In 2015, after a long journey with lots of twists and turns that I’ll need to share another day, Cheri and I found ourselves in the position of needing to buy a house in Fargo, instead of moving into a district parsonage. I was living in Rapid City, while Cheri was in Fargo, so the house hunting took some unusual turns. Thanks be for internet listings and Zillow and such, because we were able to house hunt online, and pick and choose and opt out of all sorts of houses on the market. Since Cheri’s work was located on the far south side of the city, that became our major focus, and one of the first questions we always asked was, “How far is this house from your work?” Since my work involved about 35,000-40,000 square miles of the Northeast district, it really didn’t matter where we lived on my account! So, armed with good credit, and a rough estimate on what we could spend, we began the hunt.
We saw lots of houses. We saw some horrible houses, penned in so close together that it looked like you could hand the jar of peanut butter from the window of one house, to the one next door. That told us we really did desire some space, and established trees, and a house with lots of room, and great quality. Not asking for too much, were we? You know, of course, what happens to the idea of a dream home, right? It gets whittled down, and chopped up, and pretty soon you hope you can at least find something that will work.
In our file of houses we pretty well liked, there were a few that were really nice. The only trouble was, we weren’t moving until nearly May, and it was only early February. The houses we liked of course were the houses everyone like, and they were snapped up before we were in position to put a bid in. That is, they were that way, except for two that we had found. Of course, they were at the top of our price range, and actually beyond it, but we kept coming back. When we finally toured them, we discovered that one of them, located on a small created lake in the middle of town, actually had a pretty screwy layout, and looked kind of tired inside. We tried to think of what we could do to make the house “work,” but we finally came to the conclusion that it would be a three-year renovation with thousands of dollars, and that even then, it would be making do. At this point, we began to realize this would become our retirement home, and we wanted something better than that, after living decades in parsonages around the conference that we also made do with, often.
Then there was that “other” one. It was on a circle in a quiet development, very pretty, and recently refurbished with lots of extras, like two fireplaces, custom paint and window coverings, with a huge maple in the front yard and more. It was also “more.” More like $20,000 more than we really wanted to, or could afford to put in a house. So, we gave it up and started looking again. Over and over we checked out new builds, and other nice homes, but they were either miles and miles away from Cheri’s work, or other things that just didn’t feel right.
So, we peeked again, and walked through again, and calculated again about the “other” house. The darn thing was, every time we walked into the house, which by now had been on the market a few months, we kept falling in love with it. The best I can describe is that it echoed a sense of peace, and blessing. I’m not mystical or anything like that, but it really was a great house, with four bedrooms, lots of storage, new appliances and one more thing…
In the backyard, when the house was first built, the owner also built a gazebo. I have to admit that in all my years of living around the country, not once did I ever entertain the notion of having a gazebo. Eight-sided, wooden shingled, equipped with a ceiling fan, fourteen tall windows with screens and a screen front door, fully electric with plug-ins for fans and music, or just sitting there. With the ability of North Dakota to grow mosquitoes that seemed nearly the size of your fist, that could carry off small dogs, a gazebo was the perfect answer to swatting and spraying. I’m also not prone to using the word, but it was… cute. It looked like a place where you would find gnomes and garden fairies happily at work. Even more, the first owners had planted five blue spruce and black hills spruce, so that the entire back yard was our own little park. The outside of the house was nearly as nice as the inside.
We of course became very practical and realized we just couldn’t afford it, even with the gazebo, and were about to look around again, when our realtor suggested we just make a ridiculous offer, and see where it might take us. So, we came up with a number, and made the bid. At the same time, I wrote a short note to the folks, telling them how we felt about the house whenever we were in it, and how, after years of living in someone else’s place, it did feel like coming home.
By now you know the end of the story. They came way down, we went up a little, they came down some more, and then the appraisers said it was too low, and so we had to work and work – and finally said yes. Now, five years later, we couldn’t imagine living anywhere else at this point in our lives. We have since put in a beautiful brick patio, with a promenade to gazebo, instead of little fairy stones in the grass, so we now spend time between the outside and the inside world, truly loving the opportunity to be “out there” and just sit and relax in our home.
I hope you have a story like ours. I hope at some point in your life, you have been able to find your home, your place, your sense of belonging. After living decades in parsonages with pink toilets or broken ovens, or other such things, it’s more than nice to be able to live in a nice place – it’s a blessing, and not one we take lightly. And the gazebo is the icing on the cake – something never expected, and now something always loved. I guess I like it here.
Word for the day: cacography. Pronounced kuh-COG-ruh-fee, it exudes a Greek word etymology. Kako is always read as “bad” or even horrible, and graphein is the verb “to write,” so cacography is the practice of really having bad handwriting, or even bad spelling. Despite getting the fourth grade best handwriting certificate, which I still cherish, I am today a world class cacographer. There are times I write something on a list, and later on, I can’t read even what I wrote. It’s actually really easy to master the art of cacography – just don’t give a care, write it quickly and then move on. Unfortunately, the computer and keyboard has made actual handwriting into a difficult and peevish task for most folks today. To sit down with a piece of paper and pen and write a letter to someone, that they can read, has become almost an accomplishment, and I wonder what will happen in the future when nothing has been written. Imagine Thomas Jefferson pounding out the Declaration of Independence on his laptop.
By the way, the opposite of cacography is the word, “calligraphy,” using the Greek kallas, which translates “beautiful.” Cheri is a wonderful calligrapher, so between the two of us, we have average handwriting skills…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.