As a writing teacher, this is a term I use all the time. I like to say that transitions are signposts or traffic signals we use to help our reader along the journey. While we may know where we are headed, the reader may not. Transitional words or phrases can be helpful in maintaining a sense of direction. “In addition…” “Accordingly…” “Therefore…” and “The first reason….” But what about when transitions leap off the page and become a reality? What does it look like when we move from one place or stage to the next?
Currently I’m in an empty-next stage. My husband will be retiring in a few years. Should we move? Should we be closer to the kids? We have 5 and they are spread out. Where do we go? These are scary changes for me! Transitioning to new adventures and maybe a new location are exciting prospects for my husband, but for change-averse me, the idea of a major move is daunting!
Then there are the transitions that are more personal. I will be ending a 30 year long teaching career that began with homeschooling my 5 year old and grew to include 4 more children and eventually classes of other homeschooled children, locally and online. Will I miss grading all those essays? Probably not. Will I miss connecting to my students, “my kids,” praying with and for them, seeing the light bulb moments, and rejoicing in their progress? Of course! Yet, even without a gradebook, I know the Lord has opportunities for me to teach. I look forward to transitioning to a different kind of teaching.
Any kind of change brings questions. Who am I if I’m not in front of a classroom? Who am I if I’m not a citizen of a state I’ve long called home? Who am I without my title or my comfortable identity? And these aren’t questions reserved for those of us growing older. Maybe you are a woman watching her children enter a new, and challenging stage. Maybe there is a move or job change affecting your family. Maybe you have taken on increased responsibilities at work or church or school. In the midst of what can be overwhelming changes, I would like to encourage you. God’s word is not silent when it comes to helping us deal with changes. Here are three places we can look:
First, we can look backward. Ponder with gratitude. When life is swirling around us and change is around every corner, Mary’s example is one we can hold on to. After the upheaval of a pregnancy, marriage, trip, birth, visitors…LOTS of visitors, Mary has not crumpled. We aren’t given a lot of details about Mary’s life, but this one is precious. We read that she “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19). Transitions can be hard, but we are reminded that it’s ok to look back and see how the Lord has been faithful, how he has blessed us, how he has used our past circumstances to refine and shape us. Whatever stage you are exiting had its place and purpose in your life. Be thankful.
Next, look around you. Pour with abandon. As you empty your life to serve and love those in your world, be all there. One of my daughters is a baker and one of her chefs told her once to “commit to the pour.” Don’t be tentative or overly cautious. Go ahead and pour whatever it is that needs to be emptied or transferred. There’s some wisdom in this! Be present while you are there and give your all. Know that you did your best until the very end. In Psalm 90:17, Moses asks the Lord to “establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” Change the diaper, grade the paper, serve this neighbor. This stage may not last forever, but it is where the Lord has you right now, for his purposes, and according to his will. Is there anywhere better that we could be? You may be transitioning out of this stage, but there is still time to leave a legacy.
Finally, look ahead. Plan with anticipation. In 1 Peter 3, we read about Sarah. She is named among the “holy women who hoped in God.” If ever a woman had transitions in her life, it was Sarah! She wasn’t perfect, didn’t have a perfect husband, and was subjected to all kinds of stresses and trials. Yet she had hope. I’m glad Peter reminds us of hope first because we can have that same certain hope. If we are God’s covenant daughters, we have no reason to doubt our Father’s unchanging compassionate love for us. That’s a good thing because look what comes next. Not only is Sarah commended for her hope, but we are to follow her example and “not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Peter 3:6). That would be a tall order indeed if we didn’t first have hope. Our sure hope gives us a way to look forward to our new circumstances, not with anxiety and fear, but with peace.
The One who is writing our story has given us signposts. As He transitions us from one stage to the next, His word is full of instructions to guide us along our journey. For my fellow travelers, take heart that our God is trustworthy and steadfast in His love and care for you. While we may not know the next chapter, we know the end of the story and it is glorious!
About the Author:
Renee is passionate about teaching. She loves nothing more than to gather around God’s word with the women of Christ Church in Katy, Texas. She also teaches high-school writing and literature at PREP classes, a homeschool tutorial, as well as mentoring Classical Christian teachers through the CiRCE Institute, and serving on the advisory board of Covenant College. She and her husband Steve have 5 children and 7 grandchildren and Renee’s suitcase is always ready for the next trip. Closer to home you can find her baking, weightlifting, or trying one of Houston’s new restaurants.