So You’re Moving

A friend of mine (who’s moving across the country this summer) asked me to write a little something about moving. I grew up in a military family, and we moved quite a bit the first eighteen years of my life. I learned a few things as a kid, but I’ve learned even more as we have had families move in and out of our community the past thirty years.

The first thing I will say about moving is a little golden nugget I learned from my mom and she learned from hers. When you move to a new place, get to know everyone. Then, choose your friends carefully. Don’t just fall into friendships with the first people you meet. Take your time.

When I was a kid, moving was an adventure. Even if it was a new place, I knew my family would be there, so that kept me from being too scared about it. My parents were my anchor, and they were rock solid, so I didn’t feel at sea. That’s a very big deal for a little kid. So if you are moving your family, pay attention to the little ones. Let them know you are all moving together. Don’t let them feel isolated or alone.

The next thing is this: keep your head about you. Do not have idealistic ideas about the new place. Don’t assume it’s a paradise, because if you do, I guarantee that you will be mighty disappointed sooner or later. Probably sooner. Be realistic. People are people everywhere. No church, no school, no community is perfect. Not even close.

Don’t take one person’s word for “how we do things around here.” I’ve heard some pretty crazy things under this heading. So watch out for the person who wants to be the spokesman on behalf of the church or the school or the whole town. When someone tells you, “At this church we all  home-school,” and she implies with a knowing look that you had better too, beware. Or if she says, “We all bake our own bread and make our own toothbrushes,” please don’t assume she’s really the delegate everyone was hoping to send out to greet the newcomers.  Whenever there’s a  “We all (fill in the blank) and you had better too,” think to yourself, “Says who?”  Please don’t listen to those people. Unless of course, it is the pastor of the church you just visited. If it is, then do go visit another church next Sunday.

Finally, and this may sound very uncharitable, but beware the friendly person who over-welcomes you. Accept reasonable help and hospitality, but be wise. Often it’s the over-doer who has some kind of agenda, and you don’t want to be surprised when you find out what that agenda is. And the agenda may simply be that this is a needy person who needs to feel important. Don’t let yourself or your family be “mothered” by someone you don’t even know. Or someone you do know. Keep your family government in order.

Be patient. It takes time to get acquainted with a new community. Don’t assume that everyone is way ahead of you or way behind. Just look and wait and take it all in. Then make a judgment after a month or two. Or three.

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21 thoughts on “So You’re Moving

  1. This is such great advice!
    I have moved from place to place all my life, (and am preparing to move from Toronto to Spokane in ten weeks) so I know the truth of what you have posted here.

    All of the points you have made will make a big move an easier move, particularly for a family.

    In my experience, the transition phase lasts for two years, so it might be good to keep this list posted on the fridge at the new house for a while to keep it all fresh in our minds.
    Thank you for posting this, as there are so very many people on the move over the summer.

  2. I echo the “two year” thought. Moving is hard business, but it can also be a fun adventure. We’ve moved a great deal and I’ve grown and thrived in every location. (Well, there was that ONE place…) I am so thankful to be finally planting roots. Grow roots, grow.

  3. I’ve moved a lot too and I have to agree with the all of the advice given. We also have adopted the two year rule – as in, give it at least two years before you rule it out. Most of the time the first year has been difficult and the second year has been wonderful. You’d be surprised at how attached you get to the new place and your new community, especially when at the outset you never imagined feeling at home there!

  4. Thanks for this great advice, Nancy! We just moved to Arequipa, Peru to start language school and then do church planting and seminary training and the transition has been…well, a transition! I particularly appreciated your encouragement about being an anchor to your kiddos in order to help their transition go more smoothly. We have six kids, and in many ways, having your best friends move along has been a blessing as well. Thanks for your wise words!

  5. For just a second there, when I saw the title of this post, I thought “is she talking to me”? I had to re-adjust and remember I was reading a blog, not an email. Cause we are moving to another state. Yeah! I plan to remember this advice and acclimate slowly, taking special care of the kiddo’s along the way. : ) Thanks.

