Wednesday, June 29, 2011 can hang up now.

The contract on the house is terminated. In the end, it was a difference of $4000 between the seller's lowest and my highest. Not a lot of money to some, but it is for me. I have perfect peace (thank you Lord) and am going out Saturday to look at more places.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hold the phones...

...the house contract has not been terminated. Apparently the seller really wants to sell and so my realtor told her realtor what it would take...and if the seller agrees, then I get this home and am not stretched financially. It would be a miracle (because it includes brokers reducing their commissions in order to make it work!) but God can still work miracles...

However, I have perspective that THIS IS JUST A HOUSE. A girl at work's stepson (19) died over the weekend suddenly; a guy at work's son (12) is going through cancer treatments and is horriby sick - this is NOTHING in comparison to those things of eternal significance.

But, I won't complain if the Lord should choose to give this house to me! :) I'll keep you posted...

Not the house for me

Lots of number-crunching, realtor & lender bartering and thinking outside all the boxes in the world, I have determined this "perfect" house is not for me. As my SS teacher said yesterday, it's not the perfect house if it's not God's house for me. It's just out of my price range/budget...period.

Thank you if you prayed. I am obviously disappointed but know at some point, God has a house for me. He has a plan, and His timing is perfect!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Location, location, location...

I realized I never published this. This will make more sense if you read this one before the next post I'll put up!

So since I returned from Kyiv, I have been busy looking at condos/townhomes to buy. I am ready to stop pouring my money down a hole each month by renting. Through the Lord's lavish provision, owning a home, a "pipe dream", has become a real possibility. My current lease is up 7/31, so I planned on moving 8/1.

I found a realtor based on the recommendation of a good friend and Annamari has been fabulous. We looked at 5 places last Saturday. I thought about what I had seen and decided I had fallen in love with my dream home. It was in a neighborhood literally across the street from my apartment that I have been driving by twice or more a day for the past 5 years...and thought each time, "ah...I so wish I could afford to live there..." The neighborhood is established with large trees and nice homes built in the 70's. It's on the edge of a very desirable area of Dallas and (not that this matters but it's a fun fact!) former President GWB lives on the other side of the neighborhood!

The townhome I fell in love with is one-story and is detached on the left side, so I would only ever have neighbors on my right. This is key for my physical issues - with Fibro I can't do 2nd floor place, but if you're on 1st floor almost always you have someone living on top of you - and of course you're at the mercy of whether this person is a "heavy walker" or not! That would not be an issue in this townhome as it's one story. It has a little patio with my own tree and flowers that my future Pugs, Petunia & Violet, will be able to enjoy since there's ground to potty on when needed.

This townhome has been on the market for a year and the owner has already moved out of state. The price we settled and executed a contract on Thursday is about $50,000 less than the price of the homes in the neighborhood - so once I fix it up and over the years, I could build a lot of equity in it. The major issue is that the owner was a very heavy smoker and so I will need to rip up and reinstall the floors, use special paint through the entire 1200 sq ft. of the house and have the vents and ducts cleaned (and replace the blinds as they're also stained with nicotine).

Last Friday, the day before Annamari took me looking at condos/townhomes for the first time, I had my lender Meghan run some numbers for me to see what the monthly payments would be. I'm not good with money so converting the sales price to a monthly mortgage payment is not something I can do. The numbers she ran, based on my down payment, were surprisingly very doable for this dreamhouse of mine.

So while it needed a lot of work, this past Monday I decided to put an offer on it. We countered a couple times and executed the contract on Thursday morning. I had the lender run the "real numbers" and what she came back with was MUCH higher than the original numbers that led me to the conclusion maybe I couldn't afford this place after all. I called the lender and had some questions and then a bomb dropped yesterday morning- she had assumed a different down payment than what I had. Several very stressful hours later, she did some more figuring and determined what the "final number" would be. That number is a LOT more per month than what I pay in rent now.

Last night I had a feeling (as did my very godly prayer-warrior mother) that this house was no longer in my reach. I cried and cried and cried. I knew I needed to call the realtor Monday morning and break the contract I had 10 days to get out of without penalty. I texted the realtor and let her know as much. Then I drowned my sorrows in a bowl of cereal (how's that for honesty?!?) and watched TV and went to bed early because I just wanted to sleep and forget how I was going to have to give up this dream house.

