Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Beyond the Clouds

Each morning as I carefully descend the three metal steps from my fifth-wheel trailer I call home to go to the car to head for work, I take a glance to the east to look at the mountains. I never know what I might see. The property that my trailer sits on has one of the most magnificent views of Mt. Rainier in the region. Sadly, I have to admit that on most days, the entire mountain range is obscured with cloud cover and not even the foothills are visible. But even with that knowledge, I still take the time to look because I know that “it’s there”.

We sit on the tarmac as the plane loads…filled with excitement for the next week. As usual, the black asphalt glistens from the rain that falls so regularly in the Pacific Northwest. As I look out the window, the sky is gray with the sun invisible…hiding somewhere “up there”. I have flown enough to know that if we fly high enough, we will break above the clouds and be in the light of our nearest star.

I’ve thought about clouds and what’s hidden behind them a lot over the past couple of months. I’m not sure if it’s just my nature…or all of human nature, to look for those things that we believe should be there. Or, seek after those things that we really want, even when it seems that they are too far out of reach. A journey beyond the clouds was culminated this past weekend at my younger brother Geoff, and his wife Lynn's home in Bothell.

I was there for a celebration. Not only me, but also my sister Deb and her husband Walt and about thirty plus friends of my little brother’s. For the past several months, he and his wife have been trying to purchase the property that they have been living on. For the three years that he’s lived there, on many occasions he has commented on how much he loved that place and that it was exactly the kind of place he would like to buy some day. But he knew that it wasn’t going to be this particular place. It was a rental house and large shop building sitting on a little over an acre that was destined to be torn down so that a sub-division could be built.

But then something that has become so familiar in these tumultuous economic times occurred…the developer went bankrupt and the property was turned over to the bank. Six months ago, Geoff was informed that he would need to find another place to live…he was being evicted. Suddenly his life was engulfed by thick, heavy clouds that obscured a vision of the future for him. For a while, he looked for other places to live, all the while continuing to pay the monthly rent on the property. One month stretched into two…then three. I asked him on the phone one night how his search for a new home was coming. “We’re in denial”, was his response. They simply didn’t know where to go or even where to look. When we’re in the clouds, that’s what life is like.

A few months later, a plan started to formulate. A decision was made to make an offer to the bank for the home. They knew that there was no way that they could offer what the developer had initially paid for the property, but they also realized that a lot of property was selling for considerably less than what its market value had been only a few years earlier. After some negotiating, they settled on an “offer” and started to work with the bank for financing. They had qualified for a loan through another lender, but the bank apparently wouldn’t accept that type of loan. As the deadline for the offer neared, the final paperwork was submitted…and it was time to wait. A phone call from the bank and suddenly the clouds pushed back in. Denied. No “ifs, ands or buts”. It was done.

I was with my little brother the day after the notification and you could see the weight of sadness on his face and in his voice. No anger…just the disappointment of not getting to the top of the mountain, of not being able to see around the next bend in the trail. He had an attitude of grace, simply telling me that if this wasn’t the place that God wanted him, then He must have an even better place picked out for him.

A few days later, something amazing happened…the clouds started to clear. He received a phone call from the lender that he had originally qualified through. Interest rates had dropped nearly 3/4th of a point and he would now qualify for the amount of the offer they had made on the house. Calls were made to the bank that held the deed on the house to get the offer extended for another month…something the bank didn’t seem excited to do, but that they did nevertheless. More paperwork filled out and submitted. A bit of stress in the household as Geoff and his wife worked to navigate the purchase with everything seemingly against them.

The final day that the offer was valid for quickly approached and it seemed that the top of the mountain was in sight. A meeting at the bank and the final closing papers were signed. A request for the money to be wired to an escrow account submitted and confirmation that it was received. It was time to put the sunglasses on because it seemed that they had finally ascended beyond the clouds. But….

Then the phone call. “The escrow company has wired the money back. The lender needs proof of seven more months of rental receipts.” It was after three o’clock in the afternoon when the news was received. The lending bank was in Texas, two time zones ahead. The banks were closed. It was a Friday and the offer was only good until midnight on Saturday. Suddenly, the clouds moved back in. A weekend of uncertainty lay ahead.

There is no coincidence in my mind that last Sunday as I stood in the backyard of my brother’s newly purchased home that there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Through perseverance and a desire to achieve the goal of purchasing his home, Geoff and Lynn refused to allow the dark clouds to turn them back. While most of the time, the end was never really visible…never really clear, life teaches us (if we look) that there is ALWAYS something beyond the clouds. It may be the snow capped peak of Mt. Rainier. Or perhaps the sun as it reaches down from heaven shining on a jet as it streaks across the sky. Or maybe, it’s a dream realized.

Mt. Rainier photos by Mark

Geoff and Lynn photo by Deb Shucka


Deb Shucka said...

This is so beautiful, Mark. A perfect tribute to our brother and his wife, and a powerful lesson/metaphor for us all. I love the writing. I love the pictures. I love you. This is one of your best - the love glows from the screen.

Loren said...

Oh my goodness...

You wrote this so beautifully! What an amazing and agonizing story! I love happy endings but THIS....WOW!!
Soo happy for you brother and his wife! God truly blessed them! What a life lesson for everyone here! First, To offer grace and then to believe no matter what comes against you! I am so blessed by you and your siblings....

Bless each one of you!