It was no way to buy a house; in the dark. "Do not do it," I would say to anyone else, but we did. I suppose it was following a trend in our lives really; the trend of leaping first and looking later. Of course we always felt, as we leapt, that it was all part of God's plan, so it wasn't entirely as foolish as it sounds.
We saw the house once, in the evening, and the price and location were right, so we put in an offer conditional on the sale of our house in Tottenham. I really hoped that the house in Tottenham would not sell and thus prove that God wanted us to stay there, but alas, it sold immediately; for the asking price.
So we found ourselves, in February of 1974, with the help of friends and family, packing up our belongings and moving.
The house in Newmarket was built on a ravine lot. The basement had a walkout to the back yard, which overlooked waste land at the back. It was on the edge of Newmarket on a quiet street, and I know it sounds ungrateful but I hated the house the second time I saw it--which was the day we moved in.
I never felt as if it was really our "home," which was why, when Paul asked his question a couple of months after we moved in, I was ready to actually consider it.
He wanted to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities but he had been working in an institution for just over 2 years and he was up against huge barriers. Trying to make even small changes to a system felt impossible from his vantage point.
A couple had been living as house parents for a group of ten men with disabilities, in a home associated with the institution. They were leaving, and there was a search in process for another couple to take over at the end of July...Yes, you can perhaps guess Paul's question.
All that I knew about his work was what I had learned through listening, and helping him with his studies, and having house guests from the institution for weekends sometimes. I had gone to an open house there once and had been overwhelmed by a sea of hands reaching out to shake mine, hungry: for contact, connection, attention, touch.
Paul intended to keep working at the institution, but he wanted to move in with the men, who all had day programs during the week days. I would just have to do the cooking, he said, and of course, the laundry.
Only because I would have done almost anything to move out of the house we were in, I said, "Let's go and see."
It was at the beginning of June that we drove down the dirt road flanked by farms that ran between the towns of Newmarket and Aurora. There, off the road, at the end of a tree lined driveway, stood a rambling, white clapboard house, surrounded by fields and shaded by trees. Near to the road on one corner of the two acres it stood on, was an orchard and under some apple trees I noticed headstones--a pioneer cemetery. The wind blew through the tree tops and across the wildflowers in the fields and it whispered peace and welcome. I knew that we were meant to be there.
We went to England for a vacation that June and told everyone what we planned to do. At the time we were thinking of doing this for a couple of years.
When I think back to it now, such a lot had to happen in a very short time. We had only just moved into our new house, but we found a friend to rent it from us. I had an interview with the social work department at the institution and I must have passed. We went to England, came back, got ready to move again and ready for a family expansion from 5 (Paul's sister Sheila was living with us at the time) to 15. I was 24 and Paul, 27; Peter was 4 and Brenda was 2.
How mysterious and wonderful are the ways by which God works out his purposes in our lives; even stirring a nest he want a person to leave by making it ill fitting and uncomfortable.
And those two years? They stretched to ten, and I think that we would never have moved then, if the institution overseeing the home had not closed; God again stirring the nest when it was time to leave--but I am getting ahead of myself. Stay tuned for the next installment of the adventure of our lives next Monday.