I got up today (notice I didn't say "this morning", ahem...) and had a voicemail from the realtor, saying she got my text and had some ideas about maybe making things work. I also had a text from my Mom that they were so sorry about the house and God had another one for me (true to her ever encouraging nature).

Now I'm conflicted. While the monthly mortgage payment for this house is much more than my rent payment now, I also am taking home more $$ this year in my paycheck (thank you Lord!) So hypothetically, it would be doable. Through no one's fault but my own, I have never lived on a budget, but have lived paycheck to paycheck. I'm not proud of that at all. So the idea that not only will I have to start living on a very strict budget, there is NO wiggle room at all. And if any unexpected house, car, medical expenses come up, it would be a problem.

Unfortunately, I have fallen in love with this house and so now the big decision as to continue in the buying process or terminate the contract is a VERY emotional one for me.

So if anyone happens to read this this weekend, please pray that I will hear the Lord's will clearly and separate my emotions and think logically about this biggest (financially anyway) decision in my 30-something years.

Because more than I want this house, I do want to know what God wants for me.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kyiv Trip re-cap part 13 (the end)

This is the last of my re-cap posts of my wonderful Kyiv, Ukraine adventure to visit my dear, sweet friend Tara and her family.

As I mentioned in prior posts, I am losing the battle with Blogger about where my pictures are placed. So you may want to read this post from the bottom up since I put "the end" at the beginning...

Tara is truly the ultimate hostess: gracious, thoughtful, classy and just makes her home a relaxing and inviting place.

Here is a perfect example. She went out and got (not nearly as easy as that phrase would indicate) fresh, purple-on-purpose flowers to put next to my bed.

The Lord has been so gracious to provide Tara to me as a friend. We met in college an undisclosed number of years ago, and were friends then, though not super close. After several years of falling out of touch, thanks to the technology of e-mail, we reconnected many years ago. Now I consider her and thank God that she is one of my very closest friends. I cannot tell you what a blessing this godly woman is to me. She is a wonderful encourager and true friend - one that speaks truth in love, listens endlessly and accepts me for who I am. I pray that the Lord will bless her and her sweet family abundantly. Thank you, Tara, for the adventure of a lifetime!

This was the last gate screen in my Ukrainian adventure - in the Atlanta airport before the last of 3 sections of my trip back to Dallas.

While it would have been lovely to have a long enough layover in Paris to sight-see, it makes me happy that I passed through there and got some authentic French chocolate! I was glad to arrive in Paris as the flight from Kyiv had felt much longer than the flight from Dallas to Amsterdam 10 days prior, even though they were about the same length of time...I guess you can chalk that up to the anticipation of seeing a long-time friend in a new country vs. coming back "home" with no one to greet me at the gate (not feeling sorry for myself there, just statement of truth).

Here is the sign in the Kyiv airport for the 1st of my 3 legs back to TX:

Here is the gate from which my flight left Kyiv. Alas, my Ukrainian adventure had come to an end and it was time to head back to Dallas. I'm so thankful to have had this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

I hope you have enjoyed my little re-caps. It's so hard to capture in words what those eleven days of my life were like. I've been back a full week already, and yet I feel like I haven't totally digested it all. Adjectives like wonderful, eye-opening, life-changing, refreshing, relaxing yet exciting don't come close to an accurate description of this adventure. It was the first time I'd been out of the US, it was the longest time I'd ever been off work, it was a long, long ways away...but worth every blister, headache and cent to see wonderful friends in a foreign land! It was certainly a blessing I will NEVER forget!

THE END (of my re-caps, but not the memories!)

Kyiv Trip re-cap part 12

On the first Sunday I was in Kyiv, I was recovering from the plane ride over and slept through church. On the second Sunday (day before I left), I was able to join the Yellow Hat family at their church for worship.

