Thresholds: What can you do when change arrives at your doorstep?
"We can't get to where we are going by staying where we are.".
One day much too soon, I stood at a doorway, light slipping quietly underneath. I hesitated at the threshold.
Through that door are the wide blue skies of Texas. My oldest daughter Kate, her husband Zeke, and their little girl are moving from Oregon to Texas. Sweet Pea is moving two thousand miles away.
I knew this day was coming. This is the match we prayed for, a coveted internship for Zeke, at the end of a five-year doctoral program. This is excitement, adventure, sunshine and the Alamo.
And yet . . .
As the house they filled with Sweet Pea and her baby things sits empty, a sign planted in the front yard, it was easy to have second thoughts. We wanted adventure and challenge, but did we have to say goodbye to get it? Can we unpack? And then there's the classic question, Where did all the time go?
Maybe you can relate. June is a time for transitions. The school year is finishing and summer has just arrived, but neither season is fully present. We are in between times. I call these times thresholds. We haven't quite gone through the door, but there is a push. Or is it a pull?
Thresholds are a fact of life. We will bump up against these liminal spaces many, many times throughout our lives. The changes often involve our children: beginning school, switching grades, graduating, leaving home or getting married. These changes for our children include us - our habits and our hearts. Add to that our own changes in jobs, landmark birthdays, graying hair or caring for aging parents and we are bound to feel upturned.
When we arrive at thresholds, even ones we knew we were headed for, sometimes we welcome them with open arms, but more often we resist the changes.
Our natural reactions range from digging in our heels, backpedaling or crashing through the new door. Rarely do we just glide on through the doorway smooth as silk. Why do we resist change so fiercely?
We think we have plenty of time.
At first, these thresholds seem so far away. We have plenty of time to get ready. But always they arrive too soon. We had things to do and words to say before we opened that door. But it is flung wide open now and we balk. Our emotions rush the door and all we hoped to say or do seems, I don’t know, cheesy, trite or rushed.
We may miss the small signs that change is coming.
We didn’t notice that the light had changed in shade or color, the leaves too. We missed the subtle shift in birdsong and breeze. We knew the kids were growing up. We may have even been paying attention and celebrating these transitions along the way. Still, there arrives a moment when we wish we could stop time or at least slow it down so we could catch up our souls.
We want to avoid the pain.
As seasons turn in nature and in life, there is always loss, a tender sadness that hangs in the air until the next season fully arrives. We grew strong in our familiar place. We put down roots. We knew what to expect and who to turn to. We found our way. Now we are bruised and less certain of our paths and ourselves.
In the in-between space, before we have a chance to nest into a new place or time, we hear only silence or hollow echoes off of hard surfaces. When houses sit empty, I think they get sad. Even one empty room shifts the air and light in the house at least for a while. My mama always said a house knows it was made to be filled with life and laughter. During transitions, we can suddenly feel just like our houses, melancholy and empty, waiting to be full again.
I have come to understand that it is in these lonely in-between places that God shows up and does rich, deep work for our good. If we always avoid change, pine after what came before, or go kicking and screaming, we will miss what God has for us next.
With Sweet Pea's imminent move to the Lone Star state, I was thinking about how to two-step over the threshold a bit more gracefully. Here is what I noticed.
When they first moved in, the dishwasher leaked in Sweet Pea’s house, but life was busy with a newborn, so after they moved out and before it went up for sale, they had new flooring installed. When we stopped by to inspect the completed job, there was a small gap at the front door like a broken tooth in a smile. The contractor said we needed a transition strip to ease the new flooring into the existing threshold of the door. I thought that’s just what we need, but my mind was not on flooring.
What if we had transition strips in life, our own places and patterns to ease into change? But how do we find them? What do they look like?
Here are some ways that helped us cross our latest threshold through the door to new adventure. Maybe these will help you.
We need to say, “'til I see you again” to the people and places we will miss.
This may take a single moment, a week or more likely several months, but naming our connections is a valuable part of transitions. While Zeke drove the U-haul with Rowdy by his side, Kate and Sweet Pea came to spend their last week in Oregon at our house. While they were here, we got our hearts ready for change. Some things we did with intention and some were serendipitous. They all seemed to be a runway for take-off into the friendly skies.
Here is our list from that week:
Take one last run on our favorite route
Sip one last iced coffee at our favorite coffee shop
Share breakfast at the local bakery
Get the cousins together
Go thrifting with little sis
Have coffee with Bible study mamas and babies
Gather everyone together at a backyard BBQ
Meet friends at the park
Watch our favorite movie with popcorn
Name favorite places in her town
Scribble thoughts in my commonplace book
Take the time to name and visit your favorite people and places. It gives voice to the loss of moving away and a hint of what to look for in your new place.
