One summer we trekked more than 1500 miles to our new home in a new town. As we traded our shorts and flip-flops for jeans, I rehearsed in my mind all the reasons this would certainly be the worst Air Force assignment ever.
The base didn’t have a house available for us. There were no rentals open for several weeks after our “report not later than” date. When my husband checked into base lodging he was told we could only stay for two nights.
Three times in the next ten days I would pack my girls and our suitcases to move between over-priced hotels. Eventually, we received keys to a rental property just off base. We traded two beds in a single room for camping in sleeping bags in an empty house.
As I waited for my household goods to arrive, I waited for a welcome face to knock on my door. My girls waited for friends. We waited for this new place to feel like home. Nothing we longed for arrived quickly.
I began to wonder whether I’d find anything good in this new place. Who were these people? Didn’t they know military communities are famous for welcoming newcomers? Where were we? Had we discovered the remote outpost for hermits?
I missed the familiar and the comfortable.
Each morning as my girls and I ate cereal in paper bowls, conversation inevitably turned to memories of our last home, the friends we missed, and the community that still held our heart. That beautiful place had seemed like an oasis and the stark contrast to our new location broke my heart. It felt like we’d been exiled to the desert, left to wander alone in silence.
I wore a smile for my family. But I couldn’t wear a brave mask forever. Eventually the turmoil in my heart leaks out my eyes, the thoughts racing through my mind become words spilling out of my mouth.
Whatever we rehearse, we perform.
My tiny audience took their cues from me. Would we be happy here? The weight of their expectant looks forced me to my knees. God, are you here in this lonely place? Do I believe you go with us and before us into every place you call us?
I recalled my conversation with a good friend from church right before we moved north. She had asked me to share (on camera) a story about our women’s group to encourage other ladies to join. Surprised by her request, I suggested she ask other members who weren’t moving. Soon, my face would be unfamiliar to new women at the church.
“They won’t recognize your face, but they’ll recognize your story,”she insisted. “Your words will be familiar even if your face isn’t, because it’s their story, too. We’re all newcomers sometime, somewhere. All of us experience being new at some point – we start over in a new job or a new home… We begin a new school year or new season of life.”
As I listened to my civilian friend draw parallels between military life and the life of faith, I began to understand her perspective. The choices I had made as we arrived in that community created the conditions for my family and me to thrive:
Because I believed God sent us, I expected his provision.
Because I believed God to be the ultimate giver of good gifts, I looked for and discovered his blessings daily.
Because I believed God designed me to thrive in community, I sought his people to be my people in this new place.
Our success in any new season is rooted in how we begin.
My choices would shape my new chapter. I could continue to lament what I’d lost, resigned to simply survive, or I could choose to thrive. I could choose to believe how I felt, or I could choose to live what I believe – to live by faith in spite of what I had seen so far of this new place.
Living by faith is a daily choice. On my good days it’s a choice I make subconsciously. But on my not so great days, it’s a choice I need to make consciously.
Faith isn’t a feeling reserved for good days. Faith is a choice I make every day.
Nearly every page of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation records God’s invitation to his people to choose life over death, freedom over captivity, and love over apathy. We know His story ends in victory and life everlasting. Too often I forget mine does too.
So I cued up my “Happy Thoughts” playlist. I reminded my weary soul of God’s character and his faithfulness. As I sang, I heard my own voice proclaiming truth out loud. What I knew in my mind took root in my heart.
When we allow God’s word to penetrate our heart, everything changes.
Rather than cataloging my frustrations, I began counting our blessings – beginning with the fact we were together in a remote place rather than separated by a remote assignment.
Rather than rehearsing all we lacked, I began to discover God’s provision: the best Kindergarten teacher ever, an outdoor lifestyle conducive to running and biking often, and a backyard view of not one, but two airports for my aviation enthusiasts.
Rather than waiting for someone to knock on my door, I called two other spouses new to the base. By late fall, we had a standing coffee date on Friday mornings. Their friendship reminded me, once again, if you’re looking for community, build it.
I’d like to tell you that became my favorite Air Force assignment, but it didn’t. But it iswhere I learned three steps to thriving in any new endeavor.
- Choose to Believe God. The Lord is the same today, yesterday, and tomorrow. He is always with you. He goes before you, walks beside you, and promises his protection and provision in every place you set your foot.
- Choose to Be Grateful. Cataloging complaints doesn’t change circumstances, but gratitude change attitude. Whatever you rehearse in your mind and heart will take life in your words and actions. Empower the positive by counting your blessings and shifting your perspective.
- Choose to Be in (or Build) Community. Life flourishes in community. We weren’t meant to do it alone. How can you be part of your local community? If you’re lonely and looking for a friend, be the friend you’re looking to find. There is always, always, always someone who feels like you. Reach out – you might be lifeline someone else needs.
What is new in your life? New school year? New home? New job? New season of life? New community? Consider which elements of a thriving life you’re missing. What choices could you make to alter the landscape of your life?
Friend, no matter what new thing you’re facing, God brought you to this time and space. God knew you what you needed today before you had words to explain your ache. God will provide all you need to thrive. It begins with knowing him, believing him, and choosing to live by faith, fueled by love.
Whatever your dreams for this new space, your success is rooted in how you begin. Choose wisely.
Verses to Consider:
“After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: …I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. …As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. …Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:1-9)
“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11 NIV)
“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his hear, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:45 NIV)
Lord, I don’t want to just survive another week or month or school year – help me to thrive. I want to believe you, God. Help my unbelief. Remind me of your faithfulness. Fill my mind and my heart with your goodness so that my life may flourish with evidence of you. Give me your eyes to build a community of encouragers. Amen.