catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 5, Num 11 :: 2006.06.02 — 2006.06.16


On packing boxes and planting roots

I pull a flat box from the back of the closet and fold it into shape.  There should be some ceremony with packing up the first box, I think.  A cup of coffee?  A moment to mourn?  A jig of anticipation?  The kids will wake up soon, so I just get to work.  My favorite books are placed inside and the lid closed.  Off to the next bookshelf.

There are days when I envy my childhood friends who still live in the small town I left twenty years ago.  They have a house by the creek we used to explore, and plan to move into their parents’ rambling old farmhouse in a few years.  I spent hours with them in that house and soon my friends' children will call it home.  For them, old memories are intertwined with new ones.

The memories of the place I’m in are seldom older than five years.  We’ve moved a lot, my husband and I, and I did as child, too.  When I headed off to college, my family relocated to another city, and so an old family farmhouse doesn’t even exist for me anymore.  Some say I don’t have deep roots, and they’re right to some extent.  I’ve been transplanted too many times. 

So why do I get a tingle of excitement when we start talking about another move?  Why is there a jig of anticipation when packing up a box?

A new start can be refreshing.  Jon and I appreciated moving to a new province right after we got married.  It allowed us to be anonymous for a while—no one cared that we were newlywed recluses.  My friend remembers moving during 10th grade and creating a new identity for herself.  “I’m going to emphasize my creative side,” she thought.  And she did—she changed her clothes a little, lifted her chin and loved that her new classmates had no idea that she had been unpopular the year before. 

Entering a new place has made Jon and I a strong team.  When we moved to towns where we knew no one for literally hundreds of miles around us, there was nothing else to do but rely on each other.  There’s a fun “we can conquer the world” feeling when you head off on a new adventure.  I remember laughing as we hopped into the U-Haul a few years ago.   We were leaving the forests of British Columbia and heading to Arizona so Jon could get a Forestry degree, of all things.  We were ready for an adventure!  There was so much to explore! 

This is another reason we enjoy a move—the exploring.  We learn the names of the plants and trees, appreciate mountains and prairies, black flies and tarantulas, rainforest and desert.  In our enthusiasm, I think we see more of an area than many long-term residents ever do.  Within the first weeks of our Arizona move, with boxes still askew in our new apartment, we had seen the Grand Canyon and hiked to the top of the San Francisco Peaks.  We have stood together, as a team, in a sea of grass in the Saskatchewan prairies, in the orchards and lakes of interior British Columbia and in an ancient cave of Arizona.  And not only did we stand there, but we were able to call each place home.  Our roots were not deep, but they were there. 

With each move, we’ve had many experiences.  We’ve been in a downtown city apartment where we walked to cultural events and knew the city bus schedule inside out.  (It was there that a SWAT team yelled at us to “get back in the building” due to a domestic dispute in the next building).  We lived in a cottage with five acres of rolling hills where we gardened and gave jogging a try.  In one city, it took us a long time to find a church.  Without church as a focal part of our lives, I became involved in community events and made many non-Christian friends (a first for me, sad to say).  I re-examined my faith, and read the Bible (not Bible study books, but the Bible!).  With every move, we’ve grown—and also acquired new stories to tell.   

Our final reason for appreciating a move is its ability to help you simplify your stuff.  Organizing, purging, cleaning closet corners…ah, there’s nothing like it!

And yet, despite all this, I do take a moment to mourn as I pack up boxes again.  There are difficulties with each move.

First of all, moving is a pain in the neck!  As wonderful as it is to organize and clean, it’s time consuming.  And now we have three children who want to help: as I put something into a box, the baby pulls it out, the toddler decides she wants to wear it now and the preschooler cries over the “give away” pile.  Yikes.  To physically move all the boxes and clean the house you’re leaving and the one you’re arriving in is exhausting!  And to get a new license, new phone line, etc. ends up being expensive.

Occasionally, what’s hard about moving is the decision-making process leading up to it.  When Jon graduated last year, one job possibility was near my family in a picturesque town with housing we could afford.  It seemed perfect—and I began to pray that this particular place would make a job offer.  Jon had a great phone interview, and then was flown in for an on-campus one.  My prayer became, “Just please let them offer him a job—I know I can convince him to say ‘yes’.”  My prayer was answered—Jon was offered the job, and what followed was one of the most difficult times in our marriage.  Jon didn’t want to go there, just a gut feeling he had.  I was angry that this man—who seldom noticed feelings—would choose this time to have a strong one.  We were a team divided.  But we worked through it, said "no" to the job and went on to have an incredible year in Arizona.

The hardest part for me, though, is to pull ourselves away from a place just as our roots have started to dig deep.  We tend to move when we’re on the verge of really belonging.  I’ve appreciated a quote by Pam Brown, “We have all met someone’s eye and felt a sort of recognition that could have been the beginning of friendship.  But the lights change, the train pulls out, the crowd swirls between you… and you will never know.”  There’s frustration and longing there.  We meet and enjoy many people, and consider several of them to be good friends.  But when our U-Haul pulls out of town, I mourn for relational possibilities that might have been.  There are sincere promises to remain close, but with new friendships, the old take a backseat.

These are the pros and cons we have noticed in our many moves.  But we don’t move every few years merely because our list of pros is longer than the cons.  Having an adventure is not our main goal in life.  Our purpose in life is to glorify God and to live for Him.  We have felt His leading through all these transitions.  Sometimes an opportunity arises and as we investigate it, there are open doors all the way.  We sense God holding us by the hand and leading us through.  Other times the decision is a deliberate one.  Once, I was offered two teaching positions and we struggled with which one God wanted us to pick.  I came up with a Gideon-ish plan—I asked God to have the pastor of our church mention one of the locations in his sermon (which wasn’t outrageous, as he was a little heavy on light anecdotes).  Whichever came up was God’s plan for us.  On this particular Sunday, the pastor’s stories didn’t come close to either town, and after the benediction I burst into tears.  We ended up making our decision based on the job itself, presuming that all other factors (including a job for Jon) would fall into place.  They did. 

I’ve learned to be careful with what I pray.  My prayers to live near my family were selfish ones, and when God answered them, I learned a hard lesson.  I now (usually) want to live where God wants me to be.  And so I pray “Your will be done” and “May your plans for us be made clear”.  It has brought so much peace!  I think peace is key for us—if, after these prayers, we both feel peaceful about a move, we proceed.  To be uncomfortable and scared is fine, but when there’s a lack of peace, we look into it. 

I’m really thankful that God’s plan for us included many moves.  Our marriage has been strengthened by them and I’ve been stretched in many ways.  When I think of who I’d be if I still lived in my childhood community of twenty years ago, I cringe.  My view of the world has become so much bigger.  I’ve been on adventures with my favorite companion, explored neat environments, experienced and learned from a variety of places and people, and simplified my belongings. 

So, as I sit now among boxes and look to yet another transition, I’m excited to see where God will take us.  Perhaps He’s ready for us to settle into an old farmhouse and establish a homestead that our children will come home to.  Who knows—it might be an adventure to grow some deep roots, too. 

your comments

comments powered by Disqus