Living Here Now

I had another realization this week.

As this year has passed, and I’ve struggled to “settle in” to my new home, I’ve been treating it as a temporary assignment. As if we’re only living here for a year or so, and then moving again (which is what happened with living in Florida – we were there only 15 months).  I’ve been reluctant to commit my emotions to living in Virginia, because I’ve been looking to the future as impending change, and I’ve been looking back with deep longing. I was finally feeling settled in Florida when we moved, and so I’ve been missing it a lot. I’ve compared my day-to-day in Virginia to my days in Florida, and every day came up wanting.

Then a morning devotional grabbed my attention with the story of Lot’s wife; I was challenged to not spend too much time looking back. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with looking back at memories and lessons learned. But to spend time longing for days past is time wasted. We don’t live our lives backwards, and I’ve been keeping myself from moving forward by not fully embracing my current living situation. I’m missing out on what God has for me “now” because I’m focused on “back then.”

Some of this is simply the natural progression of moving and adjusting to a new home. As I’ve said before, this process takes time – a year, at least. And we’ve been a year now in Virginia, so it’s time for these things to be working themselves out. But I realized that I’ve been clinging to the past, and that’s different.

I live here now, in Virginia. And in many ways, I am embracing it: I got a job; I’m slowly making friends; I think we’ve found a church home. We’ve explored the area. The boxes are unpacked. We’ve hosted out-of-town guests.

But I haven’t given my emotions to life here. They’ve been focused in the past.

It’s time for my emotions to catch up with my actions, with my life. I’ve prayed about contentment, but with my emotions stuck in the past, it’s hard to be satisfied. So now I’ll pray that I can embrace my life in Virginia with my whole life – emotions included.

I’m going to live in the now. God gives me today. This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:74 (emphasis mine, personalized).

Settling in

My last post was awhile ago. I haven’t had much to say.

In fact, I stopped writing completely. Between living in the apartment and then moving into our house, I put my journal in a drawer. I just got it out again last week when I realized I hadn’t been writing at all. I’ve found that my daily journaling helps my blogging – so I’m here again.

I wrote before about back pain – my back seized up again the day before we were moving into our new house. Not great timing, but God worked a miracle. After two days flat in bed in tremendous pain, I walked out of our apartment and into our new home, where I promptly laid down on our much-more-firm mattress. I recently started physical therapy to strengthen my back muscles and keep it from happening again. My back is still quite sore, but hasn’t locked up again. Thank You, Lord!

We’re all unpacked, except for the books – we need bookshelves. Our Florida house had a large built-in, so we need a place to put them. But everything else is put away, complete with pictures in the walls. It feels like a home.

I joined a Bible study, but was only able to attend once due to a work conflict. Yes, I’m working very part-time. But it gets me out of the house and around other people. I’m a brain trainer – teaching cognitive skills like memory and visual processing – the pieces that make up IQ. It’s a good job, and I like it.

In general, my days are long. I’m lonely, but that just goes with the situation. It takes time to get to know people and be able to call an area “home.” I always know that, going into any move, but I’m always surprised by it too.  I feel like I should be “further along” in making friends. I have to regularly remind myself that it hasn’t been a year yet, only 5 months, and the solution here is time. Time to learn my way around without GPS. Time to meet others and make friends. Time for people to get to know me.

We haven’t done a lot of exploring of our area since we moved – making our house into our home has occupied our time. But I’m looking forward to the leaves changing and taking a color drive, seeing the trees on the mountains in their brilliance of reds, oranges and golds. They’re just starting to change, so maybe we can take that drive as soon as next weekend.

Time to go to church. I’ll write more later!

Playing House

I’ve been here a week. First, we lived in the Residence Inn, then moved to an apartment a few days ago. “It’s like camping,” my husband says. Or playing “house.”

In getting ready to move, I packed up my things – my shorts, my favorite tank tops and some t-shirts and jeans, several pairs of shoes, my travel bathroom supplies, and my pillows. I gathered my Bible and study, my electronics and knitting bag, my Kindle and some coloring pencils and books. I tried to guess what we would need for the next couple of months, and we loaded up the stuff and the kitty and drove from Florida to Virginia. We left our furniture and most of our belongings behind. We hope it won’t be long before our house there sells and we can settle in here.

In the meantime, the kitty and I will spend our days in this two bedroom apartment, while my husband works a few miles away. It’s a nice place, and feels very open and roomy. The furniture is sparse but comfortable.

I plan to use my time to explore the area, try to learn my way around town, and hike in the mountains once a week.  I have little confidence that I will find a ladies’ Bible Study – they often break for the summer. Still I’ll look, maybe starting with churches where we might like to attend. I plan to write regularly – either blogging or personally – and hope to be disciplined about it! I’ll go to the pool, which doesn’t come close to the spa-pool of our old neighborhood, but is still sun and water.

I will try to engage with other people several days a week – at least to say “Hi” to someone besides kitty and husband. This may mean that I grocery shop every day, or find a local coffee shop – something to get out of the apartment and with others so I don’t isolate myself.

With very few of my own things, I feel like this is just pretend. I hate to spend money to buy household supplies I already have, but it’s funny to not have my stuff around me. This feels unfamiliar, even unreal. Like playtime, not my new life.

