Holy cow, friends. It's MARCH. I cannot believe A and I have been in Houston for 10 months now. That's almost a year! Have I been walking around on zombie mode this whole time? When I think about it for too long, my head seriously starts to hurt.
This may be foolish, but there's a little part of me that assumes that as we sneak-attack-come-around to our first year living in Houston, I should somehow have moving wisdom and valuable "new girl" experience under my belt. I obviously can't claim to know everything there is to know about the moving process and establishing roots in a new home, but I do occasionally smile when I think about how my journey grew so differently from my expectations.
Unfortunately, most of what I've learned about relocating came to me from stubbornness and large amounts of "doing it wrong." Sometimes, that's the only way to
learn stretch ourselves in this life. It's the painful growing that gets us there.
However, there are those distinct moments when clarity forms, and I'm so grateful to have a person or words on a page teach me something that I didn't have to go through. I highly recommend the book Uprooted: A Guide for Homesick Christians for anyone who moves to a new place, whether he or she is going there with an open mind or kicking and screaming the whole way there.
Are you moving soon, or have you moved recently? Even in the preparation time of a big move, you should read this book. It will prepare your heart and save you from potential homesickness and bitterness. If there's one thing I feel I'm becoming an expert on, it's homesickness. And thanks to Rebecca VanDoodewaard's book, I am learning how to make homesickness easier, and ultimately how to nip it in the bud.
Here are some helpful hints I've come to learn as a Christian during this journey.
Before you move: PRAY, PRAY, PRAY.
If you are a believer and you're planning on a big move, that means in some respect, you've seen the cloudy pillar move, and you're about to enter into a new chapter of life. The most important thing to do now is pray that as you have been called to go forward, you will follow in trustful obedience.
Christians, this is the hardest part of my walk and this experience. It is so tempting to get swept up in the excitement and adventure of it all, leaving communion and conversation with the Lord on the back burner. I can attest from experience that after the excitement of a new place wears off, that trustful obedience doesn't seem as appealing. Pray that he will go before you, prepare your home to be a dwelling place and sanctuary for Him, that He would provide fellowship and a solid church community. Pray that he would give you energy and confidence to step outside of your comfort zone.
Fight the nesting mentality and get plugged in.
This is entirely relevant for me because I am such a homebody. I also know that I am prone to be reclusive. When I am nervous about a new environment, the best way to adjust to change is to make your home as clean, organized, and wonderful as it can be. This in itself is not a bad thing. It's important to set aside time in a new home to rest - to unpack and settle in. Don't move with ambitions that do not leave room for this down time and/or unpacking time.
This mentality, however, can be an excuse to reject the changes around you. If you're anything like me, you'll hold on to what's familiar like a clenched fist, and sometimes the nesting mode can really be a rationalization to never leave your home. Yikes! Give yourself some settle-in time, but make sure to go out and explore those first few days. Walk around some shops, go to the park, shake your neighbor's hand. It's crucial to jump right into your new surroundings; it's just a fine line.
Comparison is the thief of all joy.
Sometimes looking for a new church or ministry can be draining, especially when you come from a church community that you adore and cherish. A and I know all too well that comparison makes homesickness grow and take root. The best way to fight this temptation is to adopt a thankful spirit in all things. Whew.. I can't tell you how often I've failed at this. But, I can tell you that the times that I took my own advice resulted in days filled with joy and love.
It's easy to focus on your frustrations. It may rain everyday where you are. You may come from a smaller place and move to a sprawling city where you have to drive on some serious highways for thirty minutes just to get to church. But you know what? There's more to it than that.
Pointing out how this new place is different and unattractive to you is unhelpful. God made the people in His own image and even this place is created for His Glory. I can point out the sin in this city, as all places and people (including me!) are covered in, but we cannot forget common grace. God is doing some incredible work here in Houston. I can either choose to let my frustrations of what I dislike to grow or I can focus on the good. I need to look for His grace and provision wherever I go, and you do too!
Also, it's important to note that we shouldn't idealize the place where we used to be. Remember that even in the place you are most familiar, you had struggles and difficulties there, too. No matter how wonderful that place was, it was not heaven. Don't make it your heaven!
Do not fall into self-pity.
One of the worst things we can do when we move to a new place is think about ourselves all the time. Being inwardly focused is important to some degree; we need to be in tune with the Spirit and what's going on in our hearts so that we are mindful of sin and proactive in repentance. But thinking about yourself too much -- whether you like it here or not, or whether people like you or whether you want to go home or not -- obsessing over these things will only increase homesickness. Not only does self-pity make room for loneliness and depression, it stunts new relationships.
I could go on and on about how to spend your time and what to meditate on when you move to a new home. In fact, I hope to post more helpful tips to keep in mind as I continue on in this journey. The most important piece of truth I grasp onto during this transition time is this: God has given me a beautiful opportunity to taste the riches of His grace in a whole new way. If I can leverage my homesickness and transfer that longing to focus on our true longing for heaven, I am blessed beyond my wildest imaginations. It is true that wherever we live on this earth, this place is not our home. How much more should we long for our heavenly dwelling with our Creator?