I hear the sand crunch under my tires as I make the last left turn toward home. My house, the last one on this dead-end road, doesn’t see a lot of traffic. I drive down the left side of the road so I can pull up to my mailbox and get my mail without leaving my car. I do this most days, most every day I have lived in this house.
Today, after placing my car in neutral, after reaching into the mouth of my mailbox and retrieving its contents, after placing the stack on the empty seat beside me, I just sit. Perched at the end of my driveway, I take a long look at our little house dressed in gray shakes and white trim. I realize that I am not just looking at this cape nestled far from the road; I’m studying it, remembering highlights from the last 12 years, marveling at all that has happened here, all the growing up and welcoming in, all the lazy afternoons and enthusiastic celebrations, all the struggles and all the joys.
Back when the elementary school bus still had someone to scoop up every morning, the decision to move to this house was packaged in so much change that it was a struggle to process it all. All the “what ifs” circled our heads like pesky gnats…
What if our girls didn’t thrive here, what if we didn’t like our neighbors, what if we really couldn’t afford to make this change, what if this change undermined all we worked so hard to build, what if we were making a mistake?
With all the “what-ifs,” it’s remarkable that we chose action, that we said “yes” and stepped into a new season. Change is never, ever easy. Even good and exciting and anticipated change comes wrapped in its own layers of stress and questions with unknown answers. But staying the same is not an option. Life moves according to its own rhythm, its own dance, and is not satisfied until we join in and bend and sway with it as it unfolds. Joining the dance is more fun when we learn the steps.
Here Are the 5 Steps I’ve Learned to Take to Remain Hopeful in Seasons of Change
1. Let Go
Before we can fully step into a new season, we first have to let go of or release the season we were in. Whether you are ready to do a little happy dance or sink into a puddle of your own tears, acknowledging that a season has ended and facing all the emotions that may come with it is an important step.
A verse I like to remember is this: “But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19).
It holds a directive to forget the former things because a new thing is about to take place. So, whether I dread change or welcome it with open arms, releasing or letting go of what was allows me to step across the threshold of a new season whole and focused. The letting go enables me to take hold of something else; it makes room and creates the needed space a new season requires to flourish.
This all sounds wonderful, but it is sometimes the hardest thing we will do. Letting go can come with feelings of loss and feelings of loss can cause us to grieve. Grief is never pleasant. However, some change comes with a sense of relief and liberation, and we want to spring full force into what is coming. Either way, joyfully or sorrowfully, we must let go with intentionality.
When I have to let go, I try to pause and carve out a bit of time for reflection. I think of all I have learned and experienced. I consider my regrets and disappointments. I hold them all in a tender place in my heart and surround them with grace and gratitude. Sometimes this takes only a moment and sometimes months or years. But the process always seems to make me stronger, whole, and more grounded.
If we are going to show up and fully experience life, good or bad, we will first have to free ourselves of what was, or what could have been, or what we wished would have happened.
Whether you are ready to do a little happy dance or sink into a puddle of your own tears, acknowledging that a season has ended and facing all the emotions that may come with it is an important step.
2. Step Out
Change will also require that we participate, or actively engage, in what is happening around us and in us. This is when we must choose to show up and be fully present. Oh, how often I would like to bury my head in the sand, just like an ostrich with its feathered bottom sticking straight up in the air! But coping mechanisms that keep us in a state of denial will get us nowhere.
This is the part of change that begs us to step out of our boat, like Peter on the water. It’s risky and vulnerable. It takes courage and faith. And it will take active participation on our part; it will take committed engagement.
At times, we all have to ask ourselves what we can do to participate in the new season that is before us. Showing up even when we don’t want to, even when it feels risky, even though we’re shaking in our boots, is courageous. And your courage is an ingredient that will help changes come and settle in better than you could imagine.
3. Learn New Things
New places, new people, new ways of being all require learning new things. And this takes effort coupled with determination or simply, a whole lot of grit.
I know my way around a kitchen. Well, at least my kitchen. But if you put me in a new kitchen, I will probably struggle to simply make a cup of tea. The comfort and ease I feel in my kitchen, a space that is familiar and comfortable, do not follow me into a kitchen I have never been in before. Sure, all the gadgets are there, sure I know how to use them, but until I’m in that place for a while, maybe a long while, I am going to struggle and stumble my way through every single task. It will all take longer, it will all feel awkward and frustrating, and it will all tire me out more than I hoped.
Accepting that new seasons will require new skills will also help us make the change well. This perspective allows us to show up with determination wrapped in grace. Grace allows us to be gentle with ourselves as we get comfortable in a new season. Things will become more natural, but it will take time. And that really is OK.
4. Embrace Possibilities
Many times, we dread change because it propels us into the unknown. Predictability feels safe, and it’s natural to like when things remain constant and unchanging. A new and different future is full of unknowns, riddled with the unexpected. Some thrive on this, but most don’t. And the reason most of us dread change, the reason that change can be so difficult, is that it propels us into this topsy-turvy state of being. It’s unsettling and demands much of us. It can make us feel exposed and unsteady and exhausted. It can leave us longing for the past, what once was, the way things used to be, a time when our world felt predictable and safe.
But life is not about going backward or longing for the past. Life is not about staying the same; rather, it is about growing and expanding. It’s about change. And the best way we can move well through change is to find the hope and joy that change offers.
We are loved by a God who has our best interests always in mind. God shines a light on His plan for our lives, for our futures, when Jesus says, “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10). He acknowledges that at times we will struggle. But He also said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Shifting our gaze from the struggle to the promises of God creates room in our hearts for hope. Reminding ourselves that God loves us, that He is unchanging and steady, and that He will never leave us enables us to stand with confidence and look to the future with expectancy. Just knowing that there is something good to find in every season will help us to enter it looking for possibilities.
It’s true that our big move into our home took courage, and there was so much we didn’t know. But looking back, we are so grateful we worked through all of these steps. Our kids are all grown now. Today grandchildren play on the swing set and look in our fridge for cheese sticks and juice boxes. Everywhere I look, I see the beauty of our family. The blessings that followed our decision to change our lives are a gift. And remembering that helps me to have peace when new changes inevitably come.
Life is not about going backward or longing for the past. Life is not about staying the same; rather, it is about growing and expanding. It’s about change.
You’ll love this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: How to Feel Your Emotions in a Healthy Way With Dr. Zoe Shaw – 075!