We had often thought that whatever happened once Mark had completed his PhD we realistically needed a 6 month breathing space before the next step. Yet on the other hand we felt the need to be ‘responsible and get a job’, to move to the next step. Neither a breathing space or the next job seemed to be coming up for us. We were more and more aware of how we had outgrown our home and the impact that space in and of itself was having on me and therefore in turn on our eldest who mirrors my state of being in complete fulness which can be great on the good days but terrifying on the hard days.
I have always wanted space both in and outside, with a love for high ceiling square rooms. Not something that was ever going to be within our financial means. I liked the idea, based solely on my night time watching of ‘Escape to the Country’ while trying to rock small children to sleep, that it would need to be an old rectory as they seemed to come with all that I asked for.
We continued to push on all doors both new house and job wise and no door opened. We sat confused, lost, exhausted and frustrated. We were spent. The past 3 1/2 years have been some of the hardest years we have known together, as a family and individually. We had been stretched thinner than we thought at times we could possibly go emotionally, spiritually, physically and yet God kept His promise to provide to be our refuge. There were days, weeks when that was hard to see but He was always there. There are many times when we still do not understand why or can make sense of certain events but that does not alter who God is and who He has promised to be to us.
Then we saw a house whose rental value had been reduced and was now just within our reach. But why so cheap considering its apparent size and in vast contrast to anything else on the rental market? So Mark went to see it and we learnt that there was a church in town that is without a vicar at present and the diocese did not want the house sitting vacant. It is not a long term rent but it is for 6 months. 6 months to breathe, 6 months to stand up straight in the rooms, 6 months to walk around the beds, 6 months to dig in the soil and watch birds, 6 months to play in the garden, 6 months to kick footballs, play tennis, throw freebies, (it is amazing how many football and tennis racquets etc have been left) 6 months to sit in the summer house, 6 months to just be.
When Mark called to tell me about it as he saw the initial viewing and he was trying to not be over hopeful on the phone to me I kept being reminded of the story of the man who asked God why he had not saved him from the flood and God had replied but I sent you a lifeboat etc. This was our lifeboat. This was God’s provision for us. This was God’s gift, a rectory with a garden. With high ceiling and square rooms, as study for Mark with 2 full walls of floor to ceiling bookcases and a den for me in the attic. Bathrooms with windows. Friendly welcoming neighbours, a cycle path for us to get almost everywhere we need and the loan of a Canadian chariot for the younger two.
It is not in its finest state, it is a home that needs some tender care and love, but it is very definitely a home, it is watertight and bouyant and we love this lifeboat. With all that it has not been the smoothest of first few weeks, our eldest’s hip condition has got worse and we have all been under the weather with colds, viruses and sore throats etc that began in the 24hrs before we moved. Sleep has been for the most part good aside from the interruptions coughs and pain bring. I have been reminded though that when a lifeboat rescues someone the waters do not instantly become calm just because the lifeboat is there. The lifeboat has to navigate itself through some stormy rough waters to reach the safety of land again and that is where I feel we are at present. Our bodies which have been on high alert for the past 3 1/2 years have stopped and breathed big sighs of relief that with that has come the influx of colds and virus and generally run down. We are registering how tired we had got, how spent we had been emotionally, spiritually and physically. Its okay though because we are on the lifeboat, we are being carried toward calmer water, to solid land again and our bodies will mend, our bodies will be strengthened and renewed. That doesn’t mean there will not be hard times again, that there will be no trouble, but for now we are on the lifeboat and we can stop, we can breathe and rest.
What is wonderful about this lifeboat also is that it is not something disconnected to us but something intricately part of who we are and where we have come from, where we are now and where we are going and of those who have journeyed and are journeying with us now, close to home and far away, across the generations.
There are memories and links with friends and family through association and through the giving and creativity of others. It is a lifeboat that in and of itself is a blessing from God who has filled it with gifts and blessings from so many others to wrap around us on this journey out of rough waters.