This post is day 20. New to the series? Start here. Thanks to all of you who have shared these posts and commented, I so appreciate it. Do say hello if you’ve been reading or are new. It would be lovely to meet you. If you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.

falling forward design logo

Fehman

Fehman is a German island a ferry ride away from the southern shores of Denmark. It sits in the Baltic Sea a few kilometers away from northern Germany. The little town is full of quaint shops and German restaurants on red brick streets and large cobblestones. It is the first week of September, the tourist rush is gone, but cheerful visitors remain.

We were there as a means to an end. We were driving from Stockholm to Frankfurt, supposedly a 15-hour drive, and we knew we wanted to make it as slow and easy as possible for our kids. So we stopped in Copenhagen and spent the night there, looked around in the city for a few hours before driving again three hours to Fehman. The next morning, I wanted to get an early start to work on the six hours it would take to get to Frankfurt. I knew we would have to stop a few times, I didn’t want to get there late at night, but Husband had a different idea. Let’s take the kids to the sea, and they can run around a bit.

He drove us around, we were looking for a lighthouse. What we found instead was a German military outpost that looked like a lighthouse, but beyond it was an isolated beach.

It took our breath away.

The water sparkled, the sand powder soft between my toes, the boys threw rocks into the sea. It is our thing after all. There was something magical about this unexpected stop. It was like this beach had been set aside for us. We arrived and noticed.

I am all about a schedule, and they are necessary to stay sane in the world of small kids and travel. But there is a time when putting the schedule aside is the best thing I can do for my soul and for my family. We were only there for an hour, but each one of us needed it.

We needed the beauty of the sea to rub healing salve into our goodbye wounds, we needed to be surprised, to see that there was a table prepared for us on this little island we knew nothing about, we needed to know that we could taste and see the goodness of God anywhere.

Because it’s not only about letting go and saying goodbye. It is also about receiving the gifts, the little and big ways that He pours his love out on his children. Skipping the schedule makes room in my heart to start to believe the truth: Good things are coming, good things come from his hand. Open your eyes, heart of mine, and see again, He gives us the desires of our hearts.

fehman 2

Now it’s your turn: How can you skip your schedule today? Can you take some time to write down the little surprises from God in your day?

I’m linking up with Jennifer and Holley today. 

transition

This post is day 19. New to the series? Start here. Thanks to all of you who have shared these posts and commented, I so appreciate it. Do say hello if you’ve been reading or are new. It would be lovely to meet you. This week I’ll be writing about moving day, the in between time, making memories on the road and some tips about car and air travel with kids. We will also be flying from Germany to Australia in the middle of all of this, but hopefully this won’t impact posting. If you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.

falling forward design logo

moving day

Our family had the unique situation of being able to anticipate our move for a long, long time (for me). Husband and I knew for five months that we would be leaving the Yellow House at the end of August. I’ve grown up on the move, you know this by now, and one thing I lacked were concrete markers, I am leaving now, these are the things then that I have tried to provide for myself first, and also for my family. So today I am sharing thoughts and tips on saying goodbye and wrapping up with people. As always, I would love to hear your ideas in the comments.

A word of warning here: you cannot force anyone into transition rituals. This is why many of the things I do are done first for myself, and whatever my kids take to, we do, but they need to have the freedom to grieve and leave in their own way. The last thing they need is for Mom to force them into her own need for closure.

Here are a few tips that have been useful for me in the past few moves.

Take time to say goodbye this looks different in each place. I had never done this before we left Geneva, and honestly it left an open door in each place I have left behind. Geneva was the first place where I intentionally took a day to close the door on this place. I also took my time with the handful of people who were special to me there, to tell them what they meant to me and to thank them one last time. In Geneva, closure was taking a full day to go around the city and farewell the places that held meaning to me. When I got to the end of the day, I was ready to move on. In Sweden it looked very different. I made a bucket list, and working my way through the list was the process of closure that I needed. I needed to spend time with the special people, thank them, and pray with them. I needed to get photos of people who meant something to us. We had a going away party. But all of these things took time, and I needed to make space in our plans for these times. Do this for your kids as well. They also need time to say goodbye in their own way to their friends. Our son had his own bucket list, and we made sure to spend one last play date with each of their special friends, so they also got a chance to say goodbye.

