Embracing Change When You Want Everything to Stay the Same

Sometimes it seems much longer than two months since we loaded the last items into our car and drove away from what has been home for 22 years. In many ways, I feel like like I’m on an extended vacation. Any day now, we’ll drive those familiar country roads that have taken us home for more than two decades. I wake up in the night and wonder, where am I?  We’ve stayed in so many different locations lately. My head knows we’ve made a major change, but my heart is slow to catch up.

Since change is never easy, what steps can you take to embrace your new situation? Here are a few that are helping me:

  • Find a routine and stick with it.

Try to have some  sense of order to your days–especially when everything around you seems chaotic. Since my husband Randy and I are retired, we don’t have a structured work schedule. Instead, we’ve been building some order into each day. We take an afternoon walk, stop by the local Starbucks for coffee or plan meals at the “usual” time. Familiar routines make any place seem more like home.

  • Acknowledge your feelings.

It can feel uncomfortable being in a place where you don’t know anyone–at least not yet. And change can bring feelings of loss and sadness. It’s OK to feel this way! It won’t last forever. I’m convinced of that!Helpful ways to embrace change

 

  • Step out of your comfort zone.

Being part of a church community is important to us, so we’ve visited some new churches. Even though everyone has been welcoming and friendly, it’s still difficult going somewhere when you don’t know anyone. I realize even more how important it is to extend a warm welcome to a newcomer. I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone, and I’m now attending a women’s Bible study and some exercise classes at the local gym. I’m glad I made myself go!

  • Don’t stare at the closed door so long that you miss the open one.

I love this quote by Helen Keller. It’s good to remember when you’re missing what’s familiar. You will never go forward as long as you look backward.

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us. -Helen Keller

  • Be fully present in the moment.

I’ve always appreciated the wisdom of Al-Anon, a support group for families and friends of alcoholics.  Just for Today is great advice–being right where you are in this moment. Not longing for what has been or projecting what may be coming in the future. Just for Today I can be grateful for where I am this very moment. When I consider our many blessings, I can’t help but be filled with gratitude.

  • Know that God has a purpose in placing you exactly where you are.

When Randy and I decided to move across the mountains to the west/”wet” side of the state, we had a purpose for making this monumental change. We wanted to be intentional with our choice to live closer to family members. When we remember our “why,” it makes the “what” much easier.

Last January, I started using a huge calendar that’s spread out so you can see the entire year. I remember looking at everything on my plate–preparation for multiple speaking engagements, writing projects, getting the house de-cluttered and ready to put on the market, and moving–if and when our house sold. At the top of the calendar I wrote with a black sharpie,  The One Who Called You is Faithful and He Will Do It!” ( 1 Thessalonians 5:24) And He has! We’ve walked through each challenge on that calendar and come out on the other side. How encouraging to look at the 2+ months left in this year–not to mention what unknowns lie ahead–and be reminded that God is always with us, always faithful.

Are you facing any changes in your life? I’d love to pray for you. 

When Did Everybody Else Get So Old? Indignities, Compromises, and the Unexpected Grace of Midlife (Harrisonburg, VA: Herald Press, 2017)

A transparent, honest, humorous memoir that looks at the challenges of midlifeAging well is a topic I’m always interested in–and Jennifer Grant’s memoir about her forties is an  honest, transparent, and humorous look at midlife. She’s an excellent story-teller and I enjoyed hearing about her aging experiences–wearing what she thought were “cool” Elton John-like glasses–only to have her teenage daughter weigh in with her more- than- honest assessment. “You look old and weird in those glasses, Mom.”

The author poignantly describes the transitions we go through with our children. Would we want to go back to those sweet early years when they willingly place their little hands in ours when we cross the street, or get excited about something as simple as finger-painting?   Grant says no, she wants to look forward to who those children will become. She doesn’t want to get stuck looking back at those “good, old days”–even though letting go isn’t easy. It seems that one day our children are sweet and innocent and the next you’re looking at college applications with them. I can relate! Even though I’m well past the middle-age years Jennifer Grant writes about, I can still remember the ache I felt when I walked past my oldest son’s empty bedroom after he left for college. Yet this book offers hope of moving past these empty-nest feelings.

