I caught a glimpse of the house, the sandstone wall, the Juliet balcony, the colorbond roof before we drove into the cul-de-sac. My heart stopped beating for just a moment and it felt like life stood still. By the time we had pulled up out front it was beating again and I found my words to exclaim “Oh, it’s so beautiful,” and threw open the door of the car to get a better look. The house in front of me was the house I had drawn for a draftsman in 1994, when I was pregnant with Jack.
Reid was on staff at the church in Melbourne, employed as evangelist, he took teams overseas and he preached regularly in church as well. Together we ran the Sunday evening service and I helped with the women’s ministry in one of the fastest growing churches in the C3 movement. I also worked at PLC, Burwood. The ideal job for a teacher with young children, Emma came to work with me and after Jack was born he went to the early childhood centre on campus and I breast feed in my breaks.
Life was ideal. I spent the days I didn’t work with Jack on my hip in demo yards and tile shops determined to get every detail right for the house of my dreams. It was incredible in the end.
Standing in the kitchen I could look up to the cathedral ceilings and through the triangular windows either side of the sandstone chimney the sun streamed in, reflecting golden light off the 6 inch Baltic pine floor boards. In the evenings we chased our nude children around the lounge room after they had bathed in the antique claw foot bath and pinning them down we would towel dry them in front of a roaring fire. Emma and Jack would play ‘Ba doom,’ bouncing their flannelette bottoms down the stairs from the loft where Reid and my bedroom was. Sam helped me set the table and prepare everything for dinner, occasionally entertaining us with her rendition of Tina Arena’s “That’s a way a woman feels.” It still makes me laugh, she was 8. From our bed I could watch through the railings as the last cinders burned out in the hearth; from red, to orange to black coal dust. We were young and the world was our oyster.
I’ll never forget that day when I put Jack to bed and I had time to pray. I can still feel God nudge me and ask ‘Would you give it all up, if I required it?’ My response was ‘Yes, but you will have to ask Reid as well.’ We had been in the house for about a month and Reid came home with something to share. Throwing his keys on the kitchen table he said; ‘Honey, I think we are meant to go back to Sydney.’ It wasn’t a surprise of course but it didn’t really make sense. Life was perfect in every way. The house, our jobs, our role in church, our children’s schools – everything had fallen into place at last. The building of the house had taken forever and the hurdles we jumped to get there were similar to anyone’s who builds but things were settled now. Jack, who was born with chronic reflux and screamed for the first 6 months of his life, was well at last. It made sense to rest in all we’d achieved.
Back home in Sydney our church home in Brookvale was moving to Oxford Falls. We wanted to be there, we wanted to go home. So we waited for a confirmation and we pondered what we felt we had heard from God. It came through a prophecy while we were visiting family in Sydney. Pastor Phil called us to the altar and said, “I can see you walking like your shoelaces have been untied and I’m going to tie them up. Suddenly, I will do it…” It was how we felt, like even though all the boxes were ticked, it was Sydney where we really belonged. We wanted to go back to the church where we had been since I was 17 and Reid was 20. It made no sense really but we were young and nothing was impossible. It’s a very long story and we’ve learned through the years that God takes a very long time to do things suddenly. Eventually the house did sell but for a lot less than we expected. Eventually we did move back but a massive car accident that saw me break my leg so badly prevented me from ever returning to pack up the house.
So on Thursday this week when I went to my house, to the house of my dreams it was strange. I felt emotion pass over me like a wave that you think is so big it’ll dump you but it turns out to be one that picks you up and gives you a remarkably pleasant lift instead. A lift that gives you an ‘on top of the world perspective,’ when you know everything is finer than you could ever imagine. I walked inquisitively down the stairs towards the house with the wrap around verandah and I opened the gate as a boy came out to ask me who I was. While I explained I discovered that he had lived there his whole life and the house that we’d built for us had been the only home he ever knew. Strangely enough it was okay.
Then Emma remembered where we had carved out names in the drive with the Berry children who had been visiting from Sydney when the concrete was poured and so we took the liberty of finding the names. I took photos and I posted them on twitpic, it was invigorating in the strangest of ways.
