Anxiety & Depression, Identity & Purpose, Self 5 Lessons Learned From Big Life Changes

By Cathy Schaefer


“I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again.” ~Ezekiel 34:16a

“Home” is a potent and powerful word that conjures up many memories, emotions, hopes, and dreams. We’re all familiar with the quote, “Home is where the heart is,” which then begs the question, “Where is my heart?” This is something I’ve grappled with repeatedly over the years, as I’ve struggled to adjust to new homes in different locations and realized that my body could be in one place, while my “heart” was often elsewhere…

Home interprets heaven. Home is heaven for beginners. ~Charles H. Parkhurst

I was blessed to grow up in the same house in Logansport, Indiana for the first 18 years of my life. I loved our big, old, comfortable house and spent countless hours reading and pondering life’s problems on the front porch swing. However, when I was in college, my parents decided to build a new house and sold the place I called home! I was so heartbroken and disappointed I couldn’t even bring myself to go help them on moving day. I felt like I no longer had a “home.” My parent’s new house never really felt like home to me. Little did I know that a quest to find and define “home” would become a recurring theme in my life.

A house is made of brick and stone, but love alone can make a home. ~Unknown

Right after college I got married, and we moved to Rochester, NY, for my husband’s job. Although I was initially homesick for my friends and family in Indiana, I adjusted over time and Rochester became my new home. I got a job I loved at a theatre, made some good friends, and we bought our first house (with a front porch for a swing). Life was humming along nicely. So imagine my surprise when my husband, Chuck, came home one day and announced that he had been offered a promotion (yes!) for a position in Minneapolis, MN (no!). To say I did not want to move would be an understatement. This was not part of my plan! I had worked hard to build a life for myself in Rochester, and I was happy there. It had never occurred to me that we would leave so soon (if ever). I was incredibly angry at my husband and briefly wondered if this was grounds for divorce! (God convinced me it wasn’t and also assured me that I would survive this.)

Home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling. ~Cecelia Ahern

Frequent moves became the norm for us as Chuck “climbed the corporate ladder” and assumed various new job titles for his first employer. Thankfully, after 16 years, he got a new job with a different company, which allowed us to stay in Illinois for 18 years.

Here’s the list of places we’ve lived:
Rochester, NY – 5 years
Minneapolis, MN – 3 years
Herndon, VA – 1 year
Ellicott City, MD – 3 years
Pittsford, NY – 4 years
Naperville, IL – 18 years
Zionsville, IN – 3 years (and counting)

One never reaches home, but wherever friendly paths intersect the whole world looks like home for a time. ~Hermann Hesse

Here’s what I want to say about all those moves: They were unexpected, unwanted, and uncomfortable (at least for me). I’m the kind of person who tends to put down deep roots in a place and then wants to stay there. Moving so many times would never have been my choice, and it was not easy for me. But here’s something else I can say: God was with me through all of it, and He showed up every place we landed. And even though our moves were precipitated by my husband’s career, God had plenty of blessings in store for me everywhere we went.

I’m extremely grateful for a few important life lessons God taught me through our moves.

When consumed by past losses and future fears, I miss the power of the present.           

“But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” ~Isaiah 43:18-19

The most difficult year of my life was when we lived in Virginia. There were several reasons for that. 1) My firstborn was 9 months old when we moved. I was still adjusting to motherhood and mourning the loss of my support system in Minneapolis. 2) My husband’s job required him to travel about 50% of the time, and I was terribly lonely as a stay-at-home mom. I loved my son but missed working and struggled with depression. 3) I was a “city girl” living in the suburbs for the first time. I missed being able to walk places and hated spending so much time in the car. But the primary source of my misery was that we knew something about our future. Chuck had been informed our stay in Virginia was only temporary, for 1-2 years while he was in training for upper management, and then we would be moving again. To be honest, I just had a BAD ATTITUDE about it. I simply didn’t see the point in decorating our house, making friends, or getting involved in anything when I knew we weren’t staying. By the grace of God, I muddled through, but I’m sure I missed some of His gifts and blessings for me in that place.

I need to let go of unrealistic expectations.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and he will direct your paths. ~Proverbs 3:5-6

Although I poured my heart and soul into making every place we lived feel like home, I have to honestly admit there was still a piece of my heart back in Indiana. Deep down, I secretly believed that if we could only move back to Indiana to be near our families, life would be perfect (or nearly perfect, anyway). I was extremely close to my grandparents and extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins when I was growing up, and I always longed for my children to have that same experience. When our kids were young, we made it a priority (and used our vacation time) to spend at least 2 full weeks a year in Indiana—usually for a week at Christmas, and another week or more in the summer. We made every effort to stay connected to family, despite the many miles between us. And yet, at some point, I had to let go of wishing I could replicate my childhood experiences for my children. God let me know that their childhood was going to be different from mine, and that it was okay. It would still be good. Good in different ways than mine had been, but still good. And it didn’t mean I was somehow failing them as a parent because I couldn’t provide them with the “ideal childhood.”

