A Toast to Nauseating Plot Twists

So…here’s a fun story I’ve been itching to share for, oh, I don’t know…maybe nine months? Sounds about right. You and I have waited long enough so I’ll jump right in.

Earlier this year Steve and I were 98% certain we’d be calling Australia our permanent home by the end of 2018. We figured we’d be saying goodbyes today. Here’s why.

A school reached out to Dr Watts in early February of this year. We heard whispers of a desirable teaching position. The job was yet to be confirmed but things looked promising.

“Would you be interested?,” they asked. It would mean hauling the team to Sydney for the foreseeable future.

Steve raised an eyebrow. My response was lukewarm. At the time, we were eagerly waiting to hear back from four or five schools. The academic calendar has just flipped. It was early in the job harvest season and stakes were low. We filed the possibility under “Things We Don’t Need to Bother with Before Bedtime” and left it there.

Meanwhile, life in Toronto was chugging along handsomely. Steve’s research gig fit like a t-shirt that shouldn’t have gone through the dryer. (You know the one, Babe.) Christina and I were working our asses off to get Experience JOMO workshops off the ground and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Our local elementary school dazzled the kids, tuckered them out, and took the homeschooling burden off. Overall, Toronto exceeded our modest expectations. Could we stay put?

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By February, the whispers from Down Under turned to conversations. I cried for fear Sydney might actually happen. Not because I didn’t want Steve to land his dream job or because I don’t love Australia. Several cherished people live down there, including all of Steve’s immediate family and Donna Hay. Life in Sydney could be delicious, I thought. The factor responsible for bringing me to tears and keeping me up at night was the distance from here to there. Location, location, location.

God put up with my desperate prayers, my incessant whining and pleas to stay put. “If this is going to happen, you’ve gotta make it abundantly clear, Big Guy.” Only with supernatural help could my sadness and turmoil transform into joyful anticipation and peace.

And then a series of breadcrumb answers fell from the sky like manna to nourish my spirit.

Sydney this and Sydney that. Sydney here, there, and everywhere. I paid attention. My icy heart began to thaw. My anxiety slowly waned.

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So we waited through all of March with Australia legitimately on the back burner. In terms of the upcoming year, our plan all along had been that if no academic offers were in writing by April 1st, 2018, we’d hatch plans to relocate within Toronto, put down roots, and wait until next year’s job harvest. Nothing was tampering with the loose plan.

But April 1st sauntered in quickly and the job in Australia was still in the works. The school understood our situation but our self-appointed timeline didn’t jive with the school’s upside down bureaucratic calendar. (They kick off their first semester in January, not September.) We’d need to wait a little longer for the job to be approved and on the books.

And so we did. To demand things go according to our tidy timeline seemed selfish and disobedient in light of what we were hoping to accomplish: faithfulness to follow God’s call. April 1st faded into the rearview mirror and off into the sunset.

Soon we learned that January 2019 was the most realistic start date for the majorly-desirable-yet-still-under-construction Australian teaching gig. Our original timeline hinged on a September start but, sure, the calendar had wiggle room. (We are excellent wigglers at this stage in our process, for the record.)

With four extra months, we’d just throw on our thinking caps and come up with something. Of course, there were small hurdles for us and for the school but they were pining for Steve and we figured it would simply be a matter of time and hot damn! That gold-plated job would be worth the wait. Eventually, my heart beat in unison with Steve’s. Bring it on, Sydney.

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By May, excitement was swelling like the tide waiting for us at Bondi Beach. Our four-month time-killing adventure came together almost seamlessly. We felt an undeniable call to step out in faith and trust God with our actions. So back in June, we sold nearly everything we acquired in Toronto.

Crib. Gone.

Diaper Genie. Gone.

Snowsuits. Gone.

Boots. Gone.

Bunk bed. Gone.

Mattresses. Gone.

Plush wool carpet. Gone.

Sexy lamps. Gone.

Beloved glider chair. Gone.

Cherished stroller. Gone.

Linens, curtains, dressers.

Gone, gone, gone.

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We elected to spend the summer lapping up sun with Tennessee friends. November would carry the promise of touring the rustic Smokies and eventually we’d barrel west to spend Christmas in Vancouver.

Come January, a Sydney-bound plane would whisk us away and we would finally close this gypsy chapter and begin building life from the ground up.

FINALLY. A plot of land for our roots to sink into. Goodbye, Ontario winters. Hello, sand, sun, and surf.

Curve ball alert: We aren’t moving to Australia.

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Some of you know the details; others don’t. If you’re in the second camp, it’s nothing personal. Proximity is mostly to blame. I haven’t felt free to write about any of this here or on Instagram. If you and I don’t toss back coffee/wine/tea/gin together on a regular basis, chances are the news didn’t reach you. I’m sorry.

The reason we aren’t moving is straightforward: unexpected hurdles and administrative delays rose up to complicate the job creation process. Nothing we predicted. Nothing personal.

The trouble is that expectations always tamper with our heads and hearts. The slow crawl from January to September has been emotionally and spiritually exhausting to say the least.

