A Year In

A year ago today, we were freshly back in the US, full of hope and optimism, and the year that proceeded ended up being one of the more challenging of my life. Isn’t it funny that way? I distinctly remember thinking last January, “This is going shockingly well so far. We are working out and finding new cafes and meeting new people. This is going to be great!” Perhaps somewhere deep down, a part of me was yelling at myself to not think that…nothing is ever this easy! Nevertheless, I was hopeful and optimistic.

Then February hit, and a number of challenges came my way. I had some challenges with my teeth that resulted in multiple visits to the dentist and a trip to Tulsa with Otis as a solo parent. I came home to Eleanor in the midst of a vomiting bug, one that continued that night and into the morning, resulting in us taking a visit to the ER because of her dehydration. Mind you, my mouth was throbbing this whole time. Robbie started applying for jobs and didn’t hear back. We started trying churches and nothing seemed to fit. I was up multiple times a night with Otis who was only four months at the time, and I was confused about what I was meant to be doing with my life. Not to mention freezing cold temps and lots of snow. February kind of sucked.

I’m not going to recap each month because frankly that would miss the point. My point is that it wasn’t all perfect and it looked entirely different than either of us imagined our first year back would look like. We sort of found a church, felt like it wasn’t the right fit after a couple months, and then had to search again. Robbie applied for jobs, got a job, lost that job and had to apply again. I tried network marketing, stopped network marketing and then revisited it with a different mentality and goal. We lived with my parents for 10 months. In the first half of the year we got our finances in order, took the Financial Peace Course, set a budget and proceeded with that budget as Robbie started working. We met with a financial planner/broker friend, got pre-approved for a mortgage, looked at houses and put an offer on one…which we didn’t get. We didn’t get it but thank goodness because the next day Robbie was blindsided at work and lost his job. I dealt with anxiety regarding our transition and mothering and life. I had a few anxiety attacks – something completely new for me and not so fun. I met with a counselor in April and felt like there was no chemistry, mutual understanding or respect, and then waited several months until August to try again. When I tried again, it was incredible and one of the best decisions I have made. We met new people, reconnected with old friends and saw friends from Australia (such fortunate surprises!!!). We renovated a house with my family, moved into the house and now have a home. We found a church the second time around, settled in, found a small group and feel great about being here. Robbie applied for jobs a second time around, did many phone interviews and some in-person ones. He finally got an amazing offer…that started in January. Robbie got seasonal work as a UPS driver during Thanksgiving/Christmas, and reality really sunk in when he got back after 10pm every night his first week. We went on a few road trips. My Dad was diagnosed with cancer and had surgery to remove a tumor. We experienced some holidays we haven’t for awhile, as well as the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere again. We watched football…and not at 8am on a Monday morning (Australia time). We went to family events, weddings, friends birthdays – things we haven’t been able to for nearly a decade. I ran a 5K! We have two cars now – a 2007 Toyota Camry and a 2008 Toyota Sienna. We are a Toyota family, and I am rocking the mini-van.

It’s funny because as I go back and read that last paragraph, it’s all just facts. It’s not really the emotions or mental challenges surrounding all of those things (that would take a book). In reading that paragraph, I feel as if I am writing about five years, not one. So much.

This is what I know, though, one year in.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be near family, to get to know them on a different and new level. I am thankful for Robbie, my partner for life, my support and champion, and the one that continued to laugh with me amidst it all. I am grateful for two beautiful and healthy children who have done SO well, all things considered. They have grown and matured, met new friends, gotten braver, learned new skills. It’s been a joy to be their mom. I am grateful that I no longer feel fragile. I feel strong. I don’t run towards hard things, but I am not afraid of them anymore. I am grateful for a wonderful counselor, a woman who has sat with me for months and heard me talk through all of this. A woman who is understanding and yet challenges me. I am grateful for counseling in general. I have learned so much about myself in these last five months. I have more clarity, and in a year of new and change and confusion, clarity is welcomed with open arms! Most importantly, I am grateful that the same God that started stirring our hearts for a change 2.5 years ago is still with us and covering us and loving us and providing for us.

I haven’t written in awhile, but it’s a new year. I am feeling less bogged down by the need to make this look perfect or sound perfect, and I am more convinced that vulnerability is what truly helps others. Vulnerability is so important. (Thanks Brene!) This year has many wonderful things to look forward to, and I hope to bring you along the journey more and more.

AND, I want to encourage you – if you are going through a transition, I get it. It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable. There are more unknowns than knowns, and you may not know when you’ll be “transitioned” as I liked to say. Take refuge in the fact that God is with you in the call, he’s with you in the transition, and he’s with you at the destination. You, my friend, are the one that is changing and growing and being challenged. He’s constant.

Love yas!

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!