It is an informal, casual, relaxed atmosphere where they have beverages and goodies before the service that you can take to your seat with you. Here are Big Girl and Baby Girl and their friends in the row ahead of Tara, The Boy, Mr Yellow Hat & I:

Picture of stage below. The music was pretty good and very contemporary. I didn't know any of the songs, not because they were in Ukrainian (this is an all-English-speaking church), but because they were just new to me. Even though my personal preference is more traditional worship style with hymns, choir & orchestra (like my church now), I liked the theology behind the songs at the international church. The Pastor spoke about God being the Lord over our thought life, and it was an especially timely message for me, as I was struggling with that very issue at the time. Isn't it amazing how God, in His sovereignty, arranges things like that? I assure you it was not a coincidence that the only Sunday I was (or likely ever will be) at this church, the Pastor spoke on a topic that spoke to the point of my need. The Lord's timing never ceases to amaze me.

I think I've about re-capped most of the trip. There will be one more wrap-up post and I guess that will make a very odd-numbered (I don't believe in lucky or unlucky) 13 posts about my Ukrainian adventure!

Kyiv Trip re-cap part 11

On Thursday during my Kyiv trip, Tara and I visited the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavre. It was beautiful as you can see. What I can't give you an idea of is the scope. I don't know how many buildings there were, but they just seemed to keep coming, one as pretty as the next.

Here is a view heading back up the hill:

There was a sculpture made of Ukrainian Pysanky eggs - the eggs were so beautiful and varied in colors and patterns, as you can see:

Here is the sculpture:

Your head had to be covered to go inside. Tara rocked the scarf look much better than I:

Some of the buildings of the Lavre:

Much like St. Sofia's, you can see where they built new (white) over old (brick) above.

Baptism of Christ:

The Lavre is an active monestary, but we were not able to observe prayers or a service. I do believe we saw a couple monks pass by, but they walked so quickly and quietly that they were basically gone before you realized whom you were looking at. Yes, the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavre is definitely another beautiful part of Kyiv and I'm very thankful I was able to see it in person.

Kyiv Trip re-cap part 10

These are pictures from Thursday, the 2nd day of the week that Tara and I were able to get out and spend some 1 on 1 time.

This first pic is horrible quality but I want you to focus on the little dog in the center of the pic on the steps. Tara says that dogs run wild around the city and that in some cases poison is being put out for them (since Kyiv does not have shelters for the strays). This makes me sad as a dog-lover, but what infuriates me as a lover of children is that the Ukrainians have been known to put the poison intended for the dogs in parks where children would be playing! As if parents don't have enough to worry about with their children in a public area. YIKES!

I digress. Back to our little furry subject.

See him between the two people going up the steps? I think he was a terrier/Chihuahua mix. Very cute fellow, but quick! I tried to get his pic up close but by the time I fumbled with getting my camera out of my bag and turning it on, the little guy (or gal, I didn't check!) had run away.

After lunch we went to a very nice mall. I saw some familiar signs:

Tara and I ate our lunch in Independence Square, in which is a statue of St. Michael, the patron saint of Kyiv:

Here is a view from where we ate our lunch in the square:

St. Michael from afar

And where did we eat lunch that day, you ask? Again Blogger is working against me with the placement of my pics, so I'll say about the next one, some things are best said in English, no matter where you are!

Yes, we were at Mickey D's! They had traditional McD food there as well as some regional fare. Tara and I had yummy cheese lavashes, which I think are middle-eastern. It was kinda of like a cheese quesadilla with a thicker bread...very good! We also had McFlurries. :)

Building that held the McD's from afar. I will say at this point this was a very welcome view for me, not because I was hungry (I was), but because my feet were killing me and I wanted to get to our destination to rest. I packed one good pair of walking shoes, which I THOUGHT I had broken in before my trip. I was wrong. I lost count of the number of blisters I had and even with band-aids (of which Tara's stash I nearly exhausted during my visit!) it hurt to walk. Next time I think I'll bring 2 pairs of walking shoes. It became quite the entertainment for the little Yellow Hats to watch me doctor my blisters every morning. I'm not sure why, but I guess they weren't nearly as grossed out by my uglier-than-usual-feet as I was! They called me the Blister Doctor at one point--gotta love kids' imaginations!

It was wonderful for Tara and I to have some time just the 2 of us on Monday and Thursday the week I was there, when the housekeeper/babysitter came. I enjoyed being around her family but sometimes it's nice to have adult time, and girlfriend time at that! We even watched a couple "chick flicks" when the kids were of which was very bizarre (Ladies in Lavender) and another which was good (Falling for Grace)...gotta love Netflix!