The author writes wisely about the physical, emotional and spiritual challenges of aging and the changes we face throughout our lives–celebrations, sorrows, and joys. She concludes with the wisdom of Solomon from the book of Ecclesiastes: There is a time for everything.

I enjoyed this book, but I am disappointed by the author’s interpretation of the parable of the ten bridesmaids (Matthew 25) in her book’s final chapter. As a Christian, I believe it’s important to consider the full counsel of Scripture when interpreting passages such as this one.

 

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Learning to Embrace Change

change-is-goodChange is something I’ve always resisted. From the time I was 13- years old and my dad announced we were moving from my small Midwestern hometown to a quaint “village” in Pennsylvania, to all the current changes, including retiring from my day job. Change is hard no matter what the circumstances. Even a positive change, such as retirement, can be challenging.

Twenty-one years ago, Randy and I decided to move from the Seattle area to the tiny town of Winthrop, Washington. I remember the combination of excitement and stark fear as we took on this new adventure. I also recall how hard it was to put the “for sale” sign outside our familiar home, the one where our sons had grown up. It was tough loading up all our belongings into that Ryder truck on a late November day. Then we drove across the mountains to an unfamiliar place where the only person we knew was a real estate agent. It wasn’t easy, but I’ve never regretted that decision. I had to let go of what was familiar in order to embrace what was new and ultimately best for us.

The perspective of hindsight is so interesting–and encourages me to welcome future changes. What I see as I look back through many years, is that most changes I’ve faced have impacted my life in a positive way.

It’s often hard to see at the time, though. At 13, I thought my world had come to an end when I left my dearest childhood friends. My dad had tried to point out the positive aspects of this move which I stubbornly refused to consider. In retrospect, Dad was right. Even though I loved Iowa, moving across the country gave me more vision for what might be out there in this big world.

When I married Randy and we began moving around the country–and the world–with the Air Force, Dad never lamented that he’d miss us and his grandchildren. He was always a cheerleader, saying how great it would be for us to explore the Far East and the other stateside places where we were stationed. “Now we have another new place to come visit,” he’d say with so much optimism I almost believed him.

Of course, there are changes that are anything but positive. Illnesses, job losses, and the loss of loved ones are beyond difficult. In the past decade, Randy and I have lost both his parents and my dad. And we’re all too aware of my mom’s aging–and ours as well!

I’m finally learning to accept that change is inevitable. Since that’s the case, why not embrace change instead of fighting it? I learned a long time ago  in Al-Anon that acceptance is the answer to most of my problems–especially those situations I can’t control.

So what does embracing change look like?

  • Look back, but don’t stare. Instead of wringing our hands about those “coulda/shoulda/woulda” experiences, we can consider what we would do differently, what we can learn from those situations. Sometimes you just have to cut your losses and move forward.
  • Be intentional about treasuring moments with loved ones. Losing someone we love will always be difficult. Instead of fearing what is inevitable with aging parents or other loved ones, by being intentional with our time, we will have an abundance of memories and gratitude for the ways this person has impacted our lives. A beloved physician who practiced in our town for several years, recently passed away from cancer at the age of 62. A friend wrote on her online memorial/tribute page how she had told Cynthia how sad she was to be losing her. Cynthia reassured her, “Yes, but just think of how lucky we were to have had this much time together.”  What an amazing perspective–and one I want to remember!
  • Remind yourself that change can be good! Sometimes when an unexpected change comes and knocks us off our feet, there’s ultimately something positive that can come from this experience. A job loss can lead to an unexpected opportunity, one you wouldn’t have considered before, or an injury that sidelines you for a while can give you perspective on the direction you’re headed with your life.

I’m all too aware as we embark on a new year, change can be expected and even welcomed. I’m telling myself, Don’t be afraid of change. Don’t get so settled into your comfortable routine that you miss new opportunities.

So when the trapeze of change swings in your direction, have courage to grab hold and then let go. It might be the best thing that’s ever happened to you!

What changes are you facing right now that seem scary?  Let me know…it will be a privilege to pray for you!