Moving to New Zealand
The Land of Milk and Honey
In the Old Testament when God spoke to Moses at the burning bush, he said that he would redeem the Israelites and "bring them to good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey."
You might know the rest of the story - Moses and the Israelites wandered the desert for forty years. God gave them what they needed, but it was rough. Everyone (except for Joshua and Caleb) grumbled, because they thought they were going to "a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey." Their frustration was understandable. They had unmet expectations. They trusted God, imagined their future, and felt angry when things didn't go the way they expected them to.
Expectations can be tricky. Even when we have basic, reasonable ideas about what we deserve and how our lives should progress, unmet expectations can be the foundation of an unsatisfied life. Over the past several years, I have learned that the hard way.
Disappointment has led me to believe that, if we can find ways to manage our expectations, then it should become easier to enjoy the small, daily gifts (the manna from heaven). It will be a discipline that I struggle with for the rest of my life.
At the end of November, we are moving back to New Zealand, and I can almost taste the "milk and honey." I am trying to marry high hopes with low expectations, but it's difficult. Hope and expectation often feel like the same thing. Left unfulfilled, they can be equally as painful. But hope can be restored.
We were in a difficult stretch of life when we decided to move to New Zealand in 2013. We relocated, specifically to create space for more of the things we cared about. Being there was healing for our family. We did things that made us feel alive, and slowly the beauty of New Zealand seeped into our souls and transformed us. New Zealand actually looks like the Biblical description of the Promised Land. It was redemptive (and in some ways) it started to feel like the promised land for our family...and then it was over.
When my dad was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, we moved back to the United States and quickly transitioned into an intense season of caregiving. We lived twenty minutes from my parents in a small South Carolina town. I homeschooled our four kids, and my husband commuted to Delaware (where his medical license was still active). I wouldn't trade that time with my parents for all the stars in the sky, but it was an incredibly dark and isolating chapter of my life. I feel like I am still recovering from it.
Losing my dad was a deep and painful blow for our family. Then it grew worse. Fifteen months after my dad's death, my sister's husband was diagnosed with cancer. The sorrow mounted and the ache deepened, and twenty months later he died.
While I experienced my own sort of grief for the passing of my father and brother-in-law, I was more profoundly shaped by the experience of walking through grief with my mom, sister and niece. The nearness and fullness of their loss was heartbreaking. I anticipated the grief that I felt as a daughter, sister and aunt. What I didn't expect was the unnerving, upending fear that I experienced as an onlooker.
I had a powerful introduction to the uncertainty of life. The stark reality that I could wake up and everything could be different: all of my hopes, dreams, and prayers could be left fully unfulfilled.
Even still, there is hope. For me (in this moment), it isn't a wild, generous or liberating hope. It is a small, quiet, intentional hope. It's the hope that we can embrace when we've hit the bottom. I've heard God's quiet voice and seen his sustaining hand. I know that there is manna in the desert. Despite the pain and loss we have experienced over the past five years, we have known good things in this season. We have laughed, played, and grown in our understanding of both life and death. I believe that there will be more good things in the days ahead. But the true Promised Land - the land of milk in honey - is not here.
Our house went on the market today. We are packing up life in Nashville and moving to Rotorua, New Zealand on November 28th. I will be writing because it is the way I process this crazy world.
Noted Details are the little things worth remembering - I write about how these details can shape our perspective and help us live more intentionally. If you need more space for the things you care about, join the mailing list for three steps that will set you on the path towards more of what you love. (Coming as soon as we get our house sold and things slow down a little bit). You can read more about my story here and follow our adventure on Instagram. Thanks for reading.