A Bit More About These Chapters {Book Club}

One of the themes last week in the comments as we discussed Looming Transitions is that while the focus is on times of transitions, even if you’re not in a transition, the ideas are applicable to staying well too. I agree! One of the lessons I learned in writing a book is that—and there just may be a life lesson in this—to be successful you need to focus.

In January on my blog I wrote the whole story behind the conception, death, and re-birth of Looming Transitions and the editing process of it being a more general book to focused on one specific transition. Instead of repeating it all here, read it here because I want to use this space to share a few stories I think you will appreciate.

Today we are discussing chapters 5, 6, and 7. Let’s discuss the content in the comments, here I want to share four thoughts I had or stories I remembered as I reread these chapters.

1. In chapter five in the weather part of the chapter, the person I mentioned is someone I met here in Velvet Ashes! I knew from comments she left that she and her family were going to experience this type of transition. I emailed her and asked if she’d be interested in reading what I’d written because up to that point only people who personally knew me and knew what I was trying to communicate had read it. I wondered if it made any sense to a slightly more removed reader.

So, the comment in the weather section was from our back and forth. I’d rework the chapter and email it to her. I think both of us are relieved and pleased that the editing process helped improved that rough draft to what you hold in your hands. When I reread this chapter, I thought of her and of you and how very much this book was born out of community.

2. Chapter six share four areas to know about yourself. Since the content of the book started out as a presentation I gave to people entering their last semester on the field, I had talked about pre- and post-grieving, but I had not written down my thoughts. In rereading this chapter I was back at my kitchen table in Beijing, writing it out. Here’s the scene:

Anne’s daughter Isabel is an extrovert with a capital E! She’s also smart as a whip, but doing some of her homeschooling work alone was not working out so well for her. For one of her math classes she would come to my apartment each afternoon at 1:00. We would talk over the math lesson and then she would do the homework exercises while I worked on the computer. Isabel is sitting on one side of the table working on math as I sit across from her typing out what it means to be a pre- and post-griever. Tears streaming because . . . hello, I’m writing about grief and saying goodbye.

Isabel looks up at me, and since a crying adult is probably more interesting than math, she wondered what I was working on. The book was written in so many different places and usually I was alone (duh), so it is all the more precious to me that I wrote about grief in the presence of part of my community. We talked about grieving and each of our styles and how she is more like her mom. We both went back to work. I love that I think of her too when I read that section.

3. I first wrote Start Early when both of my parents were alive. By the time I decided to pull the manuscript out and rework it in earnest, my dad had died. I wasn’t sure how to approach a passage that was written when someone was alive but they had since died. For the sake of the “story” it did not matter that he had died, so I left it as is. Also, for me personally, it seemed fitting that a book about transitions itself holds transitions. I have to say, when I wrote that section it never occurred to me that my dad would die as soon as he did. It is one of my life’s sadnesses that the book was published after his death, so I also left it as if he were alive because I know he would have been proud of me and how hard I worked on the book.

(And I am now having a hard time seeing the screen as I have thought about Anne, Isabel, and my dad and how much I miss having all three of them in my daily life.)

4. Also in the Start Early chapter is the part about organizing your belongings into six categories: sell, give away, throw away, store, buy, and move. My editor didn’t think “buy” belonged here because why would you buy items for a transition when you are giving away? Throwing away? That is why I put an endnote on “buy.” It was hard to explain to her that when you move from one world to another that is so different, you might not be able to buy the items you need—even if “need” here is need for your soul.

I decided to keep “buy” as a part of my list, but I think of her and the discussion we had each time I reread that part.

Well now, I’d be willing to bet you had your own thoughts stirred up as you read these chapters. See you in the comments, friends.

Amy

P.S. Next week we’ll finish the book with Chapters 8-10. I realized I’ve never publicly discussed the title and the journey it took from where it started to landing on LT and the subtitle. I’ll share that next week.

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31 Comments

  1. Julie B May 23, 2016

    Love hearing the “back story” of the book Amy.  I have given away about 8 copies of your book to friends leaving and to other member care folks in our company!

