Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Take Up Something New: move across the country or the world (W. David O. Taylor)

Sometimes, like our Father Abraham, we are called to pick up our stuff and go Somewhere Else.  If you've visited me for any length of time on the blog, you know that just over a year-and-a-half ago our family followed that sort of call from upstate New York (where we'd lived our whole lives, for many generations) to Austin, Texas.  During these years we've lived off notes, prayers, encouragement from friends as daily bread -- all of it sustaining, fresh, necessary.  I received permission from one of our friends to reproduce an especially helpful bit of advice that, I believe, offers universal support to anyone who's being Sent Out from home.  I kept the letter in its original context -- counting on you to enjoy reading other people's letters as much as I do.
Thank you -- again and again -- David Taylor for your generous and skilled counsel.  (If you haven't met David, visit him at Diary of an Arts Pastor or read his book For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts). 

A few ideas that promote emotional, relational and spiritual health when you find yourself moving your family across the country (or the world)

from W. David O. Taylor as told to the Murphy family

July 28, 2011

Good wonderful people of upstate New York: Whaddup.

I've been meaning to write you for a while. I've crafted a note in my head that comes close to resembling a Pauline epistle--eloquent, deeply spiritual, multilingual and long as a Corinthian column. I've decided to abandon my epistle and write you a simpler note that will actually get delivered.

In addition to Phaedra's wonderful list of recommended hot spots in Austin, I wanted to share a few thoughts about your move. I'm sure you're getting excellent advice from family and friends in NY, and I imagine that folks in Austin will walk with you through the good days and hard days. I can't speak as a sociologist or a psychologist. All I can offer is a bit of perspective from my own experience. 

At 10 I moved to northshore Chicago for one year, then returned to Guatemala. At 13 I moved from Guatemala back to northshore Chicago. At 14 I moved down to a little town in Arkansas where I spent my high school years. At 18 I moved to Chicago proper. At 19 I moved down to Austin in order to study at University of Texas. At 23 I moved to Vancouver, BC, where I stayed for five years. Two years ago at 37 I moved to North Carolina. And in a few years I'll be moving again, Lord only knows where.

This is what I've learned along the way and which I pass along to you for your consideration:

Planning a farewell ritual helps make an emotionally, relationally and spiritually healthy transition

By ritual I mean the following:

1. Walking or driving down a favorite path/road, alone or with others, while you intentionally thank God for the good things that occurred there.
2. Eating a meal at a memorable restaurant or place, again while you consciously thank God.
3. Writing a letter in which you identify all the things that you're grateful for about this place.
4. Taking a moment with a few others in order to pray out loud and release to God this place that you've come to love and that you'll now be leaving.
5. Playing a last game of X or singing a song in Y place or going for a swim at Z location and then shouting "That was good!"
6. Touching, tasting, smelling and listening, in short, using all your senses to acknowledge the things that have been significant about this place.
7. Taking a moment with the family where everybody gets to share with the others things that they will miss most about this place and the people here, so that these things can be relished together, thanking God for them and then releasing them to God mindful that all of it has been a gift--and that all that lies ahead will also be gift.
You get the idea. The point is to make a ritual which you perform both by yourself and with others: a solitary ritual and a shared ritual. When the ritual involves tactile, sensory activity plus a spiritual attentiveness to God, which I recognize both in my own soul and before others who care for me, I have found that it helps healthy closure to take place. It also in that way helps healthy opening to occur. Healthy leavings and healthy comings aren't something that our society is that interested in making possible.

[Healthy leavings and comings] can become the grace of God to us and enable our hearts to grieve what needs grieving and to hope for what lies ahead, knowing that our Good Shepherd walks beside us.

locking up our NY house for the final time

Think of your transition in terms of thirds.
1. There's the first month in which everything is new and the energy levels high.
2. There's the three month mark in which the newness still feels pretty fun, though you also feel strong pangs of longing for home.
3. There's the six month mark when you feel just a little more settled, which reassures you, but you also feel most intensely the loss of people who know you back home.
4. There's the one year (or 4/3) mark where things are no longer freshly new (though you're still discovering new things), and while you miss home, you also have begun to feel more at home with folks in the new place.
5. There's the two year (or 8/3) mark where you miss things back home but you miss them in a healthy way and you've discovered your place in the new home--folks who have become good friends, places that are "yours" now, and rhythms that enable you to come and go through the new place with ease as well as with gratitude.
November 2012, overlooking Austin - 1 year and 3 mos. in

Austin, Texas [fill in the blank with your new city's name] will call out things from you and your identity that would never have been called out in New York [fill in the blank with your former city's name].

While you may not grow to love everything about Austin or about Texas (which you have every right not to have to love), it will also provoke, stimulate and awaken new things--new desires, new abilities, new opportunities, new strengths, new dynamics. And that will be a very exciting thing. You'll become a richer person for it and it will open up a small window into the way God sees you and how he sees the world.

Ok. That's it. I need to get back to the books. I hope it helps somewhat. Discard whatever is unhelpful and know that we're praying for you nearly daily. Please don't hesitate to ask for anything. We're here for you -- and that means your four kids too.

We'll see you at Christmas.


additional comment from Tamara:

Don't try to move from one Place to another Place without seeking -- and finding -- a whole Tribe of friends who will tell you words like this.


Do you have a story you'd like to share that would fit our Practice Resurrection quest to take up something new during Eastertide?  Write me a note on the facebook page for This Sacramental Life. (or email me).  
Also, each week I'm collecting your photos of practicing resurrection, taking up something new to celebrate our risen Christ who makes all things new.  Share your photo with a caption in 36 words or less at the facebook page for This Sacramental Life.  (See our first week here.)

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