I am an expert in wandering, I think. My husband and I have now moved seven times in as many years. Some were choices we made; others were thrust upon us. I have lived in seven states and am now starting my journey to Alaska. My husband dreamed of moving to Alaska as a young boy. He couldn’t bear to return a book on the subject to the library as a young boy. He kept it hidden in the bushes for months until finally the mildew and slugs decimated it. For him, our ten-day trek through Canada and Alaska is the realization of a dream.
For me, not so much. I am not a camper, unless my tent has hot baths and a king size bed. But my wandering around so many places has brought me some incredible experiences. In fact, each place has given me some real gifts. When the Lord told Spencer and I that we were going to be like Abraham and Sarah, all I could think were descendants like the stars. With as many kids as we have, I thought we were pretty much on our way. But Abraham and Sarah were wanderers at heart and so, I think, are my husband and me.
But the benefits of my wandering are real. Though intangible, the lessons learned and the truths encountered change the way I look at my life. So if you find yourself having to move, the pain of pulling up roots is real. But learning to lessen our grips on our lives yields some good fruit.
Home is no longer a place but a state of being.
My cats are now inured to the process of moving. They recognize the signs of packing. The only time they are afraid is when we leave them the last night in town in an empty house before we load them up for the trip. As long as they are with us, they are happy and curious. Spencer and I are their home. And honestly, Spencer and I are at home with each other. Moving has deepened our partnership and solidified our commitment to each other. And deeper still, the Lord has met me in unique ways in each place I have lived. He has become my constant rather than a familiar routine.
He always lets me know a little of what to expect before I get to a new state. Houston was a cocoon for me and a place to heal from a traumatic job. He told me Wisconsin would be a pleasant valley, and boy, was it. The friends I made there blessed me more than I can say. Before we knew we would move to Alaska, the Lord woke me up morning after morning singing A Whole New World from Aladdin. He wasn’t kidding. I’m sitting in a hotel in Minnesota right now at the end of the first day of a journey to Alaska. If that isn’t a whole new world, I don’t know what is.
I know how to let go of what is unimportant.
I used to have a lot of possessions that helped form a really beautiful home. So many of those are gone now. In fact, because the houses we rent are impermanent, I have pared down my clothes and furniture. Books and artwork we keep, but I can cut several thousand pounds of excess baggage at a moment’s notice. Wandering can’t be done with a ton of stuff, but it is freeing to give stuff away, to only own for a season. I have learned to live with open hands, to let life flow through, rather than trying to hold on to something that cannot last.
I see more miracles.
Each time we move, I have no idea how we will afford it. Companies often pay for some of the basics of the move, but a financial loss is always involved. Rental deposits, travel expenses, and the demands of each new place can really cut deep into our wallet. But each time, God makes it happen. I get unexpected cash or refunds I didn’t know I was owed. I know that God will provide for us because frankly, He has too. We couldn’t make it without Him.
But miracles abound in other ways too. My youngest needed surgery. When we moved to Houston, I knew without a doubt that she was supposed to be in that hospital. I felt a visceral dread of the hospital in Georgia. Bad things happened there. But she had the right doctor and I had total peace of mind about the procedure from start to finish. I found a group of writers that took my poetic brain and taught me how to write fiction. They were exactly what I needed. Wisconsin not only gave me friends but I saw the Lord move in healing deep wounds in ministry practically from the first month I got there. I was lonely when I moved to Wisconsin, but when I left, I had lifelong sisters.
I have learned how to experience life.
Wandering is fraught with uncertainty. I go to a new town knowing no one. But at each new destination, doors open. Deeper than that, God seems to highlight each new place with special gifts. Georgia was perfect for my youngest. Houston had an incredible writer’s guild for me and the right college for my daughter. Wisconsin reignited my inner healing ministry. As a writer, I collect images and words every place I go. The sky in Georgia is pink sometimes and decorated with Luna moths. In Houston, eagles perched on my street. Fall in Wisconsin brings new colors every day for six weeks. I already know Alaska is beautiful from the pictures. But to be in the scene is a far cry from watching it.
I will always keep the falls in Georgia, the lakes in Wisconsin, and the Bad Lands in North Dakota in my gallery of experiences. Yosemite and the coast of California live in my heart. I will not go to my grave wondering if I had lived enough. Wandering is learning how to journey, which is after all, what this life is. Each day we take another step towards our eternal destiny. But learning how to appreciate the wilderness between here and there grows the spirit in unspeakable ways.