Feeling A Change (Guest Post: Jacki Whiting)
I moved out of my parent’s house to begin college just before my eighteenth birthday. Since then, I have moved 16 times, lived in 5 different cities, earned the degree, held 14 jobs (some steady, some part-time gigs). I got married and then had our 2 children. I have tried lots of different things- safe, crazy, stupid, adventurous, some boring and stressful. I am the kind of person to crave adventure and security at the same time. Is there such a thing as a risk-free risk? A life so safe you need little faith? No. But I digress….
I am already an emotional being. I wear my heart on my sleeve and my mood expressed plainly across my face, or so I’ve been told. Oops.. Sometimes those big feelings are exciting but can definitely be a confusing roller coaster to navigate. I strive for discretion in its appropriate places but I am a communal processor when figuring out a difficult thought or feeling. The ups and downs of jumbled emotions that we face can really get complicated! (My burned CDs from high school would back up that statement). Put all of that up against a season of transition and I can really be a basketcase!
I’ve asked God to lead me to good things, to place me where He wants me, and to overthrow any effort that I make to get in the way of what’s best for me according to His will. He has been glad to oblige. At the end of some seasons, I recognize the need for the death of one thing to bring the birth of another so I go willingly. Others, well, He’s had to drag me crying, kicking and screaming. Quite literally, I’m afraid, in some cases.
Living out of magnificent highs and draining lows, I have walked through quite a few selves and seasons already. Perhaps at 33 years old, I have only just begun. Change is always hard and brings a lot of emotions ranging from top to bottom, often at the same time.
And somebody should say it…. it’s ok!
Let’s talk about a few of those emotions specifically.
The frustration that reaches way deep down into your gut and causes harsh tension between your shoulder blades and tightness in your chest. The thing that compels you to move from the one thing into the next. This feeling motivates you to take on the difficulty or discomfort of something changing. This one can be tricky, however. Anger in its rightful place promotes holiness. Anger in any other form desires a self-centered end.
“Because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:20
Does something in your life need to be resolved? Don’t run away from problems or opportunities to forgive and be forgiven. Be reconciled where you can. Should you find yourself in an unrelenting state of anger in the current environment and all efforts towards peace made in the name of Jesus Christ have proven futile, perhaps it is time to move on.
“And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.” Matthew 10:14
I realize that this is not an emotion but it’s worth some recognition considering all of the feelings that relationships can draw out of us. A good relationship generates wonderful blessings, joy, and even stress of various degrees. The end of a relationship can cause a tremendous tear in one’s life. Whether by the death of a person whom you loved or the decision to not remain in another’s company can be a difficult shift. A person’s community becomes a sort of family unit and, whether intentionally or not, a massive influence on how you maneuver the ins and outs of life. In a healthy relationship, this is a happy fact. In an unhealthy relationship, it is not.
“Do not be deceived, bad company ruins good morals.” 1 Corinthians 15:33
“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14
It seems almost silly that I should attempt to include what it feels like to experience happiness. The thrill of newness and adventure! The confidence that comes with bursting out of yourself with a head full of gumption into some new or better form of yourself that you hope to invent along the way. The ease of the day when things just feel good. The unknown potential, the determination, the giddiness of seeing the old thing that brought negativity die. The carefree state of mind that comes from knowing that whatever the joy cost is worth it! This is the emotion for which most of us spend our lives reaching.
As I mentioned earlier, I am married and have two young daughters. Becoming a wife and a mother to each of my children are certainly among my biggest life changes. Each event came with its trials, for sure, but the joy of the change vastly exceeded all else!
My husband and I have a hearty share of differences in our personalities and interests. Recognizing this may have been an obvious lesson walking into marriage but it doesn’t make the learning process any less confrontational. While learning to lighten up or tighten up in various corners of life, we have and continue to improve on our ability to enjoy, forgive, pursue and communicate with one another as a husband and wife. This is a wonderfully sanctifying process. Sanctification is literally changing for the better. So, as believers, if we want to be made more holy, more like Jesus, then we must experience whole change through a continual process of surrender.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.'" Matthew 16:24-25
My first child, especially, rocked my world when she was born. I felt pretty confident that the “mom instinct” was going to be automatic and that, since I was so-called to motherhood, I would have this thing in the bag. No sweat. Cue the facepalm Not one thing about this sweet girl’s infancy went according to the beloved parenting books that came so highly recommended. On top of that, I left my job and became a stay-at-home mom which was my dream come true! I had no idea that I would deal with postpartum anxiety and depression. I had no idea being at home all day had the potential to be lonely for a mega extrovert like myself. I was floored to find out how much structure that I needed to create and what an identity shift I would face when that baby came.
And God was with me through it all. I simply had to allow myself to change with my new role that God had blessed me with so generously and rid myself of the negative characteristics that I held which would hinder my whole family. I had to learn a new level of servanthood and that to serve someone is to celebrate them! There is tremendous joy in such love. Of course, I still have plenty of humbling moments. I’ll always be learning but this revelation has made the process much sweeter.
Not much in life is totally bad. Transitioning out of something may require leaving behind as many good things as difficult things. Each shift in life comes with a level of mourning the previous season even when the next thing is full of all kinds of blessings.
I will never forget when I randomly moved to Athens about seven years ago (because this story is so embarrassing…). I was fresh out of an unhealthy relationship and finally over the ache of it enough to feel excited about all that the future might hold. In comes the renewed energies that compelled me to pick up and just go somewhere new where I did not know anyone and just, I don’t know, go live. I won’t lie, I still feel pretty bad to the bone that I actually did such a thing!
