“Love Where You Live”
Hardy and resilient, the little plant has been all over the Northeastern seaboard. It sits in a sun–soaked kitchen, breathing life into Major Jodi Lloyd’s soul.
Lloyd, who insists she has no green thumb and kills anything she touches, has cared for this plant throughout years of moving from appointment to appointment in The Salvation Army. It is the first thing she brings into every officers’ quarters.
It’s a symbol to Lloyd that new and unfamiliar surroundings are now “home.”
“I’ve tried hard to take care of this one plant,” says Lloyd, who is the associate territorial youth secretary at Eastern Territorial Headquarters. “When I look at it, I remember that home is where you’re planted. I tell myself, ‘No matter where we go, this is going to be home, and you’ll grow and learn new things. So enjoy whatever time you have here and make new memories and be grateful for the ones you’ve had in the past.’”
A Salvation Army officer’s life is dictated by frequent moves to new corps and other duties. Their homes are not their own, and they usually receive very short notice that it’s time to pull up stakes and move to the next location. But some officers, like Lloyd, have discovered joys and coping strategies when it comes to relocating. As they say goodbye to friends and corps soldiers, they have learned to embrace different and new homes in unique ways.
For Lloyd, the plant she carries from place to place has become a strong reminder of God’s presence in the initial difficult and lonely days after a move.
“It’s a personal thing to me, like a physical visible reminder: God has been with you. He’s grown you and has been with your kids. That’s deep for a little plant, but it’s a visual reminder. This plant has come from a place, and there are verses about our ‘roots growing down deep’ (Col. 2:7) and that we are ‘a tree of righteousness’ (Isaiah 61:3). This plant reminds me of that physical connectedness to God,” she says.
If you have been uprooted recently from your home, here are a few ways that Lloyd and other career Salvation Army officers have adapted so that they can love where they live.
Your Family’s ‘Story’ in Each Home
The first thing Major Susan Wood does when she walks into a new quarters—hang pictures. She also sets out personal trinkets and décor on tables in the same way they were placed on tables in the home before. This consistency has reminded the Woods of their “story”—that their family is actually “the home.” Wood and her husband, Terry, are stationed at the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Camden, N.J.
“It really was the pictures that made it home, and that’s for every house we’ve been in,” Wood says. “So it wasn’t about the house. I would tell the kids, ‘The house is the house, but all of this (pictures and trinkets) is us, and it’s the story of us around the house.’ ”
Wood also has some cherished mementos. A standing mirror that was a gift from her mother goes on top of her dresser in the master bedroom. A Snow White figurine, also a treasure from years ago, has a place of honor. A print of an Amish girl with the message, “Always know that you are loved,” a gift from her husband Terry, has been cherished for years. These are more than things—they are part of a tapestry of memories, she says.
“It’s not about the things you have. I’ve always said, ‘We’re in a new house, but it’s our family unit. It’s us. We’re together. We’re here,’ ” Wood says. “Even now, the kids come back to a house they’ve never lived in, but they have us, and we are the family unit.”
Surround Yourself with Comforts
Scents trigger memory and can make strange new places seem more welcome. So Major Cheriann Stoops, corps officer at Montclair, N.J., immediately boils water—and adds cinnamon to it—when she enters a new home. It’s a quick fix to create immediate warmth, she says. You can also keep a cookie sheet and spatula handy, along with some store–bought cookie dough in a cooler. Throw it in the oven when you first arrive to fill your home with a delicious aroma of hot cookies.
One thing that is a challenge for officers is that décor can vary from home to home, Stoops says. “Some are country. Others are modern. There are things I own that don’t fit in all of them,” she says. In one of her quarters, there was an open space that reached to a second–story ceiling, with a huge window over the front door. It had a shelf that needed a big item to fill it.
“I bought a nice vase with dried flowers for it. You find something quickly to fit that home and mark it as ‘ours,’ ” she says, adding that her favorite décor stores are Hobby Lobby and Home Goods.
Simple items can change a room’s personality—important when you’re working with a very tight budget, Stoops says.
“Pillows and a touch of color can add some change to a room, and so can throw blankets. Try to make the space clean and airy. In a bathroom, a shower curtain can change it immediately, and towel colors can totally change a little space,” she says.
Make the Move an ‘Adventure’
Officers’ kids have to also adapt to sudden changes and new homes. Wood, Lloyd, and Stoops made a habit of always telling their children that the move was an “adventure.”
“The way you respond is the way your kids respond,” Wood says.
One of the first things you can do to help younger children adjust sooner is to drive to their new school and discuss as a family whether they’ll be riding in your car or in the school bus or whether it’s close enough to walk, the three moms say.
Immediately get the children settled into their rooms. Allow them to pick out their bedding, Wood says. “We would say, ‘This is your room,’ and even if bedding was there, they made it their own. So purchase the kind of bedding you want. And even down to the paint—you might repaint the walls for them.”
Wood also has a long–standing ritual. “Within the first couple of weeks, get a library card, because libraries make it feel like you’re part of the community.”
And make plans of things you can do with the home as a family, like a vegetable garden in the back yard for the coming summer or even a treehouse, if you have a large, welcoming tree. Maybe there’s a space in a garage where dads and kids can plan on carpentry or auto projects, too.
Ground Yourself in Scripture
“Hang scripture verses in key locations around the house to remind you of God’s faithfulness,” Stoops says.
“We have a sign: ‘Be strong and courageous’ (Joshua 1:9), which we hang by the door we exit most often. It’s a great reminder that no matter where you are or what your assignment, God goes before you. That sign goes up quickly,” she says.
Other officers also have their own favorite verses on which they dwell when they feel disoriented by a move. Wood’s is, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). And Lloyd’s favorite verse is Eph. 3:20: “His power at work in us can do far more than we dare ask or imagine.”
“And it has been true, that God has done more than we ever dreamed He could,” Lloyd says of her frequent moves. “It’s how we envision our ministry. Some places, we never would have chosen, but God did things for us. We couldn’t have planned it ourselves but were so glad God did.”
New Neighbors, Lifelong Friends
Often when officers move, they face a personal temptation to isolate themselves, because of the pain of saying goodbye to friends after a few years. But making a new place home also means being willing to forge relationships with neighbors, Lloyd says. In one instance, when her family moved from Ohio to New York, neighbors across the street had become so close that they brought their children to New York for a visit later.
That neighbor also taught Lloyd a profound lesson as they were saying goodbye.
“She said in tears, ‘This is what the Bible talks about: This world is not our home. This is a journey.’ It spoke powerfully to me. She got it. She got our Salvation Army ministry,” Lloyd says.
“I still keep that in my heart. When we said ‘goodbye,’ I could remember, it’s not just about this place. We are always looking forward to bigger and better things. I’ve often reminded my kids, ‘If we didn’t move here, you wouldn’t know your friends. Your friendship pool is bigger. You never would want to miss out on having known these people.’ It’s hard when moving, but knowing this puts things in perspective.”
by Heidi Lynn Russell