Friday, September 20, 2013

Update on Mi Casa and My State of Mind

Phone call after phone call, email after email; that has been my life these past few weeks, and no, I don't work in an office. After two television news interviews, I have had a number of people asking about our house, and wondering if anything has ever happened with it. In short, no, not really. I've talked with a number of organizations, the insurance company, and the lawyers in the JAG office just to name a few. I have had some gracious individuals give monetary gifts and a few others have offered their assistance with the heating and plumbing repairs, but with the foundation still the major money issue, we have together decided it is wisest to not do anything until we have a solution for the foundation. Let's be realistic, it would be better if the house was just torn down- at least that's how I feel right now. I would feel terrible if they did all that work on the plumbing, heating, and drywall, and then, by some miracle, we were able to work something out with the bank, and they demolished it due to the foundation. I'm not going to lie, there have been a few mornings when I have woke up this week feeling knots in my stomach because of our house. It has taken a pure conscious effort to control my thoughts and be reminded that God is in control; He is faithful, and he will see me through this. Worse than fighting those thoughts, are my fears concerning Jeremiah. He has been really "busy" and in war, "busy" is never a good thing. I see him every few days on Skype which is great, but it plays with my mind when we go longer than usual without hearing from him. Multiple times a day, I wonder if today will be the day- Was that the last time I will see him? Will a car pull up in front of our house? Will some men in uniform walk up our steps and come knock on our door? Will today be the day my world is totally turned upside down? As quickly as those thoughts try to creep in, with a lump in my throat, I push them back and think of Philippians 4:8. I love the way The Message version puts it. Phillipians 4:8-9 (MSG) 8-9 Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. It isn't always easy taming our wild minds, but I think God knew we needed specific instructions to not dwell on the negative. I don't know what tomorrow holds for my house or for my family, but for today, this is the day that He has made and I will choose to rejoice and be glad in it. Do you ever struggle with your thoughts? Do you have a good practice for overcoming the negative? I would love to hear them!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Where Do We Go From Here?

As I sat down to right this this evening I am still in utter amazement at the number of people who have given their prayers and support to us during this tough time. My inbox has been flooded with peoples' sympathies, ideas, and even links to others who might be able to help us. I am meeting with a gentleman on Monday at the house in Springfield, to discuss some of our options and to see if he thinks the house is even worth trying to repair. Another builder has already told us that if it were him, he would tear the house down, and cut our losses. That sounds easy enough, but even demoing a house would cost a pretty penny. Furthermore, I don't think that is even an option considering we still owe the bank $53,000. So, I will be calling the JAG office on Monday as well to see if they have any legal advise for me as to what we could do. Regardless of what we do, it is going to cost a lot of money. A huge blessing we did get this week was that some of our friends contacted City Utilities in Springfield, and CU credited back 100% of our water bill to our account since the usage was due to vandalism. Praise God! These same friends also started working on a fundraising site so that individuals could send us donations. It is incredibly humbling to be in this position, to have people asking what they can do to help, and replying, "Well, you can give us a donation if you would like, and of course, your prayers are always welcome too." I don't know about you, but asking for money is not my cup of tea. I have however, been on the other side too, wanting to do good for somebody, to help somebody in need, to be able to be a blessing, so I get what people are wanting to do. I truly believe God created something within us that simply desires to do good for others. I also know that God has promised me He will provide all of our needs, but he didn't tell us how He would do that; and if it is through the generosity of others, I want to be open to accepting the blessings He has in store for me. So, with that being said, if you would like to help us, you can make a donation online using PayPal, by clicking on the button to the right, under Pages titled, "Donate to the Cartwright's Home" or by visiting the facebook page, "Military Family's Home." Last but most definitely not least, I am asking for your prayers, that God would give us His wisdom, that we would not rely on our own understanding, and that everything will work together for His good. I praise God that He is already receiving the Glory in this situation. I am beginning to taste how God is turning this sour bushel of lemons into just might take a little time.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Morton Salt & Bitter Lemonade

