It’s time for a little Ebenezer raisin’ here, folks.
My soul’s been buckled down, in gear, doing its thing, focused on survival. But the other day I realized it’s been a while since we went dancing. And we have a lot of things to dance about. So pardon me as I recount, for my soul’s sake, a story of how my Jesus loves me? For maybe the music will remind you of something you have to dance about, and we can all enjoy a little shindiggery together.
This is the story of how we came to live in Alabama. It’s time we step back enough to see even the far edges of this miracle.
I have always been afraid of moving cross country. This was not something I labeled my tshirts with, but it was there– a deep down fear. Because, you see, I’ve done my share of moving. Not moving like a military family, that moves constantly–no, I think that if you move that much, you get in the mode a little better. We stayed in places long enough to plant deep roots, and moved just enough to know the horror of it.
When I was five, my father took a job transfer from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to Raleigh, North Carolina. I was young enough that I don’t remember the hassle of packing up a family of six (my younger sister just 3 months old), or of a three day trek north, following a giant moving van to an apartment we’d never seen. But do I remember leaving behind our beloved backyard, complete with in-ground pool where I’d learned to swim like an otter almost before I could walk. I remember leaving a dear little girlfriend, a man who was like an uncle to us, and an adopted grandma who always gave us birthday cards for the wrong year. I remember leaving the cozy little reading nook Mommy had made for my brother and I in the living room, and the spot on the floor in front of the couch where I’d spelled out my first words.
North Carolina was a foreign land. The dirt was red, the ocean was hours away, and the people talked funny. My older brother and I expressed our resentment of everything being so different by refusing–the entire seven years we lived there–to use the contraction, “ya’ll”. We lived in an apartment for 3 months while we house hunted. Oh, and church shopped. Oh my. The house hunting I remember as a fun family outing, but visiting different churches each Sunday terrified me. All those strange people exercising the right to ‘make us feel welcome’ was torture to my shy, five-year-old self.
And then I remember a day, perhaps three years after the move, we were driving down Hillsborough Rd. on our way home from errands, and someone said, “When we get home” and something clicked into place inside me, and I realized that North Carolina at last felt like home. My stressed-out eight-year-old self relaxed just a tiny bit with the realization that we’d made it through the transition.
We lived in NC four more years. Four glorious years–some of the best of my childhood. We had 1.7 acres–a huge lot for a subdivision in the suburbs of the Capitol. It was mostly woods, and we spent the majority of our free time at least ten feet off the ground. Life was a delicious routine of homeschool, chores, quiet time, play time, family movie nights, music lessons, and seeing our friends at church. We played the Alphabet Game on our way back from the chiropractor’s each week, and got our “Q” on the same Quicky Lube sign every week.
Here We Go Again
And then, as if infected with the Seven Year Itch, my parents planned another move. This time I was old enough to understand what was happening. Old enough and experienced enough to know it would mean goodbyes to old friends, awkward acquaintances with new ones, a complete disruption of routine, and a long journey to find a new familiar.
I was thirteen the year we left NC for Upstate New York. But instead of moving from a home to a house that would become home, we sold most of our belongings and left upper-middle class suburbia to cram into a tipi on the top of a hillside, at the end of a 1/4 mile driveway, off a dirt road, in a rural county that didn’t boast a single shopping mall. (Not that I was addicted to mall shopping, I’m just tryin’ to paint a picture for you.)
I remember nearly every agonizing detail of this move. Teary goodbyes, twelve hours’ dreary driving under an appropriately grey sky into an unknown that was so vast, I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. There was absolutely nothing familiar to anchor to. The driveway to our new home was a slough of half-frozen mud that tried to eat the moving truck. Our only acquaintances were reserved almost-strangers we had only met on our scouting visits North the year before. The weather was inhospitable at best, and menacing at worst.
We lived on the homestead for nine years. It took nearly that long for it to feel like home, and often it felt like it only held that title by default.
A Heart Shift
In the next ten years, I moved four times, but these were all in-state moves–from my parent’s home to my new husband’s, from one trailer in his parent’s mobile to the next–no relationships cut off or new geography to learn. I maintained a healthy fear of the dreaded cross-country move I had come to expect as an inevitable part of life.
Then, when I was 25, my God touched my heart and mind and released me from a heavy burden of fear–a debilitating level of anxiety that I’d lived with so long, I didn’t know it was there until it was gone. Suddenly I saw change as not a dread stranger, but a friendly possibility. For the first time in my life, I felt like I could move to a whole new place and even enjoy the process of meeting new people and setting up life in new surroundings. This was such a novel idea, I didn’t half trust it, but part of me thought a cross country move actually sounded like a fun adventure.
