Heart hammering in my chest, I glanced to where my husband was holding our firstborn son in his arms. It was our first family holiday since our son had been born four months earlier and we were enjoying a walk around the headland. But the wind blowing off the Bay was nowhere near as chilly as the fear now working its way through my body.
Was he serious? This was home. This was where I’d been born and raised. This was where my ancestors had chosen to settle and build a new life for themselves. Why move?
“We could just go for a few years maybe.”
A few years? My family was here. Our son’s grandparents. And great-grandparents. How could I leave?
The question was dropped and I struggled to put it out of my mind. Surely he hadn’t meant anything by it. Probably just one of those idle thoughts we all have from time to time.
But over the years the question would arise again and again. Each time the fear was less, until eventually the fear abated altogether. It was just talk. He was feeling homesick. He’d get over it. There was absolutely no reason to get concerned or upset.
And so I would try and distract him. Cheer him up so that he would forget about his homeland. Try and convince him that he should be perfectly content with what he already had.
Another son was born. And then we heard that my husband’s sister was getting married. A family reunion was called for. Eight siblings together for the first time in years: what an occasion that would be!
We flew over for the wedding, spent time with his family, and visited all his childhood haunts. We toured his homeland, collected souvenirs and took photo after photo to place into our family album.
And then we flew back home. To our home.
“It feels so good to be home,” he said as the plane touched down. I relaxed. He’d just been missing home. Things would be fine now.
The years passed.
Another son joined our family.
And yet another.
Life was good. We were outgrowing our home. We started to dream about finding a larger place. We looked at small acreages but nothing seemed right.
Very rarely did the question surface now. We were busy: family, church, work, and school. There was no time to waste thinking about What if? We were here. This was our home. We were settled.
Then one day as I read my Bible, a passage seemed to jump out at me. It was as if God Himself was speaking the words right into my heart:
"At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes" (Zephaniah 3:20, NIV).
I argued with God.
“I am home. I don’t need to move.”
But the feeling that God was speaking to me persisted.
Almost afraid to share with my husband, I did so nevertheless. Although we rarely spoke of it now, his desire to return home had never lessened. We agreed to seek God’s will.
I dared to ask: “Are you prepared to pray that if this is not from God, that He would take the desire away?”
“Yes. But are you prepared to pray that if it is from God that He would strengthen the desire - in both of us?”
If my husband were willing to give up his heart’s desire, surely I should be willing to have my desires changed.
But it wasn’t easy. Oh, how I longed that his desire would be taken away. Surely God wouldn’t ask us to move.
Time marched on. Circumstances changed. My husband left his job. He was offered another job. He tried to refuse it. Several times. But they persisted and eventually he agreed.
“Just until Christmas,” he told me when I expressed concern.
I started to entertain the thought that God might just require us to move. Always wanting to be prepared, I searched for information about my husband’s homeland. What I learnt was depressing.
“Lord,” I prayed, “How can I give up everything we have here? Everything we’ve worked so hard for? If we sell up and move now we’ll never be able to afford a home of our own. Things are so expensive over there. And, anyway, we’re just starting to get involved in our church here. We’re helping out with youth group and I’m playing the piano again. Surely you can’t ask us to give all that up? What if we never get asked to do anything in another church again? We can’t move.”
But God spoke words of comfort into my heart:
"For I know the plans I have for you … plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you ..." (Jeremiah 29: 11-12, NIV).
I stopped fighting. Who was I to question God’s plans? Yet underneath it all, there was the feeling that I wasn’t going to like those plans: that I would have to settle for second best. After all, I knew what I wanted and my plans were best. Weren’t they?
Somehow I had lost sight of the last part of God’s promise to me. Yes, I believed that He knew the plans He had for my life, but I failed to see how there could be hope and a future in His plans. Yes, for my husband perhaps: but me? I didn’t think so. I even went so far as to see myself as a modern day martyr.
But things were about to change.
One Sunday afternoon after my husband and I had been debating whether God was really telling us to move, I asked:
“Have you ever thought of moving back in with your parents and finding employment in the town where they live?”
Memories of his boyhood town had always drawn him. We’d always assumed that if we returned it would be to that particular town. We had never considered living anywhere else.
“Perhaps we should. We could stay with your family until we find someplace else.”
Suddenly it was as if blindfolds had been removed. The question as to whether he should go alone and send for the rest of us later was no longer an issue. It all seemed so obvious now.
The next day the phone rang: there was a job in his field in the town where his parents lived. Were we interested?
“Do you think I could pray that I get the job without an interview? This close to Christmas, we can hardly afford for me to fly over.”
I laughed. “I think we just have to accept that we’re going to have to spend that money if you want the job.”
He applied for the job and was interviewed over the phone. The job was his. There was no reason for him to fly over. They would meet him when he started employment.
Oh you of little faith (Matthew 6:30, NIV).
Suddenly it was happening. And there were so many things to do! Four weeks was all we had. Four weeks in which to get the house in order and to pack up the paraphernalia of twelve years and seven people. Four weeks in which to say goodbye to friends and family and church. Four weeks to arrange flights and passports and put the house on the market. And somewhere in the midst of those four weeks, somehow find time to celebrate Christmas and end of year school concerts.
The travel agent laughed when I tried to book the tickets.
“It’s the summer holidays here. Everyone’s going overseas. You should have booked months in advance. There’s no way you’ll get seven seats on the same flight.”
She rang back subdued. “You’re all booked. You got the last seven seats on the connecting flight. There’s only twenty seats on that flight and there were seven left!”
God is good.
It’s been over ten years since we left my homeland. People warned us about homesickness. They predicted that we’d be back within a few years. They were wrong. God showed us quite clearly that this is where He wants us to be, and until He says otherwise, this is where we’re staying.
The day I booked our flight my husband told me that he had prayed that I would be blessed by the move. At the time I was skeptical. But as I look around today I realize that God has blessed me far more abundantly than I could ever have imagined possible.
As I care for my home and family I remember how I prayed for a home large enough for all seven members of our family and for those that would visit us in our new homeland. I prayed too that we would have the bathroom facilities to cope with a large family! Now almost eleven years down the track, I still marvel that God gave us more than we ever asked for.
We have been blessed with a wonderful church family, and the ministry roles that I was so afraid to give up He has restored to me many times over. He has led us into new areas and I have been excited by the opportunities that have come our way. I’m doing things now that I never thought I would ever have the courage to do.
I’ve watched my family grow and mature, and as I’ve seen the opportunities they have had here can only say “Thank you God.”
I look at where I am now and acknowledge that this may never have happened had we not allowed God to move us away from all that was familiar: had we never allowed Him to show us His plans and to give us hope and a future.
Yes, God is good.
Julianne Jones is an Australian writer passionate about sharing God’s love through the written word. A wife, mother of five, and early childhood teacher, she currently lives in New Zealand where she is actively involved in music, drama and youth ministry in her local church.