We need to say, “Hello darlin’ ” to the people and places that will become our new friends.
We may not know just yet what our new friends or favorite places will be, but we can have an open heart toward our new adventure. We can embrace the changes with an attitude of thankfulness even when it hurts. These might include new friends, new weather patterns and geography, a new job, church, foods and even a new language.
Kate is only moving to Texas, but we know there will be a foreign dialect to navigate. She’ll learn about “fixin’ to”, schnitzel, kicker dancin’, Blue Bell and Luckenbach. In just one week, she and Zeke have already learned about HEB, 98% humidity, breakfast tacos, scorpions in the house and feral kittens under the porch.
It helps to explore what you or your child can embrace in this new season or place. Kate has a list of churches to visit, small groups to explore like MOPS, sights to see, foods to try, nearby towns to visit and rivers to explore.
And I have my own adventures waiting back home: a brand new mastermind group to dive into, a summer intern to take under my wing at Door to Grace and a winter wedding to plan. These by no means take the place of a beloved daughter, but they will breathe new life into this season of change.
We need a word to go by.
Like having a word to ring in the New Year, new seasons need a word to go by. A fitting word can remind us what it takes to do this.
For weeks in my prayers for Kate and her family, I had been thinking of how I might tell her of my confidence in God’s watchfulness over her new life far from family. I always thought she could make this move in strength. She and Zeke had married in college, still graduated on time, moved to another city, both completing Masters programs before having Sweet Pea. But because of her shy and loyal disposition and her deep connection to family, I wanted to acknowledge the challenge I knew was ahead for her.
Then it came to me.
At our family BBQ, over homemade burgers and triangles of watermelon, I gave Kate a penny bracelet. It was a wrap bracelet in her favorite sea green color threaded with a flattened copper penny. It was stamped with the word “brave”.
She was still wearing it around her wrist when I hugged her goodbye on her new Texas doorstep. I saw it peeking out from underneath Sweet Pea’s toddler legs which were wrapped tightly around Kate’s hip.
In my own purse I had a key chain with the same stamped word. I call these visual reminders totems. Totems are simple hands-on, often found, objects that help me organize my thoughts and represent a fact of life I am trying to take into my heart.
(I got both from Carly over at Re:created).
Get the "Hey y'all hat here.
We need wayfinding.
I first heard the term wayfinding from author Casey Tygrett. In his book Becoming Curious, Casey writes,
“Wayfinding is the art of moving people, clearly and obviously, from one place to another.”
He used it to mean finding the signs to follow in our spiritual formation. Where is the light? What are the signposts of my calling?
I was delighted to discover wayfinding originated in the writings of Urban Planner and Architect Kevin Lynch. He used it as a term to explain how people understand their surroundings, especially within cities. Wayfinding is helpful whether we are moving to a new city or changing seasons in life. Both are crossing thresholds and contributing to our spiritual formation.
Lynch named five elements of mental mapping that help us navigate our physical surroundings: paths, edges, districts, nodes and landmarks. Those are the same elements that could help us find our soulful way in a new season of life. What if we asked ourselves a question for each element in order to help us find our way through a new door?
Paths: Where do we want to go? Who do we want to go with?
Edges: Where are our fences or shores?
Districts: Where are the areas with character and identity that we want to explore?
Nodes: Where are our focal points and intersections where we can meet new people and learn new things?
Landmarks: Where are the significant icons that orient us?
When I am in a new city, I usually set out to find paths to my new favorite grocery store, library, park or coffeeshop. I start near home and then widen my circles as I get my bearings. I keep my eyes peeled for bookstores, fountains, garden nurseries and thrift shops. I quickly look for a new church community to engage in. All of these places and people take time to find and get acquainted with.
Until we find these markers in our new place or season, we just start with what we know.
We need small familiarities.
Don't under estimate the power of small.
Re-creating simple traditions from your previous life into your new one can help ease you across the threshold of a new season. If you moved, it can be as simple as settling your favorite chair into a new corner for your quiet time, cooking your favorite dish in a new kitchen or establishing the view out of a new window.
I noticed that Sweet Pea and Rowdy did this re-creating of small familiarities instinctively.
They found their favorite window at their Oregon house.
And they found their favorite new window at their Texas house.
If we are the ones who are staying put geographically, yet still want to grow emotionally or spiritually into a new season, re-creating small familiarities can still ease our transitions. I came home and promptly bought a pound of my favorite coffee and some fresh Oregon berries and got a load of wash spinning. The hum of home is very comforting to me. You might garden, cook, buy fresh flowers or go for a run on your favorite path.
Of course, we can't grow by only returning to what we know. It is just a place to start. We have to find new paths and patterns in order to live and grow into our new place or season.
It might be time for you to say, "Hello darlin'".
How will you do it?