And because we can’t see through the fog yet, doubt overrides my thoughts and makes me question if when we thought we were listening to God’s call, we were actually playing Broken Telephone or some other nonsense.

The details of the summer will come to light in time. (Hellloooo, memoir fodder! SUSPENSE!!!! DA-da-DAAAHHHH!!!! Somebody find me a publishing deal ASAP!) For now, we are just too tired to field people’s questions and explain.

This is not intended to be a melodramatic update or some smoke signal from our corner of the world. I simply don’t have the capacity right now to get in touch with everyone personally.

I cracked tonight after months of silence because it seems the answer to most probing questions these days is, “Well…we sincerely thought Sydney was the next stop but now…”

So, yeah. Screw inconvenience. Efficiency it is. I’m explaining the high-level gist once and will direct future inquiries to this post.

So all that to say, we are not moving to Sydney any time soon. I repeat, not moving.

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Ironically, now I am partially sad about not moving to Australia. Grief is wild and unpredictable. It snuck into our suitcases when we moved back from Scotland two years ago and as I unpacked my heart back then, I processed shifting sorrows through words and pictures in real time on Instagram. It was therapy, a tiny way to resurrect the pain and offer hope to others carrying a similar burden. It made the world less lonely.

But not so with this transition.

It didn’t feel right to publicly journal our experience as it unfolded. Eventually the news trickled out to a few people but I didn’t want to jeopardize things so I mostly kept quiet.

But now November is on our doorstep. I’m ready to evict sadness and disappointment, move on, and make space for whatever and whomever is waiting for us. There is also a gaping hole in our narrative that needs attention so you can read about God’s peculiar and poetic provision in the midst of mounting insanity.

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I’m a wreck, believe me. The situation has me on my knees. Last weekend, I attended a retreat in Nashville and half a dozen poor souls witnessed my ugly cry in the corner of the staff tent.

It’s a confusing mess, alright, at least from today’s perspective, but the story isn’t over. God is purifying our hearts and strengthening our faith. The gin supply hasn’t dried up and the more we share our testimony, the more we realize this situation isn’t really just about our family anymore. Everyone wanders in the wilderness. Everyone needs hope to carry them through.

But still! Life! God! What gives?!?! Ugh.

Life lesson #125: No matter how much we’d like to think we are in control of life—of circumstances, relationships, health, work—we aren’t.

Can we influence positive outcomes through diligent work and effective strategy? Yes.

Can we discern challenging situations and make informed, wise choices? Yes.

But can we also dress up fear and call it wisdom when we sense a call toward something counterintuitive and we decide not to go with it? Absolutely. It’s the undoing of faith. This is what I’m actively learning. Subtle disregard to the still small voice is a slippery slope that leads not to victory.

Unless the Lord builds the future for Team Watts, we labour in vain.

At this stage, we possess a dozen tales of woe that end in glory beyond our wildest dreams. God is more than in control, even when shit royally hits the fan. Even when the border patrol guy is worse than a reality television nightmare and housing plans crash and burn and the “wouldn’t it be awful if…” temporary homeschooling idea becomes a mouth-watering Plan A.

We are learning to consider it joy. We are learning to persevere. Left foot, right foot. One day, one prayer, one double gin and tonic at a time. It is the only way we know how.

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Unless the tables flip unexpectedly, we will be relocating to Hamilton, Ontario. We aren’t sure why the runaround was necessary seeing as we’re returning to Ontario and truthfully, I was angry about it for a short while, but we are not called to lean on our understanding. We are called to trust.

It’s not what we anticipated but we feel good about it for now. We’ve prayed about it. Doors are opening. Hamilton for the win!

Since making the decision to remain in Ontario, I’ve been scouring thrift stores for a pair of crystal champagne flutes. They’ve got to be heavy and beautifully multi-faceted, like our story. It’s time to celebrate.

Not because life is neat and tidy now and there’s a home waiting and loads of projects in the pipeline. We’re not out of the prickly woods yet, friends.

We celebrate because we are alive.

We celebrate because God is plucking us from rock bottom and dusting us off like a dirty all-natural rubber pacifier. (What is the deal with how sticky those things get?! Ugh.)

So let’s all buy the bottle of something dry and bring out the finest crystal. You and I still have strength to raise a toast and life is too short to leave bubbly in the fridge, forever on standby. Enough is a feast. Let’s celebrate.

Here’s to maneuvering rapid curve balls and nauseating plot twists and getting pummelled in the name of stepping out in faith. God is sovereign over all. Redemption comes in time. In the process, we get stronger and in the words of Florence Welch, it’s always darkest before the dawn.

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We sense the sun is finally rising. Our story, like yours, is far from over.

xx, E

One thought on “A Toast to Nauseating Plot Twists

  1. Suzy Taylor Oakley says:

    Wow. What a roller coaster. Can I just say that I’m glad it’s you and not me? (Sorry.)

    In the other hand, the lessons you’re learning are priceless, and appreciate being on the journey with you, even if it’s from afar. 😊

    All the best as you live out your current calling.

    Like

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