Hooked on Change

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting next to my 10-year-old daughter on the couch. She was still wearing the pajamas she had worn the night before, even though it was already 4pm. She was reading her favorite book series and I was lazing on my computer.

In the middle of that quiet moment she asked, “What do we have to look forward to?”

“What do you mean?”

“What do we have coming up to look forward to?”

Understanding her question, I informed her that her grandparents would be visiting the following month. “Oh good,” she responded, “If I didn’t have