Behind the Scenes {Book Club}

When Looming Transitions was published in January Danielle said, “You are going to do it for book club. Right?” It was January and I had (wisely, haha!) scheduled books for the spring already. Then several of you commented, “We are going to discuss LT, right?” Due to the not-t0-be-mentioned-again weirdness, I said yes, but then had a low grade vulnerability hangover all spring knowing we wouldn’t just be high-fiving over a book being published. No, we would actually be talking about the content.

I honestly thought about having someone else host this book—which is an idea that still has merit. What if the comment section was like a locker room after a defeat? Sure, there are people all around. But everyone is trying to avoid eye contact and just wants to be alone. I felt confident no one would say, “Um, that one part, that was stupid.” Like we can say when the author isn’t the one hosting the discussion! But even people who aren’t transitioning are reading.

What I’m saying through this rambling is that you blessed me your engagement. Thanks, friends :).

Chapter three starts with a verse from Isaiah 58:

The LORD will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs
in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fails.

In rereading the chapter for our discussion, I paused and tried to focus on each word. Look at how many “wills” there are. Four! What will God do for us? Guide, satisfy, strengthen, water. How life giving. In times of change (our word for the week), I need the hope of life this verse brings. I also appreciate the honesty that there is no time frame. I’m thinking of the very elderly whose hope isn’t in life getting better in this life. Or a massive life transition. Kimberly shared last year that transitions can take years—a fact that both encourages and deflates. But the LORD will . . . that’s the phrase that can act like an anchor.

At one point as part of my research I took this huge, heavy gardening book to the coffee shop and read through it, writing down key gardening vocabulary, in particular the verbs. I don’t know why I didn’t google it (for instance, here is a list). But now I’m glad I spent time thinking about a fertile soul and looking at plants.

Aeration, Arrangement, Atmosphere, Biennial, Biodegradable, Bountiful, Bouquet, Bumper crop, Clippings, Cluster, Deadhead, Decomposition, Decorative, Dedication, Dehydrated manure, all the way to Watering can, Wilt, Yard, and Zone.

Each word could be (Oh my word, you are witnessing the birth of an idea) read in the morning with a few moments of mediation on how that word relates to a fertile soul. I’ll try and made a PDF by next week that is 30 days with a word for each day. In October let’s plan on me blogging through “31 days of a fertile soul.” Okay my mind is off and running and I need to reign it in and focus on the chapter at hand.

Getting the story right is so important, isn’t it? And at times, so hard. If you have been hurt, it can be tempting to downplay the hurt, saying it was nothing. OR give the hurt too much of the story. Please forgive the stereotype if this is you, but at times, if someone has only been on the field for one year, they  fall into one of two camps: everything is so AMAZING about this culture and they idolize it as better than it really is. Or believe this is the WORST, most corrupt, most selfish, most backwards place on the planet, vilanizing the entire culture and seeing it as worse than it is. Neither story is right, but it is the story they will tell (probably) for many years. I’m so thankful that God had Moses stress the importance of getting the story right.

If you’ve been around VA for a while, you know where the shoulds with Patty came from, right? Last year’s retreat! :)!

And the chocolate line, I love that one. I love it so much I added it to the graphics I made for those in transition. If you haven’t seen the graphics, I made them for you in transitions. For you to share on Instagram or a screen saver to remind you or to be used in newsletters.


In chapter four I won your heart with that grammar part. Right?!

Maybe by the end of it you felt revived because you knew you would never have to think about transitive and intransitive verbs ever again. Ha!

Are you wired to see humor fairly quickly, or is it more difficult than you would like? I know this can be a complex question and maybe your true self is being squashed by feeling responsible for this transition and as others in your life are not taking it as seriously as you need them to.

Have you been able to laugh this week at a situation (not necessarily IN the situation)?

Let’s talk in the comments. Is there any part you’d like to know more about or have clarified? How are you staying rooted in Christ and seeing the humor in your life?


P.S. Next week we’ll discuss Chapters 5-7

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 


  1. Elizabeth May 16, 2016

    Yes, in chapter 4 you definitely won my heart with the grammar!! I even put that in my review, lol!

