Relocating-trauma or triumph?

Moving can be traumatic, but proper preparation and a positive perspective can make things go a lot better.

Betty Norcross, who has moved many times with her pastor-husband, now resides in Rockford, Illinois.

You're planning to move. You don't know whether to be glad or sad, enthused or defused. Pulling up roots and relocating is not easy. It means saying goodbye to friends and maybe even family. It means bidding fare well to familiar places and routines. Suddenly the rut you've been complaining about appears comfortable and appealing.

If you've ever faced a move, you know that the prospect of relocating generates a spectrum of emotions.

There's reason for trauma

This apprehension is not entirely unfounded. A cross-country move can be a traumatic experience. Believe me, I know! As a pastor's wife, I've had a few unforgettable moving experiences in my life. For instance, there was the time we loaded our furniture and belongings on a van for a 500-mile move. The driver wasted no time in getting started on the trip. We, however, wanted time to say goodbye to some friends, so we chose to stay in town overnight and leave the next morning for our new horizons.

Consequently, the van with our furniture arrived at our new address before us. We had anticipated this and had told the driver where to get the house key so he could unload our belongings.

Arriving the next day, we were shocked to learn that the outgoing pastor had not yet vacated the parsonage. He and his wife were out of town and did not plan to return for their things until the following week. The driver, however, had followed our instructions implicitly, unloading our furniture at the address we provided. So there we were, with three small children and all our household effects piled on top of the other family's belongings. That's what I call a trauma!

Then there was the time we moved, with a 10-day-old infant, from a southern climate to a town in northern Canada in mid-February. The temperature was 35 degrees below zero, and someone had for gotten to pay the gas bill, so there was no heat in the house!

Moving can be a great adventure!

Yes, moving can be traumatic. Of course, the instances I have described here are not the norm, but my experience has shown me that the unexpected has a way of happening. Although it's impossible to be prepared for every eventuality, there are, nevertheless, things you can do to smooth out some potential rough spots. Furthermore, I have found that with the right mental attitude, the move can actually be a rewarding and exciting experience.

I say right mental attitude because your attitude influences your family's ability to cope with the traumatic changes about to descend on them. If they perceive apprehension on your part, it magnifies and confirms the fears they are already experiencing. So if you are to help them make the transition, you must show them that you are confident about the move and looking forward to it as a great adventure—which it is!

My "things to do" list

The first order of business must be to ask for divine guidance and help. Many decisions will be thrust upon you relating to schools, housing, shopping, banking, church involvement, and much more. Without the wisdom God has promised, you could not possibly make all the right choices.

The next item on your list should be to contact the chamber of commerce before your arrival. Often they are able to help by providing street maps, shopping guides, school information, and interesting historical background of the community.

In this same vein, you may want to contact the welcome wagon before you arrive, letting them know when you expect to arrive in town. They have a unique way of welcoming newcomers, and it involves much more than the freebies they offer. Their literature describes local entertainment, recreational events, businesses, restaurants, and places of interest. All of this will help you get acquainted with your new area and will often relieve some of the insecurity your children are feeling.

Post-move dangers

When some of your children are high school age, there is a serious problem area that you should address posthaste. School standards are not the same throughout the country. It is wise to make an appointment with a school guidance counselor as soon as possible. This, too, we learned the hard way. Some of the credits our daughter had earned in another school did not satisfy the graduation requirements of her new school. For a while it looked as if she would not be allowed to graduate with her class. We could have avoided this stress if we had made intelligent inquiries at the proper time—before enrolling her in school.

For me one area of stress is that of making new friends and getting acquainted with my new neighbors. I have learned that these people are only mildly interested in my past accomplishments. If I don't want to be labeled a bore, I must take care not to succumb to the temptation to refer continually to how we did things "back home" or "where I came from." Sometimes my desire to win acceptance has clouded my good judgment in this area.

Along with the onset of loneliness and homesickness, another personal battle I have had to fight has been the temptation to feel sorry for myself. Any self-pity I express spills over and influences my family, making adjustments more difficult for them. Not only that, if it goes unchecked, before very long it will defeat me spiritually. I must make a conscious effort to overcome it.

Help from the Scriptures

When I am faced with yet another move, the disturbing happenings of yesteryears can rob me of my peace of mind. But only if I let them. I find encouragement in reading again the story of Abraham, remembering how God called him to go into a new and distant land (Gen. 12:1). The Lord had great things in store for him, but Abraham could only receive them as he obeyed the divine directions.

Then I read again the story of Peter's experience when the Lord invited him to step out of the boat and walk across that watery highway. The apostle may have hesitated for a moment. Fear could have kept him chained to the boat, but faith rose in his heart, and he accepted the challenge. Matthew 14:29 tells us that Peter actually walked on the water! It's interesting to note that while he was having this remarkable experience, 11 disciples remained in the boat. They never even attempted to answer the Lord's challenge! Only Peter experienced this memorable adventure because only he was willing to accept the invitation and step out in faith.

So when you're presented with the challenge of moving one more time, re mind yourself that this experience will provide you with an opportunity to find new dimensions in your own faith walk. Courage will gradually begin to replace fear. The move will take on the aura of an exciting adventure. You will begin to look forward to new horizons and anticipate new relationships. With God's help, your fears will be banished, and instead of a trauma, the move will become a triumph!


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Betty Norcross, who has moved many times with her pastor-husband, now resides in Rockford, Illinois.

December 1988

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