Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
Don't ask me why I did it, but the other day, I decided to count up how many times I've moved in my life. I made up the rules as I went. Rule #1: I had to actually move either all of my own belongings, or all of the household from one physical address to another (no, moving from room to room inside a house doesn't count, AND, teacher friends, moving from one room to another inside the same school doesn't count either). Rule #2: I couldn't count the same address twice, even if I moved out then moved back in again.
Grand total? Thirty-three. Yup, I said it. Thirty-three times.
And here's the kicker. Spoiler alert... I am fifty-six years young, so that averages out to a move every 0ne-point-six-nine-seven years (rounded, of course!). However, as you know, statistics can be deceiving. I actually spent 11 years in the same house when we lived in New Jersey, which included all of my elementary school and middle school, and I spent four years at the same address in Phoenix. More about the high school situation following... But, that does something to the true average, doesn't it? If I take away those 15 years, and the two moves, the truer picture is move every one-point-three-three years. No wonder I get antsy after living in the same place for a year or so...
Places? I was born near Chicago. Before I turned two, we moved to New Jersey. My dad was transferred from New Jersey to Arizona with his job in the fall of my freshman year of high school. Honestly, I wish I could count the different high schools as moves, so as a cheat, I'll just try to explain.
See, Phoenix was a rapidly growing city in the 70's and my sister and I are only a year apart. So, common-sensically (new word, get used to it), mom enrolled us both in the not-yet-built high school that was to serve our area. Thunderbird High School. Because the building wasn't yet completed, we were on split sessions with the previous-area high school - Moon Valley High School, the one that was bursting at the seams from the rapid growth of the city. Come to find, my sister, a year older than me, was actually supposed to be a student at Moon Valley. She was part of the last class from our neighborhood to graduate there. AND, come to find, I wasn't really a student of Thunderbird because there was still ANOTHER school to be built. Greenway High School. So, in my freshman year, I attended a school in New Jersey until we moved at the end of September, and was a student of Thunderbird High School on split sessions with Moon Valley students on their campus until April when Thunderbird opened its campus. The following fall, Greenway opened its campus and we settled into being the first class to graduate.
After graduation, I went to Brazil as an exchange student for a year. I arrived and stayed with a wonderful family in Rio de Janeiro for a month of intensive language training (Portuguese), and then flew to a small city in the northeast. Yes, I am counting the stay in Rio. But I won't count it twice - you'll see why in a sec... I lived with a family in Maceio, the capital of the state of Alagoas, for about four months before I was granted the opportunity to move back to my original family in Rio. See, according to Rule #1, I can't count moving back to the same place. However, I moved with this family when they sold their apartment and bought a new one in a nicer area of the city.
At the end of the year, I traveled back to Phoenix (Rule #1), and prepared to go to the University of Arizona in Tucson in the fall. Tucson counts as a move, although I only stayed there one semester. Quite honestly, I felt like I needed to be with my family. So, back to Phoenix - doesn't count. After a semester at home, I was ready to leave the nest again. I enrolled at Arizona State University, and made arrangements to live with my cousin and her husband. By the time I graduated, I had moved with my cousin's family from a small condo to a house. Then I took off on my own, renting a garage apartment, and finally moving into a house with three roommates. Side note - I also changed majors a couple of times. I wonder if I should count intellectual moves, right?
Are you getting bored yet? The count, by the time I graduated college at 23, is ten places, nine moves. After college, were three different apartments in Colorado (and two different jobs). Then I spent five months with my grandmother in Indiana - she had suffered an aortic aneurism and needed live-in help. Why not? Right? OK, so I moved back to Phoenix, staying with my family until I could get my own place. Four jobs and five apartment/houses later, I met and married. In the space of six years, we moved to Illinois, then to Wyoming, then back to Phoenix. By the time we divorced, my daughter was three. The official count stands at 23 places, 22 moves, which includes six states and two countries.
My daughter and I moved into a roommate situation in a condo in Phoenix. I knew I needed to go back to school in order to find a viable career to support us. I found a trailer with a small yard that I could afford, and took out a loan to get my teaching certification. I met my favorite Army guy; we married and I started teaching. In 17 years of teaching, I have changed schools eight times. Fast forward to today, I have had teaching certificates in Arizona, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and now, New York. Four of them are current.
Before he rejoined the Army, my man and I moved again - this time from Phoenix to Flagstaff. Once into an apartment, the second time, into a trailer. Then the military moves began. We rented a house while he was stationed at Fort Campbell. At Fort Hood, we lived on post for a couple of years, then bought and remodeled a house where we stayed for three years. In Virginia, we were supposed to get housing on post, but circumstances put us on a wait list that would have meant temporary housing for over a month. So we rented a house. Then we bought a house. Then my husband got orders for a change of station to Fort Drum. We are on post here. Grand total, 34 places, 33 moves.
So, what have I learned? What can I share?
1. Home is not a place, it's a combination of the people you surround yourself with and your attitude. My husband and my daughter are my home. There was a time, during all of the moving around, when I was not a believer. I am now. Thankfully, I also know that Jesus is my home - there is always room in His arms to rest and recharge. He is a faithful guide and companion.
2. Take it one step at a time. Anything is do-able if you break it up into do-able pieces.
3. You will always use more boxes than you think you need.
4. Don't pack book boxes too heavy.
5. Pack boxes full, so they can stack and not crunch down. Don't skimp on packing paper. You use it to wrap and protect, but you can also crumple it into a ball to fill awkward spaces inside boxes.
6. Use lots of crumpled paper in dish packs. It keeps them light enough to move, and sturdy enough to stack.
7. Invest in good packing tape and a sharpie. Label your boxes. Label your boxes. Label your boxes.
8. I need a view and light. I am not happy in a home without them. It took me awhile to learn this; if I had known earlier, I might have saved my family a few moves.
9. Surround yourself with familiar and loved scenery. Hang pictures on the walls. I enlarge and frame many of my photos - this doesn't have to be expensive. Look for half-price deals and use poster frames. I have also used the engineer print service to blow up black and white pictures.
10. Start your church hunting as soon as you arrive. We have been introduced to more good people and good community activities and events through churches then through any other organization (save work...). Visit as many as it takes to find your church home. Stay when you recognize your family.
11. Keep your medical records, financial records, and vital papers in a safe, transportable file. You don't want to have to hunt through (remember - label those boxes...) boxes to find them.
12. If your occupation requires state certification (as does teaching), start the process early. Some states take awhile and you can't apply for a job unless the certification is in place.
13. Keep your sense of humor. I'll never forget moving from Flagstaff to Tennessee. My husband and I had literally thrown all of our household goods into a big U-Haul truck and were hoofing it across country. We couldn't miss the sign for a Toad Suck Park as we drove through Little Rock, Arkansas.... I'm sure there's a good story behind that one. I couldn't figure out if Suck was being used as a noun or a verb, and couldn't keep a graphic picture out of my mind illustrating what was happening to toads in that park. We laugh about it to this day.
14. No matter where you live, in whatever circumstances, find the beauty around you - even if it's a weed that springs up in glorious color. God's handiwork is amazing. Look at the details. Take pictures.
Bottom line, what's the take away? Moving is considered a major cause of stress. It is important to know what your non-negotiables are. For me, it's a good church, a house with a view and some natural light, and my family. Your family and your spiritual life are your constants.
We change. Our circumstances change. Our physical homes change. Our jobs change. Our children change.
God never does. He. Is.
Linking with RaRaLinkup at Katie's Place