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October 30, 2013
Tune My Heart
Settling In
by Marian Stoddard

We were very glad to find a place to live last spring, and almost stunned to have a buyer for our house so quickly once we had started our move. We had actually signed the rental agreement before we knew whether we would be able to accomplish a sale at all.

But because we had the clear direction of the Spirit, it was okay. Figuring out how to accomplish the transition was what threatened to overwhelm us. We are so grateful for all the help we had, because we needed it. The last time we had had to move, I was twenty-six years old and able-bodied. I wasn’t either of those things any more.

When you watch the Lord bring things together for you — boom, boom, boom! — it’s pretty hard to argue about whether you’re in the right place. We knew that mere chance was not responsible, but we had less time than we had anticipated in which to make major changes.

Inevitably, there were things we needed to buy to make the new space work, and issues we needed to figure out. We were on a corner with a traffic light, and the lights of the walk-don’t walk signal flashed through our front window. Okay, we need heavier curtains. The furnace in the basement was right underneath our bed, and it took a while not to wake up at the sound of it firing up and turning on.

There are a lot of adjustments in moving into a new place, especially when you’ve been in the old place for many years. You have to rethink all the patterns that have become second nature.

Where would the silverware and plates go? Which room would we sleep in? Not the one we intended, because the only phone jack was in that back room, and we had to set up computer space.

It was as simple and strange as being at the sink and thinking that I needed to take something to the table, and starting to turn to my right — because the entry to the dining room would have been directly to the right in the old house. Now, the dining room was to the left and behind, at the diagonal across the room. The back door was to my right.

There was only one electrical outlet in each of the two bedrooms, hardly adequate for this modern age. The curtain rod in what now had to be our bedroom was over my head, not ideal for a chronic shoulder injury.

My six-foot-eight brother-in-law would probably be okay in my kitchen with its cupboards going all the way up to the eight feet eight inch ceiling, but I was challenged. The floors were uneven, and there was no cupboard that would fit a box of cereal.

I was expressing my tensions to a friend, listing my issues, and she said, “Am I hearing that this perfect place the Lord put you in isn’t so perfect after all?”

Part of me wanted to wail, “Yes! That’s exactly what I’m saying!” But the wiser part of me was able to respond, “No, I know this is where we’re supposed to be. It’s amazing that we got a house for the price of an apartment. We have some space, and we got to stay in the ward. I know that there’s never any such thing as a perfect place; I’m just feeling a little overwhelmed.”

That query, offered without judgment, served to ground me in this process. If there were difficulties, they would have solutions. My Father in Heaven had not placed us somewhere I couldn’t manage.

I ordered a round, rolling stepstool that locks into place when you put weight on it, which became my new best friend. I can nudge it with a foot to move it or bend over and pick it up, because it’s not heavy, and as an unanticipated bonus it turned out that I can sit down on it to reach down for a low shelf, which saves my bad back. Now I could reach things, high or low. It’s actually pretty slick.

We figured out what we needed and how we could set things up. There was one developing worry, though, that I couldn’t solve by brainstorming.

I found that I was having some kind of possible allergic reaction to something. It wasn’t severe, but I had no problem except inside the house. One of the pluses to this place was new carpet and a no-pets policy, because I’m allergic to cats.

I had figured that even if there had been a cat in this house at some earlier time, the new carpet installation would mean that I didn’t have to worry about it. I found some type of spilled kibble in an upper cabinet (which was supposed to have been cleaned), and I was sniffling a little, my nose and eyes were itching, I was sneezing some, and it was better when I was not at home.

If there was cat dander here, continued exposure would make my troubles worse as time went on.

What if laying a new carpet wasn’t enough? What if they hadn’t truly stripped the surface of the floors? What if living here made me sick, locked into a year’s lease and hoping to stay a lot longer than that?

I had to hold onto the certainty that the Lord had put us here, had confirmed that this was his plan for us, and he was totally aware that I was allergic to cats. He would not put me somewhere that would make me sick, I was sure of that. I kept repeating that. I knew that if I let fear get to me, the weight of all the burdens we were dealing with would clobber me.

Once the weather warmed up and we were opening windows, I quit having a problem. Maybe it was just the carpet glue. I bought a good furnace filter, and now, with the heat running again, I’m fine.

I also realized that we have passed the six month mark, and the pathways through the rooms, the dips in the floor, how things are set up, are all second nature now. We have been here for half of a year, and it’s become home, not just the place we’re living now.

I’ve reflected that it’s not unlike the experience of conversion to the gospel. It requires a shift in dynamics, habits, and patterns in one’s life to join the Church. The jargon is unfamiliar, the people are new to us.

The last few converts who have been baptized in our ward have practically leaped into the water, but it’s not that easy for everyone.

People are baptized because they have an experience with the Spirit and an answer to prayer. After that door is opened, it’s easy to feel uncertain, or to wrestle with the disapproval of family members or friends, or to wonder if you can make all these changes. Even those of us with long experience hit points where we want to cry, “I don’t know if I can really do this!”

We ask our members to attend meetings every week, to serve in callings they don’t know how to do, and to shift into a new way of life and a new way of thinking. A way that promises light and joy they can’t find anywhere else, but it can feel strange at first.

Our Heavenly Father promises us that he’s right there with us in this, new members or old. We need to look out for the new person who may not know how to ask a question, or who might be feeling a little lost.

If we can wrap our love around them, befriend and encourage them, then the patterns will become second nature to them as they are to us. Help them continue, to learn how they may experience the Spirit blessing their lives.

Till they know that they have found their true home.

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