Hello, dear Reader! It has been so long since I've written- about a third of a year.
A lot can happen in a third of a year.
In this third of a year, there have been struggles and there have been moments of clarity. There have been loves and there have been losses. In our largest, most exciting news, Mr. Cook and I are now homeowners! It is a decision that was covered in prayer from the beginning- both ours and others- and so, even though there were many bumps along the way, I have confidence that we are in the right home for our little family to laugh and love and grow. NO- we are absolutely not expecting! Our little family is Mr. Cook, me, and our labradoodle Teddy, and that's enough for us until the good Lord says otherwise :) We also joined a new church! This, too, was a decision covered in prayer, and I know that the Lord has led us to our new church home for His purpose. We love our new church family so much already, and we are excited to see the ways we grow and serve there.
This house (our house? weird, still!) and this church have been straight from the Lord. And I say that with complete sincerity. As little as less than a year ago, there is no way we would have been in this church, in this home, in this town. No. Way. Mr. Cook wasn't having it.
Mr. Cook and I both grew up in wonderful areas, but they are pretty different from each other. In August, we got an apartment closer to my neck of the woods (but in a mutually agreed upon, different town) where I lived with our pup until we got married in October, when Mr. Cook moved in with us. And we have loved this little apartment, but we were anxious to get to a house. All in due time, we said. As we began to talk about becoming homeowners, the questions came up: soooo what do we want in a house, and where is this house going to be?
What grand questions! We agreed that we wanted to purchase a home where we could stay put- we did not want to be in the position of having to move, but rather wanting to move (i.e., we didn't want a home that we would immediately outgrow by adding a child). We agreed that we wanted a large yard for our pup and someday child(ren)- Lord willing. A neighborhood was fine, but not necessary, and we desired privacy. A house where family and friends could come and feel welcome and not crowded- plenty of space for our people to come and be.
Those are all great things to agree on. So where should this be?
I knew where my heart of hearts wanted to live. I also knew there was no way Mr. Cook would live there. A small town just a few short minutes from where I grew up- this town and mine share a high school (until they built a new one two-ish years ago- long story). Knowing that it was too close to my hometown, I continued to offer suggestions in the town where our apartment is. I mean, he agreed on an apartment there, so why not buy a home there? Mr. Cook, ironically, named a small town just a few short minutes from where he grew up. ...almost an hour from where I grew up. I stayed mostly quiet and said we would look into it...translation: yeah, no, I'm not living there. I got the same response from him- "we'll look into it", same translation.
I have to be honest: I struggled with this. And I struggled some more. I told myself it was not that large of a deal, that home is wherever Mr. Cook and Teddy are. While that is true, I also knew that is is where we would someday raise a family. Mr. Cook had nothing tying him to the little community I wanted to be in (which I hadn't even said out loud at this point- I kept offering my compromise- our apartment town- as my suggestion), and my main objective was to be close to my family and relatively close to my job, where I still knew a few people without being right in the middle of my hometown. I couldn't stand the thought of moving so close yet so far away, in a new little town where no one knows either of our names. And so, what to do in this situation, except bring it to the One who knows not only my name but the desires of my heart.
I prayed over this for months. Months, y'all. This was not a one hit wonder prayed at night and the next morning my hubs agreed. Mmmm no. We kept browsing online and showing each other different homes in each community. So I continued to pray: Lord, if it is in Your will, please don't make me move far from my family. Please let us stay close. It doesn't have to be this town, it doesn't have to be that town, but please, God, not too far from my people.
I prayed that prayer over and over with what appeared to be no real answer. But I know my God and I trust Him, even when He is silent. My heart began to change as I realized and remembered that even if He asked me to move away, He wouldn't ask me to move away alone. I still prayed my prayer, but I started adding to it- thank You that I'm not alone, thank You for taking care of me. Jesus, show me that You're enough.
One Saturday night in March, at McAllister's deli (hot date, right? ;) ), we were talking, and out of the blue, Mr. Cook says, "You know where I think I'd like to live? Stanley."
And I nearly fell out of the booth.
People, I hadn't even mentioned Stanley to him because I just knew that it would be a complete no, as in, not even on the table.
We also started talking that night about feeling called to a different church- we didn't know where yet, and it wasn't totally clear at the time, but looking back, I think we knew we were being led down a new path, to a new place, in a new season.
The next morning we visited what has become our new church home. Guess where? Yep, Stanley. We love Depot Church and the friends we have made there already. We are so thrilled to be a part of this church, to serve our new community (side note: we were not unhappy where we were, just felt called to something different).
This is part of my story, and I'm blessed by it, but please don't take this as, "if I ask God for something, He will give it to me!". He's not a genie. Does He have the power and the ability to give us more than we can ask for or imagine? Absolutely (see Ephesians)! But His ways and thoughts are higher (see Isaiah), and that means that He may say no. Please trust that when He says no, He's not doing so to withhold good things from you! He loves you. He loves you so much. And that means He wants what is best for you. Sometimes we can't see what's best.
Before the house we bought, we put in an offer on another great home. I loved this house- it was great! Not everything on our "wish list", but really close, and an excellent first home. So we put in an offer and we prayed. I literally prayed that if this wasn't the house we should be in, for the Lord to block the offer.
Then the offer fell through. And I cried. And I fussed about how unreasonable the seller was being. And I cried some more. Mr. Cook (the calm, the logic, the 100 watt smile) said, "Look, you can't ask God for something and then get mad when He does what you asked Him to do. It's not the right house. We'll find it, but that house isn't it."
Shortly after, we found the house we now call ours. It had more from our "wish list", a bigger yard, and some extras that we wouldn't have asked for in a first home. My God wasn't withholding good things- He was giving me better. He was putting our family where He wants and needs us to be. By doing so, He was putting another family where He wants and needs them to be- in the first house we put an offer on. His ways and thoughts are higher, and He works all things- all means all, every single thing- for His glory and our good.
That's grace, friends. His grace was covering up every moment of these months, and we see it in very real and tangible ways in our home, our church, and in our hearts. His grace continues to show up, even in our less than graceful moments. When I was crying and fussing over my perceived dashed-dream, He was pursuing me and leading me to something greater. What is that, if not grace?
If you've made it this far, thank you for caring enough to read the thoughts of my heart. If you're a regular reader, you know that my posts aren't usually so journal-ish, but I thought it was important for you to know a part of how God is working at Casa Cook in recent months. Now that school's out for summer and we are homeowners, blogging should move its way back up my priority list.
From a home that is better than what I would have put myself in, all because of His grace,