Monday, March 27, 2017

This is my pile of rocks.

We have a friend that has helped us move three times in the last two years. Three times, two years.

I haven't had a home that I've ever spent more than two Christmases in (my mom's home hasn't changed but I spent half my high school years with her and half with my Dad, who hopped around like a bunny). It's about as hard as it sounds; when it comes to home, I keep my roots shallow because I expect them to be that way.

When we moved to our town of Alliston three years ago, it was like that. We moved there because it made financial sense; we were sharing a home with my Dad so we could pay off debt so we could start saving for a downpayment. If you know me, you know that fell apart within four calendar weeks (see above RE bunny hopping), and John and I spent hours staring at maps of the world wondering where it was exactly that we fit in.

John zoomed in and out of Google Maps; satellite view, street view, satellite view, street view. "I feel like I don't belong anywhere" are the words he used. We began chatting with a friend that lived in Nicaragua and decided that we'd travel there in the November following (over a year away - once our then-in-utero baby was old enough to get vaccinated). It seemed right and flowed naturally and hey, maybe that's where we belonged.

When Alliston fell apart with my Dad, we decided to move to Burlington because it was the only place that made a little bit of sense; we're wedding photographers and Burlington has... people? But we needed a little advice from a Pastor, and the church we had attended a whopping twice had one of those, so we asked for some guidance.

"This isn't necessarily 'thus saith the Lord'", he said, "but I think you should stay here. Actually, I have a place you might be able to rent. My cousin is looking for a tenant." (Dutch families, oy.) Then he said this: "I think the next season of your life will be like building a monument. Something you will always look back on." and he left and we cross-sectioned his prophetic word with what the Bible had to say and we found this:

"We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.”" Joshua 4.6-7

I'm not putting us on par with people who carried the Ark of the Covenant, that is ridiculous and no. But the stones were for remembering how the Lord provided and the things that He did in a time where the Israelites were at a crossroads. The Jordan Crossing was significant because it confirmed God's presence with His people and was a fulfillment of His promises. And they built stones to remember it.

And that was going to be our time in Alliston.

So as you might know, the Pastor's Cousin's apartment worked well for us, and then it caught on fire, and then we claimed insurance and got out of debt. It sounds like arson, I know. I swear to you it wasn't because we don't know how to use an electrical panel let alone break into our upstairs' neighbour's apartment and make it explode. Huge story about that over here, I'll just skim now. We went to Nicaragua and it was lonely save for our weekly Skype calls with friends, until our buddies visited (which they did!).

Because of the loneliness and the fact that we kept asking WHY ARE WE HERE AGAIN? John decided to dive into reading like he was on a sabbatical; he read a series of books and listened to podcasts on how to grow a church & ministry that is relevant to the context of your unique community, something I should clarify we have no plans to do, we just built an interest in a big way. If any of this sounds interesting to you, it did to me too and I blogged about it so just scroll on back.

When we moved back to Alliston after Nicaragua, John had a stint working at our church's coffee shop. I guess we all assumed that now because he had a serious interest in the meaning of good ministry that he was meant to be in ministry right away, but we were wrong and it wasn't a good fit for our family - with one business and two kids and one on the way (we had 3 pregnancies + 1 miscarriage in 4 years and lemme tell you, that's a lot of work), we both got burned out beyond exhaustion and I struggled through a long season of anxiety and depression and we all learned that when something isn't working, stop doing that thing sooner than later. You might notice this is approximately when I stopped blogging pretty well for good. We sought guidance and counsel and decided to put our all into New Vintage Media, together, and put a stop payment on the ministry work that was burning us out.

Our landlord at our next home in Alliston was awesome, and we made a 3-5 year plan to essentially rent the house until we could buy a home, because Alliston is super affordable, right? The plan also fell apart as quickly as it was made because our Landlord informed us he'd be selling the home about two weeks before wedding season went in full swing - after ten months of living in it - and coincidentally, local house prices skyrocketed by about $200 000 in that 10 months (they have since gone up, too). So we had two weeks to move and it was time to find a home and keep renting.

By now I was completely exhausted of being uprooted and had more confirmation that it's okay for roots to stay shallow, but I spent many hours and tears wondering if I could live the rest of my life with shallow roots and why my family would be forced to do the same.

God provided and of course he did; on an afternoon walk, before we were informed we'd be moving, I saw a house with a cardboard For Rent sign chicken-scratched together and a phone number. It was a-beautiful and I wanted to live in it. I took a picture, realized I was being crazy discontent because we had a home for the next 2-4 years we were already living in, deleted the photo, and asked for contentedness. When the news came that we'd have to find a home stat, you can bet we took a walk back to that house with the chicken scratch sign, called the Landlord and moved in a week later.

