Life in Transition
This entry was posted on Aug 23 2012, by Tina and is filed under Devotional, The Family Camp Blog
This month we’re talking about transitions in our newsletter. A while back, we talked with author Leeana Tankersly about how she has managed transitions in her life. I think you’ll appreciate her perspective.
Will you share with us a little bit about yourself and your family?
I am a native of San Diego, a big Navy town in Southern California. My parents divorced when I was nine, and so my sister, my brother, and I were raised by my mother primarily. I met and married my Navy SEAL husband in San Diego in 2003. He promptly whisked me away to the Middle East where we lived the first year we were married. After that whirlwind experience, we welcomed boy/girl twins, Luke and Lane, in 2008—weighing in at a whopping 7.7oz and 7.9.oz respectively!
We are now living back in the Middle East, transplanted back for a two-year tour with the Navy. Right before moving, I found out I was pregnant, and we welcomed a baby girl in February. I still can’t believe I had a baby in the Middle East.
As you can well see, life has not been dull for the Tankersley family!
I have no idea where we’ll be going after this tour, and life feels a bit uncertain for our family at the moment. We are still very much in the midst of this huge trans-continental move, and yet, we are so thankful to get to be together as a family. I am also so thankful to have a calling I can pursue from anywhere in the world. Amazing how that worked out!
You’ve lived a lot of your life in transition. How do you manage those periods and find the beauty in them? What have you personally learned from them?
One of my life mantras has become Ecclesiastes 3:11, which says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time . . . yet no one can know what God has done from beginning to end” (NIV).
Because I am a Navy wife, much of life is about navigating current or impending transitions. And because I am a mother of young children, life is both the same every day but also changing in unexpected ways as my children enter and exit new stages faster than I can keep up.
The Ecclesiastes Scripture has helped me to remember that God does make things beautiful, yet that beautifying happens in his time and in his way and often I can’t fathom what he’s doing in the moment. Ugghhh! If only the beauty-making could happen according to my convenience and my approval. But it rarely does. I often have to wander a bit, second guess myself, wonder if God is really there, sometimes even panic here and there, and then I remember to breathe and settle myself down and go back to the truth: that God is making things beautiful in his own way and in his own time and I have agreed to join him on that journey. I have to remember that what looks ugly on first glance can become something enduring in his hands. And I have to remember that Christ uses things like mud and spit to heal—the lowliest, the essential, the muck.
In our most recent transition to the Middle East, I have felt lost at times, lonely, afraid that I won’t catch my breath here or find my balance. When I am in the midst of transition—no matter if it’s a move or a new baby or a new job—change can often be a trigger for all my self-doubt. I’ve learned that the best thing I can do when I start to feel like an enemy to myself instead of a companion is to reach out. Somehow the reaching out to someone I trust, calling or emailing and letting them in on my true state of affairs, often feels like a kind of cathartic confession. And I don’t feel quite so alone with my own toxic feelings. I have learned that when I practice the brave act of reaching out—especially when it’s the last thing I want to do—a space opens up for that trusted friend to reach in. And somehow I can make it.
I’ve learned that times of transition are rarely ever pretty. I like life to be movie-worthy, and it so rarely is. Especially when change is happening. I’ve had to learn to accept that life will be a mess, and I often have to pray that God will give me the grace to make peace with the mess, and to realize that the mess itself could contain some shreds of beauty, as counter-intuitive as that often feels.
Additionally, I’ve learned that transition always involves some element of grief. Even the most exciting and anticipated changes carry with them some level of loss. I don’t like this either, as grief is ungainly and inconvenient. But I’m learning that grieving is part of the process of change.
Lastly, I’ve been learning—especially in this most recent transition—that I have to figure out a way to be more gentle with myself. I have to take naps and give myself a break and just be a friend to myself.
Would you share with us a couple practical strategies or tips for parents trying to manage their families through transition?
When we were preparing for our move to the Middle East, my husband had to move two months ahead of us. So I was back in San Diego, attending to all the millions of details of an overseas move, and I was caring for 2 two year olds, and I was newly pregnant and sick.
I had to ask for and receive help. Period. I ended up asking my mom and my mother-in-law to come stay with me for an extended stay so that I could just manage. Even with their amazing help, the entire process was exhausting. I can’t imagine trying to handle all of that on my own. The smartest thing I did was realize my limits and ask for help, though that meant relinquishing some measure of control. Never easy, but it was the right decision.
In addition to asking for and receiving help, I would encourage those in transition to rest when you can. I have underestimated the physical toll that change takes on us, and I see how physical exhaustion is directly related to emotional discouragement.
Whether it’s a new job, a new baby, a new home, a new school, the loss of a loved one, a new church, or a shift in life season, transition affects us—as humans—in a holistic way (body, mind, soul, spirit). Sometimes the best thing we can do is just set aside some time to rest instead of pushing through the tasks, details, and to-do’s. This is not my natural tendency, but I’ve learned that I am more productive, more balanced, more effective, and generally more buoyant if I will take the time to rest on a consistent basis.
As a friend recently reminded me, I am human. And so, as a human, I am both weak and strong. And I have to treat myself accordingly, accepting my limits, especially in times of stress.
And for all of you who are in the throws of life’s unbalances, grace and peace to you today as you look for the unexpected beauty that God is creating.
Leeana Tankersley is the author of Found Art: Discovering Beauty in Foreign Places, a spiritual memoir of the year she and her Navy SEAL husband lived in the Middle East. Follow Leeana on her blog at www.gypsyink.com.