Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thanksgiving Story: "See, I have told you ahead of time..."

"So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time." Mark 13:23 (NIV)

Have you ever gotten a really clear warning from the Holy Spirit?  Around Thanksgiving, I am always reminded of a warning I received, and the benefits of obedience.  Even when it means an inexplicable change in plans that leaves you very disappointed.

It was a week before Thanksgiving - November 16, 1989. Had we not obeyed, we would have missed a particularly spectacular instance of the Lord's protection and provision in our lives. In fact, we would have suffered serious loss.

It has been 21 years since we moved to Robbinsville. We love it here, and it has been a great place to raise our kids. But about five months earlier, as we were investigating possible locations to move, we were not thinking of Robbinsville, but Ewing. After all, we only had one car, and that was close to my husband's work. So my reasoning was that I could drive him to work and have the car during the day.  It was also near the West Trenton train station in case I wanted to go to Philadelphia, and not too far from Washington Crossing Park. And Robbinsville was out in the middle of nowhere.

We were living in West Windsor at the time - paying way too much rent, and wanting to get away from there into our own place. And my preliminary investigation took me to a new condo community a mile or two up the road from my husband's office called Heritage Crossing. We liked it right away - it was just right for our little family of three. We walked around the property and looked at several models, then were escorted to the shells of several buildings where those models would actually be built.  One of them was on the second floor of a building located all the way at the back of the property - beautiful wooded views from one side!  They estimated that this building would be completed in the fall.

A 2 bed, 2 full bath condo in Ewing, NJ (New Jersey). This is quite, simple community. All units come with a balcony and some over look a wooded area. This Beautiful, well maintained luxurious set of homes in Ewing, NJ is located in a very quiet area of the complex with great views from inside and out. Close to Trenton Country Club, West Trenton Train Station, D & R Canal State Park, Merrill Lynch, TCNJ, I-95 and Rt. 29

It was a more than we could afford, but we thought at least we could try. Real Estate prices were high in 1989, and there was a lot of "creative financing" going on for people like us who made less than $35,000 a year and had no savings to speak of.  We put down a binder of $1500 and brought home the prospectus to see what we were getting ourselves into.

I contacted the real estate company that was handling these condos and they referred me to a gentleman who assured me that we would be able to work something out. I had several great conversations with him, and true to his word, he arranged for a mortgage for us, taking into account good credit and a projected raise that my husband would be getting in the summer. It looked like there would be no problem being approved. We would be good to go, and able to move in as soon as the condo was ready. We were pretty excited!  It was our dream come true!

Now would probably be a good time to mention that we did not ask the Lord at all whether He wanted us to move to Ewing.

It was my habit to stand at the kitchen counter and do just about everything.  Talk on the phone, read, pay bills, pray. Whatever.  I had read through the prospectus once. This particular morning I had some breakfast and coffee, and I decided that while my daughter was having her afternoon nap I would read through it again.

When I picked up the prospectus, I began to feel vaguely uneasy. I thought I was having indigestion. I thought back to my breakfast and decided that I had not eaten anything that would cause such a feeling. Maybe the coffee was overly harsh...? Anyway, by the time I got halfway through the second section of the prospectus, my heart was pounding and I was beginning to have a churning in the pit of my stomach.  Well, not exactly in my stomach. Not exactly anywhere that I could pinpoint.

I continued to read, and it seemed that accompanying the churning was a very emphatic negative response to this prospectus. It was like someone was saying "NO! NO!" as I was reading.  It was so much more extreme than usual that at first I did not recognize it as a "check in my spirit."  I had experienced those before, generally while praying with other people who were able to help me discern what they meant, or during the reading of Scripture where something would jump out at me in a negative way that just happened to pertain to something that needed to change in my life, but that I didn't especially want to change.

But nothing that made me feel like I was going to be physically ill.  I called my husband at work. He was in a good mood and wanted to talk about how awesome it was going to be when we had our own condo.  I was sweating. He was so happy, and I knew I had to say something that I was sure he was going to argue about.

"This is probably going to sound crazy, but I think the Lord doesn't want us to move to Ewing."

I braced myself for a tirade. What I got instead was almost as shocking as the initial feeling of turmoil.

"Really! How come?"

"Well, I have a check in my spirit.  I have been reading this prospectus, and I have never been so miserable. It's like God is saying 'Absolutely not!'"

"Okay," he replied cheerfully. Call and see if you can get our money back."  End of discussion.

Wait, what?  "Who is this and what has he done with Don?" I thought as I hung up the phone. But as soon as the receiver clicked into place, the discomfort stopped.  Just like that.

In my regular phone call with Mama that evening, she asked how things were progressing. Ugh. She was going to think I was crazy. I had raved on about how great this was going to be, and now I couldn't think of a single excuse to give her.  So I told her the truth.

I don't remember the exact conversation, only that it was awkward.  She didn't understand my certainty that it was a message from God rather than indigestion, but she didn't mock me, either.  The subject dropped, and we didn't speak of it again.

