It was the year of 2008, the month of March when Phil & Claire moved from England to Canada. I met them about 6 months into their move. I was at a cabin celebrating friends’ birthdays when I was introduced to this British couple. I instantly wanted to be their best friend because they were from my homeland!! Well I was born and raised in Canada but my parents were born and raised in Wales and so I basically grew up in a British home set in Canada. I have travelled to the UK all throughout my life to visit my family; we even spent some time living there when I was young. So as you can see, the connection to anyone that is British is strong for me! I felt a connection with them right away; I think I can say the same for them with me! I love their story, the story that is still developing. From the moment that I met them to today, their growth in who they are has been huge and I am so thankful that I have been able to witness this in them as individuals and as a couple. I can relate to their story in some way because I moved away from my hometown and comfort zone 2 years ago and have grown so much in my identity. So whether you are about to embark on a journey that would take you far away from the comforts of home or already have done so, I think you can pull from or relate to Phil & Claire and their journey. It’s never easy being called to the unknown but it is there that you will learn beautiful things about yourself you never knew existed.
The beginning of their story is this; they were both born in Carlisle, England and grew up in Christian homes, his Anglican and hers Pentecostal. They met at youth group when she was 14 years old and he was a few years older. They both went to University in Liverpool and during that time were married and later graduated with degrees in Psychology and began jobs in social services. Phil worked in the Mental Health Services and Claire worked with children who had behavioural issues and also at a domestic violence charity. They both knew from a young age that they did not want children. There was no major reason for this decision; Claire did not have a maternal inkling and they knew it would be a huge commitment that they were not willing to commit to. Their first year of marriage was a difficult one, they fought a lot and it was not easy. Claire admits that they were both living their lives selfishly and not putting the other person first. They would attend church on Sundays and had a good group of friends around them. They would agree that their faith was scheduled for Sundays but not for every other day of the week. Claire looks back and can see that they did not involve God all that much in their lives.
Phil was involved in a Jazz HipHop group with a few guys and they would play at shows in Liverpool. However the HipHop scene wasn’t thriving in Liverpool and they really wanted to grow in their art. Eventually it would just be Phil and his good friend Duncan that would be in the group and the discussion of moving somewhere came up; should they move somewhere where the scene was welcoming to HipHop? Phil, Claire, Duncan and his wife Amanda decided to get together one night and pray. They had the simple thought of, “Why don’t we ask God where we should move?” They knew that God had a plan for them but didn’t really know if He would tell them, so why not ask. They met and decided to pray and listen. As they were praying Claire had the thought of moving to Vancouver, Canada. She thought it was a random city to think of, as it wasn’t at all on her radar and she never imagined moving continents. She tried to push the thought that kept on repeating in her mind out of her mind. When they all finished praying, Claire told them that she felt she hadn’t heard anything, but the others all expressed that they felt they were to move to “Vancouver”!! Claire at this point knew she had heard right. They were moving to Vancouver! Simply they asked and simply they received an answer.
From the time they decided to move to Vancouver to actually moving to Vancouver was just under a year. During this time they began to visit friends to say their goodbyes and would join them at their churches; the overall message that was being spoken consistently at all these places was, “Trust God and follow Him, go where He leads you and He has gone before you to prepare that place.” After they received their Visas they made their way to Vancouver! One would think that this would be an exciting time as they all had heard and believed that they were to move here. However, Claire found this time very difficult. The first 8 months of being in Canada was very tough for her, she hated it, missed her friends, family, her country. She began to shut down and not speak with Phil; she was desperate to move back to the UK. Her fight to leave was so strong that it was robbing her of her present and ability to embrace her new surroundings. She started to question whether she had heard God in all of this. Her friend Amanda began to challenge her to surrender to this fight, to give in, to let go and embrace the “now”. Claire does not remember the actual moment that she decided to surrender but she remembers that she did, for when she did things became easier for her and she could see the beauty that was around her. She knew that He had a better plan for her life and she chose to partner with that plan. She decided to walk His plan out. Her perspective changed after she made the choice to surrender and not fight the struggle that was ultimately caging her in.
Phil & Claire both got jobs at a social services organization and they began attending a church just to try it out. They didn’t expect to stay at this church but they ended up loving it and were growing so much under the leadership. They began making friends and building a community. Some of the friends they made would soon join SoulsRest, Phil and Duncan’s HipHop group. Phil and his mates wanted to bring music that was uplifting, life giving, kind, pure, full of love, hope, and faith into places that were not used to hearing this type of music. They wanted to change the atmosphere in places that seemed dark, depressing and hopeless. They would play in bars, clubs, night markets, and prisons the whole time wanting people to feel love and hope. As they played, they strongly believed that people would be influenced by the message the songs held. Amazing concept!
