I always said I wouldn’t marry. While friends fantasized about their future wedding days, I buried myself in Paradise Lost or Walden. But my reading was inevitably interrupted by giggly predictions like, “You’re going to be the first to get married, Kalie. You’re going to be like eighteen.”
They were only off by two years. At twenty I said my vows to Neil Brooks, whom I met in calculus on our second day of college.
Obviously I reconciled myself to the idea of matrimony by the time I accepted Neil’s proposal, but I like being married more than I ever expected. So when he left for business (and family) in Arizona, I knew it was going to be a long, hard week.
That turned out to be quite the understatement.
First, my best friend found out she finally got pregnant after trying for nine months. What a cause to rejoice! And we certainly did rejoice, and plot, and plan, and try to figure out what she’s not allowed to eat, and what she’s not allowed to do, and when she was due….It was fun, exciting, and joyful, but at the end of the day, I wished Neil was there to celebrate with me, too.
Then we almost bought a house. Right before Neil left, we saw a house with our realtor. We liked it, more than any other house we’d seen (which wasn’t actually very many). At the asking price, it seemed like a steal…a steal just out of our price range. But we figured we could offer less, so I looked at the house again with his brother and brother-in-law, who are both contractors.
That was the day it snowed eight inches. I hate driving in the snow. I don’t like driving to begin with and by the time it’s been snowing for twelve hours straight, I don’t even want to leave my house. How I wished Neil was there to whisk me around Northeast Ohio like he usually does! But alas, he was on a plane to sunny, 80-degree Arizona and it was all me.
The driveway of the house hadn’t been cleared all day, and we’d already had at least half a foot of that dreaded precipitation. After the realtor, Kim, and I were lectured by Neighbor A, who thought we somehow managed to drive over the foot-tall snow drift and park in his soil, Kim parked in a friendlier neighbor’s driveway and asked for a shovel. While Neighbor B and Kim shoveled, I searched for a parking spot in vain. Capitulating, I opted to slip in circles around Silver Lake until they finished. I held back tears, wishing I could just go home. Lee and Tony (said brother and brother-in-law) arrived and I, shaking and shaken from my slippery suburban sojourn, managed to get up the driveway.
Lee and Tony proceeded to inspect the place, admiring the remodeled kitchen and analyzing the attic, while I measured the finished portion of the basement (complete with a fireplace!), since we’re looking for a 300 square foot room to host a home church. Just as I wrote down the measurements and mentally calculated that it was probably perfect at 299-point-something, there was a knock on the door.
Who could it be? It was Realtor 2 with Prospective Buyers 2 and parents.
“We have an appointment,” Realtor B condescendingly informed Kim.
“So do we,” Kim chirped, maintaining her usual cheerful demeanor.
In the glorious kitchen, where perhaps stiletto-clad Prospective Buyer 2 would cook dinner for her yuppie-looking husband, I pretended to write something down on my notepad. I was still tense from driving, and now this most awkward situation had me further on edge. After finishing her conversation with the less-than-civil Realtor B, Kim let me know we probably shouldn’t take too long since the other party was there. Tony and Lee scoured the basement for signs of potential problems and then we all left.
After talking to Lee and Tony, Neil wanted to consider writing an offer. The next morning saw me searching various web site and file folders for the documents we needed for pre-approval. I got everything to the loan guy on time, but had to cancel my plans with a friend. Next, Neil wanted our best friends to see the property. So I called Mark, Diana, and Kim each a couple of times and scheduled a third showing for five. This required me to cancel plans with another friend. “If we want this house, we have to move fast,” I apologized.
I wasn’t the only one apologizing that day. Kim got into a car accident shortly before five and left me a professional but distraught message saying we’d have to reschedule. Poor thing, I thought, and tried to communicate compassion in my return message. And damn it. Those yuppies are going to buy the house while we’re trying to get a third showing.
I also spent the whole day crunching the numbers—can we afford this house, even if we offer less? How much less? How much are you supposed to spend on your house? How much do utilities cost for a house? I spent each free moment that day drawing on every resource I could think of to answer these questions. Crown Financial, mortgage calculators, bank statements, friends’ Quicken utility records…I wracked my brain trying to figure out the next thirty years of our financial life.
At one point, I thought the house was affordable and so informed Neil. He was excited and said we’d make an offer the next day, as soon as we got preapproved. Later that night, after receiving more input and recalculating our expenses, I realized the house was actually out of price range. I broke the news to Neil, whose hopes were dashed, and I didn’t know what to tell him except for sorry. He still wanted to come in with a low-ball offer. I cried. I didn’t know if this was wise, but after three days of nearly non-stop stress about 3120 W. Edgerton, I collapsed into bed and tried not to think about.
And I tried not to think about the fact that Neil wasn’t holding me as I fell asleep, like he always does. I didn’t want to buy a house without Neil. I didn’t want to go through the process of making an offer if he wasn’t standing in the room with me. But I also didn’t want to disappoint him. I remembered his words before he left: “If we want this house, you might have to do some stuff while I’m gone. But you’re good at doing stuff.”
Yeah, I’m good at doing stuff. And I’m freaking fantastic at obsessing about stuff, too. I tried to pray instead, remembering that God can open and close doors to show us if an opportunity is from Him.
The next day Kim said the listing agent had received an offer and if we wanted to write one, we needed to do it now. She was in Toledo for the day, she said, but she could make it work if we wanted. I got in touch with Neil and he concluded that we weren’t ready to act that fast, even though he “really wished we could make an offer.” At first, tears welled up and I poured out my regrets about getting his hopes up, only to dash them. I mourned my cancelled plans and all the obsessing and calculating I’d done.
“I’m sorry I put you through this, honey,” Neil apologized. But I knew it was my choice to become overwhelmed and consumed, at least emotionally and mentally, by such a matter. It is a big decision, of course, and one that requires discernment and planning, but I knew my stress level would have been considerably lower if I’d trusted God more. Perhaps Neil’s absence revealed my lack of faith in a way that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
I learned a few other things from being single for a week. I saw how much Neil serves me and came to appreciate him more. By collecting his pay stubs, 401K statement, and savings account, my appreciation for his job grew. It reminded me of how he sacrifices for me every day by going to work and providing for us. (Note to work subs: this is not sufficient for a love relationship). I also missed having dinner with him, talking about our days, and planning for our ministry during the week. I missed riding in the car with him, talking or singing or praying.
I also realized how many opportunities single people have to serve others. With no dinner to cook (and no one to eat with), I planned my early evenings with time for friends. On Friday, our date night, I visited my family. During the weekend, I had more time than usual to work on my teaching and Perspectives homework. I hung out with a recently single friend. After CT I didn’t have to figure out who would get the car or whether the girls could come over to the apartment.
I’m not saying it’s better to be single than married, or vice versa. The point is that God can use us whatever our situation. I love being married, but I learned a lot from being single for a week. Now, I want to make sure that I’m trusting God and not just relying solely on Neil in an unhealthy way. I want to continue to sacrificially serve others and be on guard against selfish tribalism in our marriage. I want to trust God with our house hunt. And I want to show Neil how much I appreciate and admire him, because I’m not really single at all.