  6. Oh man, you wrote this for my family, didn’t you? We’re moving in five days. We haven’t lived in the same house for more than 3 years in the almost 15 years that we’ve been married. This will be the third state for my kids. My kids are all old enough now to have opinions about the move, feelings, and friends they are very sad to leave. Your words here are gold and I will be sharing them with my girls very soon. Thanks for posting this tonight!

  7. Thanks, Nancy. This is helpful and encouraging. In addition to the serious things, I’ll watch out for the freaky toothbrush makers! :)

  8. I forwarded this to three friends who are currently too busy packing to read your blog.

    You all will be getting two of them (and their combined 10 children), and as sad as we are to part with them . . . we know they are heading in a good direction!

  9. Ummm…if you’re moving down South the over-doer who over-welcomes may not have an agenda at all. It may just be the way some do things ’round here.:)

    Loved the article, great advice.

  10. Esther is right.
    Having grown up in Georgia, moving to Michigan, Illinois, North Caroline, Massachusetts, California, Canada and places in between, it is clear that different chunks of the map invite newcomers with radically variant hospitality and warmth.
    So we must take care not to meet the sincere Southerner with suspicion, and also not take the stand-offish New Englander too personally.
    Wisdom and good judgment are always the best foot forward.
    Be your best self, anticipate the best from others, and pray for grace for every situation.

  11. I don’t think Nancy was saying that over-doing is always insincere, only to guard your heart. The situation would be parallel to a courtship — the suitor might be The One, but that doesn’t mean the young lady shouldn’t proceed with care.

  12. Esther and Missy,
    I love Southern hospitality (and all other kinds), and I certainly don’t want you to think I view such things with suspicion! Far from it! As Valerie pointed out, I was referring to “over” doing it, as in smothering.

  13. Oh, goodness, no! I realize that. But sometimes Southern ways can feel smothering even to one who has lived here a long time. I only meant there is typically a cultural change which can be shocking to one who is unused to it (and sometimes even to one who is). But your advice would still hold that we need to get to know the person first.

  14. I would really appreciate another post on the ‘choose your friends wisely’ issue – or perhaps thoughts from other readers? How do you not be friends with people who have decided to be friends with you? How often do we get to choose our own friends, and how often is that a choice made by others? And how does that all fit in with showing hospitality and extending fellowship? I’m not asking about the real, rolled-gold sort of friendships that grow rich and strong with very few, but all the other sorts of ‘friends’ and the amount of time and effort imparted in such relationships. Can you withdraw from acquaintances if you think that the interaction is not beneficial to either? Or too demanding, volatile or difficult? When does hospitality/fellowship end and friendship begin? Again, I’m not talking about how one might FEEL about the relationship, but the amount of time, effort and committment spent on the different relationships. Thanks.

  15. We’ve given Cali two years, but overall we’re very happy with the prospect of moving home. It’s a lovely place to visit, but our hearts are back home with the fireflies and the crickets and the sun setting over Mamaw’s hayfield. Still love to come back and visit though. The Sierra Nevada is pretty amazing :)

  16. I enjoyed this post, too. I felt that is applicable in so many ways–visiting a new church, getting involved in some kind of community effort, etc. all will have situations where you have to be circumspect about whom you get close to. I express that because we are not likely to be moving, even though we would really like to:)!

    I echo Ellen’s request on more counsel regarding friendships. We had a very painful situation where we were just “dropped” from a family after a few years of fellowship and mutual encouragement. No explanation, no “Dear John” letter–just a stonewall. It felt like one of those 4th grade situations! We’ve come to accept that the Lord allowed the friendship to cease–but we want to make sure we don’t treat someone else the way we were treated! There must be a better way!

  17. We just moved cross county to CA 2 weeks ago, so this is extremely timely for us! Being from the South, whenever we move elsewhere I always feel like people are not very friendly, but trying to get used to it and not take it personally. I would fall over if someone brought me meal or something, whereas in Georgia it would have been completely normal.

  18. I’ve come back to this one in the archives a few times during my moving process — especially the part about being careful and patient when developing friendships. Got any more advice on choosing friends and settling into a new community?

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