     In 1914, Morton Salt, inc. created their first advertising campaign for a series of ads in Good Housekeeping Magazine. What they came up with was a picture of a little girl carrying an umbrella and a box of salt under her arm, pouring out onto the ground behind her. Along with that picture came one of the most widely recognized slogans, "When it rains, it pours." While this slogan was intended to show the salt would pour under damp conditions, it has been found fitting to describe the tough circumstances that we seem to go through at different times in our lives. And right now, there is an absolute downpour in our neck of the woods.
     First, let me just take you on a little trip back to the beginning of the storm. We have two rental houses in Springfield, Missouri that we haven't sold because we bought them at the height of the market and we owe more on them than what they are worth, but with an upturn in the real estate market we decided we would try to get them ready to sell so we would have one less thing to worry about while living across the country as a military family. We had some renters at our East Avenue house that had done a sufficient amount of damage so we worked on it while Jeremiah was on leave in Missouri before he deployed to Afghanistan. After a few days of work we decided we didn't want to spend our last few days together as a family stressed and working on the house, so we hired it out. Most projects on the list were small but the one big one was fixing a buckle in the dining room floor. When they the tore the floor up, the found a problem-a huge problem.  The foundation, sill plate, and rim joist were completely rotted. Just in case you don't know, that is just about everything that normally holds a house together at the base.  This had allowed the house to settle several inches. Now, the entire center joist of the house is resting on the main drain pipe. The estimate to jack up the house, dig out a new foundation and replace all the rotted wood, just a mere $26,000!  Aside from the amount that it would cost to fix, the worst part may be that someone had attempted to fix it before but we would have never known that if we hadn't torn the floor up.  This part of the house couldn't be seen during an inspection. The house was a HUD house when we purchased it, which makes me wonder if the person that allowed it to go into foreclosure, knew exactly what they were getting rid of- a lemon, a very sour lemon. 
     From there we called our insurance company, not really expecting them to do anything, but thought it was worth a shot.  They determined the damage was done prior to the time we had it insured with them, and said there was nothing they could do.  The next step was to call the bank and work on it from that end.  We bank with Bank of America and that alone can be a nightmare in itself at times.  Over the course of the past few months, I have been in contact with them, sending them their required documentation for their borrower's assistance programs, but it hasn't been doing me any good because these programs are all intended to keep a borrower in their home.  We could choose to foreclose or see if we could do a short sale, but besides the fact Jeremiah and I both feel it is irresponsible to do that, he cannot take a negative hit to his credit in order to maintain a Top Security Clearance for his job.  So, that pretty much leaves us with our hands tied.
     Now, if you'll remember, that was just the background, here is what has happened most recently.  Friday night I got a call from the neighbors at this house and they informed me it looked like someone had broke in the back door.   I called the police, filed a complaint, and they went out and checked it.  They didn't see where anyone had broke in, but I still felt a little unsettled about it, so Sunday evening my mom and I headed to Springfield to check it out.  We pulled in the driveway just as the sun went down, and when I opened the front door I heard water rushing.  I ran to the neighbors to find a wrench and a flash light to turn the water main off.  I finally found the guy across the street home, and he offered to come check out the house with me, so we didn't have to go in by ourselves.  There wasn't anyone inside, but someone had definitely been there, and I don't think it was Goldilocks...unless of course she has gone into the scrap metal business.  Whoever broke in, ripped the heater apart and stole the coils, ripped out the copper pipe fittings on the hot water heater, cut a pipe on the refrigerator, and busted out a main water pipe in the bathroom as well.  However, they were kind enough to try to stuff a shower curtain over the pipe, like it might actually stop it.
     The walls were drenched.  The crawl space was completely flooded which resulted in the carpeting throughout the house to be soaked, and the floors in the bedroom to buckle.  Here's the real kicker, when the insurance adjuster came out, he said none of it would be covered because the house had been vacant for more than 30 days prior to the incident as clearly stated in our policy.  If only honesty wasn't something I valued, I could have maybe got something out of them.  Instead I am left with a house that is in even worse condition than it was before and worth even less than it was before.
     When the adjuster was telling me they wouldn't cover it, I felt like I could puke or pass out, but I held it together.  I didn't even cry until after he left, and I was a good twenty minutes down the road.  I hated to tell Jeremiah the terrible news, but he of course took it in stride and assured me that it was okay.  "It's just a house," he reminded me.  As I drove back home, I prayed and cried out to God, singing, "I need thee, Oh I need thee.  Every hour I need thee.  Bless me now my Saviour, I come to thee."  As I got home to my momma's comfort, I told her in some strange way, I am almost glad this has all happened while Jeremiah is deployed.  It has been a good reminder to me that a house is not the most important thing in life, that money isn't the most important thing.  While I have a house with some major issues, I still have so many blessings.  I will continue to push forward, to not let this get me down, to find ways for God to use this bitter cup of lemonade for good.
     My mom keeps telling me I need to make a YouTube video explaining my situation and just ask people to send $1 to help us get rid of this house, but that's just not me.  What I would like though is if you have any sound advise or know of someone in the banking/ housing industry with Bank of America that could give me some direction instead of the run around I would greatly appreciate it!        

