It was late in the summer of 1983 when the unthinkable happened. My husband, Bruce, accepted a job transfer. The whole idea of relocating left me numb with shock. It would mean selling our beloved home and moving some 350 miles away.
Throughout the ten years of our marriage, Bruce and I had lived in the same little town in which we were both reared. Having married shortly after my high school graduation, I had never left other than for vacation. At the age of twenty-eight, I still had the same circle of friends I’d had in high school. I attended church with people I’d known since my childhood. My parents, brothers, and sisters lived nearby, and being a close-knit family, we were very involved in one another’s lives. To me it seemed it would be unbearable to leave the people I loved.
On the other hand, Bruce couldn’t help but be excited. The transfer meant a promotion for him and a more challenging position with the grocery store chain that had employed him for eleven years. Since he had served a mission and had gone to an out-of-state college, he had a broader view of the world than I did. He couldn’t share my horror at the prospect of moving; he viewed it with anticipation and enthusiasm.
We decided to pray about whether or not to accept the transfer. After several days, I still could not completely come to terms with moving, but Bruce felt strongly that he had received an affirmative answer. He assured me it would be a growing experience that we both needed. He thought it would be good for our relationship; if we could break away from our parents a bit, we could become more dependent on one another and more involved with our three young children. Bruce was a righteous priesthood holder, so I grudgingly went along with his decision.
But as the day grew closer for us to leave, I shed more and more tears. At night I sobbed in Bruce’s arms until I’m sure he questioned my ability to cope. I cried on the phone with my mother and friends. The young women with whom I had worked in our ward had a party for me, and our good-byes were difficult.
The days blurred by as we made our preparations. We cleaned out our garage and held a huge yard sale. We packed and scrubbed endlessly. We resolved details with the moving company and the realtors. Finally, with everything we owned packed inside one long moving van, we made the seven-hour drive to our new world.
Even I had to admit that our new community was a pretty little town, with appealing cultural and recreational aspects. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that we would be returning home soon. The house we had arranged to lease was in a pleasant cul-de-sac, across the street from the bishop of the ward. After the movers left that first evening, the bishop and his wife walked over and welcomed us to the neighborhood and the ward.
As we visited with them in our living room, I couldn’t concentrate on the conversation. I glanced around, trying to take in how foreign my furnishings looked in these new surroundings. Everything seemed so strange and detached.
One of my chief concerns had been how our children would adjust to the move. Those fears were put to rest almost immediately. The children were instantly surrounded by neighborhood youngsters of all ages, and that first evening my six-year-old daughter announced that she had “five best friends.”
I felt drained the next few days as I worked nonstop to organize our house. I unpacked, sorted, dusted, and hung things on walls until the early hours of the morning. When I crawled into bed, my muscles ached and I was too exhausted to think—which was probably a good thing. If I did dwell on the situation, I felt physically ill as homesickness engulfed me.
When we went to our new ward that first Sunday, we deposited the children in Primary and in the nursery, then parted rather hesitantly for priesthood and Relief Society. I sat on the back row and stood awkwardly when I was introduced as a new member of the ward. I didn’t really hear what was said throughout the meeting, but studied all the self-assured faces of the ladies around me.
Later, in Sunday School, I held Bruce’s hand tightly and thought wistfully of the ward members back home with whom we had enjoyed studying gospel doctrine. We had known each member of that class well and had shared a spirit of brotherhood. I desperately craved that old feeling.
After sacrament meeting, smiling people slung countless unfamiliar names at us as they welcomed us to the ward. Still, I thought that nothing could ever compare to the kinship and love we had felt in our home ward.
Bruce loved his new job and was completely immersed in his undertakings there. He was an outgoing, personable man who made friends easily, and it was obvious that his co-workers had taken to him and appreciated his efforts. He was positively glowing—which made me all the more miserable. If he was this content, chances were slim that we would ever return home.
One afternoon, in an effort to cheer myself, I placed a long-distance call to my mother. I cried out my loneliness and despair, and she sympathized. I felt even more sorry for myself when I hung up, and all the worse knowing that I had called at the most expensive time of day.
A couple of weeks later, on the children’s first day of school, I was still suffering. As I left my son and daughter in their classrooms, the lost looks on their faces made tears well up in my eyes. The lump in my throat grew even larger when I returned home and saw several mothers from the neighborhood chatting excitedly. I could hear parts of their conversation and knew that they were discussing their children’s new classes. I stumbled inside the house, tears streaming down my face. I had never been so miserable in my life! Back home, I would have been one of those women, happily visiting about my children’s first day back to school.
