Navigating a Big Life Change

I wrote this as we were preparing to move at the beginning of the summer. I’m sharing it here in hopes that it might encourage someone else who might be walking through a challenging or big transition in their life.

Our home is slowly disappearing into boxes as we pack up five years’ worth of life together. When we first got married and began life as youth pastor and wife in my home church, we had no idea that half a decade later, we’d be making another major life transition—moving to a different state, giving up our ministry job to get a “regular” job and help with a new church plant, changing direction completely. It’s something we’ve prayed and talked over for what seems like forever…and now, it’s actually happening.

It’s a strange feeling to realize that the plans we’ve had for almost a year are finally being put in motion, as if we’ve been sitting in a plane on the runway and now have finally been cleared for take-off—we can see the landscape beginning to rush past the windows as the plane gains speed, but it doesn’t quite sink in yet because we’re still sitting unmoving in our seats. We’ve had our itinerary in hand, so to speak, our vision for this move becoming clearer by the day. But the days in between have been difficult; the time we’ve spent just waiting has felt heavy and awkward. How do you handle those in between days gracefully, when it feels like all you’re doing is sitting on the runway, so close to your destination you can almost taste it, yet still so far away? Below are a few things I’ve been reminding myself as we walk through this transition.

Keep the long look in mind. Reminding myself of where we’re going and why has made those days when I just feel “stuck” more bearable. Learning about the area we’re moving to or talking to friends who already live there make the far-off seem closer and more tangible. It also helps us make definitive plans for our transition—how to make it as smooth as possible, what to do before we leave, what to do right after we get there.  When I remember our long-term goals, it brings the now back into perspective, and I’m thankful for the gift of time in between to prepare.

But remain present. As excited as I am for our new venture, I still have to keep Jim Elliot’s words in mind: “Wherever you are, be all there.” I’m still here, as much as there are days when I’d rather be there, or anywhere but hereI have work to finish in this place, and I need to keep doing the next right thing in front of me. I don’t want to get so caught up in looking for my destination that I miss the journey. I don’t want to miss the gift of today.

Don’t walk alone. We were meant to live in community with each other. While it was hard to tell our friends and loved ones we were leaving, it has been strengthening to walk through this transition with their support rather than in isolation. Friendship means asking for help as well as giving it, and sharing in each other’s joys and sorrows. We have been reminded of this the last few months as our friends have given us meals, extra boxes, and going away parties, as well as cried with us and helped us make hard decisions. Our time together has been made sweeter because we know it is limited.

It’s okay to grieve and celebrate at the same time. Life is one big paradox. One minute I’m in tears, mourning over leaving the place I’ve grown up in, and the next minute I’m excitedly making lists of things I can’t wait to do when we get to our new town. I’ve had to make peace with these opposite emotions living side by side, and remind myself that it’s okay to feel all the feelings even if I can’t fully explain them.

Don’t forget to say goodbye (and thank you). In a constantly connected world, we’ve lost the courage to say a true goodbye because it’s easier to just promise to stay in touch. But even with the gift of technology that allows us to keep up with relationships over long distances, leaving a community still means those relationships will change. It’s important to give yourself and others the closure needed in the end of a chapter. I’m trying my best to take the time to tell people I’m grateful for what they’ve meant to me during this season of life before we leave. Even though it’s hard and emotional and may feel awkward in the moment, I know I’ll be glad I did instead of leaving things hanging. As William Ward aptly said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” Give that gift of gratitude to those with whom you’ve been close.

Gather your memories. This in between time has allowed us the advantage of being able to appreciate what we’ve enjoyed about living here: a last visit (or two) to our favorite restaurants and coffee shops, taking walks around the neighborhood, stocking up on a local specialty, taking a family picture in the home we brought our first baby to when he was born. We’ve cherished meals together with friends and family, reminiscing about the good times we’ve had together and how we’ve grown over the years we’ve spent here.

Time is a gift, even when we wish we could just fast forward to get to our destination already. Whether you’re just deciding where to go next or sitting on the runway waiting to take off, or maybe even on an unexpectedly long layover, remember that the “in between” is important: it’s not just a means to an end. It’s what makes your destination worth it all when you arrive.  

Photo Feb 20, 4 17 11 PM.jpg
Kristi Clark