Our oldest son, Joe, began a job a few years after graduating high school. He worked for a construction company and quickly became one of the most sought after employees because of his commitment to the job, reliability and hard work ethic. He was trustworthy.
He worked in this job for 22-plus years yet came to the realization that he wanted a change for himself and his family. There were several reasons Joe wanted a change but the thing that spoke loudly to me was his willingness to consider changing.
Recently, we had the privilege of attending an Army Change of Command Ceremony for our son Jake, who, for the past two years, had been serving as a Battalion Commander.
At the Change of Command, as the outgoing Commander he handed over the Battalion flag to the incoming Commander, relinquishing responsibility for the troops he had served and the Battalion he had led. Now, he and his wife and their four children are preparing to move to a new place with a new home and new neighbors, schools, doctors, church, and a mix of new and old friends.
Change is one of the things we can count on in life.
We see it everywhere – seasons changing from spring to summer to fall to winter; an infant being completely dependent when arriving in this world then learning to crawl, stand and possibly even walk by the age of one.
We can choose some of the change in our lives and some change comes completely unexpected and even unwanted, but the way we handle change is what grows us. When I was 29, a wife and mother of 3, and looking forward to spending Christmas day with my parents, siblings and their families, my world changed in a crushing, unexpected way. I got a phone call from my dad letting me know that my mom had fallen out of bed, was not breathing and that paramedics were with her.
I just had talked to her 20 minutes earlier and she was fine. We hung up the phone both looking forward to Christmas. All the way from my home in Salem to their home in Lake Oswego I was puzzling over what possibly could have happened. Did she have a stroke? Why wasn’t she breathing? Was she going to be ok? Well, what happened was she had a massive heart attack and probably was dead by the time she hit the floor.
And just like that, my life had changed and it changed again seven years later when my dad passed away. Now I was 36 years old and both of my parents were gone. What was I going to do with these changes and how was I going to move ahead?
We do not always get answers for everything we encounter.
I don’t know why mom had a heart attack and died so young. She had been to the doctor only two weeks earlier and had a good check up. I do know that I felt if I had to lose my mom, I had to make something good come from it. I would remember the pain, the feelings, tremendous loss, and use my experience to be there for others in their time of loss. That is the way I wanted to deal with heartbreaking change in my life.
It is easy to go through a range of emotion when we are confronted with change, both change we seek and change that knocks at our door uninvited and unexpected. We can be fearful and uncertain; we can be full of joy, excitement and anticipation; we can feel hurt and unconsolable; we can feel jealous or bitter. Whatever the feeling, most change brings with it some kind of feeling about the change.
All change brings us the opportunity for growth.
In our son Joe’s situation, I greatly admired him for leaving the comfort of a job he knew and people he had worked with for many years to seek something unfamiliar, something that required many months of training and education, but could work out to provide a better life for he and his wife and family. I know first hand that this change for him brought a certain amount of anxiety but also there was a strong determination to succeed and see this change through successfully.
Our son Jake chose going to the United States Military Academy and to serve our Country. I don’t know many careers that bring as much change as this one. It has been 20 years since he graduated from the Academy and he has lived in Alabama, Germany, Tennessee, California, New York, Alaska, Texas, Florida, Hawaii, and is now preparing for a move to Pennsylvania. He has had two year-long deployments to Iraq as well as deployments to Bosnia and Kosovo. He and his wife married in New York and had children born in Tennessee, California, New York and Florida. The longest they have lived in one place is three years and typically it is two. They are constantly preparing for change and recently in a conversation we had, I was asking how the kids were feeling about this upcoming move. Jake told me feelings that each one had concluding with, “I think it is all about how it is presented. If we are excited, I think they will be excited.” He has decided to be positive about the changes he faces and hopes to lead his family with that same outlook.
When faced with change our growth comes in how we choose to accept that change.
If, we live in anger or bitterness or allow ourselves to languish in sorrow, we are robbing ourselves of the treasures that might be in store for us. If we live with a heart of gratitude, seeking the positive in change, it will be easier to tackle change when it is tossed our way. I have found treasure in being able to bond with someone over mutual loss because we completely understood each other. I have found treasure in new friendships when old ones have gone through change. I have profited from turning to God’s Word when I needed to refocus my disappointment, jealousy or hurt.
I have seen time and again how God will lead me when I have no idea what is next.
What I am ever so grateful for is that in the plans I make or the (unknown to me) plans that God has in store for me, He is with me always, seeing me through the darkest of times and growing and refining me to be who He has created me to be. I will admit that some change takes longer to navigate than other change, but I am confident through past experience, no matter how difficult, I will not be facing the change alone, a fact for which I am most grateful. ~Anne
Anne Miller is TableThink’s columnist for Your Tribe. Anne’s writing takes us home, reminding us of what really matters. She invites you to the TableThink tribe . . . and to know it’s . . . Your Tribe.
Anne invites us: “I hope you will feel inspired to connect, reconnect, or get to know someone in your community, realizing it is not about entertaining – holding the attention of – it is about “being” together, sharing life and relationship.”