Above all the things that I have discovered about God and His character is that He is faithful. He is always faithful. If we hold our life lightly on outstretched hands, like an offering, He is faithful.
“And He will establish you to the end [keep you steadfast, give you strength, and guarantee your vindication; He will be your warrant against all accusation or indictment so that you will be] guiltless and irreproachable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah).God is faithful (reliable, trustworthy, and therefore ever true to His promise, and He can be depended on); by Him you were called into companionship and participation with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:8-9 (Amplified Bible)
Tonight as I write, I’m reflecting on all God has done for me. His goodness endures forever. Jack returned home from my mum’s house were he stayed while we went to Melbourne and mum said to me that all Jack spoke about was his church and how he loves it. He spoke about the blessings he has had in his life. How he is blessed to grow up on the Northern Beaches, how he is blessed to know God, how he loves getting coffee before school and doing devotions with me at the café. How he loves SG youth and the leaders that have taken care of him this year, even though Sam has been so sick and mum has been so busy with Sam, it’s all okay because of church.
As our plane landed in Sydney, Emma was making plans to get to the Change leaders camp and asked how soon we could drop her to the Palm Beach Ferry to get there and Sam was making plans for a weekend away with some leaders from SG youth.
We gave up our dream house to come back to Sydney, to be in our church. We gave up jobs that others would consider foolish to walk away from. We did it in response to a sense that it was what God wanted. It wasn’t easy, when I broke my leg. It wasn’t easy renting again. It wasn’t easy finding our way back into the workforce in Sydney. Walking in step with God isn’t easy but it’s necessary. When you discover His voice and you put your head on His chest you hear his heart beat. You hear the rhythm; it soothes your anxious thoughts. You discover He’s not in a hurry. He doesn’t want to rush you. He waits. He allows the tests to come. He watches. He hears when you cry in the night. He hears when you wonder if what you did was right. He watches when you strive and laughs when you try on your own. He loves it when you have a go. He’s not in a hurry. He doesn’t mind when. He says “It’s up to you. You can peddle with the training wheels on, or I can run fast behind you holding onto your bike til you gain the momentum you need for the journey.”
He is enjoying you.
Watching you grow.
He is kissing your sores,
He is wiping your knee,
He is drying your tears.
He loves you so.
When you are finally ready to say, ‘I have no idea but my trust is in you,’ He gives it all back. People arrive at your house with trailers and tools, and buckets and cloths. They unroll paper, they write a list. They clean for you and they get up on your roof and they empty the gutters. When they find a leak that has rotted a wall and discover termites they find a way to fix it. They empty your pantry and put everything back with new eyes. They find a better way. They are under your house, sorting, stacking. They rebuild your BBQ, bring sausages, and make lunch. They rake your garden, they scrub windows, and they take things to the tip. They bring snowbells and manure, they plant new life. They phone when they get home and it’s dark because they are thinking of you. They have thought of a better way and they draw plans so you can imagine what they are thinking.
It’s the people you have done life with, and some you hardly know. God cares. It doesn’t make sense. The choices you make, the places you go, the years that you wait. Sometimes you are wrong by a long shot, sometimes you hear so perfectly right. It doesn’t matter really if you are right or wrong. It only matters that you love Him and if you love Him that you love others. These are the things that make His joy complete. When we unite in purpose we can achieve great things.
Philippians 2:1-3 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
So in spite of ourselves and the decisions we have made and the hardships we have known, we know God is faithful. A house is just a house if it’s not where your heart is. But if you are prepared to listen to God’s voice and trust Him, it all turns out in the end. Your house can be rebuilt, your daughter can be healed, you can live in community with others and have a great life. It’s not a perfect life but you feel, and you ache and you laugh and you cry. In a way it is perfect enough. You discover you can’t do it on your own. You swallow your pride. You say, ‘thank you.’ It doesn’t feel like it’s enough, perhaps its not but its all you have; just words and humility and the need for community. People start to drop their guard too and admit that they also are needy, incomplete, frustrated. You take each others hands and you pray. You say thank you. It is all you need. He is all you need.