Life update and a few lessons we have learned this year

Uncategorized Oct 05, 2020

Well, here we are, living through our first pandemic. 

I won't bore you with a review of all the changes and shifts that have happened nationally or globally; we are all living through a news saturated, life-altering time, so I am sure you are current with all of that. My sincere prayer is that you are holding up alright, and you are finding pockets of peace in the middle of all of it. 

Our family was in the middle of significant changes before the pandemic arrived, so it has been a storm inside a storm for us. If you have been around us lately, you will know most of the highlights; if not, I will cover them briefly. Then, I will tell you a few things that have been lifelines for us during this crazy time

About two years ago, we started to feel a shift. We had been leading a program for young adults in our church for many years. We loved our job. It was so satisfying to walk with people as they emerged into adulthood. I loved so much about it that I honestly couldn't imagine walking away. But, sure enough, about two years ago, there was an unsettling feeling deep inside me. I knew that things were going to change. 

I was like a boat that had been in the harbour for many years. I started to long for a new adventure and the open seas. 

Once a change is in the air, day to day life starts to feel strange. For months, we showed up to the same space and saw the faces of those amazing young people, yet we knew that the sun was setting on a beautiful season. But how, and what would it look like?

Here are some of the factors we had to weigh out:

  • What happens to our students and staff if we step out?
  • Where will we work if we don't work here?
  • What is the right thing to do?
  • What do we want to do?
  • What are we even good at anymore???
  • Ahhhhh….are we going to fall off a cliff and die!!

That was about how that conversation went every time. We both knew that significant shifts were coming for us, but that would start an avalanche of change for others as well, so we kept this conversation tight to ourselves.

I am grateful for a journal that can hold all my questions, fears, and prayers in times like these. When I look back over stressful seasons, I am always glad that I took the time to journal and write down those big thoughts. It reminds me that God is with us even in scary, confusing times. He is not silent or passive.

When I look back, I see the themes and the lessons we learned over the last year.  Here are a few:

  • Golden handcuffs:

This phrase came to symbolize the choices we could make for comfort. Our job provided a pretty padded life: A retirement plan, help with our kid's tuition for private school, extended medical benefits, and enough finances to feed and house our family. That all sounds great, right? Who would walk away from that? Well, honestly, not me, until God made me so uncomfortable that I had to. The door was closing, and we felt lost. This quote changed everything for me:

On the spiritual journey, each time a door closes, the rest of the world opens up. All we need to do is to stop pounding on the door that just closed, turn around—which puts the door behind us—and welcome the largeness of life that now lies open to our souls.

(if you are in the middle of change, you might want to read it again)

It is so counterintuitive to see a closing door as an opportunity. The “door” of running the program at our church had been open for so long; I didn't even see it as a door.

The world is a big place, with lots of opportunities for adventure and new people to meet. When you are looking at a closed-door, it just doesn't feel like that. Looking at a closed-door can feel claustrophobic and restrictive. Until I read this quote, it hadn't occurred to me that I just needed to turn around (side note here for those who feel like this, it won't feel great at first). There is nothing comfortable about change at this scale, but eventually, you will feel largeness enter your soul again, and that is a fantastic feeling.

  • Noble truths vs. non-essential details:

This became our "go-to" phrase when the changes were in full swing. It is completely unrealistic to think that disentangling from something you have poured your life into for over 20 years will go over without a hitch. So, yes, it was messy sometimes.

Have I mentioned that change is hard? In my experience, I have seen a few ways that people deal with change. If they find change unbearable, they throw a grenade over their shoulder, blow up and leave. If they resist change, they stay too long and miss their window to leave on a good note. Or, (this is the hardest but most rewarding one), they find a way to proceed with grace and keep their dignity intact.

To do this, you will need to believe the best about people and their intentions (noble truths). You will also need to let go of the little details that are frustrating or hurtful (non-essential details). I am laughing at myself while I write this because I am making it sound so tidy. I didn’t get this one right all the time, but it was still a helpful thought, so it’s worth saying.

  • Shrink the circle:

I am a two on the enneagram. I will not explain the enneagram here, but if you are familiar, you will know that puts me as a “helper, or befriender.” I am hyper-relational, and I love helping people. In health, I can give, love and serve freely. In stress, I move to an eight: “the challenger.” This causes a pretty dramatic shift in my mindset when I am under pressure. Sometimes, that eight in me writes cheques that my two can’t pay. I say things because I am angry, but then I carry regret and fear losing the relationship. With all of this in mind, I have learned that my circle of trust needs to shrink dramatically when I am stressed.

God bless my circle of trust.

They have listened and loved me well. I am glad for safe spaces to hammer out big thoughts that are not nicely packaged in the “right” words. By the way, this is also why I don’t blog when I am stressed (thus, why there have been no posts since February…hahaha). I am better now, so you can expect to hear more from me.

  • The path will become clear:

You will make known to me the path of life - Psalms 16:11a

This verse was like a true friend that walked us through some incredibly challenging decisions. Whenever we reached a crossroads, we would pray, "God, please show us the right path." In time, it would become clear what we were to do. It was like everything else would be dying, but one path would have green grass, and we knew that one was the right one to follow.

The "green path" led me to pursue my master's degree in counselling, and Shawn is pursuing a career in coaching and mentoring. If you know us, you will know that this is not much of a departure from what we have been doing; it will just look a little different.

I love school. Getting my brain to learn at this level was a challenge initially, but the material is so exciting and life-giving. I read a lot. I mean, a lot. Then I write papers. My family teases me because they don't even ask what I am doing anymore; they just say, "are you reading, or writing a paper?" It will always be one of those.

Shawn is getting some great ideas for his new venture; I am so proud of him. Twenty years ago, Shawn was a quiet guy who was known mostly for being a computer wiz. When we were first dating, I remember being out for a drive and having a conversation about a complicated situation. He helped me sort it out so quickly, and with so much wisdom, I remember blurting out, “why doesn’t anyone else know this about you?? You are amazing at problem-solving!” He just shrugged. When Shawn joined me on staff at the church, it became evident that he had a superpower to help untangle complicated thoughts and issues. If you are in the middle of challenges, you want him in your corner; you won’t regret it.

So, here we are. We love the Lord; we love His church; we love each other and our family. Our community has been so kind and supportive; we couldn’t thank our friends and family enough for riding through this crazy season with us.

I have been saying that I don’t think this is a new chapter, this feels like a whole new book, and we can’t wait to see what happens next. 

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