to journey with Him, uncertain of what laid ahead. He was going to teach our family as much in the physical journey as He would teach us spiritually. It became clear that there would be physical struggles and sacrifice, but our faith was not to waiver. Unlike the Israelites who complained and longed for the comfort of their familiarity, even with slavery, we were being called to accept what the Lord allowed to happen. Our trust was not just in the expectant faith of a Promised Land but in the journey as well.
Following my hip surgery recovery in January, I started the physical toll of slowing packing up our home. With each box, I stopped and prayed. It often was simply, “Jesus, I trust in you.” When Covid hit in March, I continued to pack up my garage and basement, praying those same words, “Jesus, I trust in you.” When doubt started to creep in and I wanted to cling to the “familiarity” of our current expenses and our current home, the Lord renewed His Spirit within me, and I continued to pack.
I watched the months creep by with Covid restrictions, wondering what God’s plan was in all of this. As the summer hit, I struggled to understand. What kind of housing market would be waiting for us when we were finally able to list our home? We kept with His plan. We made our list of small home improvements and hired the people to do them. The landscaping was beautifully done, and the house was pressure washed. When the contractor we hired in July to build our deck was delayed due to the scarcity of lumber until October, we trusted.
When our deck was finally done, our realtors suggested that we get our home on the market ASAP. With two weeks until the November 1st showing that they recommended, we stayed up several late nights putting fresh coats of paint and working with our realtors to stage our home.
As we closed the door to our home, I secured the key into the lockbox and prayed.
This is it. Lord, take this open house. Bring the right people here. You know who needs this home. We trust in you.
Our home buyers were not one of the people who came through for the open house on Sunday. They were the couple that requested an afternoon appointment on Monday and gave us an offer that night. They offered us our asking price, and we jumped on the offer.
We did it. Two days and the Lord closed that door. We called all the children downstairs to our kitchen for a “family announcement.” My husband reached down to the pantry floor for the sparkling cider, which was a sign for the kiddos that we had sold the house. One of them screamed, “We sold the house?!?!” We jumped up and down, a few tears were shed, but we were mostly so grateful. We were on the journey, and we could clearly see Him leading us. Six weeks later, we would be closing on this beloved home of ours.
Our plan was to first sell the house. After gauging the market, it became clear that to compete with the vast number of offers each home was getting, that we needed to not have buying our new home “contingent” upon selling ours. We would then move into a townhouse to rent for a few months while we looked for our home. Our plans were not His plans. After searching for a townhouse, we discovered that nothing would be available to fit our family until the middle of January. Thankfully, our brother and sister-in-law were willing to let us use their oasis at the Ocean City, NJ, beach. God was already providing. As quickly as we encountered speed bumps, He quickly brought resolution.
Part of being on a journey in your spiritual life, and a physical journey, is that you have no view of what lies ahead. You surrender control to the Lord, trusting that in any difficulties you encounter, He has His hand over you. We expected struggles and difficulties just like the Israelites. As we prepared our children, our prayer was that our struggles not turn us away from God but draw us closer as we leaned into our struggle. We had to be willing to accept the whole journey.
When we got a call Monday night that our movers were not coming Tuesday morning as we thought, panic set in. This was not the plan.
We had just finished filling a small storage unit with a few basic furniture pieces necessary for our townhouse stay. Our mattresses, a small high-top dining set, a couch, and two armchairs were already gone. Our part of moving was done, and our plan was clear. We would spend one night crashing on the floor of the living room. The movers would arrive the next day and clear out the house. I would be filling bags of food from the pantry to take to the shore and emptying our food from the fridge into coolers for our trip the next day. Our closing on Thursday would be virtual, but we would come back into town to grab our settlement check. It seemed like a good plan. We would be spending Wednesday going through memories and being emotionally present to the children in this tough time of transition.
That Monday night call changed everything. The moving company let us know that, according to our contract, we were given two possible moving days to ensure that they could get the job done. They had to come Wednesday, in the middle of a blizzard. That gave us two nights of crashing on the floor, which meant tired, cranky kiddos. This also gave us no time to really get the house cleaned before our 10 am settlement the next morning. Our cleaners, a gift from our realtors (who are also our sisters), were scheduled to come Wednesday morning. They would have to be rescheduled, maybe even canceled. This news was definitely shaking us. We were already tired from a day of packing up a small moving truck and getting our stuff into storage. But we leaned in–and my husband and I just looked at each other helplessly.
The next two days were a blur of frustration, anxiety, and mental fatigue. Our movers arrived Wednesday morning at 8:30 am with the tiniest truck to move a 3,000-sq.ft.-home. More panic. There was NO WAY our stuff was going to all fit in that truck. The movers started to panic as they saw all the stuff in our home and as the snow started to fall heavily. They could not dispatch another truck. The house had to be emptied for the new owners. More panic. Quick prayers sent up for the Lord to help us think fast and efficiently. A quick call to the storage facility and we were able to purchase another unit, and pick up their moving truck to start clearing out our basement ourselves. As I cleared the pantry, I watched for the next hour while my husband and children stomped out onto our new deck, moving toys and boxes into this truck. The snow continued to fall and accumulate. Our boxes seemed endless, just like the snow that fell.