    CANNOT wait till you blog through the gardening terms. Just this week I re-learned about myself (because yes, I’ve learned it before, and then forgotten its importance) that my atmosphere is important. I have to declutter my house in order to declutter my soul. I let it get cluttered, out of heat and fatigue, and then I couldn’t handle it anymore; so I decluttered and now I am so much happier. 🙂

    1. Amy Young May 18, 2016

      Elizabeth, I’ve been talking to other folks in Cambodia recently and the heat sounds AWFUL. I wish I could do something — but I can say I am praying for you :).

      Decluttering helps me too!

      1. Elizabeth May 18, 2016

        Thank you so much Amy! I am pleased to say that though the whole country has been in a drought and a record-breaking heat wave, the last week we’ve had several rains where I live. It is cooling things off a bit, and we are SO thankful!

    2. Michele Womble May 18, 2016

      I LOVED the grammar part, too!!! I love…language! 🙂

      and the gardening terms – which is also language! – can’t wait for that, either (Amy – maybe eventually another book?!)

  2. J May 16, 2016

    Dear Amy and All,

    Sorry I couldn’t join you in the comments last week. Life has been crazily busy recently with travelling, kids (currently on their school break) and my ongoing studies. Thankfully, my progress in reading the book is roughly in sync with the book club.

    As you had mentioned, Amy, transitioning can take years. This is the situation for our family and the difficult think is there is no time frame. We came to India loosely linked with a medical m sending agency with no time limit. My husband is a national here and therefore we have no visa issues to deal with. We sold or gave away everything, except what we could bring in suitcases before the big move (and I was expecting our 3rd child at the time). About 3 months after our move my husband told me he didn’t think things were working out and we should think about leaving. I was devastated. I was just starting to get used to things and had a small baby with all the associated hormone changes and exhaustion. Things have now improved but there is always the possibility and discussions about leaving. This swings to and fro, depending on how things are going. So for approximately the last 3 and a half years we have been living in a state of uncertainty. As this is too much to live with I have had to give the situation to God and I am growing in faith and trust (but it is still not easy!)

    I appreciated your comments, Amy,  about finding the lighter side in things. I have not been so good at this but my husband and I do have a standing joke: If he mentions any plans more than 6 months ahead I add “if we are still here!” It is what he used to say but now I beat him to it as a joke.

    I am slowly learning to be grounded in Christ. The occasional piece of chocolate does help though!

    I look forward to reading and discussing the rest of the book.


    1. Amy Young May 18, 2016

      When I first got the idea, J, years ago for this book, I had presented it in the workshop mentioned early on in the book. I was back in the States for a visit and was chatting with my mom about all of the transitions we go through in life — from home to college/adulthood, out of college to job, getting married, moving, having kids, kids leaving the home and on and on. At that time my mom was helping her parents transition from their home into assisted living (they did not want to move!!!! But needed to. So hard). For quite a few years one of her main focuses was on helping her parents “finish well” in life — while living far from them.

      Her transition reminds me of yours — there was no clear clock on it. We all knew at some point (sadly!) my grandparents would die, but there was no way to know when. Trying to emotionally prepare yourself for something you know is coming (and all the more stressful for you and you don’t know for sure) it is coming . . . is EXHAUSTING. While, as you mentioned, life is going on around you!!

      Many hugs J!

  3. Kiera May 17, 2016

    When I was reading the chapter, your words about the fertile field being with an eye toward the past and an eye toward the future, about putting things into the bigger picture of your life, reminded me of something Jerry Jones has said about staying well – that you look at it more like bricks building a wall. And although this is a book about transition, I find it is speaking to me about staying well in other ways too. In the list of ideas, your idea of keeping a plant around as a reminder to cultivate a fertile soul really stuck out to me. I’m intrigued about your idea of 31 days of a fertile soul – I want to read that series! Please write it. I think that while keeping a fertile soul is definitely a good thing in transition, it is also a vital part of staying well. We have been trying to cultivate two little plants in our home recently – one is a morning glory and the other is a strawberry plant. We found these little plant kits at Toys R Us, of all places, and my husband thought they would be fun for our 3 1/2 year old daughter and they have been. Generally, I am not the greatest at keeping plants alive, mostly because I tend to neglect to water them, but I am really trying to be vigilant on this one. 🙂 My daughter also wants to check the plants multiple times a day to see if they need water. In the same way, what if I were to check in with my soul regularly, and make sure it is still fertile ground? A good idea I think.

