Milk and Honey Magazine wants all Christian women to stay calm!

Stay Calm, Beloved

Gina Martin

Life continually seems to bring intense seasons of change. Currently, I find myself in one of these seasons. I have just moved to a new state (Iowa), I am about to embark on a new journey through doctoral school, and essentially everything is new here in Iowa. I have found this unsettling feeling of being foreign is isolating and challenging. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t feeling the familiar pang of homesickness in my new “home.” My husband and I moved here prior to my program starting so that he could search for a new job in this new land. We know not one person, and we are both currently unemployed. This leaves us in an interesting stage that requires our dependence on our faith, on one another, and on our ability to persist through the uncertainty.

I am a city girl born and raised. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and spent most of my high school days in the city. After high school I went to college out in California where I was close to LA and its sprawling city life. After college I moved back to Chicago where I lived on the South Side of the city in an urban setting. City life was what I knew; it had its challenges (i.e., parking, crime, dirtiness, sirens galore….), but it felt like home to me. I had my family, friends, and I knew the lay of the land. I could navigate my way around, and I knew how to succeed at things in my daily life.

As I finished up my master’s degree and contemplated pursuing my doctorate I found that getting into a doctoral program was no easy task. Each program only took a few students (usually ranging from 1-8 students), and the stakes were high. I applied to many programs all over the country so I could give myself the greatest chance to accomplish this dream. I knew casting a wide net would likely mean change, and I wasn’t afraid. If I could move across the country for undergrad, I could do this too.

I researched programs, attended interviews, and found a few schools that seemed to be great fits for what I was looking for. When I attended my interview at The University of Iowa, I fell in love with the program and decided if I received an offer of admissions, I would commit to going there. The program was welcoming, supportive, and encouraging of my research interests whereas other programs were not as open and were a bit more cut throat. I felt completely sure Iowa was the place for me. Sure enough, God paved the way for my acceptance, and I accepted my admission for the fall. My husband quit his job in Chicago and we moved to Iowa to follow my dream. Upon moving to this new place I knew there would be challenges but I was unprepared for how different it was from my comfort zone.

School does not start until the fall, so for the summer as I acclimate to this new place, I have been touring the city and figuring out life in Iowa. Recently, while my husband was attending a job interview, I thought I would be helpful and fill the car up with gas. I went to the gas station and found that there are twenty varieties of gas in Iowa (who knew). I scanned the different types (three now made with corn….) and decided to try a brief Google search to figure out if one of these corn fuels would blow up my car. I could find nothing but conversation threads about the different types of corn gas so I decided to just try one. My card wouldn’t work on the pump so I had to go inside. As I did this I felt completely out of place and like a moron who couldn’t even figure out how to work the gas pump or figure out which gas to put in the car. I felt so humiliated and just foreign. After that excursion I went downtown to walk around and got lost trying to find my car. After navigating the cities of Chicago and LA, somehow teeny tiny Iowa City felt bigger than both places in this moment. Again, I felt alone and miserable.

That evening we had an event at a local bar to meet people and get acquainted. I did not feel like going, but we knew staying home wouldn’t help us make new friends, so we decided to go. It turned out that this was a group for farming and water conservation! Two things that are undoubtedly important and essential…but two things that again made me feel like a complete outsider. It seemed as though they were speaking a different language and I was paralyzed with fear and figuring out how to connect.

Throughout all of this change and feeling completely alone there were a few God-given graces that have made this time bearable. In the frenzy of moving into our new apartment, my mother was assisting with cleaning and helping us get settled. During this process, she stopped a neighbor and introduced me. It turns out this neighbor and I have a lot in common (she isn’t into farming, and she is from Wisconsin so she’s another transplant in this new place). Becoming friends with her and having her show me around the city gave me companionship and a guide so I didn’t get lost or feel completely alone. This has helped tremendously.

Another Godsend has been a contact that my husband made with another former University of Chicago graduate. He and his family have welcomed us to their home and invited us to events to help us get connected in the community. Peoples’ kindness and their ability to welcome us has been truly astounding in this challenging time, and seeing these God given graces has helped me realize that God is still with me, and God is still guiding me in this time of uncertainty and ambiguity.

Seeing these friendships develop and seeing how kind and welcoming people are has reminded me that even though everything around me is changing and different from what I know and what I love, God is still constant. My faith is an unchanging factor in this uncertain and changing time. Even though we are still searching for a home church and for a church community, the presence of God is still in our daily lives.

In order to survive these changing times it is important to always look for these gifts from God whether they be small or large, on your time or on His time. It is essential to depend on guidance from God in these times because it is all that we have in times of complete change.

Here are ways to deal with the ever present change in our lives:

Faith: Faith has the ability to be constant during times of change. It is important to get out and try to involve yourself in life in your new situation – and have faith that God will bring you to the right places. I have found that forcing myself to get out and walk around and figure out everything on my own or with new people that God has given me, I feel better and more relaxed or more comfortable every time I do this. Getting into new patterns to accommodate your new situation can be the way to find comfort and stability amidst the change. It is uncomfortable to put yourself out there and make new friends and adjust to a new way of living, but it is the best way to acclimate.

Reliance on each other: I have been blessed to have a husband who is willing to face these challenges with me in order for me to accomplish my dreams of becoming a PhD. I recognize that this built in support network is not present for everyone and I feel extremely grateful to have my life partner to lean on when times get tough. He is my biggest cheerleader and always helps encourage me to go for my dreams no matter how out of reach they might seem. Finding people who support your dreams and encourage you to go for them are essential in adjusting to change. It is imperative to find your support network and cherish them. God sends us people to rely on, because we sure can’t make it through this life without others.

Dealing with uncertainty: Whenever you are facing change, there is uncertainty involved. Will I like the new place? Will I fit in? Will I find friends? Will I be able to support myself? What if I’m not good at my job? And the list of mental questions could continue for pages and pages. This is super challenging and uncomfortable for most people to sit with. Uncertainty and dealing with it can often be seen as a challenge. When we turn to God’s guidance on challenges we often run into the verse about refinement (1 Peter 1:7 NLT), which states, “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” Throughout the Bible there are several other verses that discuss refining through fire or other methods, but the message is essentially the same in all of them—that if you are faced with trials of change, challenges, despair, etc. that we must rejoice in these times because these are opportunities for growth in our faith, in our relationships, and in our character. We cannot grow without challenges or without being pushed out of our comfort zone even when it is uncomfortable or frightening.

Through times of change, it is important to remember that God is still walking with you no matter how alone you may feel. God is constant despite any changes in this life. It is through maintaining faith, relying on each other in the form of support networks, and dealing with the uncertainty as though you are being refined that growth happens and has the potential to be beautiful.