How do you deal with life transitions? If you struggle, you’re not alone. Agh. I could write a book on my challenges in this department.

Although I’ve gotten much better, my early days of coping with change were brutal. Moving from Texas (where I was a single officer in the Air Force) to Idaho (as a new spouse with no job) sent me into a six-month tailspin that felt truly overwhelming. Once we got there, I fumbled around for weeks, not knowing what to do with myself. (Living in a small town in Idaho really didn’t help.) I coped by making a list of tasks to do around the house to provide me some stability and purpose. (Each check mark next to a completed job gave me a sense of accomplishment—even if the task was only “do laundry.”) Without a job or position to ground me, I felt lost…lost…LOST. It was bad, y’all.

Photo by 愚木混株 cdd20 on Unsplash

I wish I could report that I got exponentially better from there, but I was not a quick learner when it came to figuring out how to manage life’s transitions. The build-up to a move or life change (like becoming a mom) always hit me hard. I grieved what I was leaving behind (which is actually a good thing) and feared what was to come. I remember worrying whether we would be able to get fresh fruits and vegetables in England 🙄 and whether we’d be living in a slum when we moved to India 🤦🏻‍♀️. I panicked when I was eight months into my first pregnancy because I was sure that I wasn’t cut out to be a mother. If I didn’t know what to worry about, I seemed to make stuff up. (I mean, worrying about whether I’d be able to get fresh veggies in England is next-level silly—but I didn’t know.) I honestly feel sorry for my younger self.

Over the years, I’ve had lots of practice with managing transitions, which really has helped me get more adept at coping. It’s not just that we’ve moved a lot—sixteen times since we got married thirty-seven years ago—but I’ve had to navigate significant life changes along the way. Every move and change has given me the opportunity—even required me—to recreate myself (which was no small task in India, I might add). These are but a few of the role changes I’ve undergone:

-High school student to college student to college graduate

-Air Force officer to “dependant” wife

-Graduate student to business owner

-Stay-at-home mom to part-time employee

-Business owner to diplomat’s wife

-Church staff member to full-time volunteer

-Seminary student to full-time Airstreamer,

-Wife to business partner

…you get the picture. It’s been a lot.

Fast forward three decades from that move to Idaho: When Jeff’s job ended in December 2020, we sold our home and moved into a 28-foot travel trailer with the idea that we would search for where we wanted to live next (I wrote a bit about that experience here). My younger self would have imploded with the stress of it all. Although I can’t say the experience was all smooth sailing, I marvel at how well I managed to deal with the challenge of having no job, no plan, and no stability for three-plus years. I feel like I’ve just completed my PhD in how to navigate life’s transitions!

So, as we are once again engaged in a transition—this time into a small house in Utah—it feels like “deja vu all over again,” to quote Yogi Berra. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about when in transition, it’s important not to sweat the small stuff and invest in the ‘big’ stuff. (I now know how to shower with only a dish towel to dry and can cook a full meal with only a plastic fork if need be.) Through lots of practice, I’ve learned to look forward with joyful anticipation to all the treasures that God has planned for us – because he has goodness planned!

multi-color photo with words "One reason people resist change is because they focus on what they have to give up, instead of what they have to gain"

As Jeff and I work through the transition process yet again, I have a few thoughts to share on what’s truly important and how to make it more fun and less stressful:

