If there’s one thing I know a lot about, it’s change! Not that I enjoy it. Quite to the contrary, I think 95% of me would be perfectly content to stay in one place doing one job for the rest of my life! Mind you, I have never had the opportunity to put this theory to the test. It is quite possible that the same drive that makes me reorganize the furniture in my house every 6 months would keep pushing me forward toward change regardless. My naturally reserved personality longs for consistency and routine, and yet there has been little consistency for me with regards to where I live. How do I keep my sanity in the midst of all this change? Let me share with you a few pointers which have helped me keep smiling as I follow my husband on our life’s meandering journey.
The first step for adjusting to change is to ‘say good-bye’. This is one of the hardest things I struggle with. I know from first hand experiences that, as precious as friendships are, there are very few friendships that stand the test of time and distance. Good intentions will only take you so far. From there on in, it takes hard work and determination! So, don’t leave any hard feelings behind. Go ahead and allow yourself to get sentimental. Don’t let the emotions build up like a soda can which has been dragged around by a toddler. It’s better to let the emotions out before the major change happens so that you have a fresh attitude when you face the change itself! You will still have plenty of opportunities to unleash those torrents of ‘fizz’ but at least it won’t have built up quite so much. Emotions are God’s built in release valve for tension. Don’t bottle it up. In a safe environment, let them out before both God and those you love and who love you. With their help and support you will make it!
Ok, so now you’ve crossed the threshold from the known to the unknown. What do you do now? My best advice is ‘expect the unexpected’! Things will NOT always go as planned and they will definitely not be exactly as you had dreamed. But that is not always bad! There will be things that you will love and there will be things that will require a little more adjustment on your part!
That brings me to my next suggestion: ‘Look for the good’. It is so easy to get caught up in comparing the new to the old. We tend to make the old out to be ‘paradise’ (conveniently forgetting the not so great parts) and only see the challenges of the new. No matter what your situation in life, there will be a mixture of bad and good. What you choose to focus on is what will determine your life attitude. Remember what the Bible says about thinking on things that are good, honorable, praiseworthy and so on? When we arrived in Maputo, my first reaction was “Yuck!” All I could see were the unpainted buildings and piles of garbage at the side of the street. I hated sticking out like a sore thumb whenever I walked outside the door of my house. It didn’t take too long for me to discover that Maputo has a saving grace – the beach sidewalk. Along the ocean there is a lovely sidewalk, which stretches for miles. As long as you avoid the sinkholes where the sidewalk has totally caved in, it makes for a very nice breezy walk. I was able to take advantage of the slower pace of life and the close proximity of a missionary friend to take walks about 3 times a week beside the sea. It was wonderful! I would never have had time to do that back in the beautiful city of Toronto, Canada! There is always something good about change. Choose to focus on the good and you will enjoy what life brings your way.
For our little family, the most calming thing was for us to ‘settle into a routine as quickly as possible’. Soon after our arrival in Africa, our children started into their new school. It meant getting up at 6 a.m. to be at school by 7:30. That was quite an adjustment from the Canadian school system but it was great to get them into a set routine of school, homework, playtime, baths and bed. Keep as many things familiar in your routine as you can. Did you have particular family habits before that you really enjoyed? Did you have a regular reading time, did you do a certain activity together, or did you have certain chores that each was required to do? As much as is possible, keep these things constant. We have even made a point of always moving our pictures and wall hangings constant wherever we have gone. These are the first things organized in our house and the last thing to come down before a move. Children (even really BIG children) appreciate familiar things.
Lastly, ‘keep the best of all’. Each place you live in, each phase in your life, each new change will teach you new lessons, new habits and customs. Pick and choose from the variety of your experiences and form your own little culture. Enjoy the best of all your worlds as much as you can. God weaves each of your life experiences into a beautiful tapestry. It makes up who you are. Do you feel like your tapestry will be dark and dreary? Allow God to weave those beautiful golden threads through your life and the contrast will bring out the glory of God in your life. Life is not always what you want it to be nor does it always turn out exactly how you had planned. But in the end what will matter is that your life brought glory and honor to our Lord, regardless of how many different colors and textures of thread are weaved into it. The master weaver knows what He is doing, and will make something beautiful out of your life!