Houses are not Eternal

It was 30 October, when I posted THIS BLOG after walking the trail of autumn leaves, that I knew we were moving to Bartlesville.


I felt it clear as anything, and knew that day it was true and that the day was coming.

It was two weeks later, during our couple scripture study, that I felt confirmation of it and knew it was coming soon enough to discuss it with Nathan out loud.

He knew it was coming, too.

We talked about wanting to be closer to his parents, wanting to be closer to my work, and wanting to be closer to the community that knows him where he could teach violin and theater and writing.

We knew it was true, that day, and wanted to present our response to our Heavenly Father through fasting and prayer, knowing He would give us the next piece of how to pull off such an impossible thing.  We fasted that first week in November, praying to discern clearly each step of the way, and relying on Him for the miracle of how to make this happen.  We knew it would be Heavenly Father who made it happen, for it was obviously not something we could pull off on our own.


A week after that, our Bishop stopped our house unexpectedly, and gave everyone in our family blessings.  Our blessings included to direction to research carefully, consider our options, and be diligent in asking for help and taking our time to find the ways Heavenly Father was trying to help us.

That’s when I got the flu.

Excepting Heavenly Father was still helping us.

I was so sick that I could not even sit up, so writing was out of the question as was doing anything productive like treatment plans or session notes.  I never can just sit still, so Nathan knew I was bad sick.  But I was also sick enough to be uncomfortable enough I couldn’t sleep, either.  It was miserable.

But I got tired of being whiny about it, so I spent the entire day researching the housing market in Bartlesville, the available homes within our price range, and the options of a small office for me and Nathan to do either counseling or his company or both.

That’s when we got the idea of trying to find a house that would have an office space I could use for counseling so as not to pay for a mortgage and an office lease.

Except I really like my day job already, and would really not do that much private practice right now while I have such young kiddos at home.

But it brought up zoning questions, about residential and commercial, and so in my flu-stupor, I researched the local zoning laws to see what would be permissible and where.  Then, to follow-up, I contacted the zoning board to confirm what I understood, and to ask them about any property they might know of that would be a good available space.

That’s when they told us about a local non-profit that was going out of business, and suggested we get a tour of their building to see if it would meet our needs.

Excepting they told us the wrong place.  And the right place wasn’t going out of business, just moving across town.

And it was the right place.

Nathan and I fell in love with it the moment we saw the pictures online, and experienced the same vision at the same time with brilliant energy and excitement.

That’s how we ended up racing to Bartlesville on a late Friday night, 15 November, to secretly check out a dark and creepy three story building in the middle of the night.

Well, at least that was the version our kids told.

Except we had to be careful because we couldn’t tell the parents yet.  It would be too heart breaking for them to think we were moving to Bartlesville and then something go wrong, so we knew it was too early in the process to share just yet.  We decided to wait, and let it be a surprise for later.

It was amazing.  It needed a lot of work, but the visions of what we could do and how we would live there and work there poured over us in a very distinct way, confirming to us that we were on the right track.

We knew that blessing told us to research and be diligent, so I contacted the one person I knew who knew more about properties than anyone:  Sister Ahblorn.

So the very next morning, on Saturday, 16 November, I dragged the kids back to the giant house (in the daytime) with Sister Ahlborn to look at the house through eyes of experience.  I knew it was one thing to take on a big project, and another thing to make a foolish investment on something scary.  This house was a hundred years old – old enough I wanted to know it was at least worth trying to fix up.

This was the day I took the pictures of the house.  I hoped the pictures would be a fun way to share the character of the property.

We brought a contractor with us, and he and Sister Ahblorn loved the house as much as we did.  “The bones are good,” he said.  The structure was sound, the foundation solid, and the lathe and plaster already replaced with sheetrock.  The electricity had already been brought up to code.  A fire in the past had been addressed appropriately, and the floors were reinforced oak with gorgeous potential for refinishing.

There were challenges, though.  It was a mess.  The outside needed repainting and some new siding.  There were some windows that needed repair.

Because it had been used as a retail store the last thirty something years, it needed even more work to be converted back into a house.  There were no full baths, no showers, and no kitchen.  That’s a big project.

It meant, though, that we could offer significantly less than they were asking based on the repairs needed.

There was a trick, though, in trying to get the mortgage.  When I began to visit banks on Monday, 18 November, none of them would even let us apply!  We were not turned down, but they would not even accept our application.  They could not figure out if it would be a residential mortgage or a commercial loan.  It was so frustrating!