    I agree with you for keeping in the word “buy” even as we are transitioning.  Isn’t that what we do on either side of the ocean?  I buy stuff to bring back overseas and I buy stuff to take back to America. (On my way to a shopping adventure at the Pearl Market today in fact for my upcoming trip!)   Also, there are those things that I have been looking at (like a real tea set) that I have not yet bought for myself, but I do know that before I move back to America for good, that is something I want to take with me.  Yes, the editors may not “get it” but rest assured, your fellow travelers in this crazy overseas life journey do!

    1. Amy Young May 24, 2016

      Julie, thank you for buying so many copies :)!

      And yes, I bought on both sides . . . there was always something to take to the other side (whether gifts, something to share, or something I wanted!) 🙂

    2. Michele Womble May 25, 2016

      Absolutely, Julie, “buy” has to stay in.  I also buy here to take there and buy there to bring here because in each place there are some things that you just can’t get in the other place – and sometimes they are those “transition objects” ….I just feel better knowing I have them.

       

  2. Kiera May 24, 2016

    Amy, thanks for sharing the backstory of your book. That’s one thing I think is so awesome about doing this book in book club – we get to hear from the author herself! 🙂 Can’t wait to hear the story behind the title next week – I love that you picked “looming” with all its overshadowing, can’t get away from it connotations. The transition is going to happen, the question is how. I see that theme in this book.

    Anyways, on to the chapters at hand. I love how, once again, even though I am not in the specific transition of moving from or to the field, the book has been helpful to me right where I am. We are preparing to go back for our summer off, and after I read these chapters I sat down to write a list of the things I want to get done in the next two weeks. They were all swimming around in my head anyways, now they are on paper (and yes, like you Amy, I vastly prefer lists on paper than on any electronic “help”). It also helped me to think about the ways I handle these little transitions so that I can project how I will probably handle the big transition of leaving the life overseas whenever it eventually happens.
    The pre-griever/post-griever conundrum still has me wondering which I am, though. Can I be both? Haha. I can think of instances where I knew a close friend was going to be moving in a year or even two years and I did some grieving ahead of time. I can think of other instances where I didn’t really process that someone was leaving until after she had gone. I am not an overly emotional person in general, so I can see myself being more like Anne than you, Amy, and yet, I also like to think/plan years in advance so I think I would be thinking the entire year before I leave that this is the last time for this or last time for that. So, I am just going to defy categorization and be both. Haha. I do think the main value in this section is not to fit into a box, but to recognize both styles so that we don’t get mad at someone who is doing it differently from us. 
    I think it’s great that you got to talk with Isabel about it while writing this chapter. I think it’s really important information to give our kids. I just talked with a friend who led the 8th grade student spring trip this past week. (We work for an international school.) She was talking about the fact that a lot of friend drama had happened on the trip. I happened to know that a lot of the class will be leaving at the end of the year and I asked – do you think that had something to do with it? She agreed it probably did – they are probably blowing up at each other in anger because they are sad and don’t know how to deal with it. And that is something to know both for people who are leaving and people who are staying – conflict right at the end is often because people don’t know what to do with their grief.

    When it comes to getting rid of possessions – selling or giving away – I’d like to offer a piece of advice to those doing the leaving: invite your close friends to look through your items first or ask them if there is anything of yours that they would like to have before you open it up to everyone. A number of the things I have in my house (coffee mugs, clothes, a toy my daughter plays with, original paintings, home decorations) once belonged to a close friend who left and whenever I look at them, I think of that person. For one friend who left, it was really important that everything was “fair” and she made sure that everyone had access to everything at the same time. (I think this was a reaction against some things that had happened in her time here where she felt one group was favored against another group.) But, interestingly, after she left she sent me some tips for future leavers and she said she regretted not giving her close friends that chance. I think it goes along with your point in the book that not all relationships are equal and that’s ok. It is ok to give preference to some people over others. And as someone who has stayed, I like having those things. 
     
    I’ve written this in Word this time, so I know exactly how long it is and won’t be surprised when I hit Submit. J Looking forward to the last few chapters. 

    1. Amy Young May 24, 2016

      I love that you wrote in word to know how long the comment was Kiera :)!

      I agree that the shorter trips (i.e. a few months) can be helpful “fact finding Ms” as we notice how we handle/respond to what is going on in and around us. It’s also interesting how different phases of life will influence this too — personally, as my parents aged, that factored into my thinking more than it did when I was younger.