    Yes, shoulds turned to coulds. That was huge for me in the retreat last year. And it brought to mind a little phrase that a counselor gave to me once, (you have to say it carefully if you say it out loud), “I will not should on myself today.” haha. 🙂 I love that. Because why are we putting pressure on ourselves. Most everything is more of a could than a should and I’m glad you reminded us of Patty’s words on that.

    Lastly, I think that since I am not in a moving to/from the field kind of transition right now, I am reading the book through a wider filter. Your words about feeling like you lost yourself when you moved resonated with me because I have the same fear. That if I were to leave here, who would I be anymore? So much of my life has taken place here that to be without the geographic location where it all happened, feels like it would set my life adrift. But it was helpful for me to remember how I felt when I left teaching. I have wanted to be a teacher since I was 8 years old (well, actually from before that, but that is the age when the other aspirations of ballerina and astronaut fell away and teaching was center stage). I knew exactly what I wanted to major in in college and I got a teaching job right away. I taught in the classroom for 4 years and loved it. Then I moved slightly outside of that to doing curriculum, professional development and accreditation for my school, but I was still in education and I still sort of got to teach as I led professional development sessions for the teachers at my school. Then I had my daughter and I still worked part time from home the first year, but as she grew and needed more of my time, I decreased my work until now where I am not doing paid work at all. For a while there I felt like, “I have wanted to be a teacher my whole life. What if I never work as a teacher again? Who am I?” But over time, two things began to happen: 1) I found out that I am still a teacher (currently of one 3 1/2 year old “student”). and 2) I found out that I had other passions that were a bit dormant when teaching as a profession took up so much of my time. I found that I really enjoy cooking and having people over for dinner, for example, that I didn’t do much of when I was working full time outside of my home. I want to take this forward to the time when I will transition away from this place. I won’t lose who I am. First, it will always be there, even if I am not in this geographical location and second, who knows what else is there inside waiting to be unlocked in another time and place.

    Whew, and that comment is probably long enough. 🙂

    1. Emily Smith May 18, 2016

      I have killed so many plants…but I did keep a strawberry patch alive and we had a harvest of more strawberries than we could eat in a year. I hope you find success on this one.

      Your comment about teaching hit something for me. I just stepped away from the classroom after 7 years. I may never go back. It is terrifying and devastating and for me it comes right along with moving across the world. Teaching was so much a part of who I was…who I still am. I’m still in the tumble of transition, but starting to see the hope that there will be other things in my life given room to grow and breathe if all of my time and energy are not taken up by teaching. Thank you for sharing.

      1. Kiera May 19, 2016

        Loved your post that came out today about change being a way that God remakes us into one closer to His own image. I agree. And sometimes parts of our identity need to be taken away for us to see what he had hiding behind it. 🙂 At least, that’s been true for me. It makes me really think when I sing, “you give and take away.” It’s not just a nice line in a worship song. 🙂

        1. Emily Smith May 19, 2016

          Thank you. It has been painful but good. Removing good things to reveal something better isn’t always fun. Still, I wouldn’t do any differently.

          That song and others were so hard to sing or even hear for a long time. Not just a nice line in a worship song is exactly right. 🙂

    2. Amy Young May 18, 2016

      Kiera, so many thoughts in response to your thoughts :). The wider filter. YES. You’re reminded me of a post I wrote on my own personal blog about the writing process and what an un-wielding beast the first draft was — for just this reason, I put about 27,920 types of transitions and staying in it :). It was good to edit it down to one focused thing, but I agree, it is so much bigger!

      (And guess what? I’ve started another book for those who are interested in the long haul and staying well. Stay tuned for about five more years. Hahaha. I really do want to get it done, but some other parts of life are going to need to shift for that to happen!!)

      1. Michele Womble May 18, 2016


        Maybe it will help me unpack my toiletries bag.  🙂  (Cause it may still be packed in five years.  Course, by then I probably will have transitioned a time or two again..hmm – why unnpack it? )

        I’m working on that poem (about my toiletries bag.)  I sat down to it once, but it hasn’t really gone anywhere yet.