Get Help this is a no brainer, and I’ve already written about it here, but I want to say it again: Say YES to help. Moving day itself and the days before and after require work you don’t even know about yet, please say yes to anyone and everyone who offers to help you.

Plan for food I had a bag of frozen chocolate muffins in the freezer for moving day, so I knew I wouldn’t need to cook. Friends brought us food for lunch, and we went to our local Thai place for dinner. When your kitchen is getting packed up, you don’t want to be using utensils or plates. Having paper plates and disposable cutlery on hand was also practical.

Leave margin don’t plan a three-day move if you can, it will likely take more time. Give yourself a day or two to clean up and throw things way, more days if you also need to sell and give things away. Whatever your time frame is, add a day or two as extra buffer. If you don’t need it, you can use it to do something fun instead.

Special moments these are the grace times in the swirl of chaos that surrounds moving. For us it was boxes of popsicles in the freezer for the kids, it was a relaxed last dinner at our Thai place (their favourite), and letting them have as many prawn crackers as they wanted. It was a trip to the beach before we left the Yellow House.

Feel your feelings instead of putting them away, let them out. I cried a lot. I cried when I walked out of the house, I cried when I drove, I cried when I thanked our landlord for our two years in his house (Husband said our relocation agent recoiled in fear when I started crying). Embarrassing? Maybe, but I would rather let my feelings out than bottle them up. When I let them out, they go away and make room for other emotions.

Rite of Passage I wrote last week about what we left behind and our Ebenezer, but I want to mention it again here. Writing down what we did not want to take with us and burying it in the ground was a significant symbol. It told me that I am moving forward, and it allowed me to be thankful for the beauty of the past two years. When I left our home, I knew that it was final. I knew the door was closed.

moving day 2

Wrapping Up with People

Most of the transitions in my life were negative ones. I didn’t give myself enough time to say goodbye, I didn’t realize the weight of leaving. I was eager to get out. One of the main changes I made in how I transition is in how I finish with people.

Make a list of the people who truly mean something to you, they’ve made an impact on your life, they brought you joy, these are the ones whom you will always remember with thankfulness in your heart. These are not the people who you should be spending time with, or the ones you need to see or say goodbye to. These are the people who mean something to you, the ones with whom you shared your life.

Take the time before you leave to meet with each of them. Tell them what they meant to you, tell them everything, and don’t hold back. These moments are precious, there is no reason to wait to tell someone that you love them or to share with them what they have meant to you.

Share meaningful words think about the specific ways they’ve impacted you and share those words either verbally or write them down.

Share a meaningful experience if there is something that would mean something to the friendship. It may be going to a favourite café or restaurant together or walking to the place where you met or something else that is unique to your friendship. But take the time to do it.

A special gift this is probably going to sound a bit strange, and as you know I am all for decluttering and I do not like accumulating things at all. But I love getting things from special people that they owned, so not a bought gift, but more like something from their kitchen or something they’ve worn or made. More often than not, the friend doesn’t know that I would want something, so I’ve had to ask. I took two wooden butter knives from a friend’s kitchen in Stockholm. I love these knives and love to have a reminder of her in my kitchen. Another friend in Geneva gave me one of her paintings, always a special reminder of our friendship. If there is something you would love of a friend whom you are leaving, go ahead and ask. Chances are they will be happy to part with it.

Set expectations I’ve learned this one the hard way after a lifetime of moving. It was easy before I had kids to maintain many friendships around the world via email and skype. I can’t do that anymore. The bulk of my time and energy goes toward my family, and the little I have left has to be spent cultivating a community where I am. This often means that friends from other places and seasons of life have felt neglected and excluded. I have started telling my friends when I leave, I will probably not be in touch often, but please know that you occupy a place in my life that no one else will occupy. There are a few friends with whom I will always stay in touch, and with those friends, there is a sense of ongoing, longer term friendship. But with the vast majority of other relationships, I know that if our lives move in the same direction, even with little correspondence, when we do see each other, we pick up where we left off.