      Good point on our objects! You’re spot on — I have things with me, as you said, a mug, or … people don’t think me absurd artificial plum blossoms. My friend Lisa had been given the plum blossoms on an outing with a Chinese friend and when she left she gave them to me. I had them for several more years. So, when I see them now, they remind me of her, her apartment and times with her, AND my apartment :).

      1. Michele Womble May 25, 2016

        I like that advice, too, Kiera, thanks for sharing it.  I also have things that were left behind by others that I love because I remember people I care about whenever I use them (like coffee in the mornings in special mugs)!

        Amy – I love it! artificial plum blossoms! When it’s special, it’s just special.  🙂

      2. Michele Womble May 25, 2016

        BTW, Amy and Kiera, I’m a list person (paper and pencil), too.  My only problem with that is I do have a tendency to make great lists and then lose them.  But …much as I like buying cool gadgets and Apps, etc. – I never use them.  But having different “areas” or sections on a piece of paper with lists that I can code for priority and cross off when they happen – that works.

  3. Ruth May 24, 2016

    I also love hearing the back story on writing the book.  And that keeping the buy category definitely makes sense!

     

  4. Sue White May 24, 2016

    This has been so true for me, Amy.  I appreciate how you  capture so well the experiences and emotions in transition!    I can especially relate to the “buy” category.  🙂  Even today – years later  – I look that some of those “buy” items around our home and think of people, experiences,  conversations and places that are precious to me.   Thanks for persevering and using your giftedness, Amy,  for His kingdom!

    1. Amy Young May 24, 2016

      Oh Sue, I have so many memories with the things that made the cut :). It funny what I thought might matter and what ended up mattering!!

  5. M'Lynn May 25, 2016

    “Part of finishing well involves completing some tasks, leaving others incomplete, and knowing when to finish and when to let go.” (p.77)

    There was lots of talk about finishing well our first five years on the field. Our team situation was different than it is now in that we had very small teams that tended to transition every year. Each year, we went through obligatory “end of year” activities with our teams that focused on ending well that everyone participated in…whether you were the one staying or going. Now that we’ve been in a different situation for several years, I miss those end of year packets that required me to focus on finishing well. This book has been such a help for me this year. I’m enjoying having the reminder to finish well because my life is still paced by the school-year calendar, so May is when I need this big “finish-well” push. Even though I’ll be back in August, we’re spending two months in Texas and we leave in a week and a half and the “to-do” list is long. I need wisdom and discernment to know which tasks to do and which not to do. Maybe I’ll stop right now and make a “not-to-do” list. Ha.

    Post-grieving vs. Pre-grieving has been so helpful in the past for me and glad to see it again!

    One of the other very helpful things for me was the talk about identity and thinking (and wrestling) with what it would mean to me if I weren’t doing what I’m doing now and living where I’m living now. I loved this: “The challenge will be to focus on character aspects instead of roles. Roles may change, but character traits carry over.” (p.84) I actually sat down and listed those out for myself. This also reminds me of several conversations I’ve had with teammates who are leaving the field and wondering if they can even get a job in America. I’ve always been quick to remind them of all the skills they’ve developed during their time overseas that make them a very marketable person who will be able to contribute to society in a unique way. Funny that I have to sit down and make myself encourage myself the way I encourage others 🙂  “For your identity, ‘Character must increase; roles must decrease.'” (p. 84) Love it. That’s helpful all the time for all the people!

    1. Michele Womble May 25, 2016

      Because we visited family almost every year, we also had sort of a “finish the year well” mentality every year…(and at the beginning of every year, we would make lists and goals about what we wanted to do in ministry and what and who we wanted to focus on for the year … so it was somewhat easy to evaluate how well we were “finishing”) …it was great practice for transitioning off the field for a couple of years – we had “learned as you go” so to speak, and although we had to add some bigger items to the list – since we were moving our kids permanently (well, as far as we know) off the field and planning to be gone for 3 years ourselves…and it was still totally overwhelming, it gave us a leg up.

