It always amazes me when I meet someone my age who has lived, with the exception of college, in one place their entire lives.
Growing up, I moved a lot. I lived in five different homes before I got to middle school, six different homes before I graduated high school. Admittedly, these moves were never more than 30 minutes from each other and I never had to switch school districts, but it was still a lot of change for someone so young. Thankfully, God made me pretty resilient, so for the most part I adjusted well. In fact, I don’t ever recall being upset about a single move we made before college. Starting someplace new was an exciting prospect. I always enjoyed exploring my new neighborhood, my new home with all its quirks: cantankerous light switches, the rusted-shut milkman’s door on the side of the house, the rhubarb plant hidden behind the pine trees in the backyard, or the fuzzy cattails near the lake outside that would fall apart under my fingers. I loved taking a new space and making it mine, decorating it with my books and baubles and photographs. It was all an adventure.
The moves didn’t stop after I got to college–since my freshman year, I have lived at seven different mailing addresses (not counting my mother’s home, where I went for two of my summers and one brief month and-a-half stint in the middle of my senior year, or my grandparents’ house, where my father moved last January). Three dorms, three apartments, and one inn in New Jersey. New decorations, new friends, new memories in each other them. By the time I finally graduated from Northwestern, I was pretty used to change, to say the least. In fact, I remember a specific conversation at a church Bible study about a year ago where someone asked the group how well we did with major transitions. I said I did well with them–change was necessary and normal for me at that point. Change was actually one of the only things I could count on. It was expected, welcome even.
Or so I thought.
Two and-a-half months ago, my mother called me on a Thursday night to tell me that they were moving again.
You’d think after all the times I’d moved, after all the places I’ve lived, after living most of the last five years in another state from my parents and legally changing my state of residence, I would have been fine with this. But instead, I found myself crying–sobbing, actually. A lot of what made this move hard were the circumstances–they would have stayed put for a long time, but due to unexpectedly prolonged difficulties, my parents needed to downsize pretty quickly. It was an unanticipated and unwanted change, unlike the other moves. Not only that, but my mom and stepdad had redone literally every room in that house: most recently, their beautiful new master bedroom–and now they wouldn’t even get to enjoy it. It was also hard because my youngest sister would have to move away during her senior year of high school, and even though she would still go to the same school, I knew the stress and the distance from her friends would take its toll on her.
But I think the worst part was knowing that I would have to say goodbye to the place I’d lived for 12 years–the longest time I’d lived anywhere, ever. It was knowing that when I came back to Michigan to visit my family, it would be to a place that had no history for me, no memory, no roots. My last and most significant connection to my childhood would be gone. There would be no going back again.
I cried several times over the next few days. Apparently, I wasn’t as good at change as I thought.
Because even with all the other moves, all the transitions happening around me, my heart had secretly settled down in that one house. No one foresaw that we’d need to move, and we certainly didn’t want to move, so I just assumed we wouldn’t. I had taken it for granted that, at least until my parents decided to retire, the house would always be there even if everything else changed. So when I found out we were moving, it reminded me that God can uproot us and everything we have in an instant, no matter how hard you’ve worked to get where you are or how much you think you deserve it. We can’t earn the right to tell God, “Okay, thanks very much, I’m good where I am and I don’t really want change right now.” There is no work hard enough, no prayer strong enough, no life well-lived enough that promises us a home or prosperity or stability or the comfort of a long-term plan. We need to hold every single thing–our lives and our plans and even our friends and family–loosely.
As if that weren’t enough, the move jolted me awake to other changes that have been happening all around me, some of them thrilling, some of them unwelcome, all of them changes whose gravity I’m not sure I even fully understand. I have waved goodbye to many friends this summer, including one of my dearest friends, Bre, who flew off to Tonga last Sunday to serve in the Peace Corps for the next two years. My dad is planning on moving to Colorado sometime in the future. My youngest sister will finally head off to college next fall. My roommates and I only have one year left on the lease for our beloved Le Chateau, and after that, who knows where we’ll be, or if/when we’ll be able to see each other. After this next year passes, I don’t know how much longer I’ll be in Evanston. Some of my friends are heading off to grad school or taking promotions or starting families or all three. Homes, cities, jobs, finances, churches, families, relationships, friendships–it could all change. And it probably will.
So I have to be ready.
I can’t ignore my life now, nor can I put off preparing for what the future may bring. I have to find the balance of treasuring what God has given me and being present, while also not holding onto anything too tightly and rooting my joy and security in Christ. I need to prepare to potentially say goodbye and find closure and steward the old, while also preparing to say hello, be open to anything, and invest myself in the new. It’s a messy process, but I have faith that God will be with me in that mess. He’ll help me grieve, and move on, and plant myself again, and grow up, over and over.
Even though I’m still trying to figure out what that balance looks like now, I know that I’ll be alright. Yes, I’ll still grieve the loss of our beloved home, and that’s okay. Sometimes, grief is necessary and good. But God is also good. At the end of this move, the house is just a house. At the end of every “move” in my life, I still have what really matters.
Within a few weeks after my mother made that phone call, the house sold. It was a strange and sad feeling, coming home to visit for the first time since the announcement and seeing a “Sold!” sign on my front lawn. It was all happening so fast. And then a couple weeks after that, they bought a condo in a different part of Northville. My mom and stepdad will get the keys to their condo on September 9th, and after that, they’ll move in.
I’ll be heading home this Friday for a week to sort through my things, throw them away, donate them, repack them. My sister called last week to tell me that most of my stuff is already in boxes.
Yes, I anticipate more crying.
But I also anticipate laughing, and painting over ugly wallpaper, and decorating the Christmas tree, and frying eggs on our new stove, and having our dogs run around in the yard and make new dog friends, and climbing the tree in our new front yard. I anticipate old faces and new faces gathered around our table, joking, talking, passing the plates, telling stories.
Our new condo isn’t a home yet–but it will be.
“The House That Built Me” by Miranda Lambert.