One of the areas that I’ve had to trust God the most is to do with where He wants my family to live.
To be honest, growing up I thought that this would all be fairly straight forward; it seems to be for everybody else! Start off renting, buy your first home, purchase another home, perhaps build or renovate; easy right! It seems that, for my family, this is how God is going to teach us the most about what it means to TRUST HIM and demonstrate FAITH.
I never imagined that I would be nearly 50 years old and still renting. That is NOT how the ‘Great Australian Dream’ works! I find that, if I spend more than a few minutes thinking about the fact that I’m ‘just a tenant’ and then wander down the rabbit hole of comparing my situation with all of my ‘home-owner’ friends, the enemy has a field day.
So, why write about it???
It is through our struggles that we grow and develop our character. Being a Christian does not mean that life will be easy and that we won’t encounter problems. Our faith grows the most when we can do nothing else but pray and let God show us what He can do. His plans are usually quite different to ours, and, his timing is VERY different too! But, one thing we can be sure of is that He loves us, He has a plan for us and He will help us if we let Him. We might not understand it at the time, as we are walking through it, but He is a promise keeper.
Looking back (and the main reason I am writing this blog!) I can see his hand on things, leading the way, opening doors, closing others; sometimes in quite absurd and illogical ways. But, He has never let me down and I’m so thankful for that!
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. JAMES 1:2-3 (NIV)
How did we get here?
Shortly after Matthew and I were married we decided it was time to purchase a home. In my mind there was a sequence of events that you needed to follow to be a ‘real’ family:
1. Get married
2. Purchase your first home.
3. Have your first child.
4. Purchase a larger home for your growing family (or extend and renovate).
5. Have more children.
6. Live in that home forever…
Things needed to done in the ‘correct’ order and so, finding a house to buy needed to happen before I could even think about having a baby.
Things began as planned:
We bought a simple, tiny, blue, two bedroom house. It was tiny and had a horrible yellow kitchen, but it was ours!
We painted the walls and bought some curtains to make it nicer and then started thinking about how we could renovate and extend it to make it large enough to be a great family home.
Then, we had our first daughter, Jadzia. To fit her into this little house, Matthew divided his study diagonally down the centre and shared his space with Jadzia’s nursery. Half of the room remained white and half was transformed into a beautiful nursery. Matthew was studying at the time and so Jadzia would drift off to sleep watching her daddy hard at work at the computer.
Our plans to extend and renovate this house were thwarted. We were advised that doing anything to this house would not be a good idea, despite it being on a huge block of land and in a fantastic location. So we decided we needed to find a larger home.
Our next home was beautiful: timber floor boards, French doors, a wood burner and heaps of cupboard space. We loved this home and intended to live there for a long time. We had our second daughter, Xanika, in this home. Matthew lovingly painted and decorated a nursery for her in this house; her own room! What luxury!
Life was going as planned! We had great teaching jobs in a fantastic school and we were living in a lovely home with our two beautiful girls. Blessed!
Not long after Xanika was born my dad was diagnosed with bowel cancer. What I have not mentioned to this point is this: since moving to Leeton and meeting Matthew, I had stopped going to church and my faith had really started to wane. I still believed in Jesus but, He was definitely not my Lord! Matthew and I had been making all of the decisions ourselves and I was not consulting God about His plans and purposes for our family.
God used my dad’s diagnosis to get my attention and to draw me back to Him! I sensed Him say to me, “You need to go back to church because the people in the church are my hands and feet and they will give you the hug you need from me!”
The very next Sunday I walked into church again.
Upon entering the front door, a lady came straight up to me with her arms outstretched to give me the hug that God had promised. I was overcome by emotion and wept as I encountered God’s presence and how much He loved me and wanted to comfort me. I feel so blessed that God called me back to Him that day and I have been attending church ever since.
My parents lived in Colac, Victoria; a 7 hour car journey away from Leeton, NSW. My dad battled cancer for about three years and, during this time, I enjoyed visiting them in Colac and they came to see us in Leeton as well. I have some really special memories of this time with Mum and Dad!
In April 2006, about two years into Dad’s fight, whilst preparing my daughters’ lunch boxes, I asked God if He wanted us to continue living in Leeton, 7 hours away from my parents, or if He wanted us to move nearer to them. I told Him that I would be happy to stay put, or to move, but I wanted to follow His plans. I also asked Him to provide some sort of confirmation so that I would know what He planned for us.
That afternoon at school, a Christian colleague called me over to his desk and asked me to sit down; a bit strange! He began speaking about school related things and then, out of the blue, he said, “You know what the Bible says about honouring your parents. That doesn’t just mean to love them, it also means that you need to care for them.” He looked surprised and told me that he didn’t know why he’d said that. However, I did! Tears began to flow and I just knew that this was God’s confirmation to me: I could love my parents from a distance BUT I couldn’t care for them when I was living 7 hours away.
I told Matthew about this ‘conversation with God’ that evening. We submitted our resignations that week and moved to Victoria at the end of that school year.
We listed our home for sale towards the end of 2006, expecting it would sell reasonably quickly. It didn’t! And, unfortunately, my dad passed away while we were in the midst of searching for a rental property; at least I’d be closer to my Mum who would really need me now!
We ended up renting a small house in Melbourne, not too far from Matthew’s new school and planned to live here until our house sold (hopefully only about 6 months!) Our house did not sell!
After 3 years in this tiny house we decided we needed a larger home that would actually fit all of the furniture that was currently stored in our garage.
We moved to another, larger rental property and spent a couple of years living here.
In 2011, I began teaching at a lovely Christian school in an outer suburb of Melbourne and, the following year, Matthew and my girls also moved to this school. We decided to relocate to this area because the houses were newer and the rent more affordable.
The most challenging thing during this time was that, while we waited for our house in Leeton to sell, we watched Melbourne property prices increase astronomically. I began to wonder (and still do, at times) if we will ever be home owners again??? How would we ever save the required deposit while paying rent?
Currently, we are renting a beautiful home in the northern suburbs of Melbourne; miles away from anywhere, really. I continue to trust God and I know that He knows what He is doing. I sense in my spirit that we are not going to stay in Melbourne for the long haul and that this is why we have not been in a position to purchase a new home. So, for now, I’m happy to watch all of the international house hunting shows on the television and dream!!!
Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labour in vain. PSALM 127:1 (NIV)
NB. Our home in Leeton did end up selling, after being on the market for 8 long years. But, that is a story for another post!!! (and, boy is it a good one!)