In 1984 I married my college sweetheart. After a wonderful wedding we settled in Modesto, California where Greg had been hired as a High School teacher. We had a plan, we would work hard, build up a good savings, get some key work experiences, and then in 3 or 4 years we would talk about having children. Imagine my surprise when I was hit with an awful “flu” after 90 days of marriage only to have the nurse at the hospital pat me sweetly on the back and say, “oh honey, you’re pregnant”! Unexpected change!
When my two boys were 5 and 3 my husband was serving as an associate pastor in Sonora, California. We loved the area and Greg spent evenings and Saturdays working hard building a darling, perfect home for our family. He worked in the rain, and in the hot sun for months and months to create a secure environment for our family to live and love. We were in the home for less than a year when the senior pastor resigned. In our particular church association when a senior pastor resigns the entire staff has to resign, as a new pastor generally wants to hire his own team. We put our precious home up for sale and began looking for a new ministry assignment! Unexpected change!
Every day, we experience all kinds of surprises and unexpected events. Most of them are of minor importance but sometimes they are major, life changing changes and we find ourselves unprepared to navigate the changes well. We can often find ourselves anxious, fearful, uncertain, and even angry at the prospect of unexpected changes.
The day I found out that I was having a child I was surprised yet able to see the silver lining because I did, indeed, want to have children, even though the timing seemed off the result was something I was happy about. When we were uprooted and had to sell the home we had learned to love I was heartbroken, anxious, and uncertain. I had a difficult time finding the silver lining in this change!
Over the years of my life that have been full of unexpected changes and challenges, I have learned a few things that could assist others in successfully navigating the “unexpected”.
- On a consistent basis, as best you can, take care of your health and rest rhythms. Eating well, exercising, getting solid rest as part of your lifestyle will help you to respond better when changes come. Facing challenges when you are already unhealthy and experiencing a lack of rest will deeply affect your ability to respond well.
- Take a step back from the challenge and try to see the bigger picture. In the moment the situation may seem unfair or even unwanted but could there some fresh growth in the mix? Could there be an opportunity for your character to grow? A chance to stretch into a new job? An adventure as you step into a new community? Maybe even a blessing in disguise?
- Surround yourself with quality people who will stand with you as you experience unexpected changes. Don’t allow yourself to become isolated and victimized. Stay engaged in community.
- If you are a person of faith then you know that with all the bumps that come with living this life, God’s got you in his hand. He promises to walk with you; to strengthen you no matter how hard the wind blows.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31
Life is full of unexpected joys and changes for us all. At some point we have to accept that this is a truth. If we choose to take care of ourselves, have a positive outlook, stay connected to good, solid people, and trust that God is still in control we stand a good chance of navigating surprising changes well. We will stretch and grow because of them; we’ll even be better prepared to help others as they experience unexpected changes as well.
“If you so choose, even the unexpected setbacks can bring new and positive possibilities. If you so choose, you can find value and fulfillment in every circumstance.”