10 Tips To Help You Through a Tough Move
Research shows that moving is considered to be one of the top five most stressful life events. And if you have ever moved, (especially cross-country) you are probably nodding your head in agreement. Stressful isn’t the right word to explain a big move. It feels more like a trauma – especially the tough moves that call us to leave the places we love.
About three years ago, my husband and I moved from Los Angeles area to Illinois with our 8- month-old daughter. We lived in the LA area for almost 10 years. We loved our home. We loved our church. But, we were not in the kind of financial situation that would provide for a family. After a lot of praying about the future, a job offer came in from my hometown in Illinois. We knew it was where God was leading us in the next season of life. So we packed up our little house and moved to Illinois on January 27, 2015. You can read more about this here.
Even though I moved back to familiar place, it has still been a long road. We learned a lot about grieving, love, friendship, hospitality, community, snow... But because of our friends, neighbors, church, and family, this place has become home.
In honor of being here three years, I decided to write out 10 things I learned from my moving experience. If someone out there has recently had a tough move or is about to move, I hope there are a few tidbits here that will give you some encouragement as you begin this new adventure. (Side note: I haven’t mastered all this advice by any means. The Lord has to teach and re-teach me things over and over.)
1. Be Patient.
It takes a lot of time to rebuild a life and make new friends. I found it wasn’t fair to compare my “new” friends in Illinois with the deep friendships I made in California over the last 10 years. Good things take time, so it is okay if your new home doesn’t feel like home and your new friends don’t feel like best friends right away. I found that the passing of time is the only thing that can really help with feeling more settled.
2. Be Open.
I don’t know about you, but my best friends are usually people who I wouldn’t expect I’d be friends with when we first met. Don’t close yourself off to people just because they are different or not someone you would picture yourself being friends with.
3. Be You.
Don’t change who you are to fit in with a new crowd. Be the same person around your new friends that you would be with your old friends. Someone once told me “like attracts like.” Basically, this means that you will find people who get your sense of humor, your hobbies, your little quirks and they will love you for it. And, you will love them for theirs.
4. Be Agreeable.
Say “yes” to everything. Say yes to that essential oils party. Say yes to that lunch invitation. Say yes to serving in a ministry that is begging for help. A month or so after we moved, my husband and I went to a birthday party where we only knew the birthday boy and his wife. I remember walking in with that gut-wrenching feeling of knowing NO ONE. But you know what? It was totally worth it because it was at that party where we met some of our very best friends. The only way you will make friends is to get yourself out there!
5. Be Present.
Early on, I often found myself living in regret or living with the hope that maybe someday I would end up back in California. I realized the Lord was calling me to let that go and be present wherever I was. It is good to live in a new place with the attitude that you will be there forever. It helps you invest in friendships and community instead of living for what might happen in the future. But honestly, it is hard to let go of the past because it requires us to grieve. Henry Nouwen has a great quote about grief. He says, “In the tears of grief, the message is 'it is gone. I have to let go.' This dance of valuing the past, holding on to what is good from it, and taking it forward into the next investment of the heart, making room for the heart's next chapter, is some of the best work of grief.” Allow your heart to be present in this new chapter that the Lord has opened for you and your family.
6. Be Honest.
There will be days of sadness, depression, and maybe a little anger. If this is a tough move, you will ask yourself, “Why did we move here?” It is okay to have those feelings, but be honest about your process with the Lord. God doesn’t want you to paint on a happy face every time you are grieving. He wants you to invite Him into that grief. That begins by just being honest with Him each day about what you are feeling.
7. Be Thankful.
It is easy to focus on what you left behind or lost after a move. But you moved for a reason – what can you thank God for in this move? What are the good things about it? A grateful heart is good medicine for the soul. Focusing on the positive parts of my move were helpful tools to protect me from self-pity and despair.
8. Be Brave.
Go to that party you were invited to – even if you only know one person. Try out that new class – even if you feel like a dork. Invite that neighbor over for coffee – even if they say “no”. Swallow your pride, put on your big girl pants and jump in. There were social gatherings, classes, or activities I took my daughter to that I was SO nervous about. I had to ask the Lord to help me be brave and remember that He is right there with me. And you know what? Most of the time, it ended up being great.
9. Be Optimistic.
When my move was fresh, I felt so much peace from holding onto the theological truth that God is good and wants good things for my life. There have been many hard days where this truth was the only thing that kept me going. I do not believe God would move you to a place unless he had some kind of good for you there in the future.
10. Be Eternally-Minded.
One of my all time favorite quotes is from Dallas Willard: “It’s not what you do; it’s who you become. That’s what you will take into eternity. You are an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe. Your soul is not just something that lives on after your body dies. It’s the most important thing about you. It is your life.”
I often had to remind myself that my identity wasn’t in being active in a church, being a spiritual director, or a Californian. Those things were important, but they didn’t define who I was. What is important is focusing on who you are becoming. God will use this move to shape your soul in new ways, and that is what you will take into eternity. So remember, no matter what, the Lord is doing great work in your heart. And, that alone is exciting.
I hope something here struck a cord in your heart. If you are in the throes of a big move, I pray that God will give you hope and encouragement today. If you are already settled in your community, keep an eye out for the new folks. Invite someone over even if you feel like you don’t have room for any more people in your life. You just might be pleasantly surprised at what God will do with your willingness.