Stay tuned for what we did that Thursday morning before our McD's lunch!

Kyiv Trip re-cap part 9

This post is about statues and historical figures/buildings. There is a lot of research I want to do on these, but for now, we'll go with what my Kyiv expert, Tara, tells me (because I know she's 100% correct!):

This lady with her sword and shield is a WWII museum.

These are "the Holy Ancestors"

This is the Lenin statue. However, according to Baby Girl (3 yrs old), it's the "lemon statue", and one time she even called it the "plum statue"!

Fellow on the horse there is Bohgdan Khelmenitsky, a hetman from the Cossack days who led an uprising against the Polish.

This was a very cool cloud formation behind the replica of the Golden Gates building:

The building below is a replica of the Golden Gates, which now houses a museum. Golden Gates was the entrance to the ancient city when Yaroslav the Wise was around.

Yaroslav himself.

Another view of the building

As I think I mentioned in a prior post, the primary purpose of my Kyiv trip was not sight-seeing, but Tara saw to it that we visited many important places in the city while I was there, and I'm grateful for that. My trip was a great balance of visiting with the Yellow Hats and seeing Kyiv, and I'm very thankful for that.

Kyiv Trip re-cap part 8

Before Bunco night (see part 7), I went with the Yellow Hats to a wedding of one of their friends/babysitters. It was held at the Expo Center in a heavily treed area. It was a pretty setting and we were glad for shade because it was a hot day.

One of the things they did was pass out rose petals for us to though before (not on) the bride & groom came down the aisle. Big Girl and Baby Girl were excited to do this as you can see.

Venue for wedding:

This was an interesting tree that family and friends decorated. Not sure of the significance. Since this was the first Ukrainian wedding the Yellow Hats had been to, they don't know if it's a cultural thing or not. It's possible it could have related to the message the minister preached about the Garden of Eden?

We arrived at the Expo Center at 1:40 because the wedding was to start at 2:00. If you look closely at Tara's watch below, you'll see that before 3:00, things were finally starting to get underway!

For the last 20 minutes while we waited, we had a saxophonist playing. He was quite good. One of the songs he played was "I Just Called to Say I Love You" and those of us in the audience that knew the song sang along!

At the end of our long wait, when the minister finally stood up, he said something about them not really being late because it was their special day...

The bright pink was a night color contrasting the green surroundings.

At long last, the bride FINALLY arrived in a Porsche SUV. Since I don't know the wedding couple or party, I'm not including pictures of them. Though I don't speak or understand Ukrainian, this much I know - in any language, love is universal. I could tell how much in love this young couple were.

All in all it was another interesting experience on my Ukrainian adventure!

Kyiv Trip re-cap part 7

On my second Saturday in Ukraine, I went with Tara to Bunco Night with the military wives. It was great fun. My first experience with Bunco was with Tara when I went to visit her in CA in 2009 and it was great fun then as well. Whenever you got Bunco, you got to wear the fancy pink boa...lots of laughs that night with lots of wonderful ladies.

After that evening, I now have a newfound appreciation for military wives...I knew what Tara had experienced as one but it was enlightening to also hear the stories of the other wives. I think one of the things that amazed me the most is just the amount of times they have to move and all the uncertainty with that since they don't usually know the next appointment that much in advance. Moving from one apartment in the same city is stressful enough for me, I can't imagine the cross-country and cross-the-world moves these families do, time after time!

So THANK YOU MILITARY WIVES FOR YOUR SERVICE TO OUR COUNTRY. You serve us as much as your husband and are heros to me just like them.

Back to Bunco. Our hostess that night had a fab apartment with a spectacular roof terrace with a view. We got an unexpected fireworks display in the middle of the evening that was a treat. I think there was a local celebration (Kyiv Days, maybe?) that was the reason, but Tara says the Ukrainians like to let off fireworks in general. At any rate, it added to the fun and the girls joked that the bar had been set very high for the next hostess for Bunco (they rotate and there's a different hostess every time).

Even though I was out way past my normal bedtime that night, I was honored to have shared a fun girls' night with such neat ladies. They are all friendly and welcoming and though they'll likely never read this, I wish them and their families all the best. Our country owes you a debt of gratitude as we do your husbands.

Stay tuned for the other event I went to that Saturday!