To make things worse, it seemed that instead of strengthening our relationship, as Bruce had suggested it might, this move was taking a toll. Bruce seemed unsympathetic to the agony I was going through in trying to adjust. And when the phone bill came with astronomical long-distance charges, he was appalled. I was defensive. I told him it was the one thing that was making it bearable for me to be so far from home. I knew Bruce thought I was being immature and uncooperative. I felt he was being selfish and unfeeling. The gulf between us widened, and I was more unhappy with each passing day.
One evening about six weeks later, after I had spent a depressing afternoon leafing through photo albums, our doorbell rang. When I answered it, I recognized the smiling face of our ward Relief Society president. Her name escaped me, although she had introduced herself to me each Sunday. A feeling of dread crept over me. What could she possibly want?
“Hi,” she said. “You remember me, don’t you? I’m Rinda!” The smile still lit her face, and I smiled back hesitantly.
“Of course,” I said. “Won’t you come in?”
“Well,” she said breathlessly, “I just stopped by to invite you to the General Women’s Conference being broadcast tonight at the stake center.”
“Right now?” I gasped. “I’m such a mess. I guess I hadn’t really planned on going!”
The truth was that I didn’t remember hearing of the broadcast. I’m sure it had been announced, but I hadn’t paid attention.
“Oh, come on,” Rinda coaxed, still smiling. “Throw on a skirt and I’ll wait. I know you will enjoy it.”
It was obvious this lady was not going to take no for an answer, even if I could come up with a good excuse for staying home—which I couldn’t.
“All right—give me a minute,” I muttered. I hurried to the bedroom, feeling annoyed. Why did she want me to go with her? I didn’t even know her. Why couldn’t she just leave me alone?
A few minutes later we sat in the crowded stake center, listening to prelude music. The broadcast began, and as I listened to the first speaker, I was surprised to find myself caught up in what she was saying. Suddenly, I could feel the Spirit there in the room—and it was wonderful! I hadn’t felt this way since before we’d decided to move. Almost magically, the awful feeling I’d carried during the past weeks slipped away.
The rest of the speakers gave equally moving messages. Each said things that I could relate to, and I hung onto every word. I forgot that I didn’t know the names of the women around me. I could see from their faces that they were as moved by this meeting as I was, and suddenly it seemed as if we were sisters, and not strangers at all.
As the meeting ended, my heart was full. I didn’t try to stop the tears that spilled onto my cheeks. Rinda took my hand. She squeezed it hard, and instantly, without any words being spoken, I felt a bond grow between us. I looked at her with love and gratitude in my eyes. Here was a Relief Society president who was in tune—a loving sister who had sensed how badly I needed to come and enjoy this spirit and how much I needed a friend! As sisters from our ward milled around us, I suddenly found myself remembering their names. We visited about the wonderful things we had just heard and shared smiles and hugs.
I went home that night with a dramatically changed outlook. I felt eager to renew my commitment to my husband and children. I felt closer to my Father in Heaven and vowed to be a more prayerful and loving daughter to him. I was excited about getting to know the sisters in my ward, and I anticipated the joy of discovering their talents and having the opportunity to serve with them. That evening was a turning point for me.
There were still days when I suffered pangs of homesickness. Holidays and special occasions were especially hard. Amazingly, whenever I felt particularly low, Rinda would show up. Sometimes she’d be there with a loaf of bread or an offer to tend my children. At other times, she just called to see how I was doing. She was always cheerful and ready to listen. She was an answer to my prayers.
Soon Rinda asked me to be a visiting teacher, and once again she proved to be inspired. Within a few weeks, I had become acquainted with my companion and the four sisters we were assigned to visit. As I grew to love them, I marveled at the challenges they faced. My life seemed comparatively easy—and I felt blessed. I learned the joy of compassion as I lost myself in service: taking in meals to one sister when she had a new baby, tending another’s children while her husband was in the hospital, offering a shoulder for others to lean on in times of sorrow.
As I became more involved in the Church and the community, I was amazed at the many inspirational people I came in contact with. My contentment grew.
Eight years have passed since then, and we have moved several times. With each move, I have been sad to leave new friends and lovely communities, but I have not felt the desolation that I felt with that first move. During these years, I have matured and have come to some major realizations.
I have discovered that there are wonderful people wherever you go and that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true no matter where you live. Most important, I have learned that sometimes I must be patient in order to discover that my prayers have been answered.
I am grateful that Heavenly Father loved me enough to let me learn these things. I give thanks for the opportunity of change in my life, for through change comes growth—and growth brings wisdom, maturity, even peace and contentment. This has been my moving discovery.