After living in three different homes in less than a year-and-a-half, our family is finally putting down roots. At the end of 2015, we dismantled our lives of over a decade in urban Dallas and decided to move to middle Tennessee (just south of Nashville) where I had previously lived in college and as a young single. After selling our beloved home and family business, we jammed our stuff in a POD a la Tetris and headed northeast down I-30 without a new job or home in sight, driving towards opportunity, possibility, rolling hills, and four seasons. We still had close, lifelong friendships and community in Tennessee, but everything else was completely and utterly unknown.
The month before we moved was one of the most stressful times of my life. A dear friend from Nashville flew in to help me pack, yet the concerns still mounted and the difficulties piled on. We lived out of suitcases with family in Dallas for a month while our house was on the market, and I attempted to continue homeschooling our kindergartener while my husband worked 70 hours a week at a consulting job for extra money. And then, I got pneumonia.
The ground beneath us looked as if it had been harrowed, the stability we’d clung to all but broken into pieces. Unlike a plough which tills the deep soil, a harrow is for breaking up and smoothing out the surface soil. See, on the deepest level, we trusted God and had an abiding faith that was the undercurrent of our lives. But the surface was completely shaken up. How would we trust Him with these details, like where we would live in Nashville? What would we do about our dog? How would things settle financially after selling our business?
I’m here to let you know that whatever transition you’re experiencing right now, God knows. Maybe it’s something big like a new job/vocation, moving into a new home or across the country, changing schools for your children, or adding a child to the family. Or something more personal, like changing to a new way of eating or living.
Whatever it is, transition and upheaval can make or break you. I thought I’d share some things learned along the way to navigate these uncertain transitional times:
1. Stay close to Jesus. Particularly during times like these, I find myself drawing closer to Jesus the Son, as He knew transition and upheaval and instability. He didn’t settle in a place for long. The Son of Man who had “no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20, NIV) is our brother, walking through tough days with us, alongside us, and He understands.
2. Remember the Lord goes before you. During our big move, I also clung to Deuteronomy 31:8: “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8, NIV) I kept this free lock screen on my phone as a reminder and looked at it multiple times a day. Whatever change or transition you’re going through, He walks ahead of you, and none of this is a surprise to Him. God has this. He will take care of the tiniest details. He will not leave His sheep without a shepherd!
3. Stay close to each other. At the beginning of our marriage, my husband and I decided that “we’re always on the same team.” In other words, we made an intentional decision to draw together in times of family transition rather than letting it drive us apart. It’s not easy, but I can’t emphasize enough how much it helps when everyone is holding hands vs. each going their own way.
4.Let kids be kids. Don’t assume your children are having a hard time with the transition or change. Sometimes I caught myself putting feelings onto my daughters that they didn’t have, just because I was experiencing them. While I was worried about where my husband would get a new job or what our rental house would be like, our girls didn’t have the smallest thought or worry about it. When they saw our new rental home, it looked like a palace – a new place to play and explore.
On the flip side, our kids need a safe place to express hard feelings when they do arise. When my oldest daughter would mention, “I miss our old house and friends,” I let her know it’s okay to feel that sadness and confessed that I, too, missed a lot about our old lives. But I knew God was going to take care of us as we settled into our new home, environment, and community. I wanted her to know that I didn’t have it all together either, but I was trusting the Lord to be our strength and guide.
5. Keep family rhythms and values near. Author Sally Clarkson often describes how her family moved 17 times while her kids were growing up, 6 times internationally. Yet they learned how to take their “family culture” and stability with them. In her book, The Lifegiving Home: Creating A Place of Belonging and Becoming, Clarkson says they didn’t have a static home for long, so they “focused on creating home out of less tangible materials – traditions, habits, rhythms, experiences, and values.” This gave their children security and stability amidst all the transition. As soon as we arrived in Tennessee, we immediately started surrounding ourselves with the things we love that bring us joy: our favorite coffee, finding the best local parks and hiking trails, small road trips to explore, reading our favorite children’s books aloud. Until we were reunited with all of our belongings, we took “home” with us.
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So here’s how the story continues…
We jumped into our new life in Tennessee, and despite all the uncertainty, God provided in every way we needed, yet not exactly how we’d expected. Even though I fought the change a lot of the time, He showed me how it was all for a greater purpose and ultimately for the good of our family.
Even though our home is rooted now, more transitions are on the way for us, because that’s just life. As we wade through the rocky topsoil with the Lord, we don’t have to be afraid of change. After all, the harrow is preparing the bare land to plant seeds that will, at the right time, grow into something healthier, stronger and more beautiful.