By Malia Powers
This summer, our family of seven had a great adventure that took us by car from one side of the United States to the other. My husband, Beau, is an officer in the United States Coast Guard; so, every few years we move from our home, our community, and all that is familiar to a new place.
This is the life that we signed up for; it is our normal.
But, it’s not easy, and it’s far from predictable.
We spent the months before our move from Annandale, VA, researching communities around Los Angeles, CA, the place we would call home for the next three years. As the time to move drew near, we found only a few homes that would work for Beau, myself, and our five kids, who range in age from teenager to toddler.
We submitted our application, our fabulous credit report, and excellent references. Yet, people kept turning us down, which was a first for us. We have moved several times and, in the past, landlords seemed eager to have our family in their home.
But we trusted that God would provide the right home in His timing.
Still, as the move grew closer, we needed a forwarding address and a place to have our household goods delivered.
By faith, we moved on with the many preparations that are involved in moving a family of seven 3,000 miles. Friends would comment that we were so calm about the situation; really, I think we just didn’t have time to worry or stress over it. Life was about just doing the next thing. Planning, packing, and cleaning took up every spare moment. Daily life in a big family doesn’t leave many spare moments, so it was a big accomplishment to get just the basics done.
The day came to leave Virginia, so without a home to move into, we pulled away from our old house and headed west. Then, promptly, found ourselves sitting in traffic. A lot of traffic. For hours. Our hearts were heavy after saying good-bye to our beloved friends and church family, but the traffic of the Washington, D.C., area was something we were eager to leave behind!
None of us really shed any tears as we left our old community; I think just the business of travelling distracted us until we reached the Mississippi Gulf Coast to visit my husband’s wonderful family for a week in Biloxi. We soaked up all of the Southern hospitality, love, and food we could handle! Not sure when we would see each other again, this was another emotional good-bye.
Again, the unknown that laid ahead—our rejected offers on houses were beginning to pile up—consumed our thoughts and didn’t leave much room for immediate sadness. Though still homeless, we moved on.
Up until this point, the trip had mostly felt like a visit home to see Beau’s family and that we, surely, would head back to Virginia after a week. But, we turned west toward Texas instead of east toward Virginia, filled with the excitement of seeing new places and ever searching to find the next rest stop or hotel to keep us all distracted for a few hours.
We had learned on our trip down to Biloxi to book a hotel room as we needed it, instead of trying to drive a set time each day. Travelling with a toddler makes sticking to a schedule extremely difficult, and trying to reach a certain destination each day added more stress to the situation.
We all quickly tired of listening to the little guy’s Elmo DVD over and over, and boredom kicked in for a few of the older kids. We attempted some of the classic road trip games and tried to encourage each other to just enjoy the scenery.
That lasted about 10 minutes.
Our teenager seemed to find solace in her smart phone, staying connected to the friends she had just left or catching up on her favorite Netflix shows whenever we found a place with free wi-fi.
Mostly, we just all looked forward to stopping every few hours to eat, walk around, and just find a corner of space for ourselves.
We drove and stopped as needed, covering about 400 to 500 miles each day. We saw lots of wide open spaces, which was a breath of fresh air after the congestion of the D.C. area.
Texas was wide and hot, but had a certain beauty to it. I think we all were surprised at how beautiful New Mexico and Arizona were. The people were friendly, and since it was over 100 degrees, it was their off season and things were priced really reasonably. We stopped at interesting shops that sold local wares and overpriced water. We ate at local restaurants and had our fill of delivery pizza to hotel rooms.
A few days later we pulled into the parking lot of a hotel near Disneyland. Little did we know this place would become our home for much longer than we had hoped!
The kids jumped into the pool. Beau and I enjoyed the complimentary happy hour.
We touched base with our realtor, confirming our plans to aggressively house hunt the next day.
We hunted. We applied. We waited. We were rejected.
I scoured websites late into the night for new rentals being posted online. I researched schools as new areas popped up into my search. I crossed several houses off of the list, and we spent a lot of time on our knees praying.
After a few days of this, we needed a break from hotels, so we got in the car yet again and drove to my sister’s house in San Diego for the weekend.
By this point, we were discouraged and getting more than a little bit anxious.
Would we ever find a home?
Beau was going to report to work soon. Where would that leave me and our children?
We had planned on having enough time to get settled and even unpacked before he had to report to work. It wasn’t looking like that was going to happen. We still didn’t have a house.
I think this was the hardest part of the trip. We had arrived, but were still not home.
We coped again, by just doing the next thing. This seems to be a theme in our lives!
There are meals to plan, mouths to feed, laundry to wash, arguments to settle, toys to pick up, shoes to be tied, sunscreen to be applied, and so much more that needs to happen each day. Thankfully, our San Diego family jumped in and helped with these tasks. We were loved on and refreshed, ready to jump back into the search and find our home. It took another week to find the place that would become our home, but it felt like a month!
Of course, the house we found was the perfect one, a far better fit than any of the others we had applied for.
The neighborhood is amazing and the neighbors have been so welcoming and friendly. For the first week, we just looked around and then back to each other and would say, “Is this really ours?”
For the next three years it is!
Contemplating another move in a few years is daunting. Instead, we try to think about today and enjoying what is before us. The military has their plan; but, ultimately, we trust that the Author of Life has planned our days, months, and years.
We are thankful that our landlords are wonderful, caring people who continue to go above and beyond to help us feel at home in their beautiful house. Looking back, it’s interesting that I had crossed this house off of my list due to an outrageous deposit. Turns out, that was a typo!
We now find ourselves mostly unpacked, settling into this new home; the crazy adventure behind us.
As we settle in, our emotions are starting to settle as well. The reality of all those that we left behind hits us as we find ourselves lonely and without that familiar friend to visit with over coffee or a glass of wine. I know new friendships will come, but they take time and energy to develop.
We keep telling ourselves that this was the hardest move we will ever have to make. This is certainly the last move we will ever have to make with a toddler! Unfortunately, it turns out that moving with a teenager is not as physically demanding as a toddler, but it is emotionally draining. And we have more teenagers on the way.
Perhaps we will look back one day and wish for the craziness of this move, the odd spots for diaper changes, the search for dirt and rock piles for the little ones to play in.
I think my favorite part about moving is also my least favorite part. The hotels. I loved looking around me as I climbed into bed and seeing the sweet sleeping faces of my entire family in one room. The morning, however, as the sun rose and the baby thought it was time to wake up the whole family made me long for the comfort of our own bedrooms!
We made some great memories as a family on our great move across America. But what was learned was even greater. We learned to trust and wait upon the Lord. His plan was not ours, but it was far better than our own plan. For that we are so thankful.