The Influence of Change

Life is full of change. Some of it is welcome. At other times, I’d like to be able to crawl into a hole and cover my head.

Our family has faced a lot of change since 2003. While one experiences it their entire life, the most monumental change that comes to my mind was our foray into overseas missions work. I can vividly recall the day that I consciously made a decision to submit to God’s call on Mark’s life. He had approached me the year before and told me that God wanted him to be a missionary. Yes, and to Finland of all places. Talk about change-wow.

Change has been running rampant in our lives since the day that I said, “Okay, I’m ready to sell the house.” Up to March 2008, we lived in seven different residences and two different countries. Then, during our deputation to raise support monies for our first missionary term in Finland, I personally experienced 45 of the 48 contiguous United States, an innumerable amount of different beds, and cultural experiences that I’ll never forget. Each member of our family can relate different viewpoints of the last eight-plus years, but one thing is constant: all were birthed in the midst of change.

Up to 29 December, 2010, we had dealt with change knowing that there was a constant foundation of support close by. Excepting the 11 months that we served as Associate Missionaries in Estonia, we had always experienced change within the continental United States. Now, we are foreigners in a land filled with differences that constantly ambush our senses. Culture. Language. Food. People. Weather. Much longer nights verses much longer days. It’s a language that we are endeavoring to learn, a people about whom we are curious and longing to understand, plus a culture and history that we want to know about in-depth so that we can connect on a more personal level. All is necessary. All has been planned for and expected for years. Yet all points to change.

Change can be our friend, but it can also be our enemy. It all depends on how we choose to view it. Change means “(a) to make different in some particular: alter; (b) to make radically different: transform” (www.m-w.com). Some transformations cause one to be a better person. On the other hand… well, we’ve all experienced that at some point in our lives!

I’ll be perfectly honest. Knowing that family and long-time friends were no longer physically close was a hugely impacting change for me. Years apart mean that children in our family will become older, looks will transform, and memories might fade. Over time, distance will fade some friendships, while others will never change irregardless of time, space, age, or location. For the first several months of our term, my mind was bombarded with these changes, and it was truly unclear as to whether or not I would “be okay” with it all. There were four constants that made a difference.

Prayer. My Lord truly is “as close as the mention of His name.” I have learned to wholly lean upon His closeness at all times. There were multiple days that Mark found me crumpled on the bed in a sobbing heap, praying for peace and God’s strength to deal with change. And, each time, God answered. I’ve learned that the Lord really never does leave, and He never forsakes His children.

God’s Word. As soon as our plane pulled out from the gate on that night in Columbus, Ohio, the tears started flowing. Besides the adult family members in my life, I’d just left behind three adorable little nieces, one with whom I’d spent so much time that it felt I’d left behind my own child. Intense, wrenching grief seized up my insides, making it hard for me to even enjoy the moment for which we’d prepared for so long. It was on that flight that the scripture, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13), instantly became my mantra. I quoted it to myself while staring out the plane windows, then while laying in bed at night when the effects of jet lag began to take over. Every time a difficulty would cause the tears to flow, I’d go to our empty bedroom, sit on the bed, hug a teddy bear that Mark had given me as a gift, and quote it. Over. And over. And over.

My husband. Truthfully, I can say that Mark is more like Jesus than most anyone I know. He is nearly always patient, kind, gentle, and constantly goes out of his way to care for me. Even when my emotions were at a high and I wasn’t always the nicest or most fun person to be around, he would hug and pray for me. (He still does.) And, if every friend I held dear decided to forget about me simply because I was so far away, I knew that Mark was truly my best friend next to Jesus, and he would never leave me. His love, like my Lord’s, is something that I can lean upon at all times.

My daughters. No matter how young or old they are, a child’s hug can do wonders. As long as they’re your children, age knows no barriers when it comes to affection. And the coolest thing about it is, they don’t even have to say a word. Just experiencing a hug does a wealth of wonders for a hurting soul.

It’s been a little over five months since “The Really Big Change.” We’ve settled into our home, made some friends, and are adapting to the culture. It feels great to be mistaken for a Finn, for that means that we’ve managed to adjust our walk and appearance enough to “fit in” (at least until we open our mouths and begin talking). But then, that’s a whole different topic…

“Yet the LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.” (Psalm 42:8)

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with His comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer.” (2Corinthians 1:4-6)

The bottom line is this. We must view every change as a lesson. How can we apply change to our lives in such a way that, even when it seems like a negative, it can always be turned into something positive? If we are seeking to be like Christ, and working to apply His attributes to our lives, then change should be a normal occurrence. Just as the physical seasons change, so must we. It’s up to us what we do with it.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

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