I will cause showers to come down in their season; they will be showers of blessing. Exekiel 34:26
The wife of one of my long-ago pastors told a story about her rude and cranky neighbor. After a run-in with this neighbor, she reported being shocked at what had poured out of her mouth, finishing up her story with these wise words: You don’t know what is in your bucket until someone kicks it over.
Transition is good at bucket kicking. That in-between stage of “one foot in what will be and the other stuck in what was” is a stressful place. Uncertainty, impatience and anxiety spills out of our inside bucket, sometimes in a flood; sometimes in a trickle, but out it comes during times of big change.
My mother passed away in September 2017. Being without a parent has been a difficult emotional transition for me. There is no way to describe it except to say it is a very odd and disconnected feeling.
Settling my mother’s estate has been a long and challenging process, requiring me to meet and interact with relatives, lawyers, stockbrokers, real estate agents, estate sales managers, auction house movers and so on. Then, when her house sold, the closing date kept shifting around. I felt like I was chasing a broken egg across the kitchen floor. All my prayer appointments became maybes. (Thank you to all those I pray with for their patient understanding). My settled, predictable life became very unsettled.
When my mother’s house finally closed, I grieved it, unexpectedly. I had no idea what that house meant to me until I walked through it one last time. This was the house where I had visited my mother for 30 years. The house she loved. The house she died in.
So what did Sam and I do in the midst of this life transition? We bought a house! A big beautiful, sadly neglected house that we could in no way afford unless it had been sadly neglected. And guess what? That closing date is shifting around! AND the sellers are in bankruptcy, which was NOT disclosed at the time we made our offer. So, we don’t know for sure when we will be moving or even if we will be moving. And there is an enormous amount of expensive work to do on our new house. What were we thinking?!?
So here I am suspended in transition, painting the windows of our current house, getting it ready to go on market. And like a tired cranky child riding in the backseat on a too-long road trip, I’m asking the Lord: Are we there yet?
Here is how I’m handling TOO MUCH transition. Heads up: it’s not pretty.
What’s going on besides transition?
Help! Is there help with transition?
Let us pray together as we grow together, that our buckets will contain less and less of the nasty stuff and more and more of the good stuff. Because, while we are in this fallen world, our buckets will get kicked.
This time of big transition has been emotionally upsetting AND beautifully humbling. Any notion that I was a spiritual big shot full of faith and confidence is long gone. I still need a savior. And I have learned that when the challenge is big enough, what is in my bucket is going to spill out.
I bless your journey wherever you may be.
Please share this teaching if you found it helpful.
Written January 2018
On September 10th, 2017, I drove my elderly mother through pounding rain to a busy emergency department. She had been scheduled to see a cardiologist on the following day, a Monday, but Hurricane Irma had just slammed into the coast of Florida. My mother’s Alabama city was flooded with refugees, and meteorologists warned that heavy rain and tornadoes were a strong possibility even as far north as Montgomery.
The night before, my mother had slept in her recliner because she couldn’t breathe lying down. I had paced the floor that night, asking the Lord what to do. Her doctor’s appointment had been cancelled. Everything was closing down. When morning arrived, I told her that we needed to go to the hospital emergency department. She rolled her eyes, but agreed.
Eight hours later she was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and admitted to cardiac intensive care. My brother and sister-in-law took over for me and I left to get some rest.
My mother’s home was eerily empty that night. I walked in circles, living room to den, around through the kitchen and dining room, back through the living room. As I wore a path into my mother’s flooring, I asked the Lord, “Why? Why am I so anxious? Why don’t I trust you?”
The days that followed were spent in a shadowed hospital room, watching my mother rally a bit, then slide into silence. My nights were spent alone, walking my path through her desolate house, knowing what was coming. Only a few days into my vigil, the Lord spoke to me, saying “You don’t think that I am kind.”
It’s funny how you know what the Lord means even when its days later that he answers your question. The reason I was struggling with trusting him through this transition was because I didn’t believe (in my heart) that he was kind.
My mother came home on Hospice. Two weeks after our trip through the pouring rain, she passed away. Looking back, I see just how kind the Lord was to her and to me, smoothing her passage into heaven in ways that meant the most to her. She was able to live out her very long life in her own home; she died quickly – all things considered – in her right mind, surrounded by her family. She left all of her financial affairs in order; her funeral arranged and paid for in advance, so that my brother and I had very little to do.
As the days passed, I found myself thinking about the Lord’s words to me. And I began to understand how trust grows. Trust grows in response to the consistent acts of kindness performed by the other person.
The Lord didn’t want me to be upset with myself because I struggled to trust him during that time of transition. He knows that I cannot grow trust by simply deciding to grow it; any more than I can grow sunflowers without first planting sunflower seeds.
No significant person was consistently kind to me during my childhood. As a result, trust was never produced within me. By the time I received the Lord, I was a completely unchurched young adult. When I became involved in a church, I was rigorously taught that I had to trust God. That God would reward my trust with the blessings that I desperately needed. Sort of like a system of exchange. I pay God for his blessings with trust. No trust. No blessing for me!
If you think about it, that kind of doctrine makes God look bad. I try to be kind to everyone all the time. They don’t have to pay me for it.
Now there is a time to choose to trust the Lord. To make the decision to believe his word; to walk his path. And that choice is crucial to our maturity. But there is a deeper trust. One that can only grow through relationship. That kind of trust makes us settle down in green pastures.
Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest … Hebrews 4:11
So here is what I am learning. Kindness – God’s consistent acts of kindness towards me – is the seed that produces trust. I cannot grow it by myself. But I can participate in the process by asking him to make me aware of his kindnesses. In this dark world, it is so easy to focus on all the bad stuff. We need his help to see the good stuff he is doing for us.
(He) raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6-7
Blessings and hugs,