Thursday, July 17, 2014

O, Transition, My Old Companion

Our sessions on transition were too good not to be shared with others.  For missionaries and military, and maybe for you, transition is a way of life.  But for most in our culture nowadays, transition is becoming a fact of life as well.  So this will be an interactive series of posts, and I hope they are helpful to you.  Prepare to spend a little extra time with them; I'll share some insights first, then some exercises next time, and then maybe we can compare notes :)

Transitions happen in family, health, work and ministry situations, age, geography--you name it.   There are transitions made in community: families, a task force, a church, a ministry team, college buddies, military units, band members.  For those communities formed for some goal, once the goal is reached, the community disbands.  In some, transition is not an occasional event, but a constant companion. 

There are external and internal dynamics to transition.  An external event might trigger transition, and an internal dynamic begins.  Or an internal stirring begins, leading to external changes.  

You may have time to prepare for a transition, such as for an upcoming move; you may not, as when you are laid off from a job.  

If you have time to prepare, you can perhaps process enough internally that the external changes are made relatively painlessly.  Or you may have to undergo the external transition first, and then begin the internal adjustments. 

Transition always involves grief.  In order to relinquish the past and embrace the new, I must grieve my losses.  Transition involves loss and letting go, an acceptance of the new, and an identity change.  If you are the one leaving, you may be distracted by the new and short-circuit the grieving process; if you are the one left behind, you are not distracted by any new adventure, and feel the grief more acutely immediately.  

Keys to Successful Transition: 
  • identify the loss(es)
  • sit with the feelings; don't deny them or repress them; let yourself feel the pain
  • express it/them: to others, in your journal, or to God in prayer.  Externalize your thoughts and feelings. 

Ok, now for some exercises...

For those in some phase of transition, what emotions are you experiencing?  Make a short list of words or short phrases that capture these. 

What type of internal processor are you?  Do you need a lot of time, or prefer to just jump in to transition?  Assuming you have the time to prepare, when are you most likely to internally process transition?  Months, weeks, or days before?  Prepare to do so.  If you prefer to delay until you're in the thick of things, make the internal commitment not to get overwhelmed later by your choice today! 

Now, between now and my next post, watch these clips, and jot down the various transitions you see.  Which character, or which transition, do you identify with the most?  The clips will take you about 20-25 minutes to watch.

The Fellowship Reunited
The Return of the King
Homeward Bound
The Threads of an Old Life
Journey to the Grey Havens

I'll give you some time, because tomorrow, I transition from this little retreat in Colorado to the New Jersey Shoreline!  Yes, a beach vacation is in my future, where I will reconnect with my inner beach bum, and contemplate my upcoming transitions as the sun sets, the gulls wheel overhead, and the toes curl up in the sand.  I need no time to process how I feel about that! 

But I do feel a pang of regret at the thought of leaving a place I've come to love, and a time that has been defining.  Feeling grateful, but sad to leave friends and colleagues I may not see again for years.  There, I've externalized it! 

O, Transition, you are a constant companion...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Regal thistles, often solitary, sometimes in small clusters, their purple heads so tall they are practically staring me in the face.   They compel me to stop to take in their beauty on a walk through rolling ridges and hills of this neighborhood surrounded by sea-glass green prairie grass--seas, seas, OCEANS of it, bordered by brooding pines (spruces?). 

Recalling Laura Ingalls Wilder books, Little House on the Prairie, and desires to have seen this state before all the development.   What must these seas have looked like?

A flash of blue--some bird flies by, drawing the eye to a horse galloping in the pastures of Snow Drift Ranch.  Two more follow his lead (his stance watching me at rest was clearly macho; their hesitant following more feminine, tentative--"Won't someone get hurt?!").

An architectural vernacular so different from New England that it makes that region seem like a little French village, with its narrow, twisting streets.  The mellow Georgia pines are distant cousins to the wild mustangs of pines in the grove outside my window.  I understand the need to paint them, and solidarity with all the artists who try to capture the Colorado aspens and pines.  

Rocks and butterflies and insects all different--I want names.  I haven't felt this since walks in Shenandoah National Park many moons ago.  I don't want my camera; I want my sketchpad and watercolors, and can't stop writing.  

I am here for a week debrief with my parent organization, Greater Europe Mission.  After five years of ministry, I am 'invited' to return, touch base with the home office, and debrief.  But more than a business-like series of back-to-back meetings, this has recently been re-titled Home Ministry Renewal and has been so much more than a debrief.  I suppose it is partially what you make of it, but for me, it is truly that, and is fast becoming a true retreat.  

Spoiled rotten by GEM's member care peeps, in a luxury B&B appropriately named The Hideaway, all expenses paid, one can do nothing but read, reflect, walk...and eat...

Meals are non-stop and custom designed not only to your diet of choice, but your snacks and beverages of choice.  So, Italian espresso is on tap, and the staff is searching for San Pellegrino water.  A bottle of hot sauce is quickly delivered upon request. One Gala apple is also ordered up, and delivered. 

Way too many M&M's have been consumed (I swear I didn't request them!), with as many blackberries, strawberries, cherries and grapes as my intestines can handle.  There was a wine-tasting opening reception.  Spa music plays in the background, and this morning's chill was quickly dispatched with a fire in the dining room.  Need an extra jacket?  "We'll get you one." 

Yes, just enough session and debrief time to uncork our hearts and heads, get in our face about what's really going on in our spiritual and emotional lives, as well as our ministries, and then it's back to walking it all out, or nap time, or the M&M's, or the deep conversation, or the hot tub.  Or all of the above.  Because we're an unusually small group, the sessions are ending earlier, giving us enough time to process, relax, and connect with colleagues we may not have seen in years.  Sharing the uniqueness-es of our very distinctive lives.

Or write a blog post :) 

Let me not fail to mention: meeting God.  Getting some re-direction, or confirmation, or validation.  Getting insight and wisdom, or at least a listening sympathetic ear.  Discerning next steps together, praying together, brainstorming together.  Passing the tissues.  Discovering sometimes that God just spoke through that offhand comment at dinner. 

May I say how delighted I was that today's session on Transitions included ample watching of Lord of the Rings videos?!

I am loving this week, and all that it is doing in my life.  Rarely does one get such treatment.  I'm grateful for our facilitators who are skilfully guiding us through living one of the most impossible, amazing lifestyles there is, and not giving up.  Hallowed be their names.