On Transitioning Gracefully

“I have underestimated the gravity of this transition for you,” my husband said a few weeks ago. I’ve seen it coming for years; anticipated all the children in school and dreamed of what relief the space would bring me and what new work I could put my hands to. I knew it would be huge, yet even I have underestimated its effect. This is no ordinary transition.

Molly’s first week of kindergarten, Jay flew out to Big Sky Montana, to wide open spaces and fresh mountain air. At home, I was expecting to feel a similar freedom [as you know, I am of the “ya-hoo breakfast” persuasion]. Instead anxiety closed in on me until I couldn’t breathe. I am sifting through all the reasons for this, body soul and spirit. Finally cluing into one blatantly obvious reason: God is moving me on. I’ve lived and written about it in the past, and now I am living it again: constantly restless with what used to bring peace, dissatisfied with what previously filled, afraid of ending the previous season poorly and of the next unknown.

Do you know the feeling? Kinda like when the laundry piles up and you are SO OVER IT

I was made for more than this. What I’m doing just isn’t working too well any more. I don’t know how much longer I can do this. God, what gives?  Do I need to barrel through this? Haven’t I been faithful? Is it all for nothing? What have I done wrong? 

Sometimes when these types of thoughts crowd in, it’s not because we’ve done something wrong, not because we’re being selfish or undisciplined. It’s because God is setting in our hearts a discontent with what has been so that we will freely embrace what will be. In order to plug into the new, we’ve got to unplug from the old. What’s that, God? You’re transitioning me out of all laundry duties? Sweet!  😉

Of course my mom and house duties will be mine for many years, so that’s a different pile of discontent, one that requires discipline, faithfulness, humility, and gratitude, as I expounded on in this post. (The same for marriage; my thoughts here are not touching such roles.)

Life is one long string of transition and change, seems to me. Learning to recognize the transition periods sooner rather than later is a big deal. Who wants more stress? (As we all know, change = stress.) I believe God speaks to us when change is coming, preparing our hearts for what He knows is next, offering upgrades appropriate to the next season. And in the in-between there is an extra dose of grace available to transition just so – gracefully. If we are abiding and resting enough, we’ll be aware of the season and able to fully receive such grace. [Missed this mark as of late – oh may I keep better Sabbath rhythms next summer!]

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The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord;

He turns it wherever He wishes.

Proverbs 21:1

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Big Sky Montana: where A River Runs Through It

I’ll never forget a lesson I learned years ago watching a co-worker and friend struggle through transition. Over a period of weeks and months she found herself becoming miserable with her job. Her joy was gone. That’s an understatement, actually; she was coming to resemble a messy blob of angst to the point of not being able to sleep or eat well. One day she finally confided in me that she felt drawn to pursue her freelance work on a full-time scale, but was afraid of losing the financial security of her desk job. Meanwhile, her boss was becoming increasingly frustrated by her work performance, which was obviously being affected by her inner struggle. Both parties could see that she no longer fit in her current position, but didn’t quite understand why. My co-worker finally found the courage to quit, and as soon as she did, the stress completely diffused from them both. She was full of joy and felt like herself again, free to pursue the dreams in her heart, no longer tethered to that which had grown heavy and out-dated.

I clearly witnessed the pain of a drawn-out transition, and the joyful resolution when my friend let go of the old to embrace the new. Ever since then I’ve sought to recognize when God starts pulling my heart in a different direction, longing to lessen the pain of letting go and moving on, wanting His no to quickly be my no, and His yes, my yes. A lot of damage can be done to ourselves and others when we don’t yield to His turnings, when we don’t draw out the deeper desires of our hearts, when we stay stuck in our fear and old ways. We can also be really hard on ourselves for the wrong reason, mistaking a purposeful discontent for a lazy one.

It seems odd to think of discontent as a good thing, but in this case it is! When something that’s worked well, that’s brought me life and joy, suddenly turns cold and bitter to me – it’s usually God transitioning me. Turning my heart toward something else. It doesn’t mean I’m selfish or unforgiving or irresponsible or flighty… it means there’s a new thing coming, a new way to find joy, a new avenue to success and growing. From glory to glory.

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Two tiny woodpeckers mine for breakfast in the steady trunk of my tulip poplar.

My tulip poplar that has lost its lovely yellow blooms but doesn’t yet have any seed pods to yield. 

 

 

I watch as the male hops down to his mate and feeds her, beak to beak, from what he’s gleaned. They both peck some more. Again he deposits an extra helping; they exchange chirps too. Maybe it’s a growing child, not a mate? I can’t quite tell. But I wonder when she’ll make the transition to eating only what she harvests. Maybe he’s easing the transition for her. I like this guy.


God, you have my heart; turn it as you will. I know you are. I feel like a messy blob of angst, but as I abide, I can see all this grace available to me in the midst of transition. Thank you for eyes to see, and for grace. Thank you for being a papa woodpecker for me when I don’t know where the next fullness is coming from or what it will look like. Thank you for the expectant hope that when one thing dies, another is born, and you mean to take me from glory to glory, so this is going to be good. Even when I cannot see the beauty or the fruit. Help me transition gracefully. Help me find peace again. Bring me understanding to flow with the channels you are directing and pull out the next plan buried in my heart. I ask for courage to step out into the unknown! Help me not freak out when I have no idea what to hold onto — I choose to hold onto You, my steady heart, my strong river banks, my Bread of Life, my Rock of Ages.

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