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Becoming a Part of the Community

with Susan Miller | March 3, 2009

Fourteen moves found Susan Miller and her kids trying to adjust to their new surroundings while her husband, Bill, threw himself into his new job. Today, Susan gives helpful advice on becoming a part of your new community.

Fourteen moves found Susan Miller and her kids trying to adjust to their new surroundings while her husband, Bill, threw himself into his new job. Today, Susan gives helpful advice on becoming a part of your new community.

Becoming a Part of the Community

With Susan Miller
|
March 03, 2009
| Download Transcript PDF

Susan: Even good moves, and there are a lot of good moves, people welcome moves on many occasions, but it's still change.  A woman still has to find a new hairdresser – that's the number-one thing women write me and say, "I love this move, but I" – you know, it's still change.  And so those are things, little things, that face a woman and the big things, too, of starting over and learning to let go and move ahead.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, March 3rd.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  And today we'll have some strategies for how you deal with all of the changes that come when you change addresses.  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  You moved a couple of times early on in your marriage, didn't you?

Dennis: Yeah, and I have a true confession, just like you made earlier this week.

Bob: Yeah?

Dennis: Five times we moved in – well, actually, six times in five years – the first five years of our marriage.

Bob: I see.

Dennis: And I have a confession.  Here is our confession – and let me introduce our guest real quickly – Susan Miller joins us.  She is America's moving coach.

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: She is the ultimate judge over all these matters and really has a lot of compassion on men because she moved 14 times in 30 years and …

Bob: You could have used her counsel back when you …?

Dennis: Had support groups all over the nation helping men like Bob and me understand how moves impact our wives and our families.  Well, anyway, Susan, welcome to the broadcast.

Susan: Thanks, Dennis.  It's so good to be here.

Dennis: Barbara and I had been married for five years, six different addresses, uprooting her left and right.  I don't ever remember my wife complaining but, you know, honestly, I don't remember ever really thinking that much about moving, as a man.  All I knew, it was on to the next assignment.

Susan: Right.

Dennis: And I wish I'd had some of your coaching back then to have understood how these moves really created losses for both me and Barbara, but to have taken better care of my wife in the process.  Why don't you name the losses that occur in a woman's life when she moves?

Susan: Well, the sense of loss – women are creatures of desiring roots, of building community, of having community.  I mean, we – the loss of friendships, the loss of relationships, the loss of places we love – a church, a home, it could be a dream home that you love.  All of that sense of belonging is a loss because you go from everything that's familiar in your life to that which is unfamiliar, and it's that sense of belonging that we lose, too.

Bob: We asked one of the staff wives here at FamilyLife who moved here not long ago to reflect on her challenge of moving here and just to share with us a little bit about what the experience was like for her.  Her name is Tracy Lantner [sp], and she writes on our Mom Blog at FamilyLife.com pretty regularly, and here is what she shared with us.

Tracy: How are you doing?  I've heard that question a lot over the years.  On the surface, it's an easy question to answer – "Fine."  But brewing underneath the surface is the reality that moving is a very lonely experience.  Of course, I'm fine, because I like change, I like the adventure that surrounds moving. 

As a wife and mother, I make it my priority to get busy and get to the business of moving.  I place my family's needs as top priority.  I'm a whiz at setting up utility accounts, bank accounts, enrolling children in new schools, unpacking, arranging furniture, and hanging family photos.  I work hard to accomplish all the tasks at hand and do so with a positive, upbeat attitude. 

I also get the whole family involved in the process, because if the whole family is involved, moving draws you closer together.  My husband is meeting new people at work and feeling all fired up.  My children are meeting kids their age and getting involved in school activities, and out among their peers, my family starts to thrive.  It's amazing how they are able to connect so fast!  So, yeah, I can handle a move quite well.  I'm fine.  That is, until my family is settled and all the boxes are unpacked.  Then comes the reality that I have to start over, and my thought – "I don't think I can do this again." 

Yeah, the starting over with relationships, that's always been the hard one.  The reality that I have moved to a new town where no one knows me or is interested in knowing me.  That is a very lonely feeling.  I've walked this road before, and the thought of walking it again makes me weary. 

Again – I have to enter every store, every school building, every church, where no one looks up at me and lights up, where no one is eager to offer a knowing, "Hey, Tracy, I'm so glad you're here."  Instead, I will be the face that is skipped over when others look up in search of their friends.  It's an odd feeling when every place you go, the fact that you are there does not matter to anyone.  Once the reality of my aloneness sets in, I know I have a choice to make – be alone and feel sorry for myself or get up, get out, and get involved.  I've learned that I can't wait for someone to wave me over to their conversation.  I have to insert myself into their conversation, I have to find all the things I'm interested and go do them, and once there, I have to talk to the other in the room, even when trying to make someone like me is the last thing I want to do.  I'd rather just go home and read.  It's so much easier not to try.

