How to Make a New Home When You Can’t Stay Where You’ve Been

Our family moved into a new home in a new neighborhood. And then one week later, we left.

One step forward, two steps back…

Actually, we left for vacation – 26 hours of driving back to what still feels like home, but isn’t, and to places where our history still tugs on our heartstrings, but can’t be our present reality

The relief of welcoming arms, long-term friendships, and family relationships embraced us like the salty air: cool, comfortable, and without pretense.

There's something so refreshing about not needing to make a first impression. Click To Tweet

When life changes happen (like a ministry move, a significant loss, or a job transfer) a new normal is thrust upon us. We have an immediate choice to adapt – or not. Depending on the circumstances, we can choose to dive in to the startingover of life, and the writing of a new chapter. Or we can resist by clinging to what once was.

How to Make a New Home

We’ve moved a lot in the twenty years we have been married. I’ll be the first to admit that, in my twenties, these moves were exciting. My husband and I lived on the precipice of adventure when we were young. We looked at ministry relocation and a new home with great anticipation.

But as I’ve gotten older, (and now that we have moved away several times from people and jobs we have loved dearly), I have a keen sense of the amount of energy it takes to start life all over again. 

And this is kind of where I have sat for the past 11 months since we started over…again. 

Two new houses (first a rental, now our own), new neighborhoods, new ministry, new country… Each footstep has felt measured, like it just might take the last bit of energy that I have.

But I’ve still taken the steps…

I’ve had to, otherwise I would sink under the weight of my own resistance. 

So, how do you make a new home when circumstances dictate that you can’t stay where you’ve been? Here are some key steps I take. In fact, I will be taking many of these as soon as we get back to our new home from vacationing at our old one…

Seven Crucial Steps to Make a New Home
  • Tie Some Ribbons Before You Leave

The reality is that things don’t stay the same. The people you are leaving behind will keep on living and changing, just like you will. As you prepare to move, wrestle with the sadness of leaving, and allow some closure to come to your relationships.

A few will rise to the surface as friendships you will be willing to cultivate from a distance over the long haul. You’ll know which ones those are. For the rest, spend time thanking God for the season you’ve had together, and have open conversations that display your gratitude for the relationship you’ve had.

Give yourself permission to tie a bow on this segment of your life before moving on.

  • Drive, Walk, Sit

If you have the luxury of time to house hunt, and the ability to spend time in your new area for a bit, take advantage of it! Drive all over, walk through neighborhoods, sit in parks. What personality do different areas have? Where do you feel the most you?

I was fortunate enough to be able to pair house-hunting with teaching one of my sons to drive. With a willing chauffeur who needed to accrue driving hours, we ran the roads and got a great feel for the areas that felt most like us.

God is already in this next season ahead of you, and He can place people perfectly. Be patient to seek Him in this. Drive, walk, and sit until He shows you where to put down your roots.

  • Allow Yourself to Dream of your New Home

There are always things to feel a little nervous about when heading into a new chapter. But don’t allow fear of the unknown to overshadow your hopes of what might be. Be proactive to dream.  Joy comes in the morning.

What stages of life will you (and your family members if you have them) potentially celebrate in this new home? Is this going to be a developing season, or a simplifying one? What milestones might be coming up in the next few months or years? Ask God the help birth dreams in your heart and mind for what is to come.

Once you figure out where to live, let your imagination run wild about how to permeate your home with your personality. Large renos or small DIY projects give you permission to invest your heart and soul into your new home. Joanna Gaines is my hero in this regard, sharing great insights about it in The Magnolia Story. Whether you are a professional decorator or not, let your personality shine!

  • Consider Your Potential Impact

It’s so easy to approach a move to a new home with a list of our own needs. But what if we came to it from the standpoint of the potential impact we might have there? Could God have a specific community for us to pour into?

Spend time considering what gifts you bring to the table. How might you most naturally impact the people in the neighboring apartments or houses at your new home?

Check out The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door to get an awesome perspective about your call to your neighbors. What new relationships might God be preparing for this next season of life? Where might God want us to let joy loose? When we approach home shopping from the perspective of our potential impact in addition to our own needs, I guarantee we will look at our neighborhoods with different eyes.

  • Ask and Listen

People love to be heard. Your new neighbors all have stories they’ve lived and stories their lives are still writing. The very best thing you can do to show them value is to learn them. Ask questions, and pay rapt attention to their answers. You are being written in.

