Have you ever moved away from home to be a stranger in a new place?
I know I’m not the only one who has. I know that I’m not the only one who has packed up everything and left everyone and started over somewhere new. When I married my husband, we boxed up the collections of my lifetime; old quilts folded next to glistening new wedding gifts, the books from my childhood packed with bowls and linens for a new life ahead. Together, we drove half-way across the country to make a home together. A new home.
I’m a California girl who was born and raised in a city that is nestled between Los Angeles and Santa Monica. I love it there. Somedays, I close my eyes and I think about the warm sunshine that covers you like a blanket. I think of farmer’s markets, juice shops, sea salt air, avocados, and freshly made tortillas. I think of those beach days and bonfire nights and the desert and the mountains and palm trees that turn to joshua trees that turn to redwoods and how beautiful my home state is. The days I miss California the most are the ones where I think of the crest of a wave before it crashes on the shore and when I think of my family and friends who are there and feel so incredibly far away.
Moving to the suburbs of Chicago has been an adventure, but it isn’t easy every day. I am a stranger in a place I do not know and do not understand. It’s winter now and Chicago is covered by a blanket of sparkling white snow and the longer I am here, the longer I feel like I don’t quite belong. It’s been almost a year, and I still feel like a stranger.
Being a stranger has looked like days off with no one to spend them with and going to see a movie alone because your husband is working and your friends live hundreds of miles away. Being a stranger is starting over and missing the deep relationships you left behind. Being a stranger is clinging to the one person who is home now. With my husband I can find home here in the cold and the ice and the wasteland of this winter because without him, the warm life-filled California days wouldn’t feel like home again for very long.
God has made us a promise. He will never leave us or forsake us and He will be with us wherever we go. It’s a beautiful thought to know that even on the days that I feel the most alone, my Heavenly Father is there, gently teaching me to rely on Him for my needs. The seasons of emptiness are in my life as reminder to find my fullness in Christ and in Him alone.
Your emptiness is but the preparation for your being filled, and your casting down is but the making ready for your lifting up. | Charles Haddon Spurgeon
There is a longing, though, for community. Being surrounded by strangers and then realizing that it’s me who is the stranger, the outsider – those are the times when I feel most alone. I have my husband, and we are both anchored in the promises that God has given us but we both feel the ache for a community and the longing for the people we love, and for the friends who used to be so close by.
I am a stranger.
Maybe you’ve been a stranger too.
Maybe you still are and you know what it’s like to leave and to move and to wander and the start over. I’d love to hear your story because, maybe if we are all strangers together, then we won’t be strangers any more.