The Words I Thought I’d Never Say

TShirtI love Michigan.

While I can say these words with honesty, there was a time when they didn’t exist in my vocabulary.

Growing up in Michigan made me want to do one thing and one thing only: LEAVE. As I went to high school, then college, I longed for the day when I could be free to move to the sunny south, North Carolina in particular.

Anyone who has known me throughout my life knows how deeply this is true. They know how I hated the snow, they know how I would sell my soul to live in North Carolina, they know how I pined, for years, to move to the south and never look back.

The day I longed for came the week after I was married. My husband and I packed a small U-Haul and drove almost eight hundred miles to our new home in Charlotte, NC.

The years we spent in Charlotte were amazing. North Carolina was everything I’d dreamed of and more. The thought of returning to Michigan, for more than a Christmas visit, seemed completely impossible, like moving to China or Mars.

And then the impossible happened. My husband lost his job, the house we were renting went into foreclosure, and our first baby was on the way. We needed a place to fall and the only place was Michigan.

As we did the thing we swore we’d never do, as we packed a slightly larger U-Haul in the middle of December and headed for the cold, white north we wondered what God was thinking. This wasn’t part of the plan. Didn’t He know? Weren’t we clear?

I will always have a place in my heart for North Carolina and the time we spent in Charlotte, but over the course of the past six years something strange has happened. I have inexplicably fallen in love with Michigan. So much so I recently bought a t-shirt to complete the transformation. With an outline of Michigan it proudly proclaims: SMITTEN WITH THE MITTEN.

It’s cheesy, and corny, and a complete 180 from what I’ve felt most of my life. But I don’t care.

It’s not just Michigan. I love the snow, I love the ice. I love raising my family in the “Great Lake State,” where blueberries and 70 degree summers abound. Everything I passionately hated has become a source of joy and delight.

How does this happen? I can’t begin to explain except to say, only God. Somewhere, sometime, somehow, He crept His way into the frozen part of my heart that despised and hated Michigan and He changed everything.

I once read a book titled, After the Boxes Are Unpacked: Moving On After Moving In, by Susan Miller. It was a book about moving and a friend gave it to me at a much-needed point in my life.

My husband and I had just relocated to the DC area after our wonderful years in Charlotte. It was a move I didn’t want to make, but this book helped me see and understand the value of “blooming where you’re planted.” Of taking your circumstances, even ones you didn’t want, and using them to the best of your ability, using them for the glory of God.

It’s a tough thing to do when you’re bitter and broken, but it’s good, and healing, and necessary.

In time, I bloomed in DC, and now I’m blooming in Michigan. I’ve grown and thrived where I thought life would be impossible.

I share this story because I know how easy it is to believe that things can’t change. That circumstances you didn’t want, or relationships you wish were different or prayer requests you thought would be answered are forever without hope.

It’s easy to assess our feelings, our hurts or the actions of others and form our own conclusions.

It’s easy to put God on a timeline that makes sense to us but fails to see what He sees.

But God can and does change hearts. He can change our hearts. He can change the hearts of others. He can accomplish whatever He desires for our own good, for His own glory.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart,”(Psalm 37:4), is a popular verse when it comes to the things our hearts want so badly. And all my life I’ve heard this verse and thought that if I can just conform my thoughts, my feelings, my longings to the very heart of God, then whatever I desire will be fulfilled.

But recently a friend of mine shared a different insight, “Maybe,” she said, “What this verse really means is that God will put desire in our hearts.” Desires He knows are right for us. Desires He wants us to have. He will give us the desires of our heart, not by fulfilling them but by putting them there in the first place.

No matter how you look at it, the desires of our hearts and our relationship with God are intimately linked.

So what’s your Michigan? What’s seems impossible, unwanted, perhaps the very thing you hoped would never happen?

What relationships seem hopeless? What prayer requests seem forsaken?

Whatever it is may I encourage you not to harden or close off your heart. Keep it soft, keep it open.

Keep it pliable to a God whose desire is for you. To a God who can change hearts. 

To a God who can take a wanna-be-southerner and turn her into a girl who finds herself in Michigan and gladly calls it home.