house hunters, int’l (part 2)

Clicked publish on this post, shared it on Facebook, and headed IMMEDIATELY back here to pen Part Deuce. What else is there to do? It’s 5:38am and I can’t even go out on my balcony yet with coffee because the sun’s still asleep. (lucky)

So, the outside of the house is amazing. Pretty much everything I could’ve asked for or imagined.

And the inside?


Everything is clean. Walls are all neutral. The house is fully furnished, and the furniture is simple, not crazy ornate (Khmer love big huge wooden pieces of things). Big, long, open room with simple wooden couch & two chairs with red cushions. TV on stand.

Moving toward the back of the room, big wooden chaise lounge (no cushions yet) like a window seat without a window. (Perfect for READING.) Simple wooden table with chairs.

To the right, bedroom #1. With bathroom. And French doors that open to a little balcony. (I wanted a balcony!!) (Technically a porch, I guess. Can a balcony be on the first floor?)

Off to the left, kitchen. Sink, stove, fridge, CUPBOARDS.

Hallway off the left of the living room area. Bathroom in the hallway. French doors leading to porch #2.

Two bedrooms at the end. One with big bed and built-in clothes storage. The other bedroom is BIG with more French doors, ANOTHER LITTLE PORCH, a huge built-in covers one wall. A vanity. A bathroom.

All the doors are glass (with bars–everything has bars in Cambodia) and there are TONS of windows, so there’s lots of light.

This place is amazing, and my heart is pounding, and I can just imagine the possibilities, but $700. Could we technically afford it? Yes. But do we want to pay that? No.

We call the owner. She comes. She’s Khmer but starts speaking to us in French. Gabe did take two years in high school, but yeah. Switches to Khmer. Livi helps translate when we don’t understand.

Will she go down to $500?

Absolutely not.

But she’ll go down to $600. But, just so we know (and this may or may not have been a true story), a Brazilian couple is coming to look at the house at 9am tomorrow, and they will pay $700. I like your family, though, so I will rent it to you for $600.

And I think to myself, we are INSANE if we pass this up. Let’s summarize.

  • walking distance from our old place (keep our friends!!)
  • still on a dirt road in a village (2 dirt roads over from ours)
  • short walk to the soccer field girls always play on
  • PERFECT for guests
  • PERFECT for an office for me and Gabe
  • can easily run some kind of ministry from this home
  • beautiful, calming, peaceful sanctuary
  • flowers and fruit trees everywhere
  • including two ORANGE trees
  • (and banana, papaya, mango, longan, and coconut trees)
  • we can eat all the fruit we want, she says
  • safe and gated
  • there’s an “apartment” out front with bedroom, squatty potty, and storage area)
  • tons of parking space for friends/guests
  • 3 big bedrooms
  • huge outdoor courtyard perfect for hanging out with people
  • balconies!! (porches, whatever)
  • LOTS of space to dream/create with others
  • etc etc etc (for real)
  • another big area outside the gates for a vegetable garden
  • the landlady LOVES us
  • she survived the Khmer Rouge that killed THIRTY-TWO of her family members
  • I so want to hear more of her story.
  • $600 is just $25 more than a 2-bedroom, 800 sq ft apartment at Abbey Lane
  • a fountain/little pool (she asked us, “do you want some fish?” YES.)
  • etc etc etc etc etc etc etc

But Livi.

Her face is a mixture of betrayal, anger, determination, sadness, everything.

“I can’t live here. It’s too nice. It’s too expensive. I’ll never fit in with my friends. I can’t live here while they live where they live. I don’t want to be the rich white girl. I want to fit in. I won’t live here. Can we pleeeeease keep looking?”

Gabe pulls me aside. “You raised her to be like this.” He’s not accusing, just saying how things are.

I know.

Our daughters know that I’m passionate about shunning materialism and living simply and fitting in with poor neighbors.


What on earth do we do??

“Please go get your sisters so they can see the house.”

She dutifully drives to get them, is back in under 5 minutes.

