Paths Opened

Transitions, #2

tran·​si·​tion | noun | a passage, movement, or development from one state, place, or style to another

2-PathsOpened-Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Last week, at the end of Patterns Changed, I wrote that God has wonderful, trustworthy plans for us to discover. A change in patterns open paths that we may have never considered.

The grief that follows the loss of a familiar pattern, is valid and necessary. A mourning period is natural, cathartic, healthy. But it is a period—a cycle with an end. Often it’s hard to imagine what fresh thing can fill the new void in our heart, our mind, our days. And if we are able to peek down the road, we may feel intimidated. The unknown is not frightening when we know we don’t face it alone.

Ephesians 2:10 assures us God has prepared works for us to do before we even show up. And if He prepared them, He’s there to walk through them with us. Broken patterns present us with open paths.

New beginnings, ventures, discoveries, relationships, challenges—opportunities for us to stretch and grow, expand our horizons, flex new muscles, test unused gifts.

Has a door closed, a detour popped up, a change been imposed? Walk down a new path with the One who’s already prepared the way.

  • So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 41:10
  • It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. 31:8
  • For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph. 2:10

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Patterns Broken

Transitions, #1

tran·​si·​tion | noun a passage, movement, or development from one state, place, or style to another

1-PatternsBroken-Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Transition means things are no longer the same. A pattern is broken; habits have changed; our routine is disoriented. New has replaced old and the unfamiliar supersedes the comfortable. Confidence wobbles and life becomes a little scary.

Some transitions are easy—like going from third grade to fourth grade, or moving to a bigger and better home, or being promoted in the same company. Other transitions are challenging—like going from high school to college (for the parent as well as the student), or downsizing, or embarking on a new career.

Every beginning comes on the heels of an ending. Patterns broken by choice are easier to accept than those forced on us but, either way, life is difficult if we bemoan what once was. Only by releasing the past will we be able to embrace a new venture.

Transition means patterns are broken, but also that discoveries await. Be an adventurer and accept change as a chance to experience new vistas with God. He has opportunities for you that will fulfill wonderful, trustworthy plans for your life.

  • “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” Isa. 48:17
  • “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” Ps. 32:8
  • Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Gal. 5:25 (NLT)
  • I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Ps. 16:7-8
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Easing in—Seasonal Change

four_seasons_by_nalmesChange is not always abrupt and unannounced. Sometimes we sense it coming and even anticipate it. Seasonal changes seem easier to accept—they are predictable and transitory. They give us time to prepare and even appreciate the phase of change, comforted by the knowledge that this will pass, like the seasons of nature.

Spring, summer, fall, and winter are descriptors of life’s stages—spring symbolizing birth and childhood; summer, a time of growth and young adulthood; fall characterizes maturation and middle age; winter depicts the slower, deliberate pace of senior years. And within each season are additional seasons.

Each phase of life holds areas of change that require our acceptance and cooperation—marriage or sudden singleness, new job or no job, recovered health or unwelcome diagnoses, parenthood or grand-parenthood, productivity or postponement, certain faith or questioning doubt, anticipation or angst.

What’s your season?

Whatever your answer, I am sure of this. The Lord is near—not only near to His return, but near to you. So don’t be anxious, but pray. Search for the blessings and be thankful, and God’s peace will guard your heart and mind (paraphrased from Philippians 4:4-7).

What are the joys of your current season? There is a beauty and rhythm to each chapter, blessings within the burdens. Let them be the focus of your heart and be at peace.

Artwork by Nalmes

Change = Growth. Maybe.

Change=growthChange presents fertile conditions for growth, but growth cannot be assumed.

Change arrives and alters our lives, things are different than before. The opportunity for growth looms before us, but so does the potential for disappointment and bitterness. The unpleasant truth is, it’s our choice—resist or grow?

Any change is a challenge, but when it is unanticipated, takes something from us, and doesn’t reveal what’s ahead, it’s what I referred to last week as ugly change. That criteria describes the situation of a young woman who could never have anticipated the change that came to her. It took her reputation and left her misunderstood. She didn’t know what to expect as her plans fell around her feet. Yet, she responded with humble grace and her words are still repeated with reverence:

“I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).

We may reason that if an angel delivered a message of change we would have the same grace. I can’t be sure of that, but I am sure that a response similar to Mary’s will serve us well whenever and however change comes our way. When we put faith before fear we can say, “I am yours. Have your way in my life.”

I can choose this response only with God’s help because I do like the comfort of what’s familiar. But when I let go and embrace the challenge of change, I grow. And what’s the alternative—bitterness, anger, rebellion? That most certainly will stifle growth, cement me in place, and cause atrophy. That’s not the life I want.

The familiar may be comfortable, but it’s also restrictive and God’s desire for us is higher and better than we imagine. He purposes for us to have hope and a future (Jer. 29:11). To that end, He prunes us through change, enabling us to produce fruit, more fruit, and much fruit (John 15:1-5).

Let’s trust Him along the path and watch His grace unfold.

Change—the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

change

What feelings rouse when you read the word change? Excitement or dread? Anticipation or fear? Challenge of comfort? Hope or skepticism? Do you love it or hate it?

If change leads to something better I embrace it, but if it leads to the unknown… well, I don’t think any of us are comfortable then. However, change is an unavoidable part of life so I’m dedicating four or five posts to CHANGE.

Change seems ugliest when:

  • It’s unanticipated
  • It takes something from us
  • It doesn’t reveal what’s ahead

We regard change as bad when:

  • It diminishes us, makes us less
  • It overwhelms with fear and uncertainty
  • It threatens what we understand as good and true and healthy

Change appears good when:

  • It brings us to a better place
  • It adds value to our life
  • It points to a bright future

I hear your agreement, but each of those attitudes is deficient. Each one minimizes, or even ignores, the God factor.

Life’s changes are not without purpose or oversight. Even changes planned by us are under God’s control. Proverbs tells us, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (16:9).

Let’s revise our observations about the good, bad and ugly aspects of change. Through the lens of faith we know…

  • There is no change unanticipated by God (Ps. 139:2-3)
  • Even change that seems bad is worked out for our blessing (Rom. 8:28)
  • The unknown is known by the only One who needs to know (Isa. 40:27-28)
  • God’s plans for us are good and will be completed (Phil. 1:6)
  • We have a firm Rock to stand on when life seems uncertain (Ps. 18:2)
  • Our understanding is limited and our vision short-sighted (Isa. 55:8)
  • God is our safe place, our strength, and our help (Ps. 46:1)
  • Our value is found in fulfilling God’s purposes for us (Ps. 145:13)
  • In God alone do we have a future and hope (Jer. 29:11)

Even though I’m in the “Ugly Change” category right now, I confidently attest to the truth of Philippians 4:7—

My limited understanding is transcended by God’s peace because I’m trusting Him.