Thursday, March 15, 2012
The Apartment Story
Trust in ADONAI, and do good; settle in the land, and feed on faithfulness. Then you will delight yourself in ADONAI, and he will give you your heart's desire. -Psalm 37:3-4 (from the daily devotional Jesus Calling, March 6th)
Our first Sunday in Jerusalem we went to a congregation called King of Kings. There were all different nationalities at the service done in English. The music exalted the King of the universe and the teaching message challenged me. Reuven Ross focused on the Martha/Mary personalities, exhorting us to focus first on the L-rd and His heart. Cassidy attended the children's program and loved it, learning a new song about obeying her parents.
When Tom came in January he met a guy named Robert, a tourist who stayed with a friend from UHL and he also attended King of Kings. At the end of our service Robert came up to us and holding his camera he said, "I have something for you". He flipped through his photos and told us he had been out all day taking pictures of the city because he was leaving this week to go back to the States. He showed us a picture of a realtor's sign. "I was walking around French Hill,” he said, “and passed this sign. I felt like I should go back and take a picture of it, and now I know why. For you!" Tom wrote down the realtor's name and phone number and we talked a while longer with Robert before hugging good-bye.
You see, we had a bit of a struggle with our first realtor, (we didn't see any apartments) and this new name was a light of hope for us. After we had been here about a week without a home Tom called Robert's realtor from the picture, Nelly. We told her we wanted a 3-bedroom apartment with some sort of patio or garden area. She said there wasn't much available right now but she would find some things for us to see.
Since the home is my domain (as a homemaker) Tom suggested I make a list of the things I was hoping for. This is the list: a nice kitchen; a good view; 3 bedrooms; shelves in the bedrooms and kitchen; a clean bathtub; good lighting; top floor, and not too high; nice neighbors; room for a desk by a window in the living room (for me); room for a baby. I gave it to the L-rd, knowing He had a plan and would find us the right home. I prayed repeatedly for the best.
When Nelly took us out she had three apartments she wanted to show us. The first one was a 2-bedroom place with a large sunroom-type area that I thought might work for Tom’s studies. He didn’t think it was possible and wasn’t willing to overlook the cabinet doors coming off their hinges in the kitchen or the large leak in one of the bedrooms. The second apartment was another 2-bedroom, or more like 1 ½ bedrooms; the second room barely had enough room for a single bed. We were disappointed with our prospects. Nelly said she had one more she could show us, but it was definitely out of our price range.
And here’s where I need to explain something about renting an apartment in Jerusalem. When they say they’re unfurnished they mean completely unfurnished – no stove, oven or refrigerator. Sometimes no light fixtures. The longer we waited to get an apartment the more stressful it became because Tom’s school started soon. Thinking about finding beds, a table and chairs, kitchen items as well as all those big appliances was daunting. So when you add up all those items it’s another chunk of change, on top of rent and paying the realtor a finder’s fee (which is just how it works here). We were beginning to wonder where and when we would find a home.
The last place she showed us was definitely out of our price range, but she thought the owner might come down a little. She opened the door and we could barely believe she was showing it to us. We walked into an open floor plan, with an island in the kitchen that overlooks the dining room table and the living room. The light streamed in from large glass sliding doors that led to a patio. A big patio, overlooking a green space below. Three good-sized bedrooms, with beds and dressers. A clean bathtub in the hall bathroom. A shower in another bathroom. Large windows in every room. And the kicker: a desk next to the patio doors in the living room. We could barely contain our excitement and yet deep down inside we knew it was ridiculous to be looking at this place. Nelly calculated some numbers and suggested what we could offer the owner. We told her we’d have to talk and pray about it.
On the way home I told Tom it was everything I prayed about. Well, almost everything. It wasn’t on the top floor; it’s the third, with one more above us. I guess technically, if you’re going to ride the elevator, it’s floor -1, but that’s a technicality. It was a nice place so I presumed the neighbors would be nice. He began to do his mental calculator game; he factored in the large appliances, couches, beds, table and chairs. We talked about saving money since Cassidy and I might not come home the first year since she’ll be in school when he will be traveling (possibly). Where else could we skimp in order to have a nice, spacious, clean home?
As most of you know, we posted on facebook about our apartment saga. We actually had a place to stay in southern Jerusalem while we searched, and that was a blessing beyond anything we could have imagined. Being in a hotel for three weeks wouldn’t have been possible. We also had a great roommate which brought us back to our days on Mastin Street. We love sharing life with other people. But as school began for Tom it became a large time commitment to get back and forth from school in French Hill to home in Talpiyot. Sometimes a two hour commitment, on the bus, one way. Hence the urgency to get a home in French Hill. We also wanted to wait until we were in French Hill to start Cassidy in school; the commute would have been very long and her school starts at 7:30.
We wanted to do our due diligence and contacted another realtor, hoping she had some different options. She showed us one: a 3-bedroom apartment with a little garden area, completely unfurnished but doable for sure. We went home and Tom ran the numbers again. The difference between the nice, furnished apartment and the ok unfurnished apartment was still too much to swallow. We could make the second place work, we’d just have to move quickly to get it cleaned and furnished.
Then we got news: someone out in our circle of supporters wanted to bless us, beyond our expectations. They wanted to give money specifically for the nicer, fully furnished home. The donor recognized our desire to host, both locally and globally, and this place was perfect. How could this be happening? Someone cared enough about our home in Jerusalem that they would finance the difference between our budget and the price we negotiated with the owner. Miraculous!
But the story doesn’t end here. It still took a while to get into the place; with our money transferring from the States, the fast of Esther and Tom’s classes it became difficult to meet with the owner’s son and lawyer to sign the contract. We finally agreed on a date: March 8th, Purim. This is the day Jews (and anyone who loves them) everywhere celebrate their victory over the murderous Haman because Esther approached the king, found favor and saved the lives of her people. We were ready to celebrate too! This happened to be a Thursday, which means we rented a car Thursday afternoon and had to have it back by Friday at 2, because the rental car store closes for Shabbat. Tom moved all of our suitcases down three flights of stairs while I packed up the rest of our things (did I mention I had the stomach flu?). We got all of our things moved in one night, which turned out to be a perfect timing because a woman was coming in from Taiwan that evening and had plans to stay at the apartment in Talpiyot where we had just moved out of!
For the first few days in our new place Tom was in shock. I think every few hours he said, “This place is so nice”. I believe the L-rd answered my prayers about a home not for my sake but for Tom’s. He’s worked hard since before we got here to make this move as easy as possible. I know it blesses him to be in a clean, comfortable home and I praise Jesus that He gave it to us in such a miraculous way. Once we moved in we talked with Tom’s family about the place and his sister Susan reminded us of the dream she had right after we left Kansas. She dreamt that we “found a great apartment with the most amazing kitchen.” When she heard the details of the kitchen she exclaimed, “In my dream it had an island and an open floor plan!” What a confirmation of G-d’s plan for us.
Our socks are officially knocked off by this blessing. For years I took for granted how nice my home was; all the little details we spent years working on made it ours and we loved it. Being in a new space is hard, but having the L-rd look after all the details made the transition so much easier. Now we’re beginning to function like we used to (sort of), and we’re even having our first guests over for lunch on Friday! We pray the L-rd uses this space as a refuge not just for us, but for all of His people.
Once again, thank you for your prayers! Just like Esther we can approach the throne of the King and ask for His favor. It doesn’t always look like we want it to, but it is His best for us. Halleljuah!