Monday, July 13, 2015

Being Transplanted

My daughter moved back to her home state after living abroad for 6 years, and since the move we've had several conversations about how hard it is to make the change. She feels that she's left part of herself, part of her heart in the country she left. Even though she lived here for 18+ years, it doesn't feel like home anymore. After being here for 10 months she thought that she'd be farther along in this journey of change. She doesn't want to move back abroad, but grieves the loss of that place none the less.

Our conversations have made me think. After reading this blog about living abroad I knew that I wanted to write a blog of my own. So here are a few of my thoughts:

1. You don't need to move abroad to have these feelings. We've moved 3 times in 37 years, the farthest was 125 miles. Each time I felt lost and alone. I needed to make new friends, find a new doctor, join a new church. I didn't have roots in the new place.

2. You don't even have to move to feel uprooted, lonely, unsure. When my husband decided that we needed to attend a different church, I went through a time, a long time, of feeling uprooted. It wasn't easy making friends in the new church, finding a place of ministry where I could belong. It didn't feel comfortable, and I had no history with the people in the new church.

3. Whether you change churches, move to a new neighborhood, move to a new city, or move to a new country, it takes time to feel settled again. Sometimes it takes a lot of time.

4. Moving is like transplanting a tree.

My husband loves trees. He's transplanted hundreds of trees in the 37 years we've been married. Most of the trees he's transplanted have become beautiful mature trees. BUT - they didn't become mature overnight.

When a tree is first transplanted, it doesn't look like much. It's small, immature. Sometimes the tree will even look dry, droopy, wilted. It may look like it's not going to make it. The tree is in shock.

My husband takes good care of his trees. He starts by digging a good sized hole, and adds good black dirt. After he plants the tree he regularly waters it. He checks on it often. He clears the area around it so that it the wind blows through the branches. He talks to it (yes, he really does!) and he even has been known to touch the tree. He gives the new tree a lot of care and attention.

The first year the tree doesn't grow much. Sometimes there isn't even much growth the second year. Then all of a sudden it seems almost like we can watch the tree grow. 

When you move abroad or around the block you are like that tree. It's been a shock- you're uprooted. 
Here are some of my suggestions for putting down roots, experiencing growth after a move.

1. It actually starts before the move. Prepare yourself. Do your homework on the place you're moving to, pack some of your favorite things (don't get rid of all your stuff), and most importantly - pray about the move.

2. After you've moved, make sure you get plenty of exercise. Get fresh air every day, eat foods that are good for you. Feed your spirit too - read God's Word every day, and spend time in prayer. This is like watering a tree.

3. Allow yourself time to adjust. You will need a bit of time to grieve. You may droop a little. There may be days when you wonder why you ever wanted to move. Realize that these emotions are normal. Just don't stay there - don't allow yourself to wallow in this lonely place. Give yourself some "water", some pampering, some "fresh air". Remember that it will take more time then you want it to take. Hang in there. Some people don't give themselves enough time. They move again and again, searching for somewhere that's home. What they don't realize is that they haven't given themselves enough time to put down good roots.

4. Reach for the Son. Just as a tree stretches it's branches to reach the sunshine, so we need to reach for Jesus, God's Son. Allow Him to teach you, comfort you, give you His peace, His hope, His joy.

5. Start to grow. Look for ways you can get connected in the community and in a church. Realize that it will probably take a lot of effort on your part to make friends - since people who've lived there a while have already made connections/friends. Just as trees start to send out little roots, you need to stretch yourself, make connections. Explore your new neighborhood. Start a new hobby. Invite a neighbor to your home. Find somewhere to volunteer. Start to make new memories in your new place.

One day you will realize that it's happened. You feel almost at home in this new place. It may sneak up on you, this feeling like you're finally home. You'll look back and see that you've been growing, and you have new roots. It's time to celebrate!

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