With another storage unit filled, my husband came home physically exhausted. There was no comfy couch to sit on. No bed to lay across for a quick nap. There was no rest for weary bones. As the movers loaded their last piece of furniture onto the truck, and I handed over a check for $1,000 more than I had agreed on (due to their miscalculations of the amount of our belongings), I wanted to burst into tears. Instead of walking through my empty home, cuddled next to the fire with my family, I was parading through a home that still needed clearing out. There were eight inches of snow on the ground. We were essentially “snowed in” until the plows could help us in the morning.
Lord, help us. My family was exhausted. They had given everything they had. They were hungry, tired, and weary. In that moment, we were the Israelites. We were journeying through our own version of a desert.
I helped my kids get their sleeping bags and pillows set up. However, I pushed them harder for a few more hours. “Guys…this is where it gets tough. In a few days, we will be at the beach, riding bikes on the boardwalk, eating ice cream, and laughing over games, but right now, we all have to give. I know you are so tired, but I’m going to have to push you. We can do this. I promise you it will be worth it. Let’s trust God’s plan.”
We called our realtors and pushed back the cleaners. They worked out a deal with the new owners to store our stuff in the garage until Friday afternoon, which provided mental relief. We stayed up super late emptying the basement into the garage. The children helped vacuum rooms and empty trash cans. They washed windows and wiped down inside cabinets. My son cleared the path through the snow to our front door for our moving the next day. Everyone pitched in.
The next day, the moving continued. We dropped off all the kiddos, the dog, and our bearded dragon to my sister-in-law’s house. They were on vacation (another blessing) as we took over every empty space she had. We emptied all of our luggage, bedding, and food items for our shore stay in her home. We packed both our vehicles with trips to the thrift stores as we purged, and we got permission to store more of our stuff in our brother’s garage. Multiple trips. More exhaustion and fatigue. We quickly finished up with last-minute cleaning and exited our home for the owner’s afternoon arrival.
There would be one final trip that evening. One last load for both vehicles and we would be done. However, as I called my brother-in-law to let him know that not only were we taking over his garage, but his entire home for the evening, I felt so defeated.
I cried out to the Lord again. How could I provide my children with the emotional closure that they needed? We left our house in such a panic, and there was no time to mourn. No time to share old memories. No pictures by the mantle or last-minute “videos” of their rooms. I felt like I was failing as their mom. Lord, I need help.
Thursday morning. We left the children to spend the day just relaxing as we picked up our settlement check. I decided to make one last trip by the house. I wanted to check our mail and apologize to the new owners about the moving fiasco. As I knocked on the door, I realized that my Divine Mercy photo was still in the window. These new owners were Hindu. Why would that be there? I was greeted immediately with a hug. Wasn’t she upset about all the trash I left? Frustrated that I had moved back her entry of her home? I listened as she told me this beautiful story about the love she felt in my home. The tears couldn’t stop, as I profusely apologized for my emotions. She pointed to my consecration to Jesus on the window and told me, “That is why I left that there. I believe in a higher power. I feel the love in this home.” It was our prayer every morning for all those months. God was moving. I listened as she asked me to come back tomorrow, on our way to the beach, and let her meet our family.
That next morning, we got our manna in the desert. God fed us. He fed my children as I stood back and watched it unfold. First, it was the trip up to their old rooms where the new owners gushed over their color choices and asked who had which room. Then it was my youngest recounting stories of how she flew down their banister with her sleeping bag, and how her siblings lowered her from the banister, like a trapeze artist, in the movie The Greatest Showman. I watched the joy on my children’s faces as they shared their love for this home. When my heart couldn’t take any more, I watched the owner lean down to my youngest and tell her that she was going to take a picture of our family and put it on her fridge. “You will always be in your old home,” she said.
As I walked down those stairs one last time, I held tight to my husband’s hand. The look we exchanged was one of sheer joy and wonder. He did it again. He is always faithful. We sat in our van totally stunned. His plan is always greater than anything we plan for ourselves. We just have to lean in and trust.
This post will not have a definitive ending because we are still in the desert. We are still awaiting the promise. We journey in faith and trust. I write this to you as I sit in our townhouse after a beautiful month at the beach. We continue to lean in. We continue to follow His plan and await the promise of our new home. There is freedom when we live with open arms, when we give God permission to control our lives and the mission of our families.
What journey is God calling you to? Maybe you are already on it? Maybe reading about ours will inspire you to trust the Lord’s plan for your life and your family.
God can meet you in your vocation. He can take something ordinary like finding a home and turn it into something extraordinary like a mission.