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  • Writer's pictureKrista Bjork

Thriving During Life Transitions

This past month, my oldest son, Lukas, graduated from high school. In general, my boys and I have not necessarily had an easy go of it. We’ve had some major life transitions during their lifetimes- divorce, multiple moves, job changes, and more- that were incredibly stressful for all of us. As we approached Lukas’ last year at home, with my middle son only one year behind, we knew another major transition was coming. This one, however, we have been able to prepare for. It’s left me pondering life transitions and the lessons I’ve learned that have helped us navigate changes well.

1. Live in the moment, whatever that moment brings

In past transitional seasons, I felt pressure to stuff any negative feelings and put on a strong face. This left me stressed, anxious, and unable to enjoy the good moments that inevitably happen in the midst of the bad. Whatever joy I could have had I missed because I wasn’t able to look for it. In this season, I resolved to be as present as possible, whether glad or grieving. I even posted on Facebook when the school year began that I would be unapologetically crying at every “final” event. Funny enough, at some I did, but at others, I was fully joyful and smiling. Either way, I remember each one because I was fully present in whatever bittersweetness came with each moment.

2. Name your emotions- the good, the bad, and the ugly

Past transitions for us have brought a lot of sadness and anger. Over time, we’ve all gotten better at expressing those. It has been helpful for us to transition together, and yet my feelings as a mom have been different from those of my boys. For those things I needed to process separately I have utilized prayer, journaling, and talking to friends and family to help me continue to name what I needed to.

3. Look towards the good

As much as we have to name what is sad about seasons of life change- what we will miss and leave behind- we must remember that God is sovereign over the events of our lives. As the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” (Ecc. 3:1) There is still joy to be found in this season, even as we look forward to the next. Sometimes we walk through seasons so painful and bitter that the good is only in the redemptive purpose the season may serve for our sanctification or ministry to others, but that doesn’t make it less good. In fact, I have learned that refining, though it comes at a high cost, is often of greater ultimate value in my life than the things I “feel” are a blessing at the time.

4. Set goals and make plans for the “before” and “after”

When moving cross country, as we’ve done more than once, we made plans for how to leave one place well and begin at another place well. Would we have going away parties? Say formal goodbyes? How would we find a new community? Logistically move out of one place and into another as peacefully and smoothly as possible?

These lessons went even deeper in this season. When the school year began, we made a family bucket list of “before Lukas leaves” activities and planned out when each thing would happen. We have enjoyed camping, various movies, specifically chosen family Bible studies, game nights, and finally, a special vacation together. We have a plan already for his final weekend at home before he leaves for Army basic training in July. I had goals as a mom of what lessons I wanted to teach him and investments I still wanted to be sure to make through our conversations and time spent together. Besides family things, we had many special mother/son dates.

However, we also have plans for “after.” What will Levi, Titus, and I do that is unique to us? What dates do they want with mom? And how is God calling me to uniquely invest in them in this next season, and specifically Levi as he prepares for his own launch into adulthood? How will we continue to connect with Lukas at his Army training sites and then as he goes to college? Prayerfully naming these goals and planning to help make them successful is helping us live with joy and intentionality and, as much as possible, to live without regret.

5. Regularly remember and return to what anchors you

Change is inevitable, and in the midst of it, we all look for stability. We struggle the most when we can’t find a safe place and we aren’t sure where to be anchored. Family ties can anchor us, sometimes a home or hometown, a church family, or a friend group that we’ve somehow managed to stay connected to over time. For me, the strongest anchor has always been my faith. I love the imagery in the Psalms of God as a stable, safe place, such as in 46:1-3

“God is our refuge and strength,

a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,

though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam,

though the mountains tremble at its swelling."

Or Psalm 91:1-2,

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,

my God, in whom I trust.”

(ESV, emphasis mine)

Whatever your anchors are, depend on them as you navigate your season of change. No matter how much the season shakes you or what stormy waves come, when the winds subside, you will find yourself not only still standing, but stronger.

What past life transitions have you experienced? What did you do poorly and what did you do well? What did you learn that you can resolve to do differently the next time you are faced with a major life change?

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