On Sunday evening, we rolled into town after a glorious day relaxing at the lake with family and friends. This was the grand finale to our 12 weeks of summer fun.
We packed these weeks with Track & Field camp, travel to San Diego and Haiti, sleepovers with Grandma, staying up late if we felt like it, days for lounging and days for chasing adventure in our own city with friends.
My oldest piped up in the back seat. “Mom, I don’t think I have any shorts to wear to school tomorrow.”
Mind you, I started sorting and gathering school clothes several weeks earlier. I tried not to shout. “What?!” I screamed.
“Remember, those ones you ordered don’t fit,” came her response. We both started to panic. “I think I need a shirt too,” said my middle daughter. We redirected the car toward the nearest Target for a late night shopping trip. In a more perfectly-planned world, I would have been putting my three lovelies to bed at that exact moment, but that’s not how we roll.
Let the transition back to school begin.
This time of year always necessitates transitions of many kinds. Whether it’s transitioning to the new school schedule, starting a new leadership position or stepping down from one, jumping into that new sports season or concluding our time with a group, change is inevitable.
The longer I live the more I’m realizing the time we spend transitioning from one thing to the next is not as rare as we would like it to be. We live in transition all the time.
We talk about making smooth transitions but what does that really mean?
We can grit our teeth and brace ourselves for the change or we can breathe through it.
I remember when I was birthing my middle daughter I had an amazing midwife. She taught me the art of breathing through the contractions. I still use that breathing technique today when I’m running or just calming my spirit in a stressful situation.
In the birthing process, the time we call “transition” is the most intense. Contractions generally come quickly one right after the other. The baby begins to descend into the mama’s pelvis ready to be pushed out into the world. It’s a time of pain dancing with anticipation.
Our human instinct is to clench our fists, tense our muscles (and our hearts) and reject transition as something foreign, an unwelcome time, that thing that surely will break us. What would happen if we leaned into the transition instead? What if we breathed through the contractions, the painful moments? What if we embraced all that a transition has to offer?
On Monday morning, I dropped off all three of my girls – now a sixth grader, third grader and kindergartener – at school together. There were throngs of parents taking pictures of their kids in front of the school. I noticed several of my mama friends who had a spring in their step and that unmistakable look in their eyes – freedom!
One friend met me at my car. We took a few minutes to catch up on the summer events. Our youngest girls are in the same morning kinder class now. We acknowledged that transitions like these are bittersweet. Although both of our girls are eager for a new school and fresh start, they both had tears the night before over some losses.
My baby girl was eager to spread her “ready confetti” – a special gift from her new teacher – under her pillow. She slipped into bed and then began weeping uncontrollably for her daddy in Heaven. Something triggered for her that he was not here to see her off on this big day.
This reminded me that each new season brings a tinge of grief and a taste of glory. New seasons sometimes trigger memories of our losses but also are pregnant with hope for the future. We have to embrace both to step forward.
Perhaps the hardest transition of my life was the day after my husband’s funeral. Some of my friends took the girls and me to the ocean. I stood there with foamy waves crashing over my feet. I thought maybe I could stand there forever just letting the grief wash over me.
After a while I had a strange realization. He was no longer living but I had to keep on living. I had the rest of my life before me. I had these girls to raise in his legacy.
Most importantly, I had a choice – to live in the past or to step forward into the future trusting God to lead me. I had to embrace the transition. I had to give myself space to grieve, and I had to step forward in faith one day at a time.
The other day I was reading in the book of Haggai. Admittedly, I haven’t spent much time in that book of the Bible but I found myself comforted by the words Joshua receives from God about rebuilding the temple. His words through prophecy in Haggai 2:4-9 are to “be strong” and “work.” The promise is God will “be with” Joshua and the people in the transition, in the rebuilding process.
Of course, it’s important to note that the new glory to come was not just a physical building but Jesus Christ himself, the embodiment of glory.
I am reminded that it’s ok to reminisce about the “glory days” but then we need to step courageously toward a new glory.
Friend, if you find yourself smack in the middle of a transition today, press in, be strong and work. The Lord is right there with you. And He’s right here with me.