When I ponder about my life as a wife and a mom of eight children, my thoughts are filled with colorful images of being all together around the breakfast table, turned Homeschooling table, unhurried Bible devotional time with a baby nursing and a two year old snuggled up with warm “just got out of bed” cheeks. I remember picnic play dates with mom friends and plenty of children to go around, walks in the woods marveling at flowers and leaves, Hymn sings around the piano, late night movies, sleeping in, and reading Good Night Moon for the one hundredth time it seemed to the resident four year old. Baking cookies together filled our time before they are were old enough to have facebook and instagram. My husband provided a steady income for our family blessing me to stay home and enjoy is season of motherhood. We called that time of our lives the “golden era.” I remember telling people that my life was a fairytale.
That fairy tale, played now in almost black and white of some by-gone era came to a painful end only about two years ago. Five months into our church plant, we felt the first crack in our armor. We were shook, scared and felt our innocence had left us raw and somewhat ashamed. The people we had been doing life with for years started talking amongst themselves and our children were purposely left out of youth get togethers. Divisions in theology and relational convictions began as a small cut, grew to infection, swollen, hard and numb to the point of spiritual sepsis. Sleepless nights, weight loss and uncontrolled crying marked my days. Family after family left our church plant, leaving my husband to preach to more blue chairs than actual people. With each family leaving, more and more of my heart broke. We were down to eight families from the thirty-six we started with! The children cried as they missed their friends. I just hugged them a lot..I missed my friends too. Through this transition of unbearable pain, I embraced Habakkuk 3:17-19.
” Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fall, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like the deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.” I also was encouraged as I read the book Strenghthen Yourself in the Lord by Bill Johnson. I realized that so much of my “joy” was coming from all my friendships and our growing church plant. When the Lord graciously removes these people and things out of your life, it reveals the idols or potential idols that were taking up residence! God loves us too much to let us remain in those courts of creation love over Creator love!
The email arrived unexpectedly from the director of the building where we were meeting as a church plant, for free! Because of renovations they would no longer be able to house our tiny church plant. Our contract would be closed soon. With only eight (very faithful but also very sad) families left, rental space was not an option. My husband was completely exhausted, depressed, burned out and lacked any vision for the future of this church plant. After much prayer and discussion with our elders, we closed the doors to our family dream. We buried it.
Through this transition I embraced Jeremiah 29:11.
“For I know the plans I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” I read the book Univited by Lisa Terkurst during this transition. I drank in every word of this book for I no longer felt so all alone. I could sense God taking us out of our fairytale season and placing in a new season, one I was a bit fearful of, but one I knew deep down would be for His glory and our good.
After our church plant closed and many of our friends were spread out among several great churches in our area, we simply went back to the church my husband has served as associate pastor for 17 years. Some faces were familiar, but many did not even know who we were. One Sunday a sweet gal introduced herself to us and welcomed us as “visitors!” It became increasingly evident to us that our severance pay would soon run out. We needed an income! My husband and I took on six part-time jobs between us. Even our children started babysitting and teaching private beginning piano students to help with their spending money. College expenses were coming in, lessons needed to be paid for, cars needed repairs, food had to get on the table and a monthly mortgage loomed over us like a dark cloud. I looked at my husband and said, “I am your help mate. I promised I would always support you. Together we can scale a wall…I will need to return to my career.”
Tears stopped flowing, I set my face like a flint and wrote the necessary emails and made the calls to our local university to begin the process of teacher re-certification. After two classes dodging freezing cold temperatures and lugging four young children with me, I completed my classes and earned my re-certification. After two years and lots of coffee I will have completed my masters degree!
Through this transition I embraced Ephesians 3:20.
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” During this time I heard the song “Reckless Love” written by Cory Asbury. It became an anthem in my heart. That song encourages me even today that God has never abandoned me and He will continue to see us through these trials and transitions.
Homeschooling would need to become another closed chapter. Private schooling was not an option for our family size and income and public education not only became the only option but strangely, a desire. I was blessed to go back and teach music at the school I had previously taught before staying home. It is amazing to me that when God transitions you into a new season, He sweetly puts that into the hearts of those around you as well. That is one way we can sense His confirmation. He was not only working in my life but the lives of my children. They started begging me to go the school..a mission field for them! They bravely went and here we are seven months later having many people in our home who do not yet know Christ and I pick up girls each week in my van for a Bible Study started for girls at the high school. Our world has vastly expanded in the past year and I marvel at the opportunities we are having as a family to reach these new friends for Christ.
Through this transition I have embraced John 17: 15-19.
“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth.” I embraced reading the book The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp during this transition.
Becoming “Gulf Stream” Christians
The Gulf Stream flows in the ocean, and yet, it is not absorbed by it. It maintains its warm temperatures, even in the icy waters of the North Atlantic. As Christians, we are in Christ, but still have to live in this world. It is possible to live in this world, fulfill our purposes and yet not become absorbed into the chilly indifferences of a godless society. God would not command us in scripture to “not be conformed to the pattern of this world” if He did not make a way for us according to Romans 12:2.
Our social contacts are really unavoidable. We should be pleasant and warm like the Gulf Stream. Sometimes when we just show up it is a wonder to watch how God changes a chilly atmosphere to a warm flow of fresh water conversations.
Tenants in the Transitions
If God has brought you to it, He will bring you through it!
Devotional times, discipleship to our children, priorities of church life and family meal times stay the same!
Be patient with yourself
It is a process and just takes time.
Ask for advice and help from those who have “been there.”
Don’t be tempted to look back just because things are not going smoothly right away.
Transitions in this life are inevitable. Managing them and accepting them with grace will make all the difference between an embittered life of spiraling depression, just longing for the “good old days” or a life filled with renewed hope and trust that God has new chapters to write in the story of your life…and they will be days of joy again.
Article Written by: Alyson Shedd