Transition: Are We There Yet?

showers of blessings

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.

  1. Panda Fun got my take-out order wrong. I cried.
  2. Sam stepped in front of me to use the sink while I was cooking, I bit his head off. (Not as tasty as Panda Fun).
  3. I’m spending too much time on Facebook.
  4. I’m restless, unfocused and sleeping poorly.
  5. I’m worrying about the new house. Did we follow the Lord? Have we made a mistake? What were we thinking?!?
  6. I even caught myself watching a mental movie of the previous day’s social interactions while the devil provided a nasty commentary. I haven’t succumbed to that kind of self-hating nonsense in years.

What’s going on besides transition?

  1. The Devil. The enemy requires negative emotional energy (the dark stuff) in order to have any kind of power. He sees transition as an opportunity to amplify any fear of the new and unknown. Fear is negative emotional energy.
  2. Unresolved Historical Pain. Past issues stored in your bucket (the heart) surface during times of anxiety. That unresolved emotional pain mixes with, flavors and amplifies any present-day uncertainty.
  3. The Fall. We live in a fallen world. This means that we are surrounded by fallen people acting in fallen ways. They are afraid and uncertain, too. We feel their distress and add it to ours. Ugh.

Help! Is there help with transition?

  1. In the midst of my distress, the Lord posed a question. He said: “If you were in heaven and I gave you a challenge, like the one you are facing with your new sadly neglected house, would you be afraid?” I answered, “No. I would not be afraid because I would have all the resources of heaven to call upon to help me.” The Lord responded: “You have all the resources of heaven now. It just doesn’t feel like it because you are in the Fall.” I remind myself of this when I’m scared.
  2. It has helped to read the books of Proverbs and Psalms.
  3. Worship is helpful.
  4. If you have unresolved historical pain, work on it. If not, but the enemy is trying to take you back to resolved pain (what was happening to me), recognize what is going on and tell him to get lost.
  5. Sending my angels to bring in the help I need to accomplish the task at hand.
  6. Reciting the Lord’s attributes in my mind (so that I don’t give in to worry). He is kind; He is willing to help me; He is eager to guide and advise me; He wants to share His wisdom with me and so on.
  7. Remembering to be kind to myself, being my own best friend, the friend I always wished for has been helpful.

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.

Hugs,
Susan
thepool@thepoolministries.org
205.556.4555
(Leave a message when you call).

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Trust and Transition

 

cat hiding

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,
Susan

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