They LOVE it. After Ava’s long hard struggle with depression and anxiety in the months before we visited the States, she has been longing for a place that feels calm and peaceful, where she can rest and create and be. She wants to decorate a place and make it her own. She wants a kitchen where she can make healthy food. And a balcony to write on.

Nina can’t get over the flowers and trees. ORANGE TREES!! She’s in love. She’s grinning. And jumping.

It’s perfect. It’s so so perfect.

My stomach is in knots. What do we think? We think yes. If we don’t do this, we’ll regret it. We have NO IDEA what else is out there and for how much. Yes, this is really “nice” but we’re already SUPER DUPER RICH by Cambodian standards. The house is just the most obvious thing. (We can kind of hide the MacBooks and plane tickets and sour cream and all the other splurges.)

We will sign the contract tomorrow (Friday) morning at 8:30am.

We go home. Livi runs upstairs in tears. Tears for me too. This is so hard. God, please change her heart.

Fast forward to 3am (Friday). I’m wide awake. Try to pray. Just keep worrying instead.

4am. Ava comes in our room crying. She’s been praying about the house, asking God to change Livi’s heart. Instead, she’s starting to feel the same way. It’s too nice. We can’t live there.

I’m crying. I’m devastated. WHAT DO WE DO? Is this God telling us we shouldn’t live here? Is this the devil trying to stop God’s perfect plan?

I pray. I journal. I message my mom, Gabe’s mom, my sisters, a couple close friends. PLEASE PRAY.

They do.

Ava comes and sits by me a little while later. She says she realizes something. It’s not really about what her friends think. The fact is she’s rich. Nothing can change that. It’s just the way it is. Even if she lives somewhere else, she’s still rich. The house doesn’t matter. She feels peace.

We hug and cry. I feel better, so much better, but still so sad that Livi is hurting.

When she wakes up (at a decent hour), I sit her down for a chat. I tell her I love her and I get where she’s coming from. Heck, it’s her parents’ “fault” she feels the way she does. I tell her I’m going to share some convicting words and I need her to pay attention.

It is hypocritical to want to have nice things and then balk when your parents want to live in a $600/month house that you think is too nice.

You drive a $1300 moto. You have a $200 iPhone. You have $55 Chuck Taylor shoes. You and your sisters are learning graphic design on a $1200 laptop. You just spent a buttload of birthday/Christmas money on make-up at Target. YOU. ARE. RICH.

I tell her about the time her dad wanted a big TV. He got a bonus at work and wanted to spend part of it on a $499 TV. I WAS SO MAD. What are people going to think of us?? How does this HUGE TV jive with my “live simply” banner?? THIS SUCKS.

Yet, I was perfectly fine with my $899 MacBook Air. Hmmm…

Pride much?

I want to have what I want, but I want it to look like I am a huge sacrificer of all the things.


Still convicted even now.

Well. She listened. She heard me. But her heart still hurts. She wants to stay here. In this house. It’s also a rich people house, but she doesn’t see that, because it’s not as “nice” with its mismatched tile and cobwebby ceilings and rats that live on the roof.

She is sad that her home was taken away. She is sad that she can’t teach English to her kiddos. She is sad that she lost her co-worker friends.

We all are.

This is a hard, hard thing. We are beyond beyond beyond grateful for everyone’s love and support. For God leading us to a house so quickly. For new supporters that will make it easy for us to pay $600/month (heck, we paid $450/month in Phnom Penh). For neighbors we’ll get to stay close to. SO MUCH THANKFULNESS.

But there is also much grieving of what we’ve lost. Not to mention that we just said (running) good-byes to SO MANY loved ones in America we won’t see for two years.


And jet lag. And culture shock. And exhaustion.

I’ll leave the story there. It’s 6:30am, and we start moving at 8am. The plan is to just take lots of tuk-tuk loads of stuff and see if we can find someone who has a truck for the bigger stuff.

I’m really excited to see what God’s gonna do. I’m excited to eat bananas off our tree next week and oranges next month.

I’m asking him to heal Livi’s heart and help her make the best of a situation she doesn’t love.

I’m asking him to make our home a sanctuary for us and for others.

I’m asking him for big, big, big things (and lots of small ones too) to come out of this new space, this new place, this new season.