Bob: You know, on the Mom Blog this week that Tracy contributes to, some of the moms have included their own tips about how to adjust to a move, and if our listeners are interested, they can go to FamilyLifeToday.com, and there is a link there to the Mom Blog page, to that area of our website and, you know, listening to Tracy describe her own experience, I was talking to Mary Ann about this just this past weekend.  I said, "How long did it take after we moved to Little Rock before you felt like Little Rock was home?"  She said, "Four years."

I said, "Four years?"  You know, I was thinking months, maybe, right?  But it took that long because she had to make sure everybody else was settled before she could even think about her own being settled.

Susan: Absolutely.  I'll never forget on one of our moves, we got the kids in sports, we were – I learned the city by taking them to soccer game practices, Bill was settled in his new job.  You see, a man has people welcoming him in a new job, and a woman goes to a place where nobody knows their name.

And I remember that I got the kids off to school, I mean, even the dog found a comfortable place in the yard.  Everybody had a spot, you know?  And I remember walking in the front door and closing the door behind me, and I sat in the middle of the living room, and I cried my eyes out.  I looked at boxes, I looked at unknown, I looked at a house, how am I going to hang pictures where pictures don't fit, how am I going to downsize?  I mean, it was overwhelming. 

But it is, just like Tracy said, I mean, she lived the pages of my heart in my book.  You take care of your family, and then it all – it's like you're unpacking the emotions of your heart and your life.  And the aloneness that you feel and just – who is that middle-of-the-night person I call if my kids are sick at 3 in the morning?  You don't know anybody, you don't have a church home.

And, you know, even good moves – and there are a lot of good moves.  People welcome moves on many occasions, but it's still change.  A woman still has to find a new hairdresser, that's the number one-thing – women write me and say, "I love this move, but I" – you know, it's still change.  And so those are things, little things that face a woman – and the big things, too, of starting over and learning to let go and move ahead with their life.

Dennis: I didn't know a lot when I was newly married; didn't understand what was taking place in Barbara's life because of our moves.

Bob: Yeah, not if you were moving six times in five years.  You didn't know much at all.

Dennis: I didn't know a lot, but I think it was about the fourth or fifth move, it hit me that I had really uprooted my wife's relationships.  And Barbara is very selective in terms of developing friendships.  She's not one of these people who walks into a room and instantly connects with a half a dozen people and by the end of the evening you leave thinking she's your best friend.  No, it would take several of those parties for you and Barbara to begin to connect.  But once she connected, you'd be a good friend, and she'd be loyal, and it would be for a lifetime.

But it hit me, as we moved to Dallas, for the second time we moved there but about the fifth time we moved, that I needed to compensate for the loss of these relationships in Barbara's life.  And so I encouraged her to start meeting regularly with a mentor – an older woman who could coach her, encourage her, and strengthen her in all these new roles, and all these new relationships she was facing – some because of the move and some just because we married and started having a family.

And that was one of the wisest things I did, was I helped encourage her and set her up to go start meeting with a woman, and older woman, who could encourage her as a new wife, as a new mother, as the wife and mother of a guy in ministry who was moving all over the place, and that older woman really made a difference in her life.

Susan: Well, and you were sensitive to her need, and you understood your wife that she is, you know, goes deep with relationships.  And I always encourage women, I said, "You know, when you move, there are three things I want you to do – find a church, find a church, find a church, because that's the beginning of your new family.  That's where you're going to find godly women that will come alongside you and pray with you." 

I would encourage, also, women not only to get involved in a good, solid biblically based study – Bible study – but to look for our small groups and our support that's international around the world, because we can come alongside women like Barbara in that transition.

Bob: You've got a website, and we've got a link to it at FamilyLife.com if folks want to come and find out more.  On your website, folks can find out if there is a chapter or a group …

Susan: Absolutely, a group …

Bob: … in their area.

Susan: They absolutely can, and they can also call our office, go on our website, find our contact information, and, you know, a lot of times we'll help women plug into another church.  They'll call us and say, "I'm moving to" – Wherever, USA, and we'll find them a church there, a Christ-centered biblical church.  So we do a lot of networking. 

