Thursday, December 17, 2015

Transition, Transition!

I always find it interesting the things that we remember in life, especially those things that we remember people telling us at some point or another.  For instance, out of all my education classes in college, one of the things I remember most was said by an elementary principal who came to visit a class for one hour.

She was talking about education to those with special needs, and she told us, "Fair is not giving every person the same thing.  Fair is giving to each person what he/she needs."  For some reason, those words have always stuck with me, and I'm reminded of them often now that I'm a parent.

Kids seem to be born with a built in yellow flag to throw up in the air when a violation of fairness has occurred, similar to when a penalty occurs in a soccer match.  Yet, despite that being the case, the reality is that sometimes, in order to give each child what he/she needs, you do have to parent, discipline, and respond to kids differently.  They are different people, after all, with different needs, temperaments, and personalities.

Another thing I distinctly remember being told came from the contextual education director at seminary.  He was leading a boundaries workshop that we were required to take before heading out on internship.  The topic of transitions came up-- not only how we would transition into our internship community but also out of it-- and he said that one of our main tasks as a pastor was to equip people to go through transitions in life.  Because, no matter who we are or what we do, our lives are almost always in transition.

Having a baby, saying goodbye to a loved one, retirement, heading to college, going back to school, being diagnosed with cancer or a chronic condition, changes in employment, divorce, even going through various seasons of a marriage: these are all transitions.  And there are many more we could add to this list. 

Some transitions we plan; others happen to us.  Some we look forward to; others we'd rather not have to go through at all.  Either way, I think all transitions have both gifts and challenges wrapped up in them, and they are certainly all an opportunity to grow in our relationship with God as well.  Because at least for me, it is in times of transition that I need to rely on God's timing, trust that God has our best interests in mind, and take it one day, one step at a time rather than borrow worries from tomorrow.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, not only because we have recently moved to a new home and Thomas recently started a new job, but more so because we are currently in a season of major transition at the church where I serve.  We are in the call process for a new pastor and are adding two new positions to our staff.  In addition, we have two other staff positions to fill and yesterday we found out that another cherished person on our staff will be leaving.  She has been offered a position at a local non-profit that she simply can't refuse.

This time of transition hasn't been without its challenges, but at the same time, I am convinced that how we view transitions makes a big difference in how smoothly those transitions go.  For instance, if you have been relocated for your job and have your heels in the ground, determined the change is going to be terrible, it probably will be.  But if, on the other hand, you have the approach of taking it one step at a time and focusing on the positive, it will likely be a much smoother transition.

It's like Reid eating a frosted doughnut at church the other day-- after eating all the chocolate frosting off, he looked at what was left, and exclaimed, "This isn't a cookie, this is a doughnut!"  There have been times when this would have ended in tears and frustration.  But this time, instead of getting upset because things weren't what he had expected or wanted them to be, he decided to roll with it instead and we all had a much better morning because of it. 

It's a simplistic example, for sure, but there's a message for me in how Reid handled the doughnut situation that morning.  That's not to say I'm always as good at rolling with things as I would like, and I certainly don't always enjoy times of transition, but I'm working on it, and as a result, have felt more peace and joy lately than I have at other times.

I'm also learning to notice the gift that transition can be.  For our congregation, it has meant more people stepping up to help out, which is awesome.  For our family, it has meant focusing on the things that are most important and not worrying about the piles of things in the garage or timelines we can't control, which has led to less stress and more fun at home.

And when I keep my focus on the good, acknowledging rough patches but not dwelling on them, I'm much more able to recognize glimpses of grace in the midst of these various transitions as well-- grace that shows up in the form of a date night, the generosity of friends, the laughter of colleagues, and the cuddles of children.

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