Moving is hard.
After my husband’s recent retirement, we made a cross-country move, leaving our home of ten years in Western Illinois to relocate to the Southwest to be near my aging family and hours instead of days from our grandson. We’ve moved seven times in our married life, and I grudgingly admit that moving has caused the most stress in our married life.
I thought I’d be used to moving. For this move, I didn’t have to rely on others to help me pitch, pack, and repurpose my possessions. Retirement looked alluring. I would get to be with my family which was a long time coming. And no more snow or ice!
But it was hard. Really hard.
I didn’t want to get used to a new normal. Even if parts of the old normal weren’t working anymore or had been like a constant pebble in my shoe for the last ten years, I didn’t want to leave. Better the pebble you know than the boulder you don’t know. Or should it be the other way around?
I didn’t want to find a new beautician, make new friends, or acclimate myself to a new grocery store or a big city bank. I wanted to keep having coffee with my girlfriends and meet for Thursday bible study with our gang of God’s girls. Don’t tell me there’s Facebook and Zoom. It’s not the same.
What’s wrong with me?
As I was telling yet another listener the story about my retina surgery that gave me better than ever vision, my own story convicted me. For six months before my retina surgery, I had thought I was losing what limited vision I had in my left eye. I was okay that. Hard to believe, I know, but, I had always understood that my fragile eyesight due to a genetic defect was temporary. God had graced me with fifty-five years of useful vision, far longer than I expected. My life as a legally blind person had been full and fulfilling. So when I realized my vision was deteriorating, I felt deep gratitude for all the years of usable vision I had enjoyed. How could I gripe about something I knew had lasted longer than I deserved? God had been so kind to guide me through years of legal blindness; I knew He would keep taking care of me and using me despite more visual loss. And then He did the incredible by giving me more vision than I had ever had before. I have sung and shouted His praises ever since.
Why couldn’t I have the same attitude about our move?
God had given us ten beautiful, full to the brim years in Illinois. Like life as a visually impaired person, we’d had moments of frustration. Not everything was as we would like it. For the most part, however, the years were good and the relationships were strong. We left with many good friends and happy memories. All along we knew we were aging and that we didn’t want to stay in Illinois forever. From the moment we arrived, we knew our ministry in Illinois, long-term or shorter-term, would be temporary.
It’s all temporary.
You see, all of life is temporary. Nothing is permanent. For any of us.
Your vision is no more guaranteed than mine. Neither is your location, your life, or the strength of your limbs. All are gifts on loan from God. None of us can control the moment any of that ends abruptly or ebbs from us.
None of the rest of life is set in solid, incorruptible cement.
Even towns change. Businesses come and go. Government changes hands and is sculpted according to the political mindset of the incumbent.
How do we cope?
Lest what I’ve said leaves you depressed, be encouraged. The answer of how to cope with life changes lies in the lessons I’ve learned in dealing with my fragile eyesight. here are four insights that can help you cope with whatever life change you face..
1. Hold all things loosely.
All of life is a gift, not a right. God never promised forever on any of it. Some parts of life are more transient than others. If you hold loose reign on the things of this life, it isn’t as life shattering when it slips away from you. You cannot demand God to let you have any of it longer than He deems it best for you to have.
2. Make every day count.
This day will be gone tomorrow. You do not know what will happen even five minutes from now. So, make the most of the moment and do the things that matter.
As I write, I read this morning the story of Dr. Robert Leslie who lost his life after a gunman shot to death Dr. Leslie, his wife, two grandchildren and two workers on their property. Dr. Leslie, author of Angels in the E.R., said this in the beginning of his book: “And I am convinced we need to take the time to say the things we deeply feel to the people we deeply care about.” (Read the news article about Dr. Leslie here.)
Dr. Leslie said that well. That’s a conviction I came to after the tragic death of a close friend. Oh friends, we don’t know when life will end. Let’s give up all the fluffy stuff. Let’s not hold back. No, I’m not promoting an “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we may die” mentality because eating, drinking, and entertainment is so unimportant in the scheme of things. Your relationship with God, where you will spend eternity, and your interactions with people are the lasting things in life. Spend your fleeting moments doing what matters most..
3. Be grateful for what you do have,
instead of whining about what you don’t have. Gulp. Time for me to reflect on gratitude for the last ten years. The list is long. I am so fortunate to have the deep friendships I developed in Illinois. And I will be richer in the leaving, for not only have I been able to have those wonderful friendships; I now have the chance to gather even more friends.
Make new friends
Keep the old.
One is silver, the other gold.
It’s true in the other areas of change as well. In each place we’ve lived, we built memories of happy places: favorite restaurants, parks, stores, and ministries. Now we have the chance to add to that bank of blessings. Already, my husband and I are appreciating the benefits of big city living. We can get to a good burger place in the evening in ten minutes instead of being satisfied with Dairy Queen fifteen miles away. Walks in the evening are an everyday occurrence. And, if we plan it right, driving two miles to the Walmart to do a grocery pick up is easy-peasy.
That’s not to say life is better in Arizona than Illinois. Auto insurance is double the cost. And we have yet to survive the summer’s heat. Small town life it is not. But we’re learning to be grateful for what we have wherever we live. Perhaps that’s the message of I Thessalonians 5:17: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
4. Keep an eternal perspective.
What things do last? What is forever? Invest in and cherish those things.
There’s good reason to reach for the eternal.
“This world is not my home;
I’m just a-passing through.
My treasures are laid up
Somewhere beyond the blue.” – Jim Reeves
Jesus told his followers,
“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”Matthew 6:20,21
Jesus is not telling us we can’t have earthly possessions. He wants us to devalue our possessions and not be devastated if we lose the things of this earth. If we treasure what is lasting, our hearts won’t be broken we we must let go of what has always been temporary.
It’s amazing how an eternal perspective can change how we view the most ordinary parts of life. If my motive is to live according to God’s eternal perspective, then I won’t care as much about my personal preferences and won’t be as disappointed when I have to let go of a favorite service, place, or acquaintance.
Here’s how that works.
My two toughest transitions have been finding a new ophthalmologist and hair stylist. Dr Brody and my beautician, Bailey, were terrific. How will I find anyone to replace them? They knew me and knew my special needs. I had become friends with both of them.
If I’m looking at life through the lens of eternity, I’ll commit my need to God. After all, He knows my needs even better than Dr Brody and Bailey do. He knows where He can use me best in His Kingdom. And my mission in life is not to get good eye care or have a decent haircut. My purpose is to honor God and proclaim his peace. With that in mind I pray, “Lord will you help me find a new doctor and beautician? Lead me to the people You want me to connect with.” And then I leave it with Him and make the most of the day He has given me today. I find satisfaction because I trust Him to take good care of me.
How is life changing for you? How are you reacting to that change, my friend? Is it hard?
Let me encourage you. Take time to thank God for what you’ve had in the past. Now trust Him to provide yet again for you in the future. In the meantime, make the most of the moments God has given you today.