I made the big move and started settling in. Shortly after the move, however, I returned home for a weekend to be part of a weekend retreat that my home church was hosting. It was great! Unfortunately, I had not slowed down enough to process the monstrous life changes that I had just taken on and was not ready for the very simple question that came up before we all went home at the end of the event. My buddy kindly asked me,
”So how’s Athens?”
That was literally all it took for me to completely unravel. Out of nowhere, I started to sob uncontrollably. I was so embarrassed but the wave of emotions just took over and I could not help the tears. Despite the regret that he probably felt for asking and once I’d somewhat regained a little composure, he said “I know how that is. I felt that way when I moved away for college.” Somehow that was what I needed to hear. It was ok to feel like I did. I had embarked on an incredible adventure and I truly believe God wanted me to make that move considering all that has followed. Still, I had not walked away from any evils. I loved much about where I was and was sad to see a happy chapter end in spite of the excitement of a new one beginning.
Daniel Tiger sings it well, “Sometimes you feel two feelings at the same time and that’s ok".”
The “Oh. Dang. What have I done?” moment. Think about when you saw the excitement of moving ahead, felt the “yes” feeling in your bones to take off! Then you did so and recognized that the new things won’t be comfortable for a while. When your decidedness to take that brave, exciting chance turns into uncertainty, faith, and unknown, you remember the security of the predictable. You embark on a new journey, then after the enchanting chaos of packing your bags is complete, you look up into the face of risk.. and he’s a BIG BOY. It’s only natural to lean back to what you knew because there’s a greater feeling of control in things in which you are familiar. Remember this:
”Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
It’s so easy for me to try to control things around me to the point of eliminating faith altogether because that feels easier and cozier. There is no loyalty in that mentality as a believer and no chance to learn and grow. Faith is as essential as air and as a human must breathe, so a believer must pursue God in faith despite all of the unknowns faced.
How exactly do you discern between sensing a new or resurrected calling versus being discontent and bored with the state of things in your life? When is it time to change one’s entire life and when is it time to change one’s attitude? Sometimes, I’ll admit, an attitude shift is far more challenging than moving, getting a new job, finding a new friend group, and all the things because we like our own way and can be relentless to get it. Ultimately, the answer will require heavy prayer and reflection. We must look past all of the feelings into unfleeting truth.
What is it you intend to pursue or receive when facing a big decision? Are you avoiding a conflict of some sort? Do you feel lonely? Are you searching for opportunities to grow as a believer or as an individual but are stagnant and without the discipleship that you need to be accountable? Do you need work? Ironically, are you trying to AVOID change? Who will gain glory from the decision? Will the change generate blessings for you AND others?
These are all important questions to consider as you pray through a change in your life. While God can certainly rip you from one season into another quite abruptly, I’d encourage you to spend some time working through them before making a rash decision in the face of a temporary emotional charge.
This could tie into the previous segment but are you having any fun in your days? I tend to be a “Martha type”. You know what I mean? I love being busy and can find it soothing and frustrating all at once. It can just as easily be my favorite distraction from dealing with something. Work and play both have a healthy place in our lives and I am learning more and more to count fun as an essential part of life. So when the burnouts come, consider doing something fun to reset your mind!
“Goodness, I don’t even know what I enjoy anymore.”, some may say. That’s ok. Fun may be something you need to practice a little. Try new things and find new adventures and hobbies!
“I just can’t afford to go and do lots of new things right now.” another may think. I get that! I am a big advocate of pursuing a debt-free life and am on that mission myself. Fun things do not have to be expensive though. Pursue interests that are achievable and within your means. The idea here is to shock the senses a little. Just do something out of the ordinary. It can be super simple and inexpensive. It can also be elaborate. Do what you are able to just enjoy life and bring yourself to a state of appreciation. Here are some simple suggestions:
-Change your scenery. Just go outside! Wake up early and sit on your porch or somewhere outdoors. If you are able, take a trip somewhere.
-Change your routine. Look up free events in your area. Go to a different grocery store than usual. Have a picnic lunch at a park. Just experience something different than your norm.
-Change your physical activity. Get some exercise. Move your body. Get your heart rate up and sweat a little. It makes a world of difference!
-Change your food. Eat something different than what you’d normally prepare. This could mean trying a new recipe or a new restaurant depending on what is feasible for you. Make a mess preparing a new dish with a loved one and savor the memories.
Life NEEDS change and transitions whether permanent or temporary. It highlights the steadfastness of a constant God to see how He remains throughout all the other things that do not. Hold on to Him. He’s holding you and He is worthy.
“The way to become a better human is to change.” Shauna Niequist
If you're just joining us for the It's Seasonal series, be sure to go back and meet the writers for the month in our post, Change is In The Air! Last week, we had Chelsey Toulson on the blog. Check out her most, Clinging Closer In The Move.
I'll see you guys here next week with Lakeshia Poole.
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Jacki Whiting is a writer based in the Athens area passionately seeking to joyfully live out her calling as a wife to Matt and mother to her two little girls. It is her hope to create an atmosphere at home and in her community where righteousness is celebrated in every moment and to encourage a spirit of peace to the anxious and busy-hearted with the Word of God. You can find Jacki on the One Thing Worthy website, Facebook, and Instagram.