Transition Talk (Part 1)

This post may get long, and it may seem very…I am not actually sure what the right word is to put there. We’ll see where we get by the end of it.

2018 has been hard.

There. I said it. It’s so easy to paint a perfect, pretty picture on social media, but you know what, I LOVE honesty and transparency from others and find strength from it so it’s high time I join the club. I’ve also been so terrified of admitting this at the risk of others thinking we made a bad decision, which I absolutely do not think. But you know what? I am doing it.

Transition is hard. It’s confusing. It’s unsettling. It’s this great in-between, and quite frankly, I am NOT a fan. The human, immature part of me wants to lay on the floor and kick and scream and cry until someone gets me out of it – get me out of this transition and to the good stuff. (If only!) I think I have changed my mind about what I am doing (what I should be doing, what I want to be doing, or any other version of that) about one hundred times, and now I am so scared of my own lack of clarity and indecisiveness to actually make a decision. I usually make decisions quickly, too, so that is not helpful in this scenario.


One thing to be super clear on before I go much further – in the moments I feel confused, challenged, frustrated, even losing a little hope, I have gone back to the 10 months Robbie and I spent praying, seeking counsel and discussing this huge transition, and my heart settles. My heart settles into the fact that we did that process really well. We committed to doing it well in the beginning, and we stuck with it. We took our time. We prayed. We invited others in, and each person that sat, listened, prayed and advised us through that process had a helpful piece to our puzzle at just the right time. It’s actually sort of crazy how that all happened when I reflect back, but I absolutely know God was with us and for us and he still is!

This year has been hard, though, for a number of reasons. I have been challenged and grateful all at the same time by my husband who has been incredibly strong and unwavering. He strengthens our family so much! He’s also been incredibly patient with me when I have been confused or frustrated or sad. He sees things simply, and he’s always optimistic and hopeful for our future. I am so grateful for this!

Part of the challenge has been the lack of settledness I have felt. We went from living in our own place for 6 years to being “in-between” places and unable to settle fully. We are still in-between. We went from a church we were a part of for years and years, with relationships that were so beautiful and special and supportive, to searching for a church again. We went from friends who walked with us as singles, married and having kids to wondering who those new people may be here, unclear how long it could take to find and develop some of those friendships. We went from a culture and nation that we loved and had adopted as our own to returning to a familiar/unfamiliar nation we grew up in. We went to Australia out of college, ready to see the world, and we left Australia more aware of ourselves, of God and our relationship with him, with a spouse and children. We left dual-citizens. We went from knowing our role and our mission to having a broad vision with the specifics yet to be determined.

I say all of that, but many of those things have actually happened. We’ve been attending a church, we have made new friends, Robbie got an amazing job. Those are not things that I am taking lightly or forgetting. I am so grateful for those breakthroughs! I still recognise that uprooting your entire life and planting it somewhere else does require some challenges, though. I don’t know who I am in this context yet. I don’t know who I am without the vocational “missionary” hat yet. I know the core of who I am, of course, but the mom in Indianapolis is different than the mom in Australia with new rhythms, friendships, preferences and more. When you build a life somewhere, it’s a grieving process to leave it, no matter how certain you are of your decision and the path forward.

I am slowly reading a book on transition, and right away, there were a few parts that really helped me recognise what I was feeling.

“Those who have chosen to make changes that had put them into transition tended to minimise the importance of endings; it was almost as if the act of acknowledging an ending as painful was an admission that the change triggering the transition had been a mistake.”

Wow. Thats so good, and that’s why this post is only now being written. Fear. Leaving Australia – my home for 8+ years, my friends, my church, my country – that was painful, and it still is. AND THAT’S OK! It doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Another quote:

“Rule number two: every transition begins with an ending. We have to let go of the old thing before we can pick up the new one – not just outwardly, but inwardly, where we keep our connections to people and places that act as definitions of who we are.”

That time, that season is over. I know that. There are still many parts of me that are defined by that place though, by those people, and I think it’s a process to let go of that. It’s a faith step to let go, not knowing where you will land.

I never thought this would be easy. Our first week or two home were so hard, particularly for Eleanor, and that made me incredibly emotional. However, things shifted and seemed relatively easy that first month or so. Maybe it was the novelty of the new season or place. I’m not sure. The dust settled, though, and we are here. There’s a lot to still figure out.

