Twenty-seven years ago my husband John and I moved from our home and families in the Chicago area to serve at a church in Washington D.C. It was a huge change for us. John was required to attend a seminar on transitions and while he was there he had to take an assessment that assigned points to the the different changes in your life.
POINTS???! We love points! We’re a tad competitive :).
For example, we were moving away from family for the first time, expecting a new baby (I was 8 months pregnant when we moved), buying our first house, starting a new job in a new church culture. Each of these got points assigned to them indicating the amount of pressure in our life.
John came home and said, “Honey, I have good news and bad news. The good news is, we WON! We had more points than anyone there! The bad news is they said we should have been in counseling 50 points ago!”
The people who ran this seminar recognized that times of change and transition bring anxiety. Change, even positive change can result in stress that has physical symptoms. Studies show that stress suppresses the immune system. People get sick more easily during times of change. You can also experience feelings of grief, fear, or anger. There’s a sense of loss, even when there’s good change. And then there’s the unexpected hard change.
- A mom we know with school-aged kids lost her husband suddenly this summer to a heart attack.
- A friend of mine took the brave step of leaving her job to start her own business.
- One of our daughters got married and moved cross-country with her husband to start grad school.
- The other daughter moved across to another part of Capitol Hill (studies say even a move that short has the same stress because you’re changing the dry cleaner and the grocer and other community folks you interact with)
- Some of our friends are pregnant for the first time, others have welcomed their first child.
- Still others are transitioning to being empty-nesters.
What are the practices and boundaries we can put in place to ensure that we will continue to flourish and grow through times of transition?
- Be aware of the impact of change. Give yourself and your family extra grace during times of transition. (John had perpetually wet shoulders from absorbing all my tears the first year in D.C.)
- As much as possible, continue the spiritual rhythms you have put in place. We feel more out of control during these times. As I look back on our years living in D.C., the one thing that kept me going was a weekly community Bible study I attended where my kids were taken care of. What are the positive choices you can make that will be nurturing to your mind, heart and soul?
- Anchor your life in the one thing that is unchanging – God and His character. Make a practice of voicing the many things you’re grateful for. Specifically thank God for who He is, not just what He does. In our family we have a “Twelve Stones Book” taken from the biblical examples where God commands the Israelites to build visible memorials so they’ll remember His power (Joshua 4). In our book we record instances of God’s faithfulness in our family.
Those are a few things that have been helpful to us. What about you? What would you add? What change are you navigating?