Now it’s your turn: How do you say goodbye? What are your tips on wrapping up with people? With whom do you need to take some special time before you leave? 

transition

This post is day 17. New to the series? Start here. And if you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.

Today’s post is by my friend, Olivia. I’ve known her for almost 10 years now, and am so grateful for her friendship and influence in my life. I’ve watched her transition to different places and also different seasons of life, but she has always done it with grace and strength. She doesn’t have a blog – yet – but comment away and thank her for these wise and memorable words, and maybe she will start one (smile).

Olivia Staggers is a wife, mother of six (ages four-12) and a missionary alongside her husband of almost 15 years, Jason. She’s moved 10 times calling three different countries “home.” She’s a worship leader and passionate discipler of young women. In addition to her many responsibilities within the home, Olivia loves to cook and bake cakes for the many birthdays celebrated throughout the year.

falling forward design logo

birth 2

Photo by Roz Case of Spotted Zebra Photography

Text by Olivia Staggers

“I  can’t do this any more!”

I’ve uttered that phrase at least five times in my life.

Having pushed six children out of my body – two of them at the same time – I can confidently say I understand a few things about childbirth. I’ll spare you the gory details of all the stages of labour, but there’s one in particular that’s relevant. It’s called “Transition.”

Transition is the point in labour when you go from focused labouring mum to psycho woman. The pain is so intense and the feelings of despair so great, you begin to feel like you’re completely losing the plot. It’s the point at which you want to jump off the bed and run for dear life, as if that was even an option.

You may have been coping well with labour before, but in transition, you start freaking out and wanting to give up. Of course, by then it’s too late. When told it’s time to push, this is when even the most God-fearing woman will start repeating words their husband may not have even realized were in her vocabulary.

My second birth experience stands out. I was roughly three hours into strong labour and after experiencing regular contractions every 60 to 90 seconds, the pain began to greatly intensify. I suddenly became very emotional. I looked my husband in the eyes, and I uttered those six words, “I can’t do this any more!” I literally wanted him to take me home. I was ready to forget the whole thing.

But 10 minutes later I was holding our beautiful baby girl. The pain was a distant memory in the light of embracing the most perfect and beautiful gift.

The beauty of transition is that you know you’re about to meet your beautiful baby. The greatest gift comes after the greatest pain.

birth 3

Photo by Roz Case of Spotted Zebra Photography

I’ve discovered that transition in labour is a lot like transition in life. I grew up in Yorkshire, England, one of the most beautiful places in the world. If you’ve seen photos of rolling hills, purple heather, and 500 year old stone walls – that’s Yorkshire. Since first leaving England in 1998, I’ve moved 10 times in 17 years, from England to the US and back, within the US, and to Australia.

Transition can be intensely painful, but it can also be a great adventure. It’s difficult leaving behind familiar surroundings and people that you love, but the beauty of the next season – whatever that may be – pulls you forward. Here are three tips that I can offer to anyone relocating to a new city or nation.

Don’t leave emotionally before you leave physically

Sometimes the pain of saying goodbye to people that you love causes you to draw away from them. This can happen without us even realizing. We think that if we can distance ourselves emotionally before we leave, it will make the leaving less painful.

But God calls us to embrace the pain of transition. Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 3, “there’s a time to weep and a time to laugh.” Give yourself the freedom to do both. Grieve for the things and the people you’re going to miss, and even for the things that you’re afraid are ahead. But don’t forget to laugh as well.

I love this quote by Alfred Lord Tennyson, “Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.”

Include your children in the process

As our children have grown older, we’ve become more aware of how our transitions have affected them.

We’ve never come to our kids and told them we are moving. We’ve talked to them about the possibilities and asked them to pray with us for God’s wisdom and guidance.