We Become Gypsies
In 2012, Jeremy’s parents bought a mobile home park in Alabama, of all places. They had obligations in NY through mid summer, so Jeremy and I headed down to take possession of the park for them by July 1st. We drove our bus and suburban and 3 small children 3 days into the unknown, excited about seeing new places and spending the summer in our beloved bus.
When I stepped out of the car into the driveway of the mobile home park, I thought I was standing in the exhaust from the bus. I looked over and realized I was twenty feet from the bus and the heat hitting me was simply the air. I’d lived up North a long time and had forgotten air could feel this way. Nevertheless, we enjoyed our summer adventure–we met new friends through the blog who led us to a great church in the area, and we made memories on local bike paths and state parks.
We were not at this time planning on relocating. The plan had been:
- purchase a park that needs work
- do the work
- hire manager
- move on to next project
But the more time we spent in Alabama, the more we realized that this particular park wouldn’t be ready to hand off to a manager any time soon, and would need full time commitment for the foreseeable future.
The next year was punctuated by multiple 18-hour trips back and forth to New York as Jeremy helped his family manage the business in NY as well as the park in Alabama. Eventually, his parents sold their NY home and officially relocated to Alabama. We watched rather wistfully, wondering if we would be next, but seeing a lot of obstacles to us leaving NY: there was a business and house to sell, and life-long relationships to part with.
Another Heart Shift
We got through another NY winter–our hardest one yet with Jeremy working seven days a week and me dealing with mold toxicity and the beginning of my 4th pregnancy–and when May came releasing us from ice and the coal business, we couldn’t wait to head south. We had work to do remodeling some homes Jeremy and I owned within the park, so planned to spend another summer in the bus. After a month here, we began to seriously ask ourselves if we should move here. We spent hours discussing it, till suddenly we realized we could weigh pros and cons till we were blue in the face, but we couldn’t see what God could see. So, we prayed a simple prayer–”Lord, guide our hearts.” Within a week we looked at each other and realized the Lord had moved our hearts to Alabama. We wanted to make this our new home.
There were still tons of details and logistics to figure out. Not only did we have a lot of ties in the North, we needed a house down here! We began to take steps toward moving, trusting God would make a way, since we were sure this was where He wanted to take us.
Not soon after, we found a used double wide that I fell in love with. The layout seemed so conducive to life with a young family. We put a down payment on it, and chose a lot in the park to move it too, believing we’d someday call it home.
At the end of summer we said goodbye to family and the church we’d come to love and headed North with the goal to have a baby and pack up our home. I channeled all my nesting energy into packing while Jeremy worked to complete obligations with the coal business. It was a crazy time, and a crazy plan, but we were buoyed by the scent of adventure and the gut feeling that this was God’s best for us.
Six weeks after Lydia was born, friends and family spent two days helping us load our household goods and tools and machinery from the business into two huge moving trucks. The leaving was not easy–I will admit that. On the last day in NY I said some very hard goodbyes to close friends and by the time the last box was shoved into the trucks, I was wrung dry, emotionally and physically on empty. But when we pulled out of the driveway, I felt a wash of peace and joy. Though we were embarking on a honest-to-goodness, 1000 mile relocation, I had the overwhelming sensation of going home.
The closer we got to Alabama, the more excited I became. And when, our caravan of five vehicles finally pulled into the park–a place so far from my old home, and yet so blessedly familiar after spending six months of the last two years camping here–I felt a deep, inner ‘clink’ as my body reunited with my heart and all of me felt right at home.
There was still weeks of hassle and transition–we slept in the bus while we got a trailer ready to be home for us. Then the bus heater quit and we moved into my in-laws for another week until we got heat in our new place. Then it was three weeks of using a chamber pot while they got the septic tank installed. Jeremy still had to make several trips back to NY over the winter and it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t fun to mother four kids single-handedly while my love was miles away. But even in the hardest moments I’ve still smiled when I think how much I used to fear a cross country move, and how, because of the loving care of my Father, the biggest move of my life has been a thrilling adventure.
I love my new home, our church has surrounded us with love and support, and our family is thriving. I don’t know what the future holds, but this experience has deepened my trust in the Father’s love and encouraged me that whatever the next adventure is, I can embrace it joyfully because He goes before me, He stands behind me, and He walks beside me.
And? I say ‘ya’ll’ now. All the time.
That’s what I’m dancing about…how about you? What did God do this week/month/year/decade that reminded you that He’s a loving Father? I’d love to hear! Leave a comment or link to your blog if it’s a long story..like mine.