God will reward my trust and faithfulness.

To the faithful you show yourself faithful; to those with integrity you show integrity. ~Psalm 18:25

In case I haven’t made it clear yet, I detest moving. And I’m an emotional person and not very good at hiding my feelings. So I never hesitated to share my pain and frustration with my husband. (No doubt, he’s considered divorcing me a few times over the years too!) The stress of frequent moves and my husband’s traveling seriously tested our marriage. Now, I firmly believe that feelings must be felt and processed; however, it can be dangerous to follow where they might lead us. I may complain (too long and loudly sometimes), but at the end of the day, I was committed to my marriage and my children. I knew I could never live with myself if I walked away from the vows I had made over something as relatively insignificant as the stress and inconvenience of moving. I remained faithful to my husband, our family, and to my God, who sustained me through everything, held our family together, and blessed me beyond what I deserved. 

My pain taught me to rely more and more on God’s strength.    

. . . I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me. ~2 Corinthians 12:8-9

So, more true confessions…. I really thought that our move back to Indiana 3 years ago was going to be relatively “easy” compared to other moves. I figured since Indiana had once been our home and we still had friends and family here, we would feel a sense of belonging sooner and the transition would be much smoother. But I was wrong--IT WASN’T! Now that some time has passed and I’ve been able to process some of this pain with God, I understand why. 1) I had planted some deep roots during our 18 years in Naperville, and I knew it was going to hurt pulling them up. But I underestimated how much. My children were 9 and 4 when we moved there, so that’s where they grew up. All their childhood memories were made there. My son was married there. We had close, meaningful friendships with people that we had “done life” with together. We had a church home we loved where we knew so many people, and where we had faithfully served in so many capacities over the years. We were deeply invested in that place. It hit me that I had spent the same number of years in Naperville as I had growing up in my hometown. It will always feel like home. Leaving was SO HARD. 2) We moved to Indiana as “empty-nesters,” and we didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be to meet people without the natural connections provided by kid’s school activities, sports, etc. 3) The task of finding a new church home was also daunting. It was heartbreaking attending worship services and not seeing one familiar face. I’m overjoyed now when I see people I know at church! 4) I had an idealized, “Norman Rockwell-ish” image in my mind of what it would be like to finally live close to our families (unrealistic expectations surface again!). While there have certainly been some great benefits, I wasn’t fully prepared for the new challenges that would come as well—one of which is now assisting our parents with their age-related issues. 5) Chuck left the corporate world after 35 years to start his own business here, and WOW--it has been a WILD RIDE! Stressful, challenging, exciting, exhausting, rewarding, frustrating, surprising, confusing—you name it, we’ve felt it! God has been faithful, but finances have been tight and the future is uncertain…. This story is still being written, and I’m doing my best to leave it in God’s hands! So often I feel that I lack the ability to manage changes and overcome obstacles in my life, so I am relying on God’s power and strength MORE THAN EVER!

God never changes.

“I am the Lord, and I do not change.” ~Malachi 3:6                          
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. ~Hebrews 13:8

If there’s one thing I’m certain of at this stage of my life, it’s that everything in this world is temporary--nothing lasts. I'm referring to what those of us in the U.S.A. tend to depend on and place our trust in--a good job, financial stability, a dependable car, a comfortable house or place to live, our freedom and independence, our intellect, our health, even our relationships with other people--all are transient and can change or be lost in the blink of an eye. But I believe we were made with a desire for permanency—for a firm foundation, a safe refuge, an all-encompassing, unconditional love, and a deep sense of belonging. Recently I came across a journal entry I wrote soon after our move here, and on those pages I was processing the pain of my loneliness and lamenting the loss of yet another “home.” As I pondered the meaning of that word, I had written this definition: HOME = a place of comfort, peace, safety and refuge; a place where I am known, loved and accepted, in spite of myself; a place where I have a sense of belonging, connectedness and familiarity. As I read those words, I realized that I have experienced bits and pieces of “home” throughout my life—with various people and in various locations, but not one person or place on this earth has satisfied all those longings. And then it struck me: what I had described was how God makes me feel! All those longings are found and fulfilled in the Lord. After all these years of searching, I know the home I’ve been longing for is not of this world. I am exceedingly grateful for the people and places in this world that have given me glimpses of the joy and happiness awaiting us in heaven. But our eternal home is with Jesus, and that’s what I’m yearning for. My heart’s true home is with God.

For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. ~Hebrews 13:14

All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong
~chorus from Building 429 song “Where I Belong”


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