The moment we moved our belongings in to the home, there was this feeling between John and I that this house, too, wouldn't be for the long haul. And that defeated me, I'll be honest. A knowing in our guts that the home wasn't forever - or even for a while - and our Landlords knew that, too; they even told us that they felt like we would buy a house after we lived here, and he didn't know how, but it would happen. (I should clarify that it didn't, and that's okay because we can't live floating on words like that.)

Because we had spent the last year focusing solely on our business, it grew pretty quickly and we didn't know how to pace ourselves and I spent another summer overworking, completely exhausted, and landed up with mono (yes, mono, and no I didn't kiss any teenage boys) and a resolution that we would grow but had to figure out what growing meant without losing our minds. #Selfemployment amiright? And sure enough, by November - a short five months after moving into this house - we knew it was time to go.

However, this unsettled feeling made it clear to us that it was time to leave; as in, the time in Alliston was coming to a close, and we began telling our friends and family and bouncing the idea off of them of what our next season in life would look like. Not immediately, but by the spring or summer.

You can imagine that we wanted to make our leaving a home-owning move; after not living in one house for more than two years, I desperately desired to have a downpayment and a mortgage, and we even began a new business venture to help with saving for a downpayment. But because of our self-employed status and because of our financial beliefs and because of the fact that we are back in debt because that's life sometimes and we are still learning how to be adults, that downpayment is not happening anytime soon. Houses in Alliston are $500 000 or more (they changed from affordable to not-affordable in a very short amount of time), and a 20% downpayment on $500 000 is like a pipe dream. It also sounds kind of unwise for us.

We looked into Niagara because we can afford to purchase a home in Niagara; we looked around Niagara. We spent hours on MLS and even went out for breakfast with Niagara friends to see what the community was like for young families (great, by the way, Niagara sounds wonderful).

Unfortunately we then realized that our business that we've built isn't in Niagara, and our hearts aren't either.

The next part of our journey happened relatively quickly and got us to where we are now. We decided that if we couldn't afford to own in an area we want to live and where our business lies, we should keep renting, but this time give ourselves the permission to lay our roots down deep and cross our fingers that our next home would last maybe a little longer than a year (oh please, please, please more than a year?)

So where did we want to lie our roots down deep? Where did we want to be for the long-haul? For fun. For complete fun. Where do we like going? Where is our favourite place to be? What food do we like to eat? What activities do we like to do? What is working and what isn't? Homeschooling wasn't. Let's quit that; we did it for the betterment of our family so let's stop for the betterment of our family. Commuting to the city three times a week at 1.5 hrs a trip wasn't working, either. Maybe commuting needed to stop.

On January 25 I went to spend some time with a friend that lives in Toronto and my heart got a little set on family life in the city. John separately went for coffee, and got his heart set on the city, too.

Here's what he wrote in his notebook:

Toronto means building community,
Toronto means building connections
Toronto means building a lifestyle.
One day, we can own a cottage in the middle of nowhere, but at least or now, buying would be irresponsible for us.

Here's what I wrote in his notebook:

'There is a place for you here.'
If I could choose any place in Toronto, it would be
Bright & inspired
Close to transit
Have a parking spot
Be a full house ideally, but a condo is okay
Be in a safe, good school zone
Be near a place we can take the kids or ourselves outdoors
Give a sense of freedom
Be in a family-oriented neighbourhood where we can make friends for us and the kids.

We both made a list of 10 things in our lives that were working and 10 things in our lives that weren't and we realized that all of our commuting to the city for work, for fun, for play, for creative gain, was time we would rather be spending with our family, especially if we weren't going to homeschool. We realized we like Toronto, a lot, and maybe we could grow the courage to try and raise a family in the city. We'd lived there before and we knew the area we would live in if we ever could again. And we began to look.

Renting in Toronto is like buying in Toronto; it's a system based on striving and proving and having more, and we wanted none of it. Striving was not going to be for us. If the right home was there, it wouldn't pass us by, and with as smooth a transition as I could possibly imagine we found the right rental home in the right time that sits well with our beliefs in space and life. And that wishlist above? I can't even. I CAN'T EVEN. Except for the parking spot part which we do not have, you just wait for pictures, k?

So now we are leaving and now we look back.

I don't know how to build a monument except by writing about one. Look at all those ways God provided! Isn't He cool? Consider this post my pile of rocks.

What just happened in the last few years? I honestly do not know. I don't know the significance of this pile of rocks; a lot of anxiety, a lot of lessons, a lot of digging in to things that led to deep well waters and other things that were more like broken pipes under the ground. Two more babies, three in our arms right now and that's amazing. A safe space to go learn how to be parents sort-of (ignore that 21 year old blogger that had a baby & a home birth & an intent to breastfeed until her earth children went to university, she didn't know what she thought she knew), to learn a new pace, to get some tools for our tool belt of life. To gain friends we intend to drink wine with when we all have white hair. Maybe a launching ground for a way of living that we would never have had if it weren't for this little potato-making town. Maybe we'll find out one day. Maybe we won't. But a pile of rocks is here indeed.

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