The (not so pretty) Story Behind our VRBO Lake Cottage
I’ve shared bits and pieces about our Lake Cottage on SM as we spend time there, but I thought it would be fun to share our story from the beginning as it certainly was not what we expected!
Back in May of 2019, I started getting a wild hair. Todd and I have both ALWAYS loved any time that we’ve gotten to spend by a lake. We enjoy being on or by water – in general, we’re both lovers of the outdoors and would always choose to move or be active as a family outdoors vs. in. Neither of us grew up with a boat or lake home, but always had friends or other family members who did, so we still both spent a fair share of time doing these things growing up and as adults as well.
Owning a lake home, though somewhat of a dream, was never something either of us saw as a reality. We really enjoy being home at least SOME weekends, we love entertaining at the farm, we’d hate to miss church every Sunday in the summer, and we didn’t want the work of maintaining two properties. The work and finances of a lake home did not really match with our priorities.
However, after a very busy season planning to start my new business and then coming off an incredibly busy season for my husband and his business (He is also self-employed), I started dreaming about a getaway where we could drop everything and focus on our family, fun, and relaxation. A place of intentional time, discipleship, and rest. And we wanted to be able to do this not only for ourselves but also for others. Too many of us live frantic lives with a phone glued in our hands. How often do you put it away for a day or two, and simply relax and play games with your kids? For us…not nearly often enough, and it is especially hard when you run your own business. You don’t simply punch out and forget about work until Monday. Though we do set boundaries, there are things as business owners that you can’t simply put off or ignore.
Because of our priorities in not wanting this to consume our lives, and in wanting to give others the opportunity to enjoy it as well, we decided we’d try something crazy (to us) and look for a place that could also be a vacation rental. This not only helps a ton financially in paying for the mortgage and all the expenses, but it also allows us to hire property managers who could do the mowing/cleaning/maintenance of a home so that when we came, we could actually focus on rest, relaxation, and time with our kids while we were ther
We decided on a lake 3 hours away – known for its excellent fishing which was a huge draw for my husband. Though I don’t care much for fishing, he really enjoys it and loves taking our kids fishing as well. It’s close enough that we can get to it pretty easily without being so close that it’s EASY to go all the time. Lake homes don’t go for sale very often, and they are often quite spendy, but we found a reasonably-priced fixer-upper – an adorable cottage on a nice-sized lot, with a little sandy beach, and backed by a state park with lots of trails and wildlife. It felt like a dream come true.
Sure…there were some downsides. It only had 1 real bedroom with a HUGE open loft where we could fit lots of beds. It definitely needed some remodeling, but we aren’t afraid of a project. The whole property was not well taken care of and would need a decent amount of work. But we are not strangers to doing projects in shifts as time and money allow, and there were such good bones in the house and so many positives about the location of property and lot that we decided to place an offer. We had an inspection done which came back pretty good despite some of our concerns, and we closed on the cottage in August of 2019.
We had some plans to add an addition but decided we’d keep our expenses smaller to start with and just replace the kitchen and do some general updating, along with opening up one wall between the living room and kitchen to bring in more natural light and an open-concept living area. Our contractor started work in October, but as they started opening things up, they began finding problems. And it wasn’t just a couple of problems, it was one problem that led to another, which led to another, and during that fall, I probably was on the phone every single day with our contractor who was giving us bad news and trying to figure out what to do next. A simple remodel would not have been a big deal being 3 hours away, but this was much more difficult.
We were now looking at a house that needed its very foundation torn out b/c it wasn’t done correctly. The whole main floor would have to be gutted, every single thing torn out and re-done. Our budget was blown up 3x our original estimate, and we honestly had no idea how we were going to cover it all. And yet…here we sat with a house that couldn’t be used by us or rented, and it also couldn’t be sold as is or we’d lose far too much money. The only way forward was to fix it, get it done right, and start renting it out to make up the money that we had purged.
Every single day I was on my knees to the Lord, asking Him to give us wisdom. We had prayed about this decision, we had felt peace that the Lord was giving us permission to move forward with the purchase, so why this? We had asked all the questions and had the house inspected, and so why was none of this uncovered? There was so much hurt – we felt taken advantage of and lied to somewhere along the way. We were told we should pursue litigation, but that didn’t feel right to us either. Sometimes bad things happen and it absolutely doesn’t make sense. The only thing I knew…God was asking me not to choose bitterness and hopelessness. He was asking me to believe that even though I could only see the desert and wilderness, He had a land flowing with milk and honey. Even though I saw death, He was asking me to believe that He was going to take me to abundance. And so I started claiming these promises over and over and began believing before I could see the answers and how He was going to work it out.
Long story short: He DID indeed work it out.
(was there a doubt?) It was not a pretty year. It was indeed awful. But the Lord taught me SO much about Himself and about trusting in Him. It doesn’t mean it’s all perfect. We are renting it out more than what we had hoped so that we can get our loan paid off as quickly as possible. This had meant extra work for us, but the Lord has provided 2 full summer’s worth of renters, and we’ve still gotten to enjoy it plenty as well. He has provided every single thing that we needed, and we know that if we continue to rent it out like this for a while, we’ll get to the place where it’s no longer a financial burden and we can then choose when we want to be up there, and rent it out occasionally as well.
We’ve been able to use it about a dozen times in the past year – we’ve taken family up, friends up, a group of couples up, I led a female entrepreneur business retreat there, and we’ve gotten to enjoy a fun getaway for a short weekend as a family several times, which has always brought memories made. Our God is a God of abundance. It doesn’t mean that everything is always going to be perfect, but we can trust that He is for our GOOD, and He loves to give good gifts. We pray that this sweet lake cottage can be a place of rest for the weary, and can be a place where we get to invite many to enjoy His rest as well.