Our family of 5 (with 3 children aged 6 and under at the time) upped sticks and moved ourselves to the other side of the world just over 3 years ago. Intrepid travellers? Hardly. Bold risk takers? Maybe. Utter lunatics? Probably.
Listening to the soft breathing of 3 jet lagged little ones as we lay in bed at 1am in a dark, uninviting motel room not far from Brisbane Airport, 32 hours after we had left London, England, my husband Alastair and I looked at each other:
What. Had. We. Done?
We spent the next 2 weeks in an Air b’n’b, frantically scrabbling to find somewhere to live, get driver’s licenses, buy a car, access the medical system, have school assessments done for our eldest (more about this later), locate food shops and generally start 5 lives over again in a foreign land. All of this whilst often feeling so jet-lagged that the room spun.
Finding somewhere to live was the hardest task. For our budget, within the area we needed to be in, the places available made me cry. We were renting out our house in the UK so we knew a lot about getting a house up to scratch to go on the rental market. Yet here in Brisbane we were looking at run down, filthy places, one with bare wires hanging down from the bathroom ceiling. I was beginning to have serious doubts.
I was so very desperate for it all to work, so determined to make a go of it, and yet trying to function well for 3 little ones whilst replanting ourselves somewhere totally new was an uphill struggle in those first few weeks.
But we had come to Australia in search of my son’s voice and we were not going to give up.
Amongst the scant housing offerings, at the top of our budget we found a clean, airy, 2 bedroom apartment (or ‘unit’ in Aussie speak) with high ceilings, a communal pool, a double garage, with room to ride a bike downstairs and a park across the road. It was round the corner from the train station and an organic food shop. A great temporary solution until we found our feet!
We are still in the same unit 3 years on and plan to be so for at least another year actually. God has taught me a lot in this season. I have had to swallow my pride about not being able to afford a bigger living space in this location and learn gratitude. I have also learnt the freedom that comes with less possessions (don’t get me wrong, our double garage is still full of our stuff despite me having had 2 huge culls already – but day to day we live with a lot less at least!). I have had to give up my innate love of making a well thought out home and come to terms with the fact that I can’t hang our pictures on the walls or put together the space with any sense of real design – it just has to work and do so in a tight space, on a tight budget.
I have to say, God knew our needs so perfectly. We live well in our little unit. I don’t think I could have managed the past 3 years with anything bigger to be honest. We have everything we need plus the luxuries of a huge back yard (park) that I don’t have to mow and a pool that I don’t have to maintain. A wealthy existence indeed.
The intimacy of the space has led to us living our lives closer together both physically and emotionally. I think it has helped to give our little ones a sense of security after such a big move, and enhances the idea that we are all in it together as part of this family tribe. I also love how the small space allows the children to get to see the immediate results of working together practically.
It has challenged us to learn to resolve disputes quickly as the dynamics of dischord affect everyone in the living space. That sounded so poetic didn’t it? Basically if one person is losing it, this place quickly becomes a battlefield of bad tempers, and there is little room to hideaway and sulk.
I love that we are all so involved with each other, because we have to be. I would hate for that to get lost. I find it hard to imagine living in a bigger house now, which is definitely not a usual way of thinking for my brain. That’s not to say that an extra bedroom and a bathroom with a bath wouldn’t go amiss, don’t get me wrong, but I am conscious that these small emotional connections that have to be part of our daily life here, would get lost were we to move to one of the more spacious houses that I used to dream about.
Despite my initial prideful misgivings, we have been blessed with something that I never would have chosen and we are very content.
Plus it only really takes a couple of hours to clean. Bonus.
(Since writing this our landlord has sold the unit and we have 3 months to find somewhere new. I am sad to leave our little home and great community of neighbours, but I am both curious and excited for what God has up his sleeve for us.)