We have women that are key in our ministry all over the United States, and we have women call us, young women, and say, "I'm leaving home for the first time.  I'm leaving my mom, and I'm going to Alabama," and we'll say, "Hey, we've got somebody we'll call that will call you and embrace you."  So we can network all over the world with women.

Bob: Susan, I have to tell you, we lived in San Antonio for a number of years, and San Antonio is a big military town, so there were regularly people showing up new at our church who were in the military, and they knew and we knew that they were only going to be there for a short period of time – a year, maybe two.  And there was something about that knowledge that I think caused both them and us to say, "You know, we shouldn't invest a whole lot in trying to build relationships because we're not going to be here very long."

Dennis: Right.

Susan: That's right.

Bob: If you do know that you're going to be moving 14 times in however many years it was for you, or if you're in the military, and it's going to be from one location to another, how do you deal with that whole issue of "I don't want to make a really good friend here" and then have the pain of being pulled apart 18 months from now?

Susan: And that's so true, Bob, because women will hold back because of knowing they've got to say goodbye, and they've got to lose that friend.  And I've had women say to me in the military, "You know, I'm just going to be here two years.  I'm not going to invest myself.  I'm not going to get involved.  I'm not going to try to make a friend, it hurts too much when I leave."  And I always say to them, "It is worth every tear, it is worth every minute to invest in a relationship, because the home that you create" – and I always – they'll say to me, "I don't want to unpack all my boxes, I'm leaving soon," and I'll say "Hang those pictures, put out that welcome mat.  You are investing in the lives of your family.  You are creating a place of nurture and safety and environment for them that says 'This is my home.'  And for you – invest your life in a relationship, that's what Christ teaches us is we are relational people, and we need relationships."

So – I would encourage women to invest and step out and involve themselves to make that friend.

Bob: Did you do that?

Susan: It was hard, and a lot of times I resisted it within myself, but I knew that I had to do it to survive, because I am such a connector and such a relational person, that that was part of my survival.  And so, you know, the times I'd find myself closing the door and not going out or not going to church or a Bible study, I could see what it was doing to me, and I knew that I had to survive, I had to step out and make friends.

Bob: And then those times when your husband would come home and say, "Hey, guess what?  New adventure!" and that meant this new friend that you were just connecting with …

Susan: Yes, yes.

Bob: Now you're going to say goodbye, and this – you didn't have e-mail and Facebook to keep you connected.

Susan: But, you know, the beauty of being in God's family is that all of those moves – and there are those women that – we are still friends, we still stay in touch, we'll see each other occasionally, it is a wonderful tapestry of relationships, and I wouldn't trade anything for it.  Although some of them were short, it has enriched my life, and we've stayed in touch.

Dennis: You know, all this sounds real good, but I happen to know, because you wrote about it in your book, that in the midst of a stressful time in Phoenix, you'd had it up to here.

Susan: Oh, I had.

Dennis: You ran away from home.

Susan: I did.  And how many women have not wanted to do that in the midst of crisis and change and circumstances.  I did.  I felt like everybody was settled in, and everybody was happy, and, you know, I just thought I was going to burst, like somebody would stick a pin in a balloon, that I would just pop.  And I got in our old car, and someone had told me about a day trip in Phoenix, that you could go to the Superstition Mountains and go on Apache Trail, and I thought, "I'm just going to run away from home and go on this trail and just do some exploring, and who cares and who knows me?  You know, how all of you women out there, you know how we go into these pity party states, and when you move, you know, you don't know anybody to come to your pity party.

So I just thought, "I'm going to run away from home," and I went – it was a winding trail in the Superstitions that was a switchback, and no one could follow me or go around me, no one could – I mean, it was like a one single lane.

Dennis: It sounds like a jeep trail.

Susan: Oh, it was.

Dennis: This is dangerous.

Susan: It was so hot, and it was dangerous, and I was just too enmeshed in my own feelings.

Dennis: You drove off into the desert.

Susan: I drove off into the desert and up the mountains.  And so – but God taught me so much.  He taught me that, you know, I should turn the steering wheel of my life over to Him; that I was trying to be in control, and I couldn't be in control, and I couldn't change it.  And I had to let go and let God take over and become the center of my life.

You know, I was lonely but never alone, because Christ accompanied me, and He became, at that moment, the focus of my life again.

Dennis: And that's really the point of the story.

Susan: Yes.

Dennis: That as you move …

Susan: As you move.

Dennis: You may feel horribly alone in terms of having to uproot relationships and start all over, but there is One who goes with you that your identity isn't necessarily tied to your dream home.

Susan: No.