But we continued to pray, and trust, and act in faith, and study our scriptures.  We were not asking for something big and fancy and easy.  We were asking for space that would let Nathan do the things he has prepared his whole life for doing, trying to provide for ourselves and our family, and had done good research in finding grants that would help us pull off the impossible.  We knew that we had been prompted to begin the process, and that the Spirit had led us to this specific idea.  Only in this context did we boldly approach and just outright ask for the house, after reading Mormon 9 in our couple study one night:

And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.

21 Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth.

 27 O then despise not, and wonder not, but hearken unto the words of the Lord, and ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need.  Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.

37 And may the Lord Jesus Christ grant that their prayers may be answered according to their faith; and may God the Father remember the covenant which he hath made with the house of Israel; and may he bless them forever, through faith on the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

So we began to pray.

And wait.

Until the phone rang.

It was the zoning board person that I had talked to, saying that there was a committee for historic downtown that helps pay for remodeling of the old buildings, and that our house was one block within that radius.   We qualified for the help of that matching grant to repair all the exterior of the home.

I cried.

That was the same day as seven different banks not even wanting to talk to us because they couldn’t figure out how to classify the loan, and the same day that 4 turned 5 and we had that birthday party where we forgot to give out ice cream or juice.

Clearly we are functioning well enough to take on such a project as this.


This new connection with the historical people actually led to another connection: this one a committee for another historic group. They help raise funds for renovating the upper stories of old homes!


So by 19 November, we found ourselves up late working on a for realz business proposal, so that we can present the executive summary to their board next week – only three weeks since the first prompting that a move was coming.

This is line upon line.

This is how revelation happens.

And it is amazing.

We also finally found a lender who could do a mixed use loan, and I had time to fill out all the paperwork when a patient cancelled. That night I didn’t get off work until 9 in Bartlesville, and drove to the house and sat in the driveway praying and crying.


That’s when the realtor called to say she had all our questions answered by the seller, and would send us an email in the morning.

How was I supposed to sleep after that?!

And then nothing happened.

Nothing happened all day.

I knelt down at night to say my prayers in faith, though I felt defeated.

The next day I followed up on all my contacts, trying to be sure pieces were in place. I felt prompted to put a pen and yellow pad in the car, though I didn’t know why. We continued to research the house and surrounding properties, ruling out what did not meet our needs and what needed too much repair and what was already remodeled and more than a million dollars.

It seemed impossible all over again, though we had tried to act in faith, followed the counsel of our blessing, and been diligent in research and effort.

That’s when it began to snowball. Again. Just hours before we were supposed to be at church for The Young Women Night in Excellence, while Nathan was trying to teach a violin lesson, things started happening again. We got the inspections and bids back. We heard back from the bank. We got to meet with the downtown redevelopment person (that’s why we needed the yellow pad and pen) for the city, and learned they love our idea and that we qualify for both the historic tax incentives and the city restoration incentives, which confirm our ability to fund the external repairs and conversion of the store back into a house while still only getting a modest loan for the part that would actually be our residence.

It was amazing.


That’s why we went to dinner with Nathan’s parents after the Night of Excellence, to tell them what we had been dreaming up and how it has unfolded.

And just like that, after a crazy week, the very next morning we got approved by the bank and made our offer at less than half the asking price.

A price so low we wouldn’t have to rent out any of the space.

We could just live there, in that giant house, hosting an artist-in-residence program and theater space.

I wouldn’t even have to do private practice or work any extra.

It was a miracle house, for less than our already house, so much that we could keep our other house for renting – or not if we did not want debt.

We were in a daze, in awe that suddenly we had plans to move, plans for another property, plans for a remodel already funded, plans for a rent house, plans for wondering how it was possible that suddenly this was our life? All by faith and diligence, but not by out of pocket expense?

Another miracle, that’s what it was.

Except then they said no.

Only they didn’t just say no.

They said it wasn’t their problem it didn’t have a kitchen or bathrooms, so they weren’t going to budge on price since it can be listed as commercial (which wouldn’t need a kitchen or full baths).

Which is fine, but we choose not to go into double the debt – not even for a house. We respect that, but would politely decline and seek a different space.

But then, they didn’t just say no.

They didn’t stop there.

They waved their hands at our foster kids and suggested we decide whether to invest in “that” project, or whether to invest in our business opportunity.

As if we had to choose between them.

I was stunned.


(Shocking, I know).

Know what Nathan said? Do you know what my husband, the man I chose to marry for time and all eternity, do you know what he said?

He said, without missing a beat or the slightest delay:

>I would rather be a successful father than a successful entrepreneur.

And so we walked away, just like that.

Because houses are not eternal.

But families? Families are forever.


Posted in House permalink

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Houses are not Eternal — 4 Comments

  1. When the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window. Wait on the Lord. What He KNOWS is supposed to happen, will happen, at the right time, in the right place.