The Art of Nesting vs. The Call to Adventure
by Carla Stewart
Can you believe it’s spring already? The daffodils have shot up, deep green spikes that promise happy yellow blooms before long. Today I saw my first cardinal. The robins won’t be far behind, gathering twigs, flitting about with song and dance. Nature, it seems, is on the move. And so, I would imagine, are many of you.
Last year forty million Americans moved from one home to another. For some, it was in the same county or state, just to a different home. For others, new jobs beckoned further away. Family-related, prompted by changes in marital status, health issues, or just wanting to be closer to the kids (or parents) are common. And spring is often when the first stirring to make a change occurs. After a long winter, something about the promise of new life calls people to action. For some, it’s an exciting time—the thrill of adventure, to experience something new, to have a better quality of life, or start over. For others, having the comfortable and familiar things uprooted can be unsettling at best. Maybe even terrifying. No matter which category you fall into, you’re not alone.
In my book, Sweet Dreams, which comes out in May, I explored this topic, contrasting the dreams of two cousins—one who longs to leave the only home she’s ever known and seek adventure, the other who’s had her fill of moving with her bohemian mother and longs to settle down. It’s a timeless question, perhaps a part of human nature, to be curious about what it might be like to have a different life.
Eve was tempted by the lure of that in the Garden of Eden. While it didn’t work out so well for Eve, she and Adam became the first people in history to “relocate.” And you don’t have to read very much of the Old Testament to realize the Israelites were always on the move. Leading seemingly nomadic lives, they wandered in deserts, scaled mountains, and crossed rivers, all the while searching for the “home” that God had promised, clinging to the hope that the next place would fulfill their dreams. You’re in ample company if you’ve dreamed of looking for a new place to call home or are already in the process.
The US Census tells us that those from age 18 to 39 are by far the most likely to move. College. New careers. Marriage. Finding one’s place in our ever-changing world. After age 39, there’s a steady decline until around age 70 when a slight increase occurs—snowbirds retiring to warmer climates or moving closer to family after retirement. All in all, the average family moves every five years.
Depending on whether you’re a nester or an adventurer, your approach to moving to a new home will differ.
If you’re a nester and you’ve decided to take the plunge and move, the home itself matters. You will probably look for one that feels like the one you left or one like your grandmother’s home where you always felt safe and loved, keeping your identity in tact. As the realtor walks you through potential homes, you notice the colors and will be thinking of how the furniture will look, where you will hang the picture your great-aunt Tillie painted and gave you for a wedding gift. And if you’re like me, you’ll wonder if there are enough bookshelves for your unending collection. You might imagine how a fire will warm your home in the winter and what you will place on the mantel. Without even trying, you are building a nest with every inspection.
For the adventurer, your future home may not be as important as the proximity to the nearest mountain climbing trail or the distance to shopping and entertainment. You notice less detail about the home, don’t care about the colors, and just go with the flow. Since you’re always up for new experiences, the thought of knocking out a wall or painting the cabinets doesn’t faze you.
Which are you? A nester or free-spirited risk taker?
I’m a combination of both. While I’m a homebody at heart and like routine, familiarity, and collecting things, I’m also not afraid of trying new things. I lived in the same house for most of my childhood. I had great parents and a community that cared about me, and yet by the time I was a teenager, I was itching to see what was “out there.” I married right after college, and since then, my husband and I have moved nine times. I was rather shocked when I added them up on my fingers. One move, though, stands out as a turning point in the way I viewed God’s providence in our lives and where he has led.
When our twins were three, Max and I moved “back home” to the community where he grew up. We bought farm land from his grandmother, restored an old house that his grandfather had built during World War II (what an adventure that was!) and nestled in. The idea of perpetuating the family heritage appealed to me. The home was cozy and suited us perfectly. I joined clubs and volunteered at school. We went to a great church and enjoyed being close to family and having get-togethers with friends. I thought we would live there forever. Not so. Max discovered that farming was not for him, that he missed the challenges of being an engineer. And since long-distance work wasn’t done much at the time, he wanted to go back to his old company in Dallas.
I was devastated. How could we leave all we’d worked for? The home we both loved? Surprisingly, I discovered a great difference between husbands and wives. To Max, it was just a house. To me, it was the heart of everything I held dear. I agreed to pray about it.
While I prayed, explaining to God all the reasons we shouldn’t move, I had an unnatural calm come over me. Trust me.
