The year was 2007. The Hubs and I were not yet ‘the Hubs and I.’ We lived in Edinburgh, Scotland and were preparing for our June wedding in North Carolina. He still came-a-calling to hang out with me in a cute little place off Leith Walk I shared with some lovely girlfriends, the last place that would be “mine” and not “ours.”

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favour and honour;
No good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless. {Ps. 84:11}

In the months between our January engagement and our June wedding, we decided to look for a flat to buy. {Translation: apartment. Just in case.} We’d both been renting in different parts of the city, but liked the idea of settling down, “finding a place of our own.” Hopefully somewhere central so we could have lots of friends over. The housing market was on the up and up — it seemed like a great investment.

Here’s some context.

Quite different from how the property markets work in the US and South Africa, Scotland works on an “offers over” system. This means people might list their two bedroom Edinburgh flat for “offers over £99,000,” and then people will make their best guess at what they’re willing to pay over that amount. You don’t know what anyone else is bidding, so you’re kind of making a blind guess as to what you think other interested buyers might bid. But you’re hoping not to out-bid the others by £10,000 because that would just be a waste, now wouldn’t it?

When property was moving hot and fast in the spring of ’07, £99,000 flats were going for £127,000 and then some.

Which seemed ridonkulous.


We didn’t enter the process lightly — with much prayer and much thought we were cautiously taking steps in this direction, trusting the Lord would light up the path for us. I was full of hope we could buy a place to stop paying someone else’s mortgage and start paying our own.

As HH-to-be and I viewed flat after flat after flat, we became very aware of a couple of things:

1. People were making ridiculous offers. We could not believe how much one bedroom flats were going for in parts of town that I would say could “go either way.” “Hello Hooligans, on the way to the football (US readers: soccer) stadium at the bottom of Easter Road!”

2. We could not make ridiculous offers. We just weren’t going to. We weren’t willing to risk going upside down on a flat that we couldn’t afford. We were going to make a reasonable choice, and stay well inside our budget. And we weren’t going to let even that one awesome flat we viewed in this crazy building that I think was first built as a printing press and the converted change our minds.

Although I personally could’ve been swayed.

3. The old saying that what goes up must come down is still true.

Okay that was three things.

Anyway, we were in the middle of a viewing — I think a second viewing — of a place we were particularly fond of when the penny dropped. Maybe it was a half-penny. Or two pence.

HH-to-be was chatting with the current owner, I was marveling at the classic choice of red and white baroque-patterned wallpaper and how the afternoon sun on an Edinburgh spring day cast a delicate luster over the hardwood floors through a nearby skylight.

It was the first time we were really starting to think … this could be it, praying the Lord would make it clear and hoping hoping hoping … and the owner’s phone rang. With an offer. Easily a couple thousand pounds over what we were willing to pay.

And that was that.

As we walked to the car, HH-to-be spoke some words of wisdom: I think the Lord has made it clear for us. And from that day forward, we looked for places to rent. Well actually we looked for places to let, because that’s what you say when you’re looking for a place in the UK.

And “To Let” signs sit outside buildings all over the city and riding past on the bus I always wished I could get out and spray paint an ‘i’ in the middle. Just for fun.

Once or twice.

We found the first place we called “our place” not long before I was off to the US to prepare for our wedding. We returned as hubs and wife and moved into “our place” where we fed lots of friends from a tiny kitchen (you could literally stand in one spot and reach everything) and watched episodes of Lost from iTunes on my Macbook, propped on an ottoman in front of our tiny couch.

We were there three months before we headed to the States to raise support for HH to be a full time staff member at our church.

We were there three months (in the States) when we discovered the Bear was on his way into the world. Surprise and Merry Christmas, the Lord seemed to say.

We returned from our time in the States, me six months pregnant, and we rented a flat that was everything we hoped for and then some.

And the Bear was perhaps just three months old when we started to realize living life spread across three continents wasn’t going to work. For our family.

The family we didn’t even know was coming when it was spring in Edinburgh and we were looking for flats.

Before his first birthday, two months after our first anniversary, we were on our way to South Africa, with a stop in the States thrown in for good measure.

It was only two brief years after we would’ve bought a lovely flat in Edinburgh.

A new season and a new country were ahead of us.

And I’m not sure how that would’ve been possible — I am very certain it would’ve been messy — if we were servicing a mortgage on a flat in Edinburgh. In a market in a slump. And trying to raise support for life and ministry in South Africa, thousands of miles away.

Sometimes we don’t know what’s good for us. Sometimes unanswered prayer is the greatest gift we can receive.

I look back, thankful, we listened to that still small voice and didn’t push in a direction we weren’t supposed to go.

The Sermon in a Nutshell: Remember God’s goodness today. Remember that He sees the end from the beginning. Even when we’re in the middle, and all we see is red and white wallpaper and hardwood floors.