      a “not to do list” – cool!  I like it. 🙂

    2. Michele Womble May 25, 2016

      Because we visited family almost every year, we also had sort of a “finish the year well” mentality every year…(and at the beginning of every year, we would make lists and goals about what we wanted to do in ministry and what and who we wanted to focus on for the year … so it was somewhat easy to evaluate how well we were “finishing”) …it was great practice for transitioning off the field for a couple of years – we had “learned as you go” so to speak, and although we had to add some bigger items to the list – since we were moving our kids permanently (well, as far as we know) off the field and planning to be gone for 3 years ourselves…and it was still totally overwhelming, it gave us a leg up.

      a “not to do list” – cool!  I like it. 🙂

       

  6. M'Lynn May 25, 2016

    And sorry I didn’t get to comment last week. I was trying but the toddler wasn’t having it, so…then I forgot.

  7. Joanna @ MumsKidsJesus.com May 25, 2016

    Hi Amy…I just followed the link to the story behind Looming Transitions, and got sucked in to reading several of your posts on how it all came to be, and your journey getting it published. It’s great to read your story, and how God bought life to something you had laid down (and how it is now blessing so many). I’m currently looking into self-publishing vs traditional publishing options, and asking lots of questions, so your story is so relevant and useful to me! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  8. Meegs May 25, 2016

    I loved loved loved(!!) the advice in the comments about gathering up things from friends to serve as reminders.  I sent an email to my BFFs here requesting a shirt from them so when I am on the other side of the planet and need a hug I can wear my Lindsey or Ang or Jenn or Amy shirt and then when they see the pics they can know I was thinking about them….

    It was a weird request, but I have to bring clothes with me anyways, so why not something of theirs?

    We also went through as a family last night and picked out toys or knick knacks that were special to our family, stuffed them in a wide myriad of gift bags (from Happy Birthday to Way to Have A Baby), shoved them full of mismatched tissue paper, and plan on handing them out to our friends as “miniChristmas” when we eat our “last suppers” with them before heading out.

    I think it’s all a part of coping with the big looming change…. but its a healthy way to cope.

    Something I didn’t expect but am learning is that it’s not just my family who has to count the cost of following Jesus across the planet.  Like, duh, this is obvious…. but part of our role in transition is to help all of our other relationships count the cost too.  I keep telling people as they make comments related to “counting the cost” that it’s okay to be sad.  I think a lot of my people need permission to be any emotion other than excited for our family.  And since I’m a post-griever I can do that without being an emotional wreck myself…. it will come later and my teammates will get to process the ugly cries with me 🙂

    A couple of weeks ago I commented to my husband that I feel like we need counseling for this season…. but we don’t have the time or money to invest in it.  This book and the workbook has been the counsel I need… and this community has been an extra encouragement that I’m not alone in transition, there are others who “get it”, and that it’s ok to be a bit of a hot mess in the messy middle.

    So thank you!!!!  And much love to you guys!!

    1. M'Lynn May 25, 2016

      Hey, Meegs. I enjoyed reading your comment and like the idea of giving special stuff away to friends and family before you leave…a little twist on Kiera’s mention. This past summer my niece gave my daughter (two cousins who don’t get to spend a lot of time together) one her favorite stuffed animals. That gift of a worn, happy, pink cat was so much more special to me (and my daughter) than a brand new toy.

      As I sit reading the next chapters and taking notes in my journal this morning, I echo you feelings that this book is like going to counseling for me. I’m thinking all the “already here, been here, stayers” out there can glean as much wisdom from this book as the “not there yet but we’re on the way” go-ers and the “been there, done that, what’s next” leavers!  I’m enjoying connecting with people in transition and in between through this book.

    2. Michele Womble May 25, 2016

      I love the t-shirt idea, Meegs!

