June arrived and with it two major life events; Firstly, the company that Paul was working for finally decided it was going to close down the site he was working in, making everyone there redundant by the end of August. We had sensed for a while that 'change' was afoot in our lives, and known that this was a possibility, so we had been exploring new ideas for ministry in our Nantwich church - little did we realise that this 'change' wasn't just going to mean a change in Paul's secular work life. Hot on the heals of the announcement of definite redundancy, came an invitation for Paul to become senior pastor of a church in Liverpool. We were a little take aback and initially we both thought we would turn it down - not really being city lovers - but we felt it would be wrong to do that without so much as testing the waters. So we took a little drive one evening at the end of June, to check out the area where we'd been told the house was and get a bit of a feel for whether we wanted to explore the possibility any further.
It turned out that the house wasn't in too bad a location :D We bought fish and chips in the local chippy, and I had my first experience of 'salt & pepper' chips - which were not at all what I expected, but very delicious! We walked around the neighbourhood, down to the church itself is (in a less affluent area) and up the main street of shops and stores; all the time taking in the 'scene'.
When we talked we felt that, on the basis of our evening, it was not impossible to envisage our family living in Liverpool and we agreed that we would attend an interview. We knew the church was small and struggling a little - in need of some TLC, but the more we thought and prayed about it all, the more our hearts shifted and the more convinced we became that we would soon be moving away from our beautiful rural Wybunbury, into inner-city Liverpool; from our huge garden and open fields to play in, to no private garden at all, only a back alley and a city park for a front garden. For now we kept it from the children - certain that they would be devastated. We needed to be certain before we mentioned anything to them.
Over the next weeks God persistently dropped things into our hearts - together and individually. I had some 'stuff' to deal with around living in the city again - and God graciously gave my friend the wisdom to help me with that. We also received 'words' from our church family, from people who knew nothing at all about what we were carrying in our hearts, which really confirmed to us that this was our right path.
We had our interview in July at which Paul was immediately offered the post. Although we already knew we were going to say yes, we slept on it and let them know the next day that we would be coming. From then on we were committed and there was no turning back. Timing telling the children was difficult and we still didn't do so immediately. Keeping it quiet from them was REALLY hard too, but we had to handle things gently as we knew it would not only be our natural family who might be heart-broken, but our church family too. When a well-loved pastor - effectively someone who is like a father to so many people in the church - leaves, it really is painful to many people.
And boy was my heart heavy - everything I did, every conversation I had, every place I walked, I wanted to treasure every moment - capture it and hold it tight - knowing there were not to be too many more like this in this place. We tried to live life normally, but I felt I was carrying so much 'goodbye' in my heart.
When we finally did tell the children their responses were much as we anticipated. They had not suspected or guessed anything - it might have been easier if they had! We made it clear from the outset that Jake and Joel would be given the option to stay in Nantwich if they chose. They were both grown now, with their own life-paths to stake out. We would make sure they were provided for with accommodation etc... but the choice was theirs. Jake was immediately excited and super-keen to come with us, which we were not so surprised about really. He's been keen for a while to try city life. Joel was immediately sure he would stay in Nantwich - but by the time a week had passed, and he had had time to think and pray about it, he too felt that he would join us in the move and invest in our family vision. He had a lot to lose really, being part way through his college course, but we were really happy he was choosing to come with us :D. Abbie cried - a lot! She had the biggest and strongest friendship group in Nantwich and also the strongest attachment to our home I think - it was huge for her. Phoebe & Ellie (Lilo) were both up and down about it all. They could see the opportunities it presented them, but for them too it would mean leaving behind friends and activities that they loved (namely church, gym and dance). For DD it was HUGE - it meant him changing his gym! Leaving behind all his team-mates and his beloved coach. Not only that, but a couple of really good friends at church too. He was sad and angry for quite some time. He does not do change well. Stitch was pretty cool about it all - excited even. He was sad at the prospect of leaving his church friends, but figured he could make lots of new friends in a city! Chip, 5 at the time, was sad! Sad about leaving his only known home, sad about leaving all his lovely friends at church - he had quite a little troop of mates, but he loved all the grown up too, sad about leaving his 'girlfriend', sad about not having a garden, just sad. But he was 5 and I knew that as long as he had his family he would be OK in the long run.
And so it was a summer of making memories - as many as we could before time ran out! We didn't take a holiday - we were too busy making moving plans, but in many ways that worked out OK - it gave us more time to make lots of Nantwich memories.
And then it came time for the 'last time's - and they were hard :(
And by the 23rd September we were setting up home in Liverpool...
Those last few weeks went so very fast & we packed so much in that we hardly had time to catch our breath. These pictures are only snippets, and miss out the two mini-holidays I took with some of the children; to Lake Bala (see albums below) with the church youth and to Cefn Lea with all but Jake. Paul stayed home both times, which was a bit of a shame.