I have been a stranger in a strange land (Ex. 2:22).
We were moving in two weeks. I didn’t want to. We’d lived in the same brick house my whole life, and I liked it there. I had my own room upstairs with a window that looked out on the apple tree in the backyard. And I had my own friends.
But sometimes you don’t have a choice.
When Dad lost his job a year ago, he had a hard time finding another one. He started traveling a lot, looking for work and taking temporary jobs. We had to get used to his chair being empty at dinnertime. Our plates were never empty, at least, but sometimes the only food on the table was out of food storage and the garden.
One day I was at the table studying, when Dad suddenly walked into the kitchen, grinning. Mom was at the sink, fixing dinner. Dad took the squash out of her hand, set it on the counter, and grabbed her around the waist. “I think the next dance belongs to me,” he said. Then he started to whistle and dance with her.
Emily, Timothy, and Nathan were all upstairs. They came running down when they heard Dad’s happy voice. Melanie came in the back door, too, just then. She had been out delivering newspapers.
Mom was laughing. “What’s going on?” she asked. “Why are you so happy?”
“I finally have a permanent job—a really good one—again!”
Mom started to cry; then Dad started to cry. Suddenly we were all crying and laughing and hugging each other. It felt wonderful.
“The only thing is, we’ll have to move,” Dad finally said. He was still smiling, but I felt a weird sort of ache in my stomach.
“Move? Where?” I asked.
Arkansas. I didn’t know anything about Arkansas. But suddenly Dad’s having a job didn’t sound like such a great thing after all. I knew how hard we had all been praying for him to get one, but I couldn’t see why Heavenly Father didn’t find him one right here.
I didn’t sleep well that night. The next day, I asked Mom, “If Heavenly Father is so powerful, why couldn’t Dad’s job be right here. Why do we have to give up our home?”
She didn’t answer right away, but kept folding towels. I watched her smooth a nice, fluffy green one and set it on the pile.
“Maybe it’s time for us to grow some more,” she said finally. “Maybe there are things we need to learn that we can’t learn here.”
“I can learn here just fine. I get good grades in school.”
“Ben, school is important. But this whole life is like school, and there are lots of lessons for you to learn outside the classroom.”
“I can learn outside the classroom here too.”
“It’s hard to move,” she admitted. “It’s hard for all of us. But, Ben, I have confidence in Heavenly Father and in our family. Your father and I think that Heavenly Father wants him to take this job. It’s always been hard for people to give up their homes, but sometimes Heavenly Father knows that it’s what we need.” She smiled, hugged me, and handed me the pile of towels. “Please put these away for me.”
After putting away the towels, I put on my roller blades and headed toward the park. Sometimes I like to talk to Heavenly Father while I’m rolling along. I know Mom and Dad do the same sort of thing, just not on roller blades. Dad says it’s good to pray whenever and wherever we need help, not just when we’re kneeling down. He says that prayer always helps when you’re working on a problem.
Well, this sure looked like a problem to me. There weren’t any other people around, so I said right out loud, “Heavenly Father, this is really hard for me. I don’t want Dad to be out of work, and I don’t want to move. Why does it have to be one or the other?”
At the park, I took the skating path, skating slowly along and listening for an answer to my prayer. No answer came, but it felt good to be on wheels, and the mountains ahead of me were beautiful. The sun was shining through the clouds. Just looking at them made me feel better somehow.
Did Arkansas have mountains?
Another question slipped into my mind. What if Mom and Dad were right and Heavenly Father wanted us to move? Who else had moved away from home? Were there any families in the scriptures who moved?
Lehi and his family had to leave Jerusalem, I remembered. And they weren’t the only ones. There were the Jaredites too. And in the Old Testament there was Jacob’s son Joseph. He didn’t go to Egypt because he wanted to, but he still went. And later on, Moses moved everybody out again. After four hundred years, Egypt must have seemed like home, even if the Israelites were slaves there.
I swooped down a dip in the skating path and up a rise on the other side. The more I thought, the more names there were in my head.
Joseph Smith was always leaving his home to escape the mobs. Even Jesus Christ had to leave home.
Missionaries leave home. But that wouldn’t happen to me for a long, long time. Ten years. I hadn’t even lived that long yet.
I stopped suddenly. I left Heavenly Father less than ten years ago to come to earth to live with my family. So I’d done it before. … And I could do it again!
A good feeling rushed through me. “Thanks, Heavenly Father,” I said.
It was time to go home. Mom and Dad had an encyclopedia in the living room, on the shelf under the television. I wanted to look at it. I was going to find out all about Arkansas.