In Houston, you either live “inside the loop” – a freeway that circles the heart of the city – or you don’t. As a general rule, inner-loopers don’t travel outside the loop. Ever. It’s entirely too far (even if it’s only a few miles). That’s why they live inside the loop – so every urban luxury or necessity they might possibly need is at their fingertips, from their job, to restaurants and the arts, to professional sports and the like.
Our first house was a few blocks outside the loop. While we couldn’t officially claim inner-loop status, we shared the aversion to driving away from the city. When a dear friend and her husband started a church in a suburban town about thirty-five miles north of Houston, I edited a column he wrote for the local newspaper. As I read and revised his drafts, I was drawn the vision God had given him. Late one Saturday night, James and I decided to visit the church. We loaded up the kids the next morning and conquered the forty-five minute road trip to the other side of the world. Driving down a rural, two-lane highway, thick trees hugging both sides of the road (as opposed to concrete and billboards), I elbowed James and joked, “Wouldn’t it be funny if God gave us a couple acres and a house out here?” We laughed it off and went on our merry way.
Several months later, still trekking back and forth to this little town for church Sunday mornings, curiosity drew us to peek around a few neighborhoods, just to see how much houses cost. It became a weekly affair, and before we knew it, we were house hunting. We never would have dreamed of moving out of town. It was too inconvenient! James would have an hour or longer commute with traffic, we would be changing our kids’ schools, moving further from family. Yet we knew God was drawing us to the area. We put that first little house on the market and continued searching for a new abode. Building wasn’t our preference, living so far away. We had no desire at all to tackle that kind of project. But when every resale fell through, it became our only option. God’s hand was clearly shutting and opening doors to lead us to a very specific neighborhood and a very specific builder (remember, we were NOT going to build). But alas, we pre-qualified for a loan, found a plan, and took the plunge.
James developed an almost immediate compulsion to stop at every house he saw at the same stage of construction as ours. It didn’t matter what we were doing, where we were going, what time we had to be there, or who was with us. If we happened upon a new neighborhood with dozens of homes in various stages of construction, we might be there all day! He studied how the houses were being built and the materials used, and then he would research what he saw on the Internet. God opened James’ eyes to an epidemic of cost-saving corner cutting to the detriment and complete ignorance of the customer, and he was determined protect our investment from shady construction practices.
Fast forward to our final walk-through. James was working, so it fell squarely on me to blue tape the house and review the punch list with our superintendent. Standing at the front door, wrapping it up, I asked our superintendent how he got his start in construction. I casually mentioned that I thought James seemed to have a real eye for building, and then completely forgot about it. Never mentioned the conversation to James. Just plowed forward with our move.
That summer, as James delivered freight in the thick of Houston’s July inferno, no air conditioning and extremely long days drained him physically. One day, the Lord spoke to him. Not audibly, but clearly. He told him to build a house, told him exactly how to do it and who to do it with. James called the superintendent who built our house earlier that year, acknowledged that what he had to say might sound crazy, and then proceeded to tell him what the Lord said. The guy’s answer: “I’ve been waiting for you to call!”
Laying in bed that night, we dreamed up a name for our new company: Possibility Custom Homes (www.possibilitycustomhomes.com if you want to check it out). Our business plan? Let’s build a house, do it the right way, price it fair, and see if it sells. That was it. We didn’t even write it down. We formed an agreement with our former superintendent to work with us, incorporated, hired a graphic designer to design our logo, signage, and business materials, and bought Quick Books. We found our first piece of property, chose a plan we thought someone might love, secured a second loan (remember, we had only had our new, improved, much larger mortgage for about six months), and construction commenced. We were in business!
Second Corinthians 5:7 tells us, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” That was certainly true for us! James drove a truck for a living. I sold makeup. We didn’t know what would happen. The only experience we had was building our own house. There were no guarantees. What if the house didn’t sell and we couldn’t make the payments on the construction loan? What if James was laid off or my sales dropped? What if our superintendent bailed? What if we lost both houses? When doubts assailed us, God’s peace assured us. We placed our faith in Him and took each next step as He laid it before us.
A month before the house was complete, it sold. Shortly after closing, we started our second spec. A casual conversation with a friend led to an Associated Press newswire story that went nationwide. Area newspapers and our local Fox television station ran the story, telling of a small builder in a little town who was building its houses on the word of God, literally. Starting with our very first house, we buried a Bible in every foundation. Not as a marketing ploy, but as a reminder to us, with every house, that He is the foundation of all we do. As Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” We never advertise it. We simply tell our homeowners right before we do it and invite them to join us as we pray a blessing over their home.
For fifteen months, James drove a truck full time, including overtime. As a sales director, my home-based business required more than forty hours a week, and I was still new to home schooling our oldest daughter. Our superintendent kept his daytime job, as well. We worked all hours weekdays and weekends. It was a crazy time. I thank God for His grace! It is most definitely the only thing sufficient. When it became obvious that James could no longer maintain two pursuits, we faced another huge step of faith. In order to continue growing our new company, James clearly had to give up our only source of guaranteed income and benefits (read security). It was time to place our eggs in the basket God held in His hand. We had only built two houses at the time, but the Lord was beginning to bring us contracts from those homes. He gave us the faith to take the leap, and we never looked back, no matter what others thought.
I am so in awe of God every time I remember and retell this story! It has amazed many, especially those who know where we started: tens of thousands of dollars in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, blending two families, marriage falling apart, miserable. He took us head first into the unknown as He increased our faith to move us forward even when circumstances looked impossible. As we learned obedience and contentment and actively trusted God in all things, HE changed our lives, our marriage, our family, our work, and our lifestyle into something unrecognizable.
Eight years and roughly eighty houses later, I share our story here so you can see God – Who He is and what He is capable of doing. The truth of His word. His power to circumvent the wisdom of this age and the rulers of this age to accomplish His will. His power to transform a truck driver into a CEO, seemingly overnight.
As amazing as the facts of our story may be, they pale in comparison to what I have to share with you Thursday. Lessons He taught us about the indisputable principles that govern our walk with Him.
It is my deepest desire that we walk the Word in every area of our lives. I thank the Lord for His faithfulness to keep each one of His children on a path toward Him as we become more wholly His today.