God led Amanda Woodiel and her family to the house of her dreams through a series of surprising events.
On the first Friday in Lent, I dashed out of the house to run to the parish’s Knights of Columbus carry-out fish fry. A passing car slowed. A woman rolled down the window. “Do you know of any houses for sale on this block?” she asked.
“Well,” I responded. “We were thinking of moving either this spring or the next.”
“Can I see your house? We were planning on putting an offer tonight on a house one street over, but I’d really rather be here,” she said.
Two months later to the very day, we were signing papers for her to buy our house and for us to buy the house of our dreams.
But the story doesn’t really start here. The story starts a decade ago. We lived in a four-square home situated on a picturesque brick road in one of the downtown neighborhoods. We could walk to the library. We could walk to our parish. However, we had two little boys and no yard to speak of. I dreamed of a fenced-in yard with a swingset and a kitchen window that overlooked where the kids would play.
Unfortunately, we had purchased our home right before the housing bubble burst in 2008. We were underwater on our house for years, meaning we owed more money than what it was worth. So for a long time we were stuck there — although I kept reminding myself that we could hardly consider ourselves “stuck” when we lived in a cute house in a safe neighborhood.
The desire for a different house never left me though. I struggled and wrestled with it for years. “A first-world problem,” I would tell my friends. And I knew it was true, but still how I wanted to be on an acre of land in the country where my now five home-schooled children could run, play, dig, and build. Instead they played football in a shared driveway.
Should I go to work? I wondered. Am I being lazy by now working toward my dream? How can I work when I home-school five kids? I would respond to myself. Occasionally, I tried to get a part-time job that seemed to be suited to our lifestyle. None ever worked out.
I would take this yearning to confession. I don’t know if this is an idol, I would say to the priest, but I really would love a different house. I would confess the thousands of hours I logged on Zillow checking to see what was available and wondering if we would ever be able to move.
I spoke to my spiritual director about this recurring desire just a couple of months before the woman stopped me that February evening. He asked me some questions and proposed that I ask God if He wants us to move. Oddly, that had not occurred to me. I had asked the Lord to take away the desire. I had asked the Lord to show me what we should do. I had told the Lord I was sorry if I wanted something that was not His will. But just flat out ask Him what He wants for us? Surprising -- and a little scary. But I did.
I asked the Lord what He wanted for our family, and within a couple of days, I was given a startling image in prayer. On the intersection of two sidewalks on a downtown corner of our town sat a large woven basket. Curled up inside was a sleeping deer. A couple of bystanders had gathered to watch her. She woke up. She struggled a little bit to get out of the basket, and then she went running off to the countryside. What could that mean? I asked the Lord.
The first thing I realized was that the deer was a doe. The second thing I realized was that I have often talked about feeling like I have been asleep for the last decade. I have been bearing children, nursing children, and raising children. Now that no more babies have arrived, I feel like I have awakened to a new chapter of my life.
So, I concluded, the mama deer, after a little struggle, makes her way to the country. I took that as a sign that the Lord did not begrudge me the desire of my heart and thanked Him heartily. Days later, the woman pulled up to me and asked if any houses were for sale on my block.
The place where we moved (which we have dubbed Storybook Farm) was originally a log cabin built in 1851. A house has been added onto it. It sits on two acres and literally fulfills the desire of every single person in our family. There is a place to play basketball for Eli. There is a “stage” in the barn for Mary. There is a workshop for Joey. There is a large yard for Irene. And we stayed close to town for Jack. There is even some water nearby for my husband. And as for what I wanted, I desired a “place of wonder” and a place that was close to a parish. It is all of these things and far greater than anything I could have fashioned.
We don’t “deserve” any gift from God, but we are grateful and plan to share it with as many people who will visit us and share in the wonder, beauty, and joy of a God who loves us, hears us, and delights in us.
Copyright 2021 Amanda Woodiel
Images copyright 2021 Amanda Woodiel. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Amanda Woodiel is a Catholic convert, a mother to five children ages 14 to 6, a slipshod housekeeper, an enamored wife, and a “good enough” homeschooler who believes that the circumstances of life—both good and bad—are pregnant with grace. Her oldest son was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2022, which is providing plenty of opportunities to test that hypothesis.