  1. Start praying about every aspect of the transition and trust that God will get you where you need to go – for your good and for His glory. With this particular move, I trusted God to provide the right house and the right time for us and our daughter/son-in-law, who are also moving to the same town. Our house opened up the day after Kylie and Anthony found theirs, and we are only a ten-minute walk from them. (What are the chances?). We can walk to the mountain trails and have a great backyard space to entertain in. There is even an outdoor office in the backyard, and fresh herbs, kale, and strawberries are growing in the front. While the property is not perfect—there’s no space to park the Air Stream—the small, unexpected details in the house convince me that God prepared the way for us. We have found this to be true every time we moved. Ask God to give you eyes to see where He has gone before you. When we only focus on what we have given up or have lost, it’s hard to appreciate what God is doing in the current moment.
  2. Expect that you will be a blessing to everyone that you encounter in your transition. God will use you to bless others even as He blesses you, so pray for every new person you meet in your transition. Ask Him to highlight people that He wants you to meet. For example, Jeff and I prayed for the guys who would be unloading our shipping containers before we met them. We asked that we would be a blessing to them in some way. The four men—Taylor, Q, Dan, and Julian—were a delight to work with, and I knew as soon as they arrived that God was answering our prayers for them. At the end of the move, the guys stayed to chat, and they told us that as soon as we greeted them, they knew it was going to be a pleasant move. We tipped them well and wrote a glowing review on Google to bless them as best we could.Who will you bless in the midst of your transition? Is there another parent who will also be an empty-nester at the end of this school year? Do you know anyone else who is dealing with loss or is newly married? As you bless others in the midst of their transition, you will be blessed in return.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.” (Phil 2:4)

3. Don’t act like the new guy. Whether we’re new in the neighborhood, church, or school, I’ve learned to make the first moves in any relational encounter. For example, when we visit a church, I greet the people sitting around us like I’m a regular attender. (People are always surprised to find out that I’m a first-time visitor, but I’ve never understood why people think others should greet them first, but don’t have the same expectations for themselves.) We do the same thing in our new neighborhood. When we moved to Connecticut, I baked brownies and visited all our neighbors to say hello. That small gesture kicked off a “pay it forward” response from another neighbor who started baking bread for others. Don’t underestimate the impact you can have on your new community. Expect that a tidal wave of blessings will be released wherever you go.

4. Ask people their names. Show interest in their stories. Although we’ve been in our house less than a week, I know a little about our neighbor Kevin (he’s a former teacher who skis), Kye (a young man I met in the gym and invited to go church shopping with us), Kim (our realtor who invited me to her group—The Bodacious Broads of Ogden), Taylor (a barista at our local coffee shop) and Sarah, (a mother of four boys who lives in the house with pink doors.) During his first day in the neighborhood, Jeff also met a bunch of people. Nothing helps a transition more than feeling like you are connected to people around you – by making connections with the people around you. By the way, it’s never too late to start doing this—even if you’re not in transition.

5. Don’t wait to jump into the local scene. I understand the temptation to first want to settle in and “figure stuff out” before you venture out, make friends, or “do life” in the process of transition, but my advice is not to wait. I suggest asking God to help you get out of your comfort zone and jump into the transition with as much gusto as you can. Walk around, talk to people, explore the area, and make plans. If you wait until you feel ‘settled’, it may never happen. (This is why people never quite get around to finding a church or meeting their neighbors.) We have already booked a trip to southern Utah (Zion National Park) less than a month after moving in. Sure, there may still be boxes to unpack, but I don’t want to miss out on experiencing life now.

6. Take care of your emotional and physical needs. The middle of a transition is not the time to stop exercising, start eating junk food, or give up on your spiritual practices. Self-care is a top priority in times of transition because change is hard. Eat well, get enough sleep, go for walks, and pray. You will never regret taking a few extra minutes for any of those tasks, especially when your new challenges feel overwhelming.

I encourage you to take a minute to reflect on where you are in your life at the moment. Perhaps, like me, you have just started a big transition, and this post feels quite relevant. If life is status quo, consider challenging yourself to impose a transition mindset on your current living situation. In other words, pretend you are the new person in your town, job, or church, and try applying some of these suggestions to your non-transitional life. It could look like sitting somewhere new in your church instead of the same place you’ve always sat. Or, consider inviting your neighbors over for drinks or visiting a local attraction in your local area that you never made the time to see. How about checking out the meet-up groups in your local area? You never know what you might find…(I just noticed there is a square dancing group in Ogden, which I’m quite excited about 🤩! Now I just need to convince my husband…)

My final piece of advice (I promise) is that if your transition seems overwhelming, seek help. Sharing the experience with a trusted friend, a family member, or a compassionate counselor (🙋🏻‍♀️) can help you gain perspective, see blind spots you might be missing, and generally make the process easier. This is especially important if the transition you are going through is new to you!

Whatever your transition status is, I pray that you are inspired to embrace all that this season offers.

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