We’ve had some highs and some lows in the midst of all our transitions, but bringing our children along on the journey, has given them the security of knowing that God is faithful – He always leads us and provides for us, both physically and emotionally. They also get to share in the joy of the moment when God speaks and confirms His word.

Hopefully they are learning that while we don’t know the future, which can make us anxious and fearful at times, we can always trust Jesus, being honest with Him about how we’re feeling.

staggersfamily

Photo by Ellen Maclaine

Continually remind yourself of the “why” behind the transition

The only way to cope with the intense pain and despair of labour transition, is to keep remembering you’re about to meet your baby. In the same way, amidst life transitions, we must keep our eyes on the joy ahead. Every time we’ve moved, it’s because we felt God was calling us to a new place for His purpose. The ultimate “why” for us has always been to honour and obey God and fulfill his purpose.

If, however, I keep dwelling on all the things I’m going to miss, and the things that may be worse or different in the next place, I’ll miss the moment where God is waiting to meet me, the moment I take that step of faith into the unknown, trusting completely in a God who promised He would never fail or forsake me. Or in the words of an old hymn I used to sing as a child, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

One of our toughest transitions was our move back to the States from Australia in 2011. Nathan was eight-years-old at the time and had lived in Australia for virtually his entire life. As we were leaving our house for the last time, we couldn’t find Nathan.

I walked back through the house and found him in his bedroom, staring out of the window. As I approached him, I saw the tears rolling down his cheeks. I knew he didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to leave either, but we both knew it was the right thing to do. So we embraced, dried our tears and headed out the door.

Two years later, we miraculously found ourselves living back in Australia. God had led us back to the nation that had captured our hearts. That first morning back, Nathan woke up early and came into our room. I still remember his exact words, “I feel like I’m in a dream and I don’t ever want to wake up.”

Nathan would have never experienced that moment of pure joy and excitement, if he’d not had to let go and trust God and his parents to lead our family to the other side of the globe. Watching our children learn about the providence of God in opening up a door for us to come home has made all the pain worth it.

transition

This post is day 16. New to the series? Start here. Thanks to all of you who have shared these posts and commented, I so appreciate it. Do say hello if you’ve been reading or are new. It would be lovely to meet you. If you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.
falling forward design logo
 beauty blog
It was a bunch of lavender cut from her garden, wrapped in purple tissue, not a crinkle or crease in the paper. She handed it to me with a smile on her face, A bit of beauty to brighten your week, she said. The packers would come in five days, the physical makings of our life in Stockholm dismantled and put into boxes. Chaos would reign, we knew this, we have moved before.

But there it was all week, the sprigs of lavender in a short glass bottle, muted fragrance swirling around, purple beauty to behold. It was our humble centerpiece for the last Saturday morning pancake breakfast. It was there when the movers filled our living room with packing materials. When everything was in a box in the kitchen, the sun caught the glass and sparkled through the lone bottle standing at the sink.

lavender table

Small? Yes. Some might even say a speck of nothing in a sea of grief, upheaval and chaos. But every time my eyes saw that glass bottle with the lavender poking out, my soul’s rhythm changed, I knew that I was loved and seen by people who love me.

This is the work of beauty. It helps our souls to breathe. We can rest in its presence. When we embrace beauty around us and in us, it frees us to be ourselves, and I have found time and time again that simple markers of beauty unleash this soul freedom in me. On normal days it is my turquoise bowl from Afghanistan, the white window panes, my giant mug. But in the chaos of moving week, these things are not always around to provide comfort.

But the purple lavender spoke peace to my heart and my senses, a resolute monument to the truth that in the middle of the ugliness that moving can be, I can still choose beauty. When there is chaos around, I can choose rest. Freedom is available to me, I do not have to be in control. Beauty is here, I can let go. 

Now it’s your turn: How can you create small moments of beauty in the middle of your busy life today (transition or not)? Is there someone who needs beauty from you today? What can you do for them?

I’m linking up with The Grove, part of the Velvet Ashes community today. 

transition

 Velvet Ashes: encouragement for women serving overseas