Moving is stressful. Anyone who has ever moved can tell you that, and anyone in the military who does this fairly often can attest to the reality that sometimes the move goes well, and sometimes it doesn’t. This has been one of those moves where the list of random things going sideways is almost comedic, but the impact that it has had on my mood and general outlook has been anything but funny.
There was the base hotel that had said they would be able to accommodate me for 6 days, but when I arrived could only do five. Then the room they put my daughter and me in was less than ideal for two people who had packed up everything they might need for the foreseeable future – the door to the room didn’t close properly at the bottom, so if my daughter kicking me repeatedly in our shared bed didn’t keep me up, the flies, moths, and flying ants that had easy access to the room did a stellar job. The air conditioner was so loud we had to yell to be heard over it, but we couldn’t control the temperature in the room ourselves, and water pressure in the shower was so bad that my daughter was convinced the shower must be broken. (And for anyone who would argue that we should have asked for a different room, we had been given the last available room on base. We were stuck.) I got into a minor fender bender while trying to figure out which way I was supposed to turn out of a parking lot, because my GPS’ decision to recalculate at the last second was just enough distraction for bad things to happen. I jammed my thumb somehow and it swelled to twice the size it normally was, which made loading and unloading the car more difficult than I expected.
All relatively little things, but in the context of a move and stress, they added up – big time. And those little things began to magnify themselves in my brain, especially as I lay awake in the middle of the night, dodging dream-kicks from the munchkin and wondering what bug was crawling on me now? The morning light, with its overwhelmingly beautiful sunrises, did little to quell my frustration.
I can’t believe I have to pack all of this up again in a few days and move to a hotel off-base – out-of-pocket – and then do it again a few days after that (because of availability) and keep going back and forth from hotel to hotel. I need a house. I need a church. I need some stability. And, for crying out loud, I need a flyswatter!
Sunday morning arrived, and my heart ached for the familiarity of our church family in the town we’d left. We’d been known and loved and welcomed there, and I got a stomachache thinking about walking into a new church in a new town where we knew no one. I did my best to bury my anxiety so that my daughter wouldn’t pick up on it, and we headed to one of the few churches in town that fell into the general description of what we were looking for. We loved it. We were warmly welcomed when we walked in. The kids service used some of the same materials that our previous church had used, and the setup was close enough to familiar for my daughter to confidently hug me goodbye at the door and waltz right in. The auditorium felt comfortable, the music was good, the preaching – satellited in from a main campus church elsewhere – was fantastic, and it turned out that someone from my new unit was on the worship team. After the service was over, I picked up my little girl and she chattered on and on about how great everything had been. I knew then that we had found our new church, and all we had done was show up.
The next day, we arrived at the off-base hotel after a long first day at work. For the third time, I begged them to see if there was any availability at all that would keep us from having to bounce from one hotel to another multiple times. With a bit of effort, the nice woman at the front desk was able to work it out so that my daughter and I would be in the same room, at the same hotel, for the next two weeks. I was overjoyed and relieved. Finally!
On the way up to our room, I found myself humming the tune to Blessed Be Your Name. The first line of the chorus says, “Every blessing You pour out, I’ll turn back to praise.” I always took “turn back” to mean something transformative, as in, I’ll take this blessing you gave me and turn it into praise for You. But in that moment, in that elevator, it occurred to me that “turn back” might mean actually turning around and remembering to give thanks and praise, instead of just walking on.
As my daughter and I continued down the hall, the story of the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19) came to mind. Basically, Jesus healed these ten lepers and told them to go show themselves to the priest, who could verify that they were healed and could rejoin society. Of the ten lepers who experienced this life-altering, never-going-to-be-the-same event, only one took the time to come back to Jesus and say thanks. Keying into my room, all I could think was, “I want to be like that guy!”
So we got inside, got settled, and I explained to my little girl that I’d been praying for a resolution to the hotel situation, and God had answered that prayer. I told her I had prayed that we’d find a church quickly, and I had asked others to pray for the same thing, and God led us straight to one we loved on our first week in town. I told her it was super important that we not only acknowledge that He’d answered our prayers, but we needed to thank Him for it too. Adorably, she looked at me and said, “I’ve got this, Mom,” and proceeded to pray for both of us, giving thanks like only a 7-year-old can.
Do you know what it does for the soul when you take a moment to think about and give thanks for the places in which God has moved, in His timing, for your good and His glory? It’s remarkable. The other things that hadn’t worked out yet, that loomed so large in my heart and mind, suddenly paled in comparison. I could easily choose joy, because I had first chosen to turn around and give thanks.
There are going to be seasons in which things aren’t working out the way you want them to. I encourage you to identify the things that are working out. Find them. Acknowledge them. Call them what they are. And dedicate a few moments to thanking God for working and moving and loving us enough to operate in His timing and not our own. Your outlook will change, but you have to turn around first.