The next part of their story is one that I completely love! It’s the transition from “We aren’t going to have children” to “We are going to have a child”! There wasn’t anything wrong with them not wanting children, it didn’t come from a place of hurt or negativity but just that they simply did not want to have children. One day they decided to visit a church and Claire went forward to receive prayer regarding her job and a girl, who Claire did not know, prayed for her. At the end of the prayer the girl said to Claire, “I saw a picture in my mind of a pink birthday cake with candles on it, does this mean anything to you?” and immediately Claire thought “a baby girl” but then told the girl it didn’t mean anything to her. Claire didn’t want to receive what the girl could be implying; she wanted to give those words back! This reminded Claire that a few weeks earlier a friend of hers, who knew that Phil and Claire didn’t want children, began to pray for Claire to have children. Claire was a bit confused by this prayer to say the least! “What are you praying?” On a drive one night, Phil and Claire were talking about the subject of children and Claire said, “What if God wanted us to have children and we aren’t willing to have them; we aren’t open to hearing about it?” Then as simple as anything they said, “Let’s ask God if He wants us to have kids.” Phil prayed a very simple prayer, “Ok God, if You want us to have kids, change our hearts.” An adventurous, dangerous prayer to pray! A week later Claire asked Phil, “Phil, do you want kids?’ and he replied, “Ya, I do!” and Claire’s response to him, “Me too!” That quickly! They were both shocked at their responses because they had been so against having children for so long. There was one problem! Claire was told a few years prior that it would be hard to have children naturally without any medical intervention! Now that they wanted to have a baby they were quite aware of this fact that it might not be possible. During their visit to the UK over Christmas holidays, Claire had a dream that they were having dinner with an older couple they knew in Canada and the couple in the dream prayed for them to have a baby. A couple days after the dream Claire realized that this was an important dream because she remembered that the couple that was in the dream were told they couldn’t have children and yet they miraculously have children today! So Claire knew she had to arrange this dinner. When they got back to Canada they had the people over for dinner and Claire told them the dream, the couple immediately prayed for Phil & Claire to be able to conceive a child. Several weeks later, on Easter Sunday, Claire found out she was pregnant! And you know what happens next, 9 months and sweet Ruby Amelia was born into this world! Beautiful!
Phil and Claire know there are many reasons why they were supposed to move to Canada. The time they spent here was a time of healing for their hearts from past hurts and just what life throws your way. Claire would say she used to be an angry person and had a lot of anger built up in her. It was in this time that she experienced a deep release of that anger. You would think because she had faith to move overseas that she had a great relationship with God but that wasn’t the case. Being in new surroundings, emotionally raw and surrendered, she began to fall in love with reading the Bible, hearing God’s voice and spending time with Him. She cherished these moments. Phil got baptized in Canada and on the night of his baptism their friends gathered around them and laid hands on them and prayed. During that prayer Claire encountered the love of God as never before and she broke down and cried, and cried some more; there was a lot of crying! See, Claire hated crying since she was a little girl as to her it was a sign of weakness, so you can imagine that when she encountered such beautiful love it only broke through the walls that she had built around herself. The love of God passed her mind and infused her heart. Phil was on a similar journey. As God was healing both Phil and Claire individually, He was also healing their marriage. He taught them how to love each other, how to be nice and kind to one another. Claire became more open with Phil, something she was not able to do, as she always wanted to keep herself safe and not let anyone in. They were no longer willing to live selfish lives within their marriage but were now willing to put the other one first.
So one might think that the story is now of them raising their daughter in Canada, but it is not. Phil & Claire have moved back to England. After living in Canada for almost 7 years they had felt a leading and pull to go home to England. They talked it over with friends, prayed with them and they felt it was time. It was a shock to them, as they never expected to move back to the UK, they thought God had led them to Canada. They didn’t anticipate a different direction. However, they are living there and I am excited because now I have more reasons to go back the UK!
My love for this family is huge! They have been so important in my life and have been a sounding board to me through “wondering” times. Their simple faith and obedience is contagious; you think to yourself, “Hey I can believe like that!” They understand the emotion, the questions, and the heartache that goes into leaving your home, family, and comforts to embark on an adventurous path where you do not know the ending.
Sometimes we have to say goodbye to a comfortable life and say hello to one we have no familiarity with. Sometimes we have to trust that this step forward will ultimately open up a door to really living, breathing, creating, healing, identity, growth and beauty. If we knew that these fruits would be a guarantee after such a leap, most would jump quickly into the unknown. Ultimately this is our guarantee; this is our promise, if only we choose to trust. His plans are always better. His plans will always exceed our expectations. His plans will be grander than we could ever imagine. The whole time we are being shaped into the most beautiful edition of ourselves.
He usually draws us away, so He can capture our attention and our hearts.