Please welcome my friend Maggie Wallem Rowe; this guest post is an excerpt from her new book, This Life We Share: 52 Reflections on Journeying Well with God and Others, which released May 5, 2020. At the end of the post, stick around to learn more about Maggie and the inspiration for This Life We Share.
All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, msg
In the yard of her new home in Colorado, my friend Pam has planted a six-foot-tall post with twenty hand-painted signs pointing north, south, east, and west. Each whimsical sign bears the name of a place she has lived, from Chicago to Istanbul, reminding her of all the locations that brought her and her husband, Pete, to where they are now.
“Moving all over the world has been quite the adventure,” she comments, “but it’s exhausting starting over each time. I’m ready to put down roots and stay put!”
Whether you’re a veteran of dozens of moves (like Pam) or just a few, you’ve experienced what it’s like to throw your entire life into boxes and try to make sense of them, and your life, when you resurface in a new place. Getting to know a different region of the country or the world can be exciting, but relocation often brings with it a deep sense of loss and disorientation.
If you had a long history and deep friendships in your former location, separation from the known and the familiar can be agonizing, but even an anticipated and entirely welcome move comes as a shock to the system. All the systems. Everything that gave structure and form and purpose to your former life has been dismantled and needs to be rebuilt.
Moving to a different home in the same community is stressful enough. The sorting. The donating and discarding of possessions. The packing.
Relocating to a different state, region, or country kicks the stress level up to a new level. Almost nothing in your life remains the same. New utilities. New insurance coverages of every kind. Different schools, stores, and services. You might need to learn a new language and struggle with asking for directions, not to mention with making friends.
With any relocation, the biggest challenge is to satisfy the most compelling need of all: to belong. Why is our need to know and be known such a powerful one?
At its best, the longing to belong is a positive force for good. We build communities for mutual support. We seek fellowship to know we’re not alone. We want to fit in, be useful to others, have a purpose and a place.
At its worst, the drive to belong can become destructive. Tribalism divides neighbor from neighbor because of ethnic identification or misguided loyalty. Political affiliation creates an uncivil war on social media. Gangs become a toxic family, encouraging darker impulses.
Yet the need to belong remains legitimate. Relocation changes the equation of our lives, for a time at least, from one of addition and multiplication to subtraction and perhaps even division, with your loyalties divided between your old friends and the new ones you’re getting to know.
If this is where you’re at right now, I understand. I’m writing these words just weeks after moving to a brand-new community where I know absolutely no one.
Do you know what was unexpectedly difficult? Taking out my wallet and key ring and cutting up my former library card, store-loyalty tags, and fitness-center ID. I had already surrendered my employee-access card with the chip that beeped me into my office building each day.
Silly to hang on to them, right? Stupidly sentimental, and impractical besides. They had no value except as symbols of former belonging to a people and a place.
Here’s what I’m learning to do. I hope these tips will help you too.
Acknowledge the loss that change brings.
“It’s called grief. Lament. And it’s perfectly normal in these circumstances,” my friend Cindy told me following our move. “God knows. Keep weeping and talking to him about change and loss.”
Another longtime friend, Melissa, wrote: “Change is hard, scary, and an unknown entity. Time moves on and brings change with it, wiping the slate one more time, often with our tears.”
Choose to know, even if not yet to be known.
On Saturdays, I march myself to the local farmer’s market to chat with the vendors. Jana sells organic poultry. Eddie has the best lettuce and tomatoes. Hank has fresh trout. I drive downtown and duck in and out of the shops, chatting with Ellie at the resale shop or Jackie, the former mayor’s wife who’s recovering from foot surgery while running the antique store. I’ve attended a few local festivals and checked out the local library. I’m getting to know people, even if they do not yet know me.
Don’t wait to be invited. Issue those invitations yourself, girl!
Is your place still a heap? Boxes everywhere? A mess is easier to deal with than loneliness. Let the unpacking go, and invite your new neighbors over to pull up a box and sit down for cookies and conversation. They’re curious about you, too, and most likely they’ll be happy to offer information about your new area.
Volunteer! Helpers are welcome everywhere.
Our new hometown has an excellent community theatre, and I’ve signed up to get involved. My husband is helping coach the local aquatics club. We’re settling into a wonderful new church home and are finding ways to be of service there too.
And that wallet that relocation emptied in more ways than one? This week I added a new library card, sports-center ID, and a couple store-loyalty cards. When the grocery-store clerk asked for my card, I was proud to give it to her. Made me feel like a local.
Like maybe I belong.
Points of Connection
- Think back to the last time you moved, whether it was from your childhood home, into a dorm or apartment, a job-related transfer to a new community, or maybe relocation accompanying retirement. What helped the most with the initial adjustment?
- Pick up a copy of a local paper or do some research online to find the event calendar in your community. Take a break from unpacking and attend a concert, play, or workshop at the library. Chat with those sitting nearby. You might just discover they’re new too.
- Reach out to someone—a neighbor, new coworker, or classmate—and invite them to meet you for coffee. It’s hard taking the initiative, but so worth the risk!
LifeLine: When you’re longing to belong, to find community, ask God to give you the boldness to reach out to others.
Now, a little more about Maggie. She is a national speaker, dramatist, blogger, and writer who has contributed to more than ten books, including numerous devotional Bibles. Maggie has traveled extensively throughout the United States and abroad, performing original one-woman dramas that she authored and speaking at outreach programs, conferences, community events, and retreats. She holds an undergraduate degree in communications with a minor in education, as well as a graduate degree in biblical studies, both from Wheaton College (IL). Maggie lives near Asheville, NC, with her husband, Mike. The Rowes have three adult children and five grandchildren. This Life We Share is her first book. Visit Maggie at www.MaggieRowe.com.
When I contacted Maggie about sharing this excerpt from her book, I also asked her a couple of questions about her writing process and inspiration from the book. Here’s that brief interview:
Charity: How long have you been writing, and what do you love most about the writing life?
Maggie: I’ve been writing since I was a little girl growing up mid-century on a farm in northern Illinois. With no neighbors within walking distance or friends to play with, books were my daily companions. Influenced by Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Trixie Belden mysteries, I penned fanciful tales of my own. After long days of farm work, my mom would pull out her typewriter and transcribe my childish scrawls into neat typewritten sheets to mail to the editors of children’s magazines. I was not to be published for decades yet, but Mom’s belief in me that I had thoughts worth sharing changed the course of my life. Sadly, she passed away at 94 just before my first book was published this spring.
CSC: What was the inspiration for This Life We Share? I think you said you wrote it over a period of three years: looking back, how does that method and time frame help support the message of the book?
MWR: The inspiration for This Life We Share was my weekly blog, originally called “Tuesdays with Maggie,” and renamed “View From the Ridge” after our relocation to the Smokies. A publisher who heard me speak began to follow my blog and reached out to me three years ago to see if I had any interest in writing a devotional that would be relevant to a wide spectrum of women. I submitted a proposal including blogposts I wrote years ago as well as new pieces, and after some lively discussion with the publishing team, my proposal was accepted! This Life We Share is the result: 52 reflections on living well with God and others. After my childhood stories nearly 60 years ago, my first traditionally published work as a solo author has released just before I turn 67! We can never underestimate what God has for us in the future, no matter our age or season of life.