The story of our mortgage vs. God

Over the years on this blog, I’ve occasionally shared testimonies related to housing. In fact, 14 years ago on Thanksgiving morning, I shared the ups and downs of how God had directed us to move to Ohio. Today, I’ll share a story that’s kind of overdue since it’s over a year old. It’s a continuation of that story I shared 14 years ago. 

I’m going to backtrack even more though, because this story starts in late 2005 when we started dreaming of owning our home without a mortgage. At the time, the real estate market was really high in Florida, and we were almost done with a home remodel. We decided to finish up the remaining work and put the house on the market. The profit was supposed to be enough that we could move up north and pay cash for our next house. Owning a home mortgage-free seemed within reach!

What we didn’t know was that the US was at the height of a real estate bubble that was about to burst. As the months went by and the housing market collapsed, so did our dreams. Our county was listed as having the fastest real estate decline in the nation. We finally sold our house in late 2007 for half its 2005 value, and we moved to Ohio with just barely enough for a down payment, right in the middle of the Great Recession.

So when we bought this house, we took out a 30-year mortgage like normal. I think the interest rate was 7% or something like that, which wasn’t bad at the time. But then, in 2010, we ‘happened’ across a Black Friday deal for a bank that no longer exists, where you could get a 10-year balloon payment mortgage and they would pay the closing costs on the loan. The minimum payments were according to a 30-year amortization schedule, but it was only a 10-year loan. That meant that at the end of 10 years, we’d have to refinance the remaining balance. It had a bi-weekly payments instead of monthly payments though, so that would help pay the mortgage down a little faster. The 4% interest rate (an unheard of rate at the time) would also help bring the balance down.

I ran the numbers to see what would happen if we continued every month to pay the same amount that we’d already been putting on our original loan (which had been paid down very little so far.)  This was only a few months after I’d started a part-time job, so we came up with a plan. We would continue to put the same amount from my husband’s paycheck on the mortgage, and I would put another a certain amount from each of my paychecks on the mortgage. If we could stick to the plan, then we’d have the mortgage paid off by the end of the 10-year loan, instead of having to refinance what was left. 

So we went for it and committed to paying that extra. We were once again pursuing the dream of owning our home without a mortgage! The loan closed and the new payments started in March of 2011 with a final due date of February 2021 for the balance of the loan (if we weren’t successful in paying all the extra that we were planning).

Over the next 8 1/2 years, we fell a little behind our planned schedule a couple of times, but we did our best to stick to our plan.

Then in 2019, my husband made a career change. We knew that him changing from the same line of work for 20 years to being self-employed in a new trade was risky, but we prayed about it and had peace. 

In January of 2020, we were down to the last 13 months of that 10-year mortgage deadline, and we were behind schedule. My husband suddenly got the desire to pay it off faster. He had started making better money in the new line of work, and the summer looked promising, so we decided to tighten down on the extra spending and put everything extra we could on the mortgage. We wanted to see if we could pay it off a little early before the end of 2021. The Covid pandemic came, but work was still okay since construction trades were essential services, and by July we were making good progress. 

Then the end of July came and Covid started affecting construction supply chains. 

Factories making windows and other building supplies were running out of stock, and my husband had to go a few weeks without a paycheck in August. 

My income went down. 

Then a few various things happened, and we realized that his income was going to decrease a decent amount when work resumed. 

Suddenly, not only was our plan to pay it off that year in jeopardy, but our ability to pay it off by the mortgage due date was looking questionable. We had 6 months ‘till that due date, there were still thousands due, we had only a little in savings accounts… and our paychecks were still dropping. If we couldn’t pay it off, then we’d have to take out a new loan to cover what was left. But how were we going to take out a loan with paychecks dropping and banks tightening lending requirements? We put it in God’s hands and refused to worry about that February deadline, even when the bank sent us the reminder that the remaining thousands were going to be due in 6 months. 

So all throughout August and the first half of September, that’s where we were at. I kept putting off doing the bills because I was so busy. I’d just pay whatever was due (including the small minimum payment on the mortgage instead of any extra), but I didn’t have time to go through everything and balance everything out properly. And yet as September came, every time I thought about doing the bills, I remember thinking, “Lord, I’d really like to pay the mortgage off this month.”  It felt like a pipe-dream with thousands still due… and yet that desire kept rising within me. I kept passing the desire on up to Him. 