      It’s so true that others have to count the cost – and we have to give them permission to grieve, as well. It’s not fair for us to expect them to be excited that we’re leaving – it’s hard enough to be “losing” the relationships  and not have the excitement of going, and then to be expected to be excited …

  9. Jodie May 25, 2016

    This book is really helpful and I wish I had read it before we made our big move last year. It’s made me think about the idea of space and whether we are allowing ourselves space to grieve. I felt like I packed my emotions in a box with all of our stuff to get shipped back to America–to be opened and dealt with at some future date. When having a last lunch on the day of our departure I remember my friend with tears in her eyes asking me how I was feeling about leaving China, and while I wanted to share her tears I could only honestly say, “I’m not feeling anything right now. Except maybe overwhelmed.” I was throwing stuff from our money/passport/important information drawer into a bag and trying to do a final cleaning as the rest of my family was carrying boxes down our stairs to load the truck that was taking us to the train station and the whole day of people in and out and taking furniture away felt like Are we really going to get out of here by 4:00? We were the opposite extreme of the sitting in a shell of an apartment with bags packed a month ahead of time example! It’s not how I would have liked to have left and if I could do it over I would try to put into practice your helpful ideas, Amy, on how to plan ahead and leave well.

    1. M'Lynn May 25, 2016

      Your description of throwing the contents of the money/passport/important information drawer in a bag as boxes went down the stairs sounds eerily familiar! We moved across the street this past winter and….oh, my! then the contents of that drawer sat in a rice bag for months. I finally bought a paper shredder and organized that crazy pile of disaster into one nice, neat accordian folder. It’s ready for the next move!

      1. Jodie May 25, 2016

        M’Lynn, do you know what’s funny about the throwing everything into a bag story? Because of that, an expired credit card ended up in my wallet instead of our current one, and on my first trip to Target in the U.S. I tried to pay with it. When that got rejected, I remembered I had my checkbook with me, so I wrote a check. But the cashier asked for a photo id which I didn’t have. (My drivers license had expired and I needed to get a new one.) I felt like the cashier could just realize I was a trustworthy person. Like when I didn’t have enough money to pay at the Chinese market and they would tell me just to bring the money next time…Fortunately at Target I had a friend with me (because I couldn’t drive myself) who paid for me and I paid her back. It left me wondering though if I was going to be able to make it in the U.S. after all!

        1. Michele Womble May 26, 2016

          Bahahahahaha!!!! 😀

          Sorry.  I could see your whole story play out in front of my eyes.

          I’m still chuckling.

          Just bring the money next time – yep.  That’s so normal with the cashiers in Russia, too, at many of the smaller stores and markets where they know you.

          Ever since I went to Russia (where for the first 10-15 years we were there you couldn’t use credit cards) I’ve been terrified of using a credit card in Wal-Mart (or anywhere).  Just please let me pay cash.  I’m so afraid that something will be wrong.

          Part of that, though, is probably that I’m never sure anymore which zip code our credit cards are tied to.  My mom’s? His mom’s?  One of our sisters’?

          Living in America is stressful sometimes.  I had a moment the other day, over something simple like that, where I was stressed and thinking “I don’t think I can live here”….

        2. M'Lynn May 26, 2016

          Jodie—where’s that “foreigner card” when you need it?? Dang—I guess it’s revoked upon re-entry 🙂

  10. Michele Womble May 26, 2016

    The grass.  Yes, I missed – we both did – the freshly cut crass, green lawn calling to you – the smell…the green…Joey mentioned it in a sermon once (the context was that as much as we wanted that lawn and that smell and missed it, and it was a “sacrifice”, we’re coming to an age where we realize that most of the things we “sacrificed” were things we weren’t going to have for very long, anyway, if we had had them. )  (so now our friends in Russia will tease us about “the green lawn”…

    I really appreciate your emphasis on starting early.  We did start early, about a year early we made a plan of major things that we planned to do each month. Part of the “system” we had developed earlier for shorter (2 month) trips to the States – I would always start packing a month ahead of time (because even when you are only leaving for 2 months, a lot of people “come out of the woodwork” the last week – and it’s impossible to pack anything without being up all night the night before. Also because the longer I have to pack, the less I take with me, the less time I have to pack, the more goes with me – because I can’t think clearly enough to see what’s needed.  So we basically expanded on that, started a year ahead of time – not packing, but each month was assigned a room (or a category or something) to go through all books, papers, etc. / people we wanted to make sure we saw.  IT was SO GOOD that we did it that way because we still were somewhat crunched at the end and didn’t see everyone we wanted to – but it would have been so much worse.  (And in our scenario we didn’t even have to move out of our apartment, we just moved almost everything into one room to free it up for a friend of ours.).