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Where Did My Emotions Go?

     A couple weeks ago, Jeremiah called and said his deployment got pushed back and wondered if I wanted him to come to my parents for another visit; did he really need to ask?  Of course I said yes!  We were so blessed to get to have that extra unexpected time together.  He even got to see Asher walk!  The only bad thing about him coming home again meant we had to say, "Goodbye," all over again.  As we traveled two hours to the airport the same knot began to develop in the pit of my stomache like it has every other time.  We tried to talk about things that weren't related to his deployment but we have found that to be nearly impossible. I know it is hard for me, but I cannot even begin to imagine how hard it must be for him;  I at least get to be around the boys and my family, he won't have any family.  When we arrived at the airport, we decided it would be easier if we didn't go in, we would just drop him off in the parking lot.  I prepared myself for a complete cry fest. I watched him and he leaned over Asher's car seat to kiss him goodbye and wondered if Asher will ever have the opportunity to know just how amazing his daddy is.  Next, came the hard one- I hesitated getting my camera out to capture these tough moments, but I knew if something did happen I would forever regret it.  Jeremiah picked up Emerson and in true Emerson fashion he squeezed his daddy as tight as he could.  Finally, it was my turn.  We hugged and kissed knowing that we wanted to cherish that moment but also knowing how quickly you forget what that person's touch feels like.
      As he walked away with his suitcase in hand, I prepared myself for a cry fest, but nothing happened- not hardly one tear.  And let me tell you just in case you don't know me well, that is extremely unusual for me.  Sometimes I am completely convinced that God alters my hormones when Jeremiah is gone.  I can go for months without crying, and as soon as he is home, the tears flow. Maybe I just put up my walls but even at that, I know my God is protecting me and preparing me.
     I know this deployment will not be easy.  Jeremiah is not going to a safe place.  His job is not easy.  However, we do serve a mighty God.  He has carried us through three other deployment and I know he will do the same this time.  I know it is easy to read blogs and stories like these and think we will pray for them, but then we never do, but I am asking a huge favor of you.  Please pray for Jeremiah and the safety of the men he is with.    Pray that God protects them physically but also pray for their mental stability, their ability to be quick on their feet, to make wise decisions.  Pray that miracles take place right before their eyes and that people will be brought to God, that he would receive the glory.  I never want a deployment to happen but when they come around, I do look forward to all the stories I get to share that are a testimony to God's provision and grace.
      May God richly bless you as you invest your time praying for us.  I hope that you too will use these moments to testify about God's greatness!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Drenched in Grace

As the days pass, it is getting harder and harder to tame the thoughts and fears of Jeremiah leaving. I drove past Range Road the other day in Niceville, Fl which is where the EOD Schoolhouse is located and out in front of the building is a large memorial wall for the fallen EOD soldiers. The last time I stood in front of that wall, I was filled with a different set of emotions than the ones I feel now. Then I was so proud of Jeremiah and all he had accomplished because making it through EOD school isn't an easy task, not to mention the strain it puts on the families too. Now, I am trusting that God will protect him and give him the wisdom he needs to keep his name off that wall. I continued my drive back to the hotel reminded of God's grace and that I need to continue to put my hope in him.
Then, yesterday, I took the boys to the Air Force Armament Museum so Emerson could look at all the airplanes, missiles, and rockets, and while we were there I began to notice the walkways were lined with brick pavers dedicated to loved ones who were killed in battle. For some reason it just hit me different than it usually does when I read the names of the fallen. As I watched Emerson play without a care in the world, tears filled my eyes, knowing the weight of the bricks we stepped on. In that same heavy moment, I sensed God's overwhelming protective presence, like he just scooped me up in his arms. I can tell God is sharpening me, like a knife on a stone, He is gradually allowing me to experience these deep heavy emotions but at the same time, revealing himself to me.
As we left the museum, and traveled to our next destination, God once again poured out his grace on me. I don't even know how to describe it! He gave me this hope, this refreshing sense of eternity. He lifted me up, soaring like an eagle above our circumstances. It was a beautiful moment when I felt completely drenched in His grace! We don't know what tomorrow will hold. I am so grateful that regardless of what my time in this world has for me, my God has a beautiful eternity waiting for me. In the mean time, I look forward to more of these grace filled moments where God reveals His glory to me right here on Earth.
We serve an Awesome God! Has God revealed himself to you in your daily living? I would love to hear and share your stories!