A Bittersweet Goodbye

sold signI know the time was right, but that doesn’t make it any easier. It’s never easy to let go of something that has become a part of your life and your memories for thirteen years.

When the “For Sale” sign went up in June, it became a reality that this would be the last summer at our little getaway place near Flagstaff, Arizona ― only an hour and a half from Phoenix. I knew selling would become inevitable as the years went by. The grandchildren were growing older, the small rooms that once were adequate seemed to be getting smaller, college was looming in the future, and their interests had broadened beyond our small community there.

When the “sold” sign went up soon after that, I walked from room to room, my eyes covering every inch of space within each room’s four walls, as my mind recalled the memories held there.

Our Happy Place

I could smell the cookies and brownies in the kitchen as they baked in the oven, with only the aroma left behind as they quickly disappeared off the platter. I could see all the smiling faces when they sat around the kitchen bar, knowing I had their full attention as they gathered to eat anything that wasn’t nailed down. It wasn’t about the food for me, it was the priceless interaction of conversation that I loved. I looked beyond the kitchen to the living area and saw every seat filled with six grandchildren, then spilling over on the floor with their friends. They always got such a kick out of me being able to flip a bottle of water right side up on the counter, teaching me to dance to their music, and singing popular songs along with them.

I could hear the laughter and giggles in the loft filled with bunk beds and sleeping bags long after “lights out!” echoed up the stairs. The empty stairs were once filled with flip-flops and sports shoes in hopes someone would claim them.  As I walked by the bathroom, I could hear the knocks on the door with a loud voice, “Hurry up, you’re taking too long, it’s my turn!”

Walking out on the deck, I took a deep breath of the cool, fresh air and smiled as I remembered the summer the deck became “Nana’s Nail Salon” for my granddaughters and their friends. “By appointment only,” I said. They waited patiently as I painted nails and toes of each girl. I could hear my grandsons and their friends playing board games on our deck, and soccer, dodge ball, and kickball in our large neighbor-shared backyard, where the balls always seemed to end up on our deck.

I sat down for a moment, and stared at the beauty of the flowers I planted each year. I gazed at the blue sky and green grass ― a different landscape from Phoenix in the summer.

I thought back over the thirteen years of memories, first with Bill, who loved coming here before he died. It was our place to rest, renew, and regroup. I called it our “Happy Place.” It was where I grieved in the solitude of long walks and where God soothed my broken heart as He began to put the pieces of my life back together again.

Then there is the legacy of memories for our grandchildren, who spent every summer there for thirteen years, and will, I’m sure, share crazy stories about “Cousin Camp” around the table when they are grown. Priceless memories were shared together with our beloved and long-time friends from Phoenix, who said many years ago, “There’s a place next door to us going up for sale, you might be interested….”  There were also other dear friends close by from Phoenix, and neighbors I looked forward to seeing each summer who became a part of our little community of friends.

this is my happy placeOur “Happy Place” was perfect for our Just Moved Ministry Staff and Board Retreats, where the most faithful, committed, and amazing women gathered for R&R, and to cast a vision, to plan, and to prepare for the year ahead. Not to mention, the great food, fun, laughter, and fellowship we shared! And, sometimes I would invite a friend for a weekend who simply needed encouragement and a little TLC.

A New Season

As I drove away this summer, I took one last glance at our “Happy Place” and my red geraniums left on the steps for the new owners. I was reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:1, There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under the heaven. This is a new season in my life now and I choose to embrace it wholeheartedly.

geraniumsYou can do the same thing if you have had to let go of a place you loved. It’s not always easy when the place you left behind is intricately woven in your life,your heart, and your memories.  Perhaps you’ve experienced a move, or a military PCS. It could be downsizing, retirement, or other circumstances that have uprooted you beyond your control.

Cherish, Don’t Cling, to the Memories

Anytime during a hard or lonely day, you and I are blessed to have a storehouse of memories that reflect the place we loved and the special times spent with family and friends. Cherish your memories, don’t cling to them. Don’t let living in the past keep you from all God has planned for you in the future. We can acknowledge that moving is not the end, but the beginning of making new memories and new friends. We can choose to embrace a new place and all the opportunities to see God’s goodness and faithfulness.

