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No doubt you have been at a friend or relative’s house and they have said, “Please, make yourself at home.” It means, “If you need something let me know, or help yourself. Relax and enjoy your visit.” But when you move 1,200 miles away from anything and everything you’ve ever known, there is no one there to say, “Hey, make yourself at home.” I have made just such a change in my life and I have learned that I have to tell myself this – I have had to say, “Valerie, make yourself at home, because this is your home.”

There were so many changes:

New church

New climate

New house

New town

New schools

New doctors

New dentists

New library

And the list goes on!

For example, my first Christmas here felt so surreal, like I was visiting outer space! My house felt like we were all at an Airbnb, it just didn’t feel like home.If you have ever moved, then you know what I mean. My decorations were in odd places. We had no traditions here. The weather was cold. The stores were all far away. I found myself missing the ease in which we celebrated Christmas before; I actually grieved past holiday memories and wished that things were different. It was a struggle. In the midst of all of those emotions, I had to tell myself that this was home now. We would figure it out. It takes time. We have to make new traditions. So, we did.

I have lived here almost a year now and I admit that I have felt every hour of it. I still feel like an outsider – but I remember feeling that way when we moved the time before this. So I know from experience that it will get easier. I will probably always have my tell-tale accent that reveals that I am *not* a native-born Michigander, but I will call carbonated drinks, “pop.” I will probably always be cold in winter but I will know more about how to layer my clothing. I may not know who is related to whom but I know a lot of new and amazing people now. I have gotten a new bike and am riding again after not doing it for YEARS – and it’s fabulous! I’m learning how to plant flowers because I finally live in a place that isn’t a desert and I have a friend to help me. I’m not (currently) in college, but I am taking any new opportunity for work and education that God sends me.

It certainly has been a year of change. I have tried to just dive in and make myself at home, because it really is something you have to do for yourself.

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