Photo by Erik Ringsmuth on Unsplash

The biggest area for me is what I am doing. It’s so different outside of what I am used to. I am used to YWAM, where no matter how much or how little I worked, I was still a missionary. My role looked different over the years, but the context never changed. Now, I am in a new context, and I am not sure what my role is. I am certain I am with my kids of course, but to what extent? Do I work some? Do I work a lot? Even more, do I need to work? Outside of a faith-based financial situation there are different pressures and realities that we weren’t used to. I don’t want to miss the forest for the trees, though. I don’t want to forget the big vision. The vision that gave us confidence to take that next step. I remind myself of it often.

So what are the specifics for me? I had this epiphany last night when I was chatting with a friend on Facebook. I am an “all or nothing” type personality. I am Type A through and through, and I prefer to have all my ducks in a row. I’ve always fought for clarity, a strength and a weakness at times. If I could know what I would be doing in 10 years, well of course I would start doing it today. That’s not reality, though. What’s right in front of me? My epiphany was that I don’t have to decide what I will be doing for the next 5 or 10 or 15 years today. So simple. Sometimes what I need to or should be doing today is only for a month or a year, and then we move on. It’s to serve the here and now, which will ultimately serve the long-term. It was this beautiful and freeing thing, and it helped me to ask different questions.

I remember one time picking up a speaker in YWAM from the airport. He asked me what I was up to these days, and at the time, I was in between roles. I said, “I’m not really sure yet. I have a few options in front of me, but I don’t feel like God has given me a clear answer yet.” His response was so beautifully frustrating – “Maybe you’re asking the wrong question…”

Maybe you’re asking the wrong question.

I think I have been asking the wrong question. I am hopeful that by asking some of these new questions, I will have more clarity or at least the next step forward. During our process and into this year, there has been a verse in the Bible that has continually come up.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” – Psalm 119:105

If you think about that picture, I see a tiny little lantern-type lamp. Something you hold in your hand. The light that shines from it is bright enough to see your feet and maybe a step or two in front of you, but it certainly cannot light up the entire path. Sometimes we have to be ok with just that next step or two without having the whole path figured out, trusting that each step will be important and necessary to the whole.

The other challenge with my search and desire for specifics and clarity is that I want to do it all. I don’t want to say “no” to anything that’s in front of me, but I am realising that one, sometimes “no” means “no for now”, and two, my “no” to one thing gives greater room for my “yes” in another. Equally, my “yes” to something often means “no” to something else.

That’s where my head has been. I have literally gone back and forth so much about so many things, and that frustrates me to no end. I worry that people will be confused or worried about me, but at the end of the day, that’s not what should be at the core of my heart and mind. And, the reality is that most people that I am surrounded by are infinitely supportive and encouraging. I am so grateful for the people God has put in my life over the years.

So here concludes my first true “Transition Talk”. A few nights before we left Australia, we were sitting on the floor of our empty living room chatting with our base director. Two things stood out during that time. One was a specific word he felt for Robbie’s job, which has absolutely been evident in the job he has started. It’s so amazing to see that after reflecting back on that conversation! The second is that I chatted about this exact thing – this call I felt to write vulnerably about transition. This desire to talk about this when it seemed not many had. That was 5.5 months ago, and I am really just now starting. I am hoping to write more though, and I am hoping that these posts are encouraging to whoever reads them even if they don’t hold all the answers. My heart is to create a “me too” voice in my writing, for others to feel they have someone that can relate to them and their situation.

Be on the lookout for future “Transition Talk” posts!! Thank you guys for all your support and for staying up-to-date with me!

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4 Comments

  1. Stephanie June 12, 2018 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    Absolutely love this, and feel it echos so much of what’s in my heart still from our move from Boston to Ohio.

    • Ashley Willingham June 12, 2018 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      Love you friend! It still blows my mind that we’ve made both of our big moves/transitions at roughly the same time!!

  2. Anna Foster June 4, 2018 at 9:32 am - Reply

    Love you and your honesty!! Praying for you and your family!!
    Let’s have coffee sometime soon

    • Ashley Willingham June 12, 2018 at 9:15 pm - Reply

      Thank you Anna! I would love that! I assume you still live here in Indy?!

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