by Martha Chambers
Susan, I should have had your book [After the Boxes are Unpacked] about 10 moves back! I had to learn all of this by trial and error. I just finished reading it – a friend of mine lent this to me a year after we moved to Spain as missionaries.
Besides moving a lot, while we were doing deputation we were house-sitting. I counted at one point I had learned to cook in 13 kitchens in 18 months! When we settled for a whole year in the same little cabin, I kept opening the wrong drawer looking for things!
I always knew when I was “okay” and done unpacking when I could bake a batch of cookies. Now, in Spain that was a little more difficult. The ingredients aren’t the same, so you need to add more flour… and the oven doesn’t have a thermostat so it’s hard to get the temperature right… but you know, they say you won’t get Alzheimer’s if you keep your mind active by learning another language and doing puzzles…. They didn’t tell you that you won’t get Alzheimer’s if you keep moving. I’m sure that’s worth a few Sudokus!
Susan, at the end of your book you say you want our survival tips. Here are a few:
Mental and emotional self-care
- One gentleman wisely advised us not to constantly think of what we were leaving, but rather on where we were going.
- Remind yourself that the renovations you just did, the garden you just planted, etc, were not a waste of time or money if you were honestly in God’s will. God will use them. I really didn’t want to move away from my new vegetable garden, but the family with 6 children REALLY were blessed by it.
- Moving houses within the same town can be almost as stressful as moving to a different town. Don`t discount the trauma of that.
- Every time we moved I was pleased that I could again “start over” and prioritize my time.
- One friend reminded me that crying is good for you – and if you need to cry anyway, remember to cry for all those things you never allowed yourself to cry for but you probably should have.
- People wonder how we can leave our children (in their 20s and not married) and live overseas. Well, some people won’t ever leave their house and visit their neighbors across the street. It’s always easier to do something if you know God wants you to do it. I’ve never been more content than when I’m where God wants me to be.
Moving with kids
- “Pretend” you’re going on a vacation. Check out fun places to go and things to do.
- I had just finished reading “The Prayer of Jabez” when we needed to announce to the children that we were moving. Of course they were “never ever going to move again,” but I challenged them with: if God has a greater blessing in the new town we’re moving to, where would you rather be?
- The next move, I had to remind MYSELF of this very same quote because I was the one who had put roots down deeply.
- For children, make sure they have something to really look forward to. One daughter said she “Wasn’t going to move unless they had Spanish language classes.” Guess what? We phoned the new school and they did have Spanish classes! One new school had an awesome climbing wall.
- In getting your children to try new things, we would insist they go once, then they could decide if they liked it.
- In finding a new church, do think of the children. You can find a Bible study at a different church if you need it, but the children need a place to belong. One church didn’t have a Sunday School class for 12 year olds. We found a different church. In one town we really didn’t enjoy the music at the church the children were most comfortable with. Now the children have grown up and we can find whatever music we like! We never felt at home until we found “our” church. And do pray about it!
- One time, my husband moved about 6 months ahead of the rest of us because we didn’t want to take the children out of school. I learned to be very independent of my husband. When the rest of us caught up with my husband I didn’t work right away and I would meet him every day for lunch by the river. I’d pack a lunch and we’d sit and talk, or we’d just sit. Some people joked that we were being “so romantic,” but we were really doing what was necessary to reconnect. Some days we had nothing to say. We had to learn to work together again.
- The next time there was a job change in the middle of a school year we didn`t wait until the summer to move. Even though one child threatened to “run away from home.” I knew we needed to move together as a couple. And God was good. The child who wasn`t going to come with us is the one who told us two months later, “I probably shouldn`t tell you this, but I`m sure glad we moved!!!”
- In finding new friends, look for people who are also newcomers, they won’t have the overfilled social schedules like the old-timers do.
- I found an awesome new friend in the grocery store. You’ll need to ask someone where things are – don’t look for an employee, look for someone not in a hurry. The gal I met in the grocery store knew where the soy sauce was; she loved to garden, cook, and quilt – and she needed someone to practice on for her new technique in massage … aww!!!
After the move
- When you’re unpacking, as best as you can, have one room with no boxes. One room that is a sanctuary in your mess. Could be the living room or den. One room where you can have a cup of tea and it’s “okay” and you can’t see the mess. If you can’t close a door, at least have a chair to sit in that faces away from the mess.
- Hang some pictures before the boxes are all unpacked.
After enough moves we can look back and see God’s reasons for many of them. We don’t always know all the reasons, but there is one: there’s never a place I want to stay if God wants me somewhere else.
Well, I`d better quit before I write my own book….
Thanks for the book, Susan.