      2. Kiera May 19, 2016

        Glad my thoughts inspired more thoughts. You know, it’s hard to know how long your comment is when you are just typing away in the box that patiently keeps expanding to fit in all your words, then you hit Submit and BOOM! a tome is born! 🙂 haha. Actually, Amy, I have been taking notes on your book on what I want to share – first book club book that I have done that for. 🙂 Jia you! on your staying well book. It is a field that is so passed over and yet so needed. I hope you can shift what needs shifting, cuz I think it is a book the world needs. 🙂

  4. Ruth May 17, 2016

    Thanks for being willing to be vulnerable and discuss your book with us!

    I like hearing the background story and what you did to help you write.  And I really appreciate the image of keeping fertile soil, and I think it is helpful even for people not in major transition.  It is so easy to dry up from being so busy dealing with everything!

    1. Amy Young May 18, 2016

      After seeing how much the idea of a fertile soul resonated with people, I’m realizing it something we need to tend to more — so, now it’s tossing around in my mind :).

  5. Hadassah May 17, 2016

    I enjoyed reading about the spiritual pathways.  Before reading this, I hadn’t realized the effect singing had on me during worship. I mean,  it has always been my favorite part of the worship service, (I’m thinking, “Do we have to stop singing?”), but I’ve never allowed myself to use it as an experience in which I meet God and He talks to me.  I thought I had to do that through Bible reading and prayer–strictly!  I’m also from a conservative church that frowns on things like moving to music and raising of palms, but I’m pushing back, because for me it enhances the experience!  Since reading this, I have given myself permission to include music as part of my daily worship, and I have been richly blessed.  Some days, I’ll play songs on shuffle as I run, and I am amazed at how God picks just the right ones for that day and talks to me!  Little old me!  So…for my sake…if some of you out there have a song to share, thanks!  I’m all ears:)

    1. Ruth May 18, 2016

      This is one of my favorites–“You Have Me” by Gungor.  “Beautiful Things” and “Dry Bones” on this ablum are also really good.

    2. Michele Womble May 18, 2016

      It’s usually my favorite part of worship service, too, Hadassah. 😉

  6. J May 17, 2016

    Dear Hadassah,

    Here is a song about the Holy-ness of God and how we have tried to make God in our own image instead of being in awe of who He truly is. I’m not sure if you have heard it before. I hope that it is a blessing to you and others. I hope the link works – if not you can search on YouTube.

    Addison Road – What do I know of Holy?

  7. Emily Smith May 18, 2016

    Amy, The grammar lesson spoke to my soul. I loved it. No sarcasm here…just a deep love for grammar and language.

    And laughter…This was the biggest gift I got when I taught preschool last year. How can you be with preschoolers and not find things to laugh about? (Okay, maybe don’t answer that…if you aren’t someone who loves being around large numbers of four year olds this could sound like torture). Whether it be my dear boy who ran his fingers through his hair while finger painting…or the time(s) where I had kids flick green peas around the classroom to avoid having to eat them..or, or, or. There were so many times I could have gotten upset or I could laugh (after dealing with situation at hand). Spending a year laughing with these children restored so much.

    1. Amy Young May 18, 2016

      Emily, this is why the body is necessary and beautiful 🙂 . . . I am one of those people for who spending time with lots of little people, well honestly, I’d rather be alone in a maximum security prison visiting room with violent criminals and be discussing a book. Any day. ANY. DAY.

      But I love that those kiddos were loved and appreciated so well. I love it!


  8. Michele Womble May 18, 2016

    I really appreciate the field vs. garden outlook – that this season that we are in (and the one we were in before this)  is only part of the story – I’m pondering that one because I’m really feeling that loss of identity right now, too – who am I? (we plan to go back – but we also plan to be here awhile, first) – so…thinking on that a bit, and realizing that’s probably partly why the toiletries bag is still sitting on my counter… (or maybe I’m just lazy.)

    Funny that more than 3 worship songs at church is too many for you! 😉  For me – not enough.  If they stop after 3 I’m indignant. :-0 )


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