Then came September 13, 2020. 

It was a Sunday evening, and my husband was working on a house project that we were trying to get finished. I was hanging around to see if I could help him at all. I pulled up Facebook on my phone to see if there were any church prayer requests, and I looked at the top of my feed since I have John and Lisa Bevere pinned to show first. And there at the top was a post from John. All it said was this:

“And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord which He will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:13-14 ESV)

That verse shot through me with a force that is hard to describe. I sat there staring at my phone, reading those words “The Lord will fight for you” over and over again, asking God why I was suddenly struggling to hold back tears. Why was the power in that verse was suddenly so ALIVE to me?  In that moment, my husband said, “I guess you won’t be able to help me here. You can go do whatever else you need to do.”  I mumbled something at him and left, not wanting to try to explain why I was suddenly trying not to cry when I had no explanation for myself let alone for anyone else.

Little did I know what God was about to do.

I wandered upstairs, and I did something mundane like laundry until I felt normal again. Then I thought, “Well, I may as well do the bills. I have to balance everything this time. We’ve got a lot due in the next few days, and it’s going to be hard to find the time to do them properly at any other time this week.”

So I opened up my laptop and my spreadsheets, and I once again thought that I’d like to pay the mortgage off… even though I wasn’t sure that we even had enough to pay the normal bills. (Thankfully God had set me free of my fear of not having enough money by that time!) 

So I went through all the accounts, balancing everything like I do, setting up in my spreadsheets to show which transfers and payments I was going to make here and there, etc. And finally I went to see how much extra we had to pay against the mortgage, if anything.  

And I stopped short. 

It looked like we had enough to pay it off. 

But that made no sense! There’s no way we had that much! I went back through everything, thinking I must have forgotten a payment I’d scheduled. Or maybe I had something set as a positive instead of a negative or made some other error… but everything looked right.  I checked the accounts looking for mysterious deposits, thinking that maybe the bank made a mistake, but I couldn’t find anything other than our decreasing paychecks. Yet again, when I added up the money in this account, and the savings in that account, and the extra in that account, etc. it looked like it was enough. 

I still didn’t trust that I wasn’t making a mistake. I decided to initiate the transfers and bill payments, consolidate all the extra in just one account, and then wait a few days for everything to clear. So I did that, and a few days later, I looked again. Nothing unexpected showed up anywhere. Nothing negative OR anything positive. No mistakes appeared to take that money, but neither were there any sudden deposits anywhere. And yet that account wasn’t thousands shy of the mortgage balance like it should have been. It had enough to pay off the mortgage. 

I finally told my husband, who was just as shocked as I was and kept asking me if I was sure I hadn’t made a mistake somewhere. Then we discussed if it was smart to do it right then. That money was a bit of a safety cushion if needed. And yet, the mortgage balance was due in February no matter what. And as he put it, “This has been our goal for 10 years. It seems crazy to back out now, right at the end.” So I initiated the payments and final processes (which I discovered take much longer than a normal mortgage payment). A couple weeks later, I logged on to see the zero balance. A couple months later, we received our mortgage note with “Paid in full” on it.

I still have no idea how God did it. I might have been able to figure it out if I spent hours and hours going back through every single transaction over the months before, but I really had no desire or time to do that. God said He would fight our battles for us. Did I really need to figure out how?  All I knew is that somehow, despite extra expenses and lower income the previous months, we suddenly had extra. 

I look back over the years and I marvel at God’s ways. In 2005 when we dreamed of owning a home without a mortgage, I was bound by the fear of not having enough money for our needs. I cannot adequately explain how debilitating that fear was in my life… how little it took for that fear to take over. It controlled many parts of my life, so of course I wanted no mortgage. Then my house couldn’t be taken away! 

But God didn’t want to satisfy my fear. He wanted to set me free from it. So He let us move a little too slowly in putting our house on the market, knowing that the value was going to plummet and we were definitely not going to be able to pay cash for the next house. And then He worked and worked, little by little, to set me free from that fear. It took many lessons and a lot of time, and then He spent more years teaching me how to actually walk in that freedom

And only then, after fear totally lost its power over me and after trust became a habit, did He pay off the mortgage. 

His ways are indeed not our ways! But He is oh-so-good! 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn bush will grow the juniper,
    and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
    for an everlasting sign,
    that will endure forever.”

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