I’m asking him to flood our hearts with love and mercy and hope, washing all the fear and bitterness away.

Closing with a Scripture passage a friend sent me JUST AS I WAS ASKING GOD FOR A SIGN ABOUT THE HOUSE. (she did not know anything about the house)

2 Corinthians (read it like Donald Trump please) 6:1-13

Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us. God reminds us,

I heard your call in the nick of time;
The day you needed me, I was there to help.

Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don’t put it off; don’t frustrate God’s work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we’re doing. Our work as God’s servants gets validated—or not—in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we’re beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we’re telling the truth, and when God’s showing his power; when we’re doing our best setting things right; when we’re praised, and when we’re blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all.

11-13 Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!

I mean, oh my gosh. Okay, SIGN NOTED.

Thanks for being there for us along the journey, friends. You have no idea how much it means.

(Be watching for pics! Did I mention we have ORANGE TREES?)

12 thoughts on “house hunters, int’l (part 2)

  1. Judy

    I love that you and your kids have wrestled with this. And I really get where they’re coming from.

    In the end it all belongs to God. He is Lord. I think you were getting at this, but a person can be materialistic by choosing to shun material blessings just as someone can be materialistic by focusing on them. If you use the house as a blessing to others, then in a certain sense what the house is like shouldn’t matter. It could be a mansion or a hut if the house ultimately doesn’t matter. I hope that makes sense.

  2. Jamie

    Ever since I read about you guys getting fired, I have had this giddy….”Oh my gosh! God has something BIG feeling” for Gabe and Marla! Not saying that in a bad way. I mean…my heart broke (and still breaks for you) reading about all the losses and changes you are going through, but still…I had this “HOLY CRAP! Something HUGE is happening feeling.” Can’t explain it. But I will continue to pray for you guys and your sweet amazing girls!

  3. Joel McLaughlin

    I see this and many times I think the same way….but then I do like my radios and my camera a lot and I spent a lot on equipment…that I end up using to serve God by making videos for the church. I get to share the story of how my church helps people right here in Ohio. While it doesn’t quite equate your situation…I think….well you have fruit trees and a nice house and now not only can you have visitors…but maybe you could even run a ministry right there. People can come to your house and you can bless them and teach them God’s word and English possibly. I look at this house as a way you can share your blessings with the people of Cambodia…the ones who you went there to help. God’s trying to tell everyone something and it’s NOT bad to want things…it IS bad to be driven by things…to not be happy without certain things…etc. Your family has really proven this already! God bless you and your family!

  4. Sue Oda

    Praise God! He is always faithful, always there and always on time. He will never leave you , neither will He forsake you.

    I’m excited to see the direction God will lead you.


  5. Belinda

    Love this and so Glad to see how swiftly God has moved to act on your behalf. Praying that Gid continues ti bless you guys si that you can continue to be a blessing to others.

  6. Ariel

    Praying for all your hearts and the wonderful, life-affirming, mind-blowing goodness and fullness God had for each of you.

  7. Julie Barnhill

    Simply beautiful. God is so incredibly kind and faithful. Your daughters hearts and faith are in good hands. Rejoicing with you all and anxious to read the many blogs of His story in, with, and for, you all, which are to come.

  8. Sharon Wang

    Praying. So glad and thankful and praising God for the pros of the house. It’s so close to where you were. Affordable. Praying for Livi’s heart. And for all the things you are praying for. For the big and the small. So glad you all are back in Cambodia, even though it’s not what you were expecting it to be, when you headed to the US.

  9. Shari

    Tears in my eyes, (mouth watering for Khmer mangos) so glad you are as descriptive as you are. So glad your friend sent the scripture when she did, and that you posted it. Because you are not alone. God uses even Livi’s pain to speak to others. It isn’t easy, but obedience to the Most High God is well worth anything we think we are sacrificing. And in comparison to the great gift of Jesus, we don’t really sacrifice anything worth keeping. Rejoicing and crying with you today!

    1. Sharon Wang

      Shari: Thank you for your words. Obviously, they weren’t intentionally directed at me, but several of your sentences were things I needed to hear for myself.

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