Dennis: But it's really tied to who you are as a follower of Christ and being obedient to Him.

Bob: And, you know, in Philippians, chapter 4, most of us are familiar with the verse that says "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  But I wonder if we're familiar with the verses that precede that where Paul talks about his living conditions and his moving.  He says, "I've been in plenty, and I've been in want, I've learned the secret of being content."  And that's when he says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  It's not about I can knock down this wall, or I can do superhuman feats of strength.  It is I can have enough strength to be content in whatever circumstance I find myself in, whether it's a palace or a prison cell.

Susan: That's right.  And in Him all things hold together.  "In Him" – and I love the verse in Acts 17:23 – "In Him we live and move and have our being."  And we just lose sight of Christ in the midst of change when we're so focused on what we're going through in our circumstances.  And, you're right, contentment is the key – whether it's a big house, whether it's an apartment, no matter where you live, it's being content from within.

Dennis: And a part of how I think Christ ends up meeting our needs in the midst of these moves is through relationships with other people, and that's why I was so excited to read in your book how you talked about the three most important decisions to make when you move to a new city – get involved in a church; number two, get involved in a church; number three, get involved in a church.  Why?  Because that's where the people of God are; that's where other followers of Christ are; that's where you're going to hopefully join a church that teaches the Scripture and that can encourage you and weep with you and can meet you at your point of need.

And we do need relationships.  We weren't meant to take those drives on the Apache Trail and stay on them.

Susan: That's right.

Dennis: Those are moments to get away – yes, get your perspective, but you undoubtedly had people who came alongside you and who brought purpose and meaning to that move that you made to Arizona.

Susan: And that first step was getting in a good Bible study; was getting in a good, small group.  Bill and I got in a couples group, and we got involved in a good Sunday school class, and I got in a Bible study, and it made all the difference in the world.  It was the beginning of putting down roots.  It was the beginning of being reminded of who Christ is.

Dennis: And I'd say if you can't find one of those Bible studies, start one.  We have Homebuilders Bible studies.  I'm thinking of my daughter and son-in-law in Denver, Jake and Rebecca, who moved to Denver and couldn't connect in relationships quickly, and so they started a Homebuilders Bible study.

Bob: Who did they even know to invite to the Homebuilders Bible study?

Dennis: Neighbors.

Bob: Really?

Dennis: People at work, took some couples to the Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference.  After they came back from the conference, they got them involved in the Homebuilders group, and it did a couple of things.  Number one, it connected them relationally and, number two, it got them into the Scriptures together, and it cemented friendships.  And they are now finishing a book, getting ready to start another book and, you know, I think we underestimate our need to connect with other followers of Christ around the Scriptures.  And that would be a strong exhortation I'd give any couple who is in the process of moving.

Bob: Well, and, of course, we've got information on our website about the Homebuilders couples series.  There are tips available on how to start a group.  All of the study guides are available as well.  Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and the information you need is available there.  There is also a link to Susan's website, where you can get more information about Moving On groups that are held in local churches in cities all around the country.  So find the link at FamilyLifeToday.com, and finally you'll find information about the books that Susan has written.  The book, "After the Boxes are Unpacked," and then the book that she wrote for children called "Mom, I Don't Want to Move." 

You can order those books directly from us at FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. 

During the next few weeks, we want to make available to our listeners as a thank you gift for your financial support of this ministry, a movie that tells the story of the life, the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus.  It is "The Jesus Movie."  It's on DVD, and is the most-seen movie of all time.  It's been shown around the world and, in fact, thanks to DVD technology, there are a variety of languages available along with English on this DVD.  So if you know someone who speaks a different language as a primary language, this can be a great gift to give to that person.

In addition to "The Jesus Movie," there is also a special feature for children.  It runs a little more than an hour, and it gives kids a child's-eye view of the life of Christ.  Both of these features are on a single DVD and, again, it's our gift to you when you make a donation this month of any amount to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.

If you are making your donation online, we need you to write the word "JesusDVD" into the keycode box so that we'll know to send the DVD to you.  Or if you're calling, just ask for the Jesus DVD when you make your donation over the phone.  The toll-free number is 1-800-FLTODAY, the website, again, is FamilyLifeToday.com, and, again, let me say thanks in advance for your ongoing support of this ministry, and we trust you and your family will enjoy watching the Jesus film on DVD this year, maybe as a way of preparing your own heart for the celebration of Easter.

Well, tomorrow we want to talk about what parents can do to help their children adjust to a move.  So I hope you can be back with us as we continue our conversation tomorrow with Susan Miller. 

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow.  

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