I’ve never regretted for a moment that we moved. I’ve often thought how God must have been smiling all the time I was arguing, for what He gave us was more than we could have imagined. Was it a risk? Yes. And yet a bit of a thrill, too, not knowing who our new neighbors would be and whether we’d be welcomed in the community. But in the end, our lives were richer because of the people we met, the congregation that took us in with open arms, and the experiences we had. And we added another baby to the family!
We’ve moved twice since then, but I’ve never questioned God’s leading either time. Instead I’m grateful for the perspective and involvement in different communities that proved invaluable when I started a writing career. Through these experiences, I see God’s hand in directing the themes that show up in my books—families in crisis, characters on the cusp of change, stories that take place in homes of all kinds. I learned that people have a vast array of backgrounds which changed the way I viewed the world.
I grew up in the glorious fifties and sixties. Lazy summers. Carefree and careless days of youth. I love to write stories that reflect both the warm and familiar concept of home as well as the challenges and questions I had during those early years. My Garden of Eden was a humble two-bedroom, one bath home miles from anywhere, but those early memories have fueled my desire to take readers to that place in their own hearts called “home.”
Are you on the move this spring? Whether you’re a nester or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants adventurer, here are some ways to make that move less stressful. And you might make some treasured memories in the process.
Bathe your decision in prayer.
- While we only see what’s right in front of us, God has an eternal perspective.
- Pray as a family. It will fortify your children’s trust in you and a heavenly Father who wants the best for you.
- Once the decision is made, prepare for an adventure. Moves can be fraught with details and nightmares. Choose to remain calm and optimistic.
Scope out the new community in advance.
- Locate the library, the nearest bookstore, grocer, potential churches, and the pharmacist. If you have children, focus on parks, summer recreation programs, and schools.
- If you’ll be moving over the summer months, talk to neighbors in the new area who might introduce your kids to those around the same age. Teenagers have a harder time with relocation than younger children, so try to help them network as much as possible ahead of time. Be sensitive to their feelings and let them know it’s okay to be honest in talking about them.
- For younger children, purchase picture books about families (or even animals) who are moving to a new home. Be enthusiastic and include the whole family in the process.
- If possible, let the kids see the new home ahead of time so they can imagine what their room will look like and what they’d like to do different from their previous room. If a visit isn’t possible, take photos of the new home when you make your offer.
- Discuss changes you’d like to make to the home to make it “yours.” Prioritize according to need and your budget. Splurge in one area (for you adventurers!) if you can swing it.
- Give everyone a chance to say good-bye to friends, perhaps even take a trip to a fast food place for a meal and final good-byes.
- If you’re moving some distance, pack a few of the kids’ favorite things to take along for the ride—their favorite books, maybe a new one or two, stuffed animals, video games. For you and older kids, take along a classic book on CD to make the miles go faster.
- Play car games and keep the mood light.
- Don’t rush. Stop at interesting places along the route and make new memories.
- If it’s an across-town move, eat out at a restaurant in your new neighborhood the first evening.
- Although you may not be a nester, your children need the security of home. Unpack and set up their rooms first. Sleeping in their own beds the first night will make the unfamiliar surroundings feel more like home and give them the feeling of belonging.
- Take breaks from unpacking to explore the neighborhood, greet those on your street, or sit on the porch with a refreshing drink and take in your new surroundings.
- Most people have an item or two that has family or milestone significance—a photograph or painting or perhaps a piece of art work or a quilt. Once the furniture is arranged, place the treasured item. Max and I have a gold-framed mirror that was a wedding gift from my grandmother. We’ve hung it in every place we’ve lived. Once we’ve hung “Granny’s mirror” on the wall, we’re home.
- Celebrate your new home with a special meal or invite your new neighbors in for dessert and coffee.
If moving is not on your agenda this year, chances are there will be someone new moving into your neighborhood. Welcome the newcomers with a plate of cookies and a copy of your town’s newspaper. Offer to help find resources or answer their questions about shopping and other businesses. Invite them to your church.
When we moved to our current home, my neighbor from across the street brought a plate of warm-from-the-oven brownies and just said hello. We’ve become good friends and have enjoyed sharing birthdays, an occasional holiday, and meals for nearly ten years.
Whether a move is in your future or not, I wish you a spring filled with delights and a home brimming with warm memories. Happy trails!
Carla Stewart is the award-winning author of three novels. Her fourth, Sweet Dreams, releases in May from FaithWords. Carla believes in Jesus, the power of the written word, and a good cup of coffee. She and her husband have four adult sons and delight in the adventures of their six grandchildren. Her desire is to take readers to that place in their hearts called “home.” You can learn more about Carla and her books at www.carlastewart.com.