It’s a word many people equate on the level with a root canal. However, I love and embrace change. I always have. With my personality, I get restless after a while lest anything grow stagnant and listless. As a native Floridian, I’ve fallen in love with the Great Lakes State of Michigan. How so? I’m captivated by the poetic shifting of each season. Now don’t get me wrong, there are many constants for which I’m thankful: Jesus Christ, the guidance of God’s Word, and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. Yet God also calls us to change – to be progressively transformed into the likeness of Jesus:
“This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13 – NLT; see also Rom. 8:29)
On this journey, my husband grows and changes alongside me. My children also repeatedly amaze me by their resilience and willingness to adapt. Our personal understanding of God’s purpose for His Church has also gone through a paradigmatic shift over the years.
As I was thinking through the changes we’ve gone through, particularly over the last 2-3 years, I’m amazed not only by how our faith has grown and strengthened, but also by the sheer number of changes we’ve weathered together.
Whirlwind of Change and Growth
In February of 2016, we found out we were finally going to be able to have another baby (we’d suffered through five miscarriages at that point). At the same time we were also working and praying through a significant ministry transition, dealing with many things related to our son Hudson’s autism diagnosis, and financial stress. Carson’s birth in October was accompanied by a big move three weeks later (don’t ever move at three weeks postpartum. Just don’t). Since that season, we raced through a serious whirlwind of change and growth.
From where we rest now, here’s how it adds up:
3 long-distance moves
3 new elementary schools
3 different ministries
1 new baby boy
Another baby in heaven
The road hasn’t been easy.
As we were sitting around our kitchen table last night, we asked our children about change in their lives and how it made them feel. The following is a dialogue with them:
Hudson: “I don’t like change too much. It’s too hard. I think the hardest for me was the baby going to heaven. I’m glad we have Carson though. He helps me feel better.”
Everlynn: “I love Easter eggs and hunting for them with family, and picking apples with them too, oh and when I lived in NC a friendly dog licked me.”
Michael: “I find change both exciting and stressful. I’m excited by change because my mind is filled with all the possibilities available in God. I know He can do the seemingly impossible. I anticipate how we’ll grow in Him and how we’ll see Him demonstrate His power in our lives. But on the flip side, I can become stressed as change looms on the horizon. I find myself trying to sort, plan, and organize to the last degree.
My inability to see eight moves down the chessboard causes me to grasp for control, which of course only leads to more stress. Yet again God has taught us that He offers rest in the midst of our stress when we fully trust in Him. He knows every chess move. Sheesh, He made the chessboard! So if He knows how it will turn out and if I’m in union with Him through Christ, then I can loosen my grip and bow my heart…and find rest for my soul.”
Stephanie: “Even though I like change, I would also say that it can be a bit overwhelming when they all come at once. Job changes, a new baby, new schools, diagnosis, and so many other things were and still are a lot to process. Having moved 10 times in 10 years, I’m okay with never moving again until the day I die. It’s not for the faint of heart!
However, I’ve found that relying on myself to get it all done and get through it only turns me into a wreck-of-a-mom and a wife who can’t function. I can’t handle it all myself, which is why I’m so grateful for Jesus, a church family who reaches out and loves on us, and a husband who does life alongside me. I can’t imagine going through all that we’ve gone through without an unsupportive partner! One big lesson I’ve learned is Jesus is always there for me, through the good and the bad.”
God’s Goodness, Mercy and Grace
Through this brief conversation, we realized that we all process change in very different ways… Change hit Hudson hard. He felt the thorns of loss, but looked through that pain to the bright side – a new baby brother. Everlynn processed the multivalent transitions by holding onto narratives. She happily retold random but sweet memories, one from each major juncture. Michael attempts order, organize, and arrange the future but resolves to learn God is still sovereign, good, and trustworthy for the future, as He was in the past. And for me, I process change by being overly positive, and at times not always realistic enough. 😉
One way we reflect on the last three years is to constantly remind ourselves of Christ’s goodness, mercy, and grace. There are many directions we could have taken, but we never imagined we would end up back in Michigan near precious family, an amazing school for our children, wonderful neighbors, a beautiful house, and serving in a incredible church.
So in conclusion, change is hard and so is being in the ministry. It’s how we respond that makes all the difference in the world. When you are in full-time ministry, life is always changing. People come and go through death, moving away, ministries shifts, different seasons in life, relational difficulties, and many other reasons.
But when change comes, embrace the process as God’s good plan. When life is hard in the dark valley, lean into Jesus. When life’s peaceful by a quiet stream, lean into Him even more. You may be planted anywhere, but it is up to YOU to bloom in Jesus Christ.