I was barely ninety minutes eastbound out of Denver when the road closure forced me off the interstate. A spring blizzard near the Colorado-Kansas border was laying sheets of ice across roadways and knocking visibility down to zero. Even though the sky was sunny and blue at this exit, authorities deemed it too dangerous to allow travelers to rush into the storm unaware. So this is how it begins, I thought.
My wife and I had decided, after five years in Colorado, to relocate our family back to our hometown area in Southern Indiana. A tough decision—it was Colorado, after all—and if it wasn’t hard enough leaving my wife and children behind for the next two months to start a new job, getting stuck in Eastern Colorado (with no mountains) didn’t help.
But this inconvenience was about to reveal something crucial for navigating any season of life successfully.
I pulled into an overcrowded McDonald’s parking lot with other frustrated travelers, picked up a drive-thru breakfast, and with nothing else to do but wait, I pulled out my personal journal. I looked back over the last five years, reading about the day we left Indiana to move to Colorado all the way up to the most recent entry about leaving Colorado.
Along with the excitement of a new season comes anxiety. As I thought about the stresses and pressures I knew we’d face (this was not our first cross-country move), I wrote down three words that have become foundational in my life for meeting the challenge of change.
Embrace every season of life, even the hard ones. I didn’t say we’d enjoy every moment, because we all know every moment is not enjoyable. Some moments bring pain—many do, actually—but embrace them, the easy and the painful. We tend to run from our problems too soon, when if we had only embraced the situation a little longer, or leaned into it, we might have had a breakthrough.
Embrace the people in this chapter of your life. The pages are turning faster than we can read them. This may be your last year with some of them. Or maybe you’ll have five or ten more, but we can’t read ahead to know for sure. This sneaks away from me during every season because of busyness, and that’s why the next word is so important.
Embrace stillness. Often. Intentional time-outs to dampen the stress induced by change. Forced exit ramps, if you will, from driving too hard through life. But this will only happen if we purposely set aside time to be still.
I get a lot of laughs in this modern era of smartphones, especially since I work in technology, because I still use an old-fashioned day planner for keeping my personal schedule. Why? It forces me to sit, pause, highlight, reflect on the previous week and think through the next. Pen to paper connects me with my schedule—with my life. And when I block off personal time—both for myself and with my family—I protect it. Fiercely. It is my time to stop. Think. Plan. Pray. Play. Read. Dream. And Rest.
You will never find the person you were called to be and offer the world what you have to offer if you do not make time for stillness. Stillness is the secret ingredient to reclaiming joy in your life.
Every season is a training ground. The experiences you have, the people you meet, the skills you learn, the trials you overcome. All of these are opportunities for fine-tuning your purpose, and maybe even the key to finding yourself. Training is hard work, but it has a payoff.
Since transitioning back to Indiana, I’ve had opportunities to speak publicly, begin co-writing a book, help businesses overcome obstacles with technology, face high pressure personal and professional situations, walk with my children through teenage issues, help a young church move to a new facility, drywall a basement (and realize I’m not that good at it), learn new ways to set goals and stick to them, and read trunk-loads of books ranging from writing to leadership to speaking to strengthening my faith.
Every situation from the ones I love to those I dread translates into training for developing my character and becoming a better husband, father, communicator, leader, and overcomer, and teaches me how I can engage the world with what I learn to make a difference.
Had I become hasty at the exit ramp and turned around, or looked for an alternate route around the storm, or worse, found a way to force myself into the storm too soon (pride and a steering wheel can do that), I might have missed those words altogether.
What about you? How do you deal with change, particularly tough life changes? Do you embrace it? Do you make time to be still? Do you open yourself to be trained by it?