We did get our money back, and in October of 1989, we became the proud owners of a townhome in Robbinsville.  The whole Ewing incident was long forgotten. Until November 17.

The day before I had been at a small weekly prayer meeting at a friend's home, which broke up early because of some pretty serious weather developing. There had been some terrible stuff happening in Huntsville, Alabama the day before - a deadly tornado that killed 21 people.  What we had was nothing like that. Big black clouds, high winds. The last of the leaves blowing off the trees. Limbs and power lines down.  I was glad I didn't typically have anywhere to go on a Thursday night, but I certainly didn't fear for my life.

The next morning I dropped my cup of coffee when I saw the front page of the Trenton Times. They almost never used color photographs, but in this case they made an exception. There, in living color, was the beautiful second floor condo we had wanted to buy with the wall blown out of it and scraps of someone's furniture and belongings hanging out of the gaping hole.  Then a whisper, "See, I have told you ahead of time."

I called my husband at work.  "Have you seen the Times??" I asked breathlessly.  He had not, and my demeanor frightened him, I sounded so crazy.  "It's the condo, the Ewing condo. It got blown away by a tornado yesterday!"  

Only God could have known.  I have had that "check in my spirit" a few other times since that day, and you can bet I have not ignored it.

I cut out the article and sent it to Mama, with a Post-it attached that said:

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." - Matthew 7:24-27
After she died, I found the article in the night table beside her bed, stained and a little torn, fragile in the way old newspaper becomes when it is frequently folded and unfolded.  A reminder of the goodness of God, and the reality of having a personal relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.

Take time this Thanksgiving to remember the goodness of God, and the many things you have to be thankful for.


  1. It is amazing that you received tangible evidence of God's reason for directing you not to buy the condo. Sometimes we do not get validation of why he said no, instead we just know that we should not move forward. I am so encouraged by your post because I know that a "no" from HIm means He sees far beyond what I can see. I am also sobered and struck by your testimony to your mother. Obviously, it was tangible evidence that GOd was real for her too. Thanks so much for this much needed reminder this Thanksgiving season. I give thanks for God speaking to and through you not only when you considered buying the condo but through this blog post. Thanks!

    Cheryl Carter

  2. Hi Sue.

    Great story. I currently live in Heritage Crossing(not the same unit you almost purchased.)Before I purchased my condo other houses I attempted to purchase had failed including one house where the owner backed out at closing. He used a loophole in the contract. I interpret this as God wanting me to live in Heritage Crossing. Again, great story. Happy thanksgiving. Sam

  3. Sam, that is great that you live in Heritage Crossing! You know, when Christina and Rachael wanted to get an apartment in Heritage Court, I tried to talk them out of it based on our experience, which they ignored. But when I was researching the 1989 November tornado season to confirm the date in this article, I learned that there have only been three confirmed instances of tornadoes in Mercer County since then.

    Of course, our current house has its own God story that is still unfolding. There are those who would say we are reading way too much into these events, but when speaking to the men of Athens at the meeting of the Areopagus, Paul said, "From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live." (Acts 17:26) Why shouldn't that include Heritage Crossing?

    Thanks for your encouraging comments - I am glad you enjoyed the post. Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. Hi Cheryl, I am so glad you enjoyed this story. It is one I have told many times, but never put down on paper until now.

    I was privileged to care for my mother in her final days, and to actually hear over the baby monitor as she wrestled with her faith and asked Jesus some hard questions. Of course I only heard her side of the conversation, but it sounded like she was getting some answers, too. That is another extraordinary story for another time.

    Anyway, after she was gone, when I found the tornado article in the drawer, and the Bible I had given her years before with little prayer cards and papers with notes and questions written on them, as well as hearing other anecdotal evidence from her friends, I realized that she HAD listened to me and observed my radical change, and had concluded that my relationship with God was real and something she wanted.

    But I agree, He doesn't always clue us in as to why He says "no," and we shouldn't expect Him to do that every time. But when He DOES - even once - in a big way like this, that one great story can sustain you through all the other times when you don't ever find out why.

    Thanks for your encouraging comment. Hope you and your family had a great Thanksgiving!

  5. Cheryl, I thought of something else. A few years ago - five? seven? we drove to Myrtle Beach and were going to buy a timeshare. We were thinking we were going to do it, and then told the agent we needed to take some time in the other room to pray about it. We just barely got into the other room when I had that same churning, ill feeling again.

    When Don and I talked it over and prayed about it, we felt that the answer was not only "no", but "emphatically, no!" We both realized that the whole reason we drove down there was to tell the timeshare agent the story of the Ewing condo, though we didn't feel that it was a necessarily a warning about damage to the place where the timeshare units were. He was spellbound, and did not argue with us about out decision or try to bring in anyone to hard sell us, but rather thanked us for sharing the story.

    Myrtle Beach has had several brushes with hurricanes and tropical storms since then. I have often wondered if anything happened there, and whatever happened to the sales agent. All I know for now, is that the answer was "tell the story and don't buy the timeshare." Maybe that is all I will ever know. Loved that timeshare unit, though.