In February my sweet and fun friend named Jenny moved back to Nashville. Shortly after settling into her new home, she sent me a post about what that felt like. Now months later, my husband and I have left DC and moved to Birmingham in a similar fashion and I find myself reflecting on her words and wisdom from the season of change.
Our move was unexpected. We had been talking for a while about moving somewhere new and changing jobs and living new stories, but no plans had been put into motion…until I got the call about the job. It was about a job that I didn’t even know existed, a job I had been talking and dreaming and praying about for what seemed like months, maybe years. And the job fell into my lap all wrapped up with a bow in the most lovely package, carrying us to a new city: Birmingham.
Like Jenny, I moved to DC after college for adventure, change, and all the other little things that bring people to Washington. Then like so many before me, I’m now leaving it behind for other inspirers, journeying back to my home state after five well-lived out years in an iconic city. While it doesn’t seem like it should be that big of a change – nothing is the same. I’m so not the same. I’ve changed in so many ways, starting with my last name – and returning home is the surest place of any to discover a long list of other things that are no longer the same.
During my three month sabbatical this winter, I flew down to visit two very dear friends in Charleston, and during our four days together, we laughed, and dreamed, and explored, and walked up and down beaches, and shared pieces of our story, and ate and drank our way through the entire city. Along the way one of the friends, Josh, said something so profound that it really hit me. He told me that the biggest adventure anyone could ever go on in their life is the adventure one takes when they decide to follow God wholeheartedly. How simple, how true, how convicting.
So months later, with those words in mind and a desire to really trust that the Lord was preparing somewhere special for us, Coalter and I collectively told God: “We will go wherever you want to take us.” Be careful what you tell God, because when you unbind yourself from everything that ties you to this world and really pray a prayer like that, He will move mountains, or in our case, He moved us over lots of mountains. And here we are, living in Birmingham – not because it had been our dream place to live – but because God told us he wanted us and needed us here.
Readjusting to life back in the South has been a bittersweet chapter in my story. The sweetness of the story is getting to come back changed and experience home through a new set of eyes. During the couped up months of winter, I read Shauna Niequist’s book Bittersweet that talks about change, grace, and learning things the hard way – it’s a great book for any season of life you find yourself in and I especially love how she talks about leaving something and the goodness of change.
“There are times when the actual experience of leaving something makes you wish desperately that you could stay, and then there are times when the leaving reminds you a hundred times over why exactly you had to leave in the first place. . .This is what I’ve come to believe about change: it’s good, in the way that childbirth is good, and heartbreak is good, and failure is good. By that I mean that it’s incredibly painful, exponentially more so if you fight it, and also that it has the potential to open you up, to open life up, to deliver you right into the palm of God’s hand, which is where you wanted to be all long, except that you were too busy pushing and pulling your life into exactly what you thought it should be. I’ve learned the hard way that change is one of God’s greatest gifts, and most useful tools. Change can push us, pull us, rebuke and remake us. It can show us who we’ve become, in the worst ways, and also in the best ways. I’ve learned that it’s not something to run away from, as though we could, and that in many cases, change is a function of God’s graciousness, not life’s cruelty.”
Her words really paint a picture for what our last year in DC looked and felt like, especially the last few moments there. I begged Coalter to drive down the Mall, one of my favorite places, one last time as we left town.
As we did, the sun was setting behind the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial was gleaming in the distance, and families were frolicking, and tourists were taking pictures, and friends were jogging together – all of the things I love so much about DC. I’m the kind of person who loves window seats on airplanes, sunsets, oceans, mountains. I see God in all of those things more vividly and so it was symbolic – that as we left one place in our lives, the sun was setting, the chapter was drawing to a close, but God’s presence was there with us and He was leading us into this new season with full and grateful hearts.
The last month has been evidence that even when you are walking in the will of God, change is hard. Moving is really hard, because it means you are leaving something behind.
Our move was especially difficult for a myriad of reasons and it didn’t help one bit that on the eve of our departure, Coalter accidentally threw our car keys down the trash chute – never to be found – but only after going through all of our apartment’s trash. Sigh. (Coalter, if you’re reading this, I love you very much, but you sure don’t make it easy sometimes).
Another difficulty of our move was not having an actual place to call home, yet. What we thought was only a temporary living situation with two of our best friends, who are married, turned into us moving in with them for the summer as we get settled and navigate this new season and city. They have more than graciously welcomed us into their home and it’s been genuinely fun to get to be with them and learn from each other.
Confession: I have a hard time with change. The first two weeks I lived in DC after college, I cried everyday, because I didn’t know anyone and every time I met someone I feared they would run the other way. Moving to Birmingham brought up some of the feelings from that season, which I’ve found to be so far a lifelong insecurity of mine…and that is when they see the real, unfiltered, no make-up, haven’t had my morning coffee yet Britt – they would run for the hills. (I’m sure it all goes back to someone in my childhood saying something or doing something that made me feel small and believe a lie and now I’ve carried it with me through life like a heavy suitcase filled with explosives.)
But God didn’t let that happen this time. He orchestrated the move completely by preparing a place for me in a home with loving, grace-giving friends. In fact, the last few weeks have been all about grace, and God shining light on some of the dark spots of my being. It’s been great. Hard, but great.
Bets is that friend who I’ve always been my true raw self, I don’t hold back – we share fears, tears, we’ve yelled at each other, laughed at each other, I’ve told her some of the messiest things about my life and when it was time for her to run away, she took a step closer and really loved me well. Because of her and the grace she’s given me, I’ve been able to see through the fears and insecurities I place around relationships and walk through them instead of run the other way.
So in this season of change, I’m seeing the gifts of true friendship, and blessings, and grace, and unconditional love more than I ever have before. It’s the kind of change that transforms you and makes you want to go forward and love others differently because of it. So thank you Bets, for helping show me a new way.