I sometimes dream of a life in which I would have grown up in one home, a bedroom I could still go to and run my finger across trophies and ribbons or just curl up on the pink lacy bed and take a nap. That same dream applies to the kind of life I wonder if I would have enjoyed now in adulthood, the kind of life I could have given to my daughter. That is simply not the case.
Instead I had a childhood filled with adventure. My parents worked hard and leveled up often, making interior design my unspoken skill set because I got to reinvent my room every time we moved. From birth to present, I have moved 16 times. The longest stint in one place was 9 years, beginning the year I got married. You can see that I married stability, but stability is a state of mind more than brick and mortar. Just shy of a decade with one another, my husband and I felt God call us into an adventure that led to the 13th move of my life.
Lessons Learned in Change
I have many fond memories of each place I have lived. In one room I had posters of cats that I purchased during the Scholastic Book Fair week at school. In another room I had a pink tape deck radio with a play button that was teal. In one home I had a 3-foot Barbie condo and in another there was my first telephone: the base was a large plastic cloud, the receiver was a rainbow, and the push buttons were shaped like raindrops. In every bedroom I called my own, there were always books, some kind of mirror, and the bedding of my choice. And there was Jesus.
I started talking out loud to Jesus when I was 6 or 7. I would go in my room and tell Him what I was doing, what I was thinking about, and what the desires of my heart were. I still do this now. I picture Him getting in my car with me, buckling up in the passenger seat, and then we chat while I commute.
Here are the things Jesus has taught me about moving, about change, about unexpected and unforeseen circumstances:
He is always near.
Admittedly, one of my gifts is faith—I just know to my core that the Trinity has always been and forever will be. Even when I stop and consider for one moment that maybe it is all accidental, I crack up in about two minutes. There is too much intricate design and beauty in absolutely everything to waste another second believing it has not been purposed and not only made from a magnificent Creator but created for His enjoyment and ours. Plus the billions of things that work together with such vastly different origins, intent, or execution would be laughable without the pencil and drawing board of the Lord, without thought, feeling, and opinion in perfect union.
God's Word says He is omnipresent, meaning He is everywhere, and that is so neat of Him. He IS everywhere, and specifically He is near.
He calls us to celebrate what He is doing.
God is so clear that His ways are not our ways, that He does not think like we do. He has proven time and again to me that He is faithful.
My first college of choice sent their response in a small envelope. What a heart-sinking day. It was a season of running to the mailbox and hoping for acceptance letters and getting them for choice number 2 or choice number 4. What a complete joy to be able to have choices and to get accepted. But choice number 1 came with one page, one “Dear Christie, Thank you for taking the time to pursue our school. At this time we are unable to present you with enrollment and wish you well in your pursuit of higher education…” Tears of disappointment, rejection, a crumpled-up dream. And then that night, while I grieved the dream, God replaced that dream with a new one. He gave me hope for the college I did get into, and He started pulling levers and turning dials that I could have never anticipated. I was offered a job on campus before school even started, I was able to live with extended family, which was like salve to my homesick heart, and I was able to pick a major that I never would have had the opportunity at the first choice school.
Slowly the Lord showed me what He was doing, and I began to celebrate.
Bitterness is not a pill I want to swallow.
Well I did swallow it, and He helped me cough it up. Gross, I know. But seriously, when you identify that you’ve ingested an ugly trait in the world, name it and give it the boot.
I was starting to become a person who had what I called a “two-cent comment” for everything. People would talk, and I would say a one-liner that would put them in their place. Often it would make others around us laugh, but to the person receiving the comment, it was slicing. This is the shadow side of wit. Wit is using words and ideas in a catching and clever way to create humor. Affirmational wit is like pure gold to the receiver, but when it is meant to cut, it is damaging and sometimes beyond repair. I was damaging friendships with my sharp tongue, and I knew I needed to spend time with Jesus looking into my soul and figure out why I was deflecting my pain onto others. That fleeting second of getting a group of people to laugh at the expense of the recipient was not healing the pain inside of me. It cost me a friendship, and I wanted to be better and do better.
I confessed that the lack of stability in my life with all my moves had allowed seeds of bitterness to plant; as they grew they had manifested into me being sharp but relishing in making people laugh. Isn’t that always how Satan works? A good thing, laughter, quickly become bad because it was obtained at the belittling of others. I laid it down and picked up a zipper for my lips and realized that matters undealt with in my life led to unhealthy consequences.
Pray—truly, deeply pray.
While I started talking aloud to Jesus when I was a child, I really began to explore praying as a result of a move in college. I was in a home with several friends but had the opportunity to have my own room. This was the first time I’d had my own room in five years, since leaving home, and I was so grateful. I would sit in the middle of my bed and pray. I would pray Scripture, I would pray various methodologies, I would lay my soul bare and come up so refreshed and renewed and encouraged. This was the season when I transitioned from praying for a list of things I needed to confess followed by a list of things I wanted and started to pray to be used by God for His work. I prayed for His will and His wisdom, His strength and His understanding. I would ask God to help me see Him at work in my daily life and to open my eyes to His earth. I asked Him to show me people and what they might need in a moment.
If I had not moved into that house, I imagine God would have taught me some other way, but I am certain He opened up that room in that house so He could teach me to pray.
Time to Move Again
I have something to tell you. We just moved again. God has called our family to a new chapter of ministry, and that had the domino effect of a physical move. I am keenly aware of the dreamy neighborhood I just left and the very real impact this change is having on our daughter who is about to enter high school. With such joy, I can share that she has already made the freshman swim team at her new school and she has come home to declare that she has locked in at least one person to have lunch with on the first day of school. (Might we all remember how vastly important these details of life were at 14 years old.)
However, that joy has come after I have cried tears over the loss of the ministry God had allowed me to be a part of before this call. The fruit-filled ministries that I will no longer be a part of each week and the fact that I will simply miss the women is something I needed to grieve. Sure, I can reach out, and we will be near enough to have lunch or dinner every now and again, but the weekly engagement, doing life together, I will lose. I am in the recognized chapter of grieving that comes with a move. But do you know what I love about grieving? It is a representation of a deep sorrow. It means I loved deeply and I was loved well back. It means that that I plugged in and was vulnerable when Satan tempted me to hold back. It means I gave everything God asked me to give to His people for such a time as this. I grieve so that I can remember, so that I can share my thankfulness that He used me to do His work in this place.
Alternately, our new ministry is filled with the most lovely people. Kind, self-aware, Jesus-loving humans. God has made a way for me to love and be loved by all new people. In all my prayers for God to lead us to His ministry, I am yet again amazed by His adding our puzzle pieces to this church. It is beyond what I could imagine. As I step into each place I am called to serve, I am blown away by His grace to create a space for relationships that are already blossoming. In His nearness, He reminds me that His ways are above my ways and truly, truly, I am so glad they are.
Will you pray over my family as we go from stepping stone to stepping stone this summer and fall? Pray that we will settle nicely into our new neighborhood, that though the boxes are emptied and things are put away, it will feel deeply familiar. Pray that the ministry we do with and at our church will be a light on the hill to the city, that He will use all of our church effectively to reach all of our community. Would you pray that our hearts are overwhelmed by celebrating what God is doing? I will forever be in your debt and am humbled by your intercession.
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