And come to these conversations prepared to share a bit of yourself too. If the people around your new home are people God has placed in your life, it’s easier to dive right in than to let the awkward silence happen…you totally know what I mean! 🙂

  • Allow Yourself to Re-visit

From my moving experiences, it’s best not to return to the place you’ve left right away. But it is important to re-visit at some point, if you are able. I’d recommend waiting at least a year.

Two things are important about this return:

1) It is a good touch-point with people you know and love. It allows you to be able to share, face-to-face, what God has been doing in your lives.

2) It also helps you see the reality that things don’t stay the same. The place and people you left are not frozen in time, waiting for you to come back. Seeing that they’ve moved on gives permission for you to do so as well.

  • Learn From Where You’ve Been

Some of us have moved a dozen or more times. Others have planted deep roots and intend to remain forever. Still, change may be coming. And either way, the past not only impacts our future, it prepares us for it.

What things about your former home did you love that you can bring to your new home? What life changes can you make right now for this new season? What mistakes can inform your next steps, and what best practices can you bring forward?

The rearview mirror is a great coach, but we need to keep our eyes on the windshield. Click To Tweet

Learn from where you’ve been, but embrace the adventure of the road ahead.

Make a new home

One Step Forward…

Sometimes change is thrust upon us. We usually have a choice about how to respond to it. Whatever it is that brings about the move to a new home, find God in it. His joy will be there too. Each of these seven steps may need to be taken one at a time, but each will help in the process of discovering a new normal in a new chapter. So start by taking that first step; it’s exciting to consider what God might do.

Your turn:  What advice do you have for people getting ready to settle in to a new normal in a new home? Comment below!

Elizabeth Joy


8 thoughts on “How to Make a New Home When You Can’t Stay Where You’ve Been”

  1. Loved reading this! We have just moved recently, and it is certainly a new season for our lives! Retiring is not that far off!! Look forward to it, but also feel some concern. We have seen the Lord Jesus in our move, and know that the “adventure” continues. Thanks for these thoughts on “How to make a New Home…”

  2. Lots of truth here. We’ve moved several times and it is so true that if your perspective is about the community you are about to become a part of-to do life with- it helps the shift from it being all about what we’re leaving behind.

    I think it helps our kids, too! Mine were 5 and 8 in this last move three years ago so helping them learn the lay of the land in their new school was something we did ahead of time. We moved to another parsonage so we didn’t have the luxury of picking our school system or school and this school was huge compared to where we had left. So, we navigated the halls before school started and figured out the route our kids would take each morning from parent drop off. At the time our youngest was starting Kindergarten. His big sister was starting third grade. Each day she walked him to class and then went on to hers. She told me later that giving her that job helped her not be so scared of her own first day. She could focus on her little brother and helping him not to be fearful of the unknown. It helped her to be brave. Perspective shift. We didn’t come up with that plan to help her more than her little brother, but the Lord used it for His purpose. To this day, they still accompany each other to his class and then she walks on to hers. He’s a third grader now and this is her last year in the elementary school. He doesn’t need her, but they both still want to do it.

    I have found that giving myself these type of responsibilities help me to learn the lay of the land and the people. I can forget about myself for awhile to help an immediate need. Over time, I see how it helped me all along to involve myself in my new community.

    Thanks for sharing your insights. I would have loved to have read this ten years ago. I’ll be sure to pass it on to someone in transition.

    1. What a sweet sister! It is awesome how God used your wise counsel to her even beyond what you could have imagined, Jessica. He is just such a good Father.

      As I’ve watched our family transition this time – the most difficult transition by far – I can see distinct differences in the adaptability of those of us who did just choose to dive in, and those who allowed their fear to hold them back. I believe that holding back initially held them back longer than they ever could have thought. It’s been a difficult lesson for all of us to watch things unfold so differently for our various family members.

      Do pass it along, because I hope it can be helpful. Thanks so much for visiting, Jessica, and engaging in the conversation.

  3. Elizabeth – thanks so much for sharing these good insights via Pastor’s Spouse Connection. I was reminded of some things to do even as a retired pastor’s wife when we moved to a condo this summer.
    Love your beautiful blog “Joy Let Loose” and I’m praying for you and your family’s transition this year.
    Sharon Drury

    1. Sharon, I’m honored you would visit Joy Let Loose! 🙂 Thank you for your very kind words. I do think that this perspective shift can hold true in any season of our lives, from childhood (like Jessica shared above) and well into retirement. Thank you for being open to share, and for your prayers.

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