This past summer my husband and I decided to move our family from Hamilton to Sarnia. Family and friends had many questions. Why are you moving? Why now? Why Sarnia? Have you lost your minds?
There are many reasons to question our mental stability but this decision was not one of them. Ten years ago when Chris and I got married and purchased our home we were a 2 income family. One year later when our first born came along we were a 1.5 income family. Two years after that we were a 1.25 income family slowly sliding into debt to pay for a house we could no longer afford.
Chris got a second job and eventually a third. He was living in a constant state of burnout with no end in sight. Several times we talked about me returning to full time work but when we factored in the cost of child care the financial impact would be negligible so part time it remained. No matter how much we played with our budget we couldn’t make ends meet month to month.
We talked about selling our house and buying something less expensive in our neighborhood but thanks to the very healthy Hamilton real estate market we discovered that we couldn’t afford to downsize in our own neighborhood or city.
So where did that leave us? We were exhausted, stressed, angry and frustrated. We felt broken and couldn’t figure out how to put the pieces back together. This was not the life we imagined. This was not the life we wanted.
Then one Saturday in July while visiting Chris’ parents in Sarnia, we were curious about the price of a house for sale near his parents so we went online to check it out. Our jaws nearly hit the table. Housing was ridiculously affordable in Sarnia. Like crazy affordable. We must have spent two hours on MLS checking out prices in various neighbourhoods. We were quite smitten by a couple of homes and I told Chris, “Well, we found a house now all you need is a job.”
I headed off somewhere with our girls and thirty minutes later Chris texted me a link to great job posting in Sarnia. Half joking, half not I said, “Apply and let’s see what happens.” He applied for that job and three weeks later he was interviewed. One week later he was offered the job with a start date two weeks later. Unheard of timing in the social services world we knew.
Then there is the God part of this story. I don’t wear my “I love Jesus” t-shirt much but those in my life know that my faith and church family are a big deal to me. I did hear from God about this whole moving to Sarnia idea and by “hear” I don’t mean a big booming voice from a mountain top or burning bush kind of thing (He knows that would totally have freaked me out.) In fact, it was less what I heard and more what I felt.
From the first crazy conversation about relocating to Sarnia to the loading of the moving van I felt peace. I kept thinking that at some point I would panic and chicken out of the whole thing but if anything my sense of peace deepened as our nutty idea became reality. This doesn’t mean it was easy to leave. The thought of moving two hours away from my Mom and close friends was heartbreaking. Uprooting the girls from their school and friends was equally overwhelming. Leaving our church family just as we were venturing into a community space was confusing. I knew the decision to leave would hurt people I love and yet this peace remained and I could not ignore it.
Experience has taught me to pay attention to this peace. Like my blind date with Chris. After two hours of amazing conversation in a coffee shop we said goodbye and I watched this man with long hair, an unkempt beard, dressed entirely in black and covered in dog hair get into his wreck of a car and I felt peace. I remember thinking, “Really God? This is the guy? Really?” Yup, he was the guy.
It’s weird. It’s not like God has revealed some great plan for us. We don’t actually know what He is calling us to in Sarnia. And that too is part of the appeal.
For us there is more to Sarnia than a great job and cheaper housing. There are: Chris’ parents, the beach, a smaller community, fries under the bridge (cliché I know but seriously – BEST FRIES EVER), the beach – so awesome it needs repeating, more time together as family and a renewed sense of possibility.
The move has happened. The adventure begins.