Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How NOT to do transition

Hey friends! It's Wednesday, which means Brian officially has 3 more days of work left with our current ministry. 3 days, after four years of us actively pouring into and being poured into by this ministry. Excuse me while I simultaneously cry, make another cup of coffee, and raise the roof. I'm both ready to embark on this adventure, and in total denial that we're moving so soon.

The first major life transition Brian and I experienced together was also a move; at age 21 we got married and moved five weeks later to work with a missions organization in Hawaii. Four months after that, we went on outreach to the Middle East, and then 4 months after that, we moved to Montana.

Little baby Byersdorfs, a few months into marriage

It was a lotta change. I didn't do so well. (And no, it wasn't all bad - there were some really sweet, amazing moments. But lots of hard ones, too). So from my firsthand experience, let me tell you a few things NOT to do as you transition:

Isolate yourself.
During our free time, I pretty much hid in our little bedroom. I didn't try to make many friends, and I watched a lot of Netflix. Did I mention I'm a total extrovert who needs to be around people to be healthy? Big mistake.

Have unrealistic expectations.
I thought marriage, joining ministry, living on full-time financial support, etc. was going to be pretty peachy. When things got hard, I was shocked. This made many things way more disappointing than they needed to be.

Mask how you're really feeling
I was the queen of putting on a happy face. My people-pleasing self didn't want to make anyone "feel bad," so I acted like I was fine. This meant I didn't really let people in, and struggled alone.

Be real hard on yourself.
I thought that going through difficulty meant I was doing something wrong. There must have been something I could do/change/fix about myself to make things right. I wish I could have taken a step back and realized that transition often is just hard. Sometimes God leads us through difficult things so we can grow and know Him more; it's not always our sucky-ness or mistakes that lead us there.

Be inconsistent in your times of prayer and reading the Word.
Since I was so in my head and dwelled on my anxious thoughts, I didn't want to sit alone with God. I didn't want to hear more condemnation (which was really just coming from myself and the enemy). So I watched TV, read, and made myself busy instead of turning to Jesus, the Healer.

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Looking back on this time of my life, I was ill-equipped to face the transition I was enduring. I'm not trying to be hard on myself or blame someone else for not equipping me; I think many of us don't know how we personally will handle transition, or how to set ourselves up for as much success as possible.

I've learned so. stinkin. much through that experience. God redeemed many of those hard things, and I grew a ton through it. He was faithful, and He used me in my weakness.

So here's what I would tell myself then, and what I'm telling myself now as we prepare to move:

Get some people around you.
Ask for prayer, spend time with girlfriends, go on dates with your spouse. Be around people and serve others as they serve you.

Be honest about how you're feeling.
Be honest with yourself, with the Lord, and with people who love you.

Let go of how you think everything is going to go, and expect difficulty.
You don't have to plan for the worst, but know that there will be tough moments. Let go of your air-tight plans - lots of things will change, and that's ok.

Dig deep into Jesus BEFORE you go (and as you go).
Christine Hoover, a wise woman with much ministry and transition experience, has been asked many times how to prepare for church planting (which is a huge transition). Her first answer? Develop a consistent time of prayer and reading the Bible. We need a deep relationship with Jesus before we go, so that we know His truth, know His voice, have Him as our anchor, as we go. Don't wait till you get there to be intimate with Him - start before.

Know that transition is just hard - and that's real normal. 
Don't beat yourself up. Let yourself laugh. Stop dwelling in your anxious thoughts and ask the Lord for eyes to see His faithfulness even as things are hard. You aren't a screw up because life is hard, you are a faithful woman of God who is being shaped and given the chance to know Jesus more deeply. And, things will get better and more "normal", I promise.

Surround yourself with truth.
You will get discouraged - be prepared to know how to combat that! Put some scripture up around your house. Listen to truth-filled, Biblical worship songs. Ask the Lord how He feels about you. Read the Psalms. Spend time with people who love you. Continue to get to know the One who is the author of Truth, and listen to His voice.

That's all I got, folks.

Got any advice for what to do/not do in transition?

Come back on Friday to see my "transition playlist" - the songs I'm filling my ears with that remind me of truth and lead me to my steady anchor, Jesus.

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