    I WISH we had had your lists of the paperwork, etc. and other things – we didn’t do too badly, but we did have to come up with it all from scratch – what a great resource your book is, Amy – Next time (there will be a next time) we can zip through your lists and categories…it’s so helpful, because I don’t naturally think this way myself. (in an organized way.) When I think about packing, it’s just one big blob of confusion in my mind.  (Which is partly why I start a month ahead of time and just take everything with me when I don’t have the month for packing). (It may also partly be why my toiletries bag is still packed.)

    But lists really help me.

    Maybe i need a list for my toiletries bag.

     

    “Let me check my schedule and get back to you.”  This is something I had to learn in life, anyway – even when i’m not transitioning I have a tendency to overbook – not just because it’s hard for me to say no, which it is, but it’s hard for me to say no because I really do want to see people – anyway I think this is a good habit to cultivate way before transitioning.  And let me just say that I appreciate what you said about explanations – when i can’t “whatever” i always feel like I have to explain.  So i need to do some soul searching on that.

     

     

    1. M'Lynn May 26, 2016

      Oh, the toiletries bag! Lol. I was just stressing about that bag earlier this morning…and we’re not leaving for another week or so. It’s the one I put off until the morning of the flight and then it’s 4:30 am and I just throw it all in the suitcase. Seriously…packing for a family is no joke even when I tell myself I can get it all when we get there if need be (if we’re going to America). But what about that 24 hour layover in Seoul and the one kid needs the itch cream because somehow a rogue mosquito in the airport found him and we’re all gonna hear crying forever (that’s an imaginary scenario, by the way!)…do I pack it or just wing it??? hahaha.

      1. Michele Womble May 29, 2016

        oh, I know what you mean about packing for a family!  Fortunately mine are old enough now that they do most of their own packing – but there were years when they couldn’t. The toiletries bag, too, you know if you forget medicine it’s not that big of a deal until you REALLY NEED IT and then it’s huge, because when you need it, you need it NOW.

  11. J May 27, 2016

    Hi Amy and everyone.

    I did know book club day is Tuesday but could not comment then and now it’s Friday already! Having read these chapters I wish I had had this book before our last move (but it wasn’t written then). There are sections which I will refer back to if/when we do transition. As you said Amy, a lot of the book is applicable even if you are not currently going through transition, Then there are times when you are staying and others are leaving – which is a type of transition, with associated changes and grieving process).

    The thing that struck me the most in these chapters was the part about being known. I have commented to friends before that, living cross-culturally, it is harder to connect with people. I find myself not being able to “click” with those who don’t know and understand this cross cultural life. Not their fault, it’s just that our outlooks and worldviews are quite different. Then there is the joy and relief of finding a friend who shares similar experiences and understands where you are coming from. I had not thought about it in the terms of “putting on masks and pretending” (pg. 64, ch. 5) but this correlates with my feeling of being able to relax around someone who “gets” you – no more trying not to offend and say or do the “wrong” thing. It can be very tiring, not being able to be yourself. As you say in chapter 6, Amy, we can take comfort that God knows us completely and still loves us. We need to invite God in, as you explained from Psalm 139 (probably my favourite Psalm). We also do need human relationships which are deep. This can be difficult when you live a life where either you, or those around you, move often. I have found myself not wanting to invest too much in relationships where I felt that either I or the other person would be moving on, but this only leads to more isolation. There is a difference between a friendship with someone who lives nearby and trying to maintain a friendship with those far away, even in the age of Facebook and Skype etc.

    As far a houses and personal belonging go, I have been through loss in some respects but feel it has made me more free and not reliant on “things.” Relationships are definitely more important.

    Reading chapter 5, I recognised the wrong reactions and attitudes I had after we moved to India and things were not working out quite as I hoped or expected. At the time, this caused a strain between myself and my husband. If I had this book at that time, it would have helped me to process things a bit better. I will be recommending this book to others who are are preparing for various transitions.

    I look forward to the last few chapters and discussions.

     

     

    1. Michele Womble May 29, 2016

      I wish I had had a book like this years ago, too.  But we have now! I’ve been recommending it to people, too.

      And – the cool thing about an online book club like this is you can show up at any time, and you haven’t really missed anything because everything everyone says is still there. (and if they sign up to be messaged for new comments, they won’t miss your comments, either.) 🙂

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