Transitions

My four daughters have been raised on three continents. They cut their teeth in Asia, experienced some middle years in Europe, and now live in the United States. These sweet babes have traversed everything from squatty potties and flying cockroaches to endless gray days and desperately wanting to buy a vowel in a language that has almost none.

They’re now adjusting to life in America and they’re not sure this is “home.” Some constantly crave rice and noodles for comfort food, while others cheer on their former European countrymen in the Olympics. All four visualize themselves all over the globe once they’re grown and gone.

Now that we’ve settled down in Colorado, I’ve noticed there are few natives here. Americans are increasingly transient. We’re less and less obligated to stay close to our roots. We move for school, work, climate, friends, a new lifestyle, even on a whim.

When you add children to the mix, though, things get dicey. It was one thing to relocate when we were footloose and fancy-free college kids or young adults. But now that we’ve got a toddler or elementary-aged boy or tween girl or a teen in tow, we need a game plan.

Moves across the state, the country, or even the world can be both traumatic and exciting at the same time. As our families experience upheaval, we need to be firmly grounded in the unchanging nature of our God and his good news. Here are some gospel foundations for making a move as a family, followed by some practical ideas to make your transition as positive as possible.

Gospel Foundations When Making a Move

1. Jesus will hold everything together

You can trust Jesus because he “is the image of the invisible God…by him all things were created..all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”[1] When Paul wrote this letter to the Colossians he was reminding them that God is sovereign over everything. Jesus himself is supreme over your situation. The Creator of life is able.

Trust the Lord to hold you and your little ones together in your move.

2. You cannot escape God’s presence

King David wrote, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?”[2] We cannot go where God isn’t, because he’s everywhere. God himself will meet you where you’re going.

Trust the Lord to lead you and your family wherever you go. [3]

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3. God ordains when and where we live

You might be surprised that your husband’s grad school program is taking you to Texas, or your ailing father brought you back to Kansas, or your job has transferred you to Michigan, but God’s not. In fact, he’s working in and through this painful transition for your good. Paul’s words in Acts have become life verses for our family, “The God who made the world and everything in it…made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him…In him we live and move and have our being.”[4]

Trust that the Lord is in your move and seek him and find him.  

4. As Christians we have family wherever we go

It can be unspeakably painful to wrench grandbabies from the hands of your parents or to leave your sister who is your best friend behind. Those wounds run deep. But we who are in Christ, “are no longer strangers and aliens, but [we] are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”[5]We’ve all been adopted as sons through Jesus Christ and therefore we have genuine brothers and sisters all over the world, wherever there are Christians. We actually have a deeper bond with other believers than we do with our blood relatives who are not in Christ.

Trust the Lord to give you family in him wherever you go.

Some Practical Advice For Your Transition

Required reading for most missionaries is the book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. The authors teach those who transition often to build their kids a RAFT for the move.

R - Reconcile: Before your family departs, make sure you are reconciled to all your friends and family. It will serve your children well to make or receive any apologies before you leave. The unity and peace brought about by reconciliation will get you started on the right foot in the next location.

A - Affirm: Give affirmation to those you appreciate before you leave. Join your kids in thanking their teachers, making gifts for neighbors, making pictures for grandma. This process of showing thanks will fill your hearts and theirs. You may be tempted to think that affirmation will make the goodbye more difficult, but it too will provide stability and contentment as you look ahead.

F - Farewell: Say goodbye to everyone and everything. For young children this might include goodbyes that you haven’t thought of: the postman, the bus driver, the playground, the rooms in your house, the backyard swing set. Make sure to leave time for adequate goodbyes. Don’t rush it and do allow for tears, if needed. Farewells may or may not be full of feeling—everyone will process them differently—but make sure they happen.

T - Think Destination: Whether you’re dreading your departure or can’t wait to make a change, leave time to daydream about your future home with your kids. Go online and see what the weather will be like, research their school or clubs or sports, make a list of churches to try out, join online groups for moms there. Build anticipation and especially position yourself to find other believers when you arrive.

Though difficult, transitions can be an immense blessing. Trust the Lord to work in yours. As far as you are able, be faithful in preparing your own heart and the hearts of your children. Beyond that, know that our God is good and gracious and he will not only meet you there, but he will meet your kids there in ways you never knew possible. Expect and enjoy his good and gracious work in the days ahead.


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Jen Oshman is a wife and mom of four daughters and has served as a missionary for 17 years on three continents. She currently resides in Colorado where she and her husband serve with pioneersineurope.com, and she encourages her church planting husband at redemptionparker.org. She writes regularly at jenoshman.com.

 


[1] Col. 1:15-17

[2] Psalm 139:7

[3] Eph. 1:5

[4] Acts 17:24-28

[5] Eph. 2:19