It causes me to stop and evaluate my relationship to “my things.” Firstly, I can see that I own too much stuff, since I only need what I have now. Secondly, nothing is mine – it all belongs to God, and is only on loan for me to use in the first place. So I’ll use this time, this opportunity, to test what is really important. It’s not stuff. It’s relationships. And the closest ones I have now are God and my husband. I guess that’s where I’ll spend my time and attention. I suspect that’s what God has in mind anyway.

 

Change – a certainty

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”  – Benjamin Franklin

And change. Change is for sure.

Our life is about to change again, as my husband starts a new job and we relocate to a new state. I know, we just got here. We’ve been in Florida for barely over a year, and we’ve loved it. But change is inevitable, so off we go to Virginia.

And it’s ok. We’ve discovered in this past year that we love the beach and the palm trees. We love eating our meals outside and opening all the windows in the house. We love sunsets and egrets and dolphins and alligators.

And I bet we’ll love the next place. The town is just a few miles from both Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive and The Blue Ridge Parkway. It sounds beautiful, and I’m looking forward to checking it out. There will be lots of mountain biking and hiking trails and historical sites. Another adventure with my husband. Another part of the country to see and explore.

Change can be difficult for me – I’ve never really liked it. It helps when I call it “adventure.”

I choose to assume that I will manage this adventure well. I am not worried about a depression relapse. I have this past year’s experience to know that settling in will take me some time – more time than I think it should – and I hope this will help me be more patient with the process. I will make friends. I will find a church home. I will learn my way around town. I will make my house into a home. These things I have learned.

And I have learned to trust God at another level than I trusted Him the last time we moved. I have learned – again, and on this deeper level – that I can trust God with all of these details. He is deeply interested in me and my relationship with Him, and He is continually at work in my life. His desire is His best for me, and He longs for me to put Him first in this move and everything else in my life.

The only thing that doesn’t change is God. He is immutable – rock steady, solid, unshakeable. He doesn’t shift like shadows. Everything that is true about God – that He is love, just, holy, caring, present, Savior, Wonderful, Light, life – these things are true about Him always. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Hebrews 13:8 So while my life circumstances change, my God does not. And there is great peace in that truth.

Dog toy, Cat toy, My joy

A year and a half ago, we gave away our dog Ella to a wonderful family. They were going to provide her a loving home in the countryside, and we knew that was a better alternative than moving her to Florida. She’s a mutt:  a mix of beagle, basset and labrador – but if you look up Coonhound on Google, you’d see her picture. I always figured hound dogs loved the south – remember the dogs on the porch in “Hee Haw?” Well, Ella hated the heat, was at home in snow and rain. So we felt it best for her to not bring her with us when we moved. And as much as I’ve missed her, she is with a family she adores and who love her back, in a climate that she manages well.

We had her for her first six years, and like most dogs, she had her favorite toys. She had a stick that she loved to gnaw on – she had been so proud dragging it home from her walk. She also loved pine cones – I remember seeing her on a Sunday in December, tossing the tiny pine cones that she had pulled from my front door wreath – just throwing them in the air and watching them float down until she could catch them and toss them again. She was so full of delight, her whole body wriggled. It was hard to get mad at her for dismantling my wreath with such joy exuding from her!

Inside, she loved stuffed animals, especially the ones that squeaked. She would zero in on the squeaker and with her very strong back jaws, bite through the fabric to pull it out. She would completely de-stuff the toy – there’s a lot of batting that squishes into those fabric carcasses! But the squeaker was her delight – rolling back and forth, wiggling with the squeaker squawking until she had completely punctured it. Her entire body would wag as she laid on her back, paws flailing in absolute bliss.

I bought her two rubber toys, thinking that she wouldn’t be able to disembowel or destroy them – one was a blue figurine of a person, and the other was a red shape of a dog. Oh, how wrong I was. She applied her strong jaws to biting off the feet of each animal, and tossing those in the air.  The footies flew just like the pine cones! For awhile, we had two blue footies and four red ones, but they slowly disappeared, until we were down to one of each, then only one red one, then none at all.

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Fast forward 12 months, and my kitten Annabelle discovered a new toy – a red footie. As far as I can tell, it somehow became lodged in the netting of the underside of our couch, until one day it fell out onto the floor. Because suddenly, my darling kitten is chasing a bouncing red rubber footie across the living room floor! If cats have favorites, I’d say she loves this footie. Just like Ella, she tosses it in the air, but instead of catching it, she watches it bounce haphazardly a few times before she pounces on it. She picks it up and carries it to another room, where the routine begins again. And then suddenly it’s gone – nowhere to be found, until it shows up several days later in the window track or by the TV or under the throw carpet. She tosses it, she pounces on it, she wrestles with it, she buries it, then delightfully finds it again and the play starts over.

Watching Annabelle makes me smile as I see her pure joy in playing with the little red footie. I often wish I had such a thing, that would bring me joy like her toy does, and did for Ella before her. But that is external joy, and the Bible says that our joy comes from within. Knowing that our names are written in heaven for eternity. Complete joy from Christ placed in us. A gift from our Heavenly Father and as fruit of the Spirit. Multiple verses speak of joy being found in the Presence of God.

So why do I feel like I’m still looking for it? For some external toy, some outside thing that gives me the exuberance of a small red footie. I told my therapist years ago that I wanted my joy back, and I feel like I’ve been looking for it ever since that first depressive episode 8  years ago.

I think it might be that I find that joy, that exuberance again, as I continue to sit with Jesus each morning. As I draw closer to God and He shows me His heart and fills me with His joy. A joy that cannot be removed or lost in the couch cushions. Complete joy of His kingdom, forever and ever.