Remember, God wastes nothing, not even having to move and leave behind what you hold most dear. This is a new season in your life too. Join me, and choose to embrace it today.

From my heart,

Susan MillerSusan Miller

 

Moving with two kids and a dog: What I learned on the road trip to our new home

road trip with kids and dogWe named our small used Toyota “the brown berry”. We always named our cars. We kept them so long, they were like part of the family. When our two children were very young, they thought it was funny for our cars to have names. When they got older, they simply became amused at one of their mother’s crazy family traditions. (I bet they secretly name their own cars now.)

During one of our fourteen moves, my husband, Bill, started to work in North Carolina before we actually moved there. Once everything was packed and the moving van was on its way, I set out to drive the brown berry across three states loaded down with two kids, a dog, and boxes crammed in every available space. Our son, Bill Jr., was six and our daughter, Ginger, was three. I don’t remember how old the dog was.

What I do remember was our road trip. It was extremely hot and the brown berry came down with heat exhaustion. (That’s what I told the kids.) In adult language, the air conditioner quit blowing cold air. Oh, it would still blow air – it was just hot air. So I rolled the windows down to let the hot air out, only to find the air coming in was even hotter.

At that point, Ginger, who was sitting in the backseat, started throwing up all over herself, her doll, and the seat. Bill Jr., who was sitting in the front seat, started gagging at the smell, and the dog had his head hanging out the window, drooling from the heat. I don’t think the smell bothered him. We were not at a place where I could pull over, so with Ginger now crying, Bill Jr. gagging, and the dog drooling, I was held captive at the wheel.

While I was thinking, What else could possibly happen? I began to imagine Bill sitting in a new air-conditioned office somewhere. I started getting furious at him for not being here to share in this memorable experience.

At that same moment, the brown berry must have gotten a tummy ache (that’s what I told the kids) because the red light came on indicating that the engine was overheating. We kept limping along in all our glory for miles until we came to an exit with a gas station. There we found a quick fix for the brown berry, a clean restroom with lots of paper towels, and a grassy spot for the dog. As we got back in the car, Bill Jr. said for the hundredth time, “Mom, how much farther is it?”

I’m sure you can identify with my road trip in some way. We have all had our moments of traveling chaos and calamity that eventually become memories to share and laugh about later.

Whether you are moving, on vacation, or on a road trip to visit family, pack these practical tip ideas to ease the miles to your destination.

  • A kitchen timer can be used on a trip in several ways: “It’s your time to share” or “We’ll stop for a break when the timer goes off.”
  • Take a roll of paper towels, small garbage bags, wet wipes, and Ziploc bags in the car for cleanup, diapers, and trash. You’ll be glad you did!
  • Air freshener really comes in handy. It covers food odors, plus all those other unpleasant smells we don’t have to mention.
  • A first aid kit. Make sure the one you have is not outdated.
  • A cooler with favorite snacks, juice, fruit, and sandwiches. Include a heavy-duty Ziploc bag filled with ice to soothe any minor bumps, cuts, or scrapes.
  • For long trips, take several gallons of water. Small bottles of water don’t last very long.
  • Don’t forget a small water bowl for your pet. Put someone in charge of keeping your dog’s leash.
  • When you are staying at a hotel overnight, stop late in the afternoon in time for the kids to go swimming and work off some energy before bedtime.
  • Get up for an early departure to get a good start on the day. The kids might sleep through the first few hours of the morning.

Here are some things to do that will help your family “move” closer together on any trip:

  • Share your biggest concerns about the trip. Talk about how you can avoid those problems.
  • Practice these words: “This is our big adventure!” Attitude is everything.
  • Start your trip with a “God hunt”. Look for God in everything. It helps your children think about seeing God in every aspect of their lives. “I see God in our move. He did….” I see God taking care of us on this trip. He has….”
  • Give an example of what it looks like to be kind, thoughtful, and patient with one another.
  • Before you begin the trip to your new destination, pray together as a family.
  • And don’t forget to make your road trip an adventure, make it fun, and make it meaningful!

‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’ Jeremiah 29:11 NASB

From My Heart to Yours,

Susan Miller

From Susan’s book, But Mom, I Don’t Want to Move!