Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Jenna's House Story by Jenna Vick Silliman

I married for love, not money, and after twenty years of marriage Cliff and I were as happy as a couple of clams at high tide. However, one thing we lacked—a home of our own. We’d never been able to save the money for a down payment.

Our first rental was a tiny mobile home, like a cabin, nestled in pine trees of a town in northern California, Petaluma. I planted flowers, made curtains, and settled in just like it was forever. Our budget was like a shoestring frayed at both ends, but I learned to “make do or do without.” I kept singing a line from “Danny’s Song”, “Even though we ain’t got money, I’m so in love with ya Honey!”

After having three children, we moved to a larger rental, a tract house in Rohnert Park. It was shabby, but Cliff boasted, “Jenna can make ANY house a home.”

On Sunday drives, Cliff pointed out houses with a level driveway to play basketball. I liked the homes with lots of windows and flowers around them. I’d comment, “Doesn’t that blue one with white trim look nice?” At Christmas, with a longing too deep to describe, I admired the homes with a lighted tree in a big picture glass window in the front room. Cliff and I dreamed together—after all, dreams are free! Our conversations often began, “If only we could buy our own home…”

Our landlord remarked, “You guys have my house looking so nice, I’ve decided to sell it.” So we moved to another rental. In 1997 we were renting another place, and the owners decided to move back in. We had six children then, so it was difficult to find a place we could afford to rent that was big enough for all of us. Often owners would not want to rent to a big family.

Once I had a vivid dream of a house with a white porch that seemed so real I was ready to serve lemonade. When we drove around and looked at rentals, my kids teased, “There’s no white porch, Mama, so that can’t be it!”

We finally found a huge, mouse-infested old rental way up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains north of Bakersfield, California. The place had been vacant and up for sale for years. I took on the challenge of making it homey, and after a year we had it looking quite nice. July 1, 1999 the phone rang. The realtor informed me the house had sold. We had 30 days to move. I was six months pregnant with our seventh child and it was 98 degrees. I couldn’t believe it. I paced and cried and prayed—mad at God. I yelled, “God, I can’t do this! I just can’t move again and again!”

We had no money and nowhere to go.

We ended up temporarily moving into a room addition our friends had built onto their home in Sequim, Washington. It took us six weeks, but we finally found another house to rent in Sequim. Then another hit, after less than a year, the owners wanted to move back in—so we had to move again.

The situation seemed impossible. We had seven children and could not find another rental. We’d sunk thousands of dollars into renting, investing in nothing, with nothing to show for it. Our three-year-old son had already lived in five houses! Every day we checked the papers and found nothing. I locked myself in the bathroom and turned on the bath to drown out the sound of my sobbing from my children. The words of Jesus came to my mind: “Come to Me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” In despair I cried out to Him, “Help me, Jesus! I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

The next day I visited a wise older woman, Marian Trebon, and asked her to pray for us. She peered into my eyes and asked, “Do you and Cliff pray together?”
I mumbled, “Well…yes, of course we pray…um…sometimes. We pray together before we eat.”

She shared how she and her husband daily prayed aloud together and gave every concern to God. She raved about time after time they experienced amazing answers to their prayers and how there is incredible power in prayer when a husband and wife pray in unity. She also shared how we as God’s children should go to Him with child-like faith, full of trust and ask Him for whatever is our heart’s desire because He delights in giving His children good gifts. She read in the Bible the words of Jesus, “You have not, because you ask not.” She concluded, “You and Cliff pray your hearts out!”

My dear friend infused me with faith. I rushed home and told Cliff all about it. We made a prayer date for early the next morning. We held hands and prayed about every specific detail of what we wanted in a home.

“Dear Heavenly Father, our family needs a home. We’d like a big, solid house with an acre of land. We’d like four bedrooms, an office, and a mother-in-law cottage. We want to live some place rural, yet still close enough to town so that Cliff’s mom will come and live with us.”

Then I thought, why not ask for everything we’d really like? I quickly added, “And we’d like a blue house with a white porch, a level driveway to play basketball, a big kitchen with a window that looks out on the back yard so I can watch my children play, lots of windows, a water view, and a view of the mountains, too. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

About a week later, I read this ad in the local paper, “4 bed, 3 bath. Quality older home in good condition. Over 3,000 sq.ft. Close to town on one acre.” I dialed the number with shaky hands and made an appointment for first thing that morning. I wrote down the address and realized it was only half a mile from the main street in Sequim, but in a rural area! As we pulled in front of a big gray house with a mother-in-law cottage next door, I said, “This is it.”

We piled out of the car and walked around the house to the back yard—which the owner said we could feel free to do. In the center of the back lawn, the kids scrambled up into a huge cherry tree. I had a cherry tree in the yard of my childhood home! Then I saw the kitchen window facing the back yard. I smiled and whispered, “Home sweet home!”

The owner arrived and said, “Hi, my name is Chuck Little. You can call me Grandpa Chuck. I’m a retired realtor. For fifty years I’ve helped folks find homes. I like your family and you need a home.” He explained how we could do a lease option. He’d reserve a third of the rent each month and give it back in two years for a down payment to buy the house.

Choking back tears I asked, “Are you making it easy for us to buy your house?”
He said, “Look, I’m 74 years old, and once in a while, I feel like doing something nice. Some things you just know God meant to be.”

Our home is the answer, down to the last detail, to our specific prayer—with an acre of land near town, yet in a rural area. There’s even a little water view of Sequim Bay, and on a clear day, we can see the Cascade Mountains and Mt. Baker. Yes, there are lots of windows, an office, AND a level driveway for basketball!

Cliff pointed out, “The place needs a paint job. If we do the work, will you supply the paint?” I took a deep breath and added, “And may we paint it blue with white trim and a white porch?”

He responded, “Sure!”

We’ve now lived in our blue house with a white porch for almost twelve years—longer than I have lived anywhere. In the summer, you might see us eating cherries on our porch swing or playing basketball in our driveway. At Christmas time, you might admire our beautiful lighted tree in the big picture glass window in our front room. Dreams do come true. What is your heart’s desire? Find a prayer partner and pray your hearts out!


Linda Maynard said...

That is such a beautiful story.
As you talked about each house...getting it ready and presentable and every time having to move out, my heart sank.
Amazing...just amazing how God answered your prayers.
PS I LOVE front porches!!!

Joyce said...

I can so identify with this post - lots of kids, no one wants to rent to you - lots of moves... However, our moves were from state to state - region to region and leaving kids as we go - now that we are down to just the two of us at home, it's really empty and of course, we have the best house we ever lived in now... funny how that is...

Kerry Luddy said...

Jenna, what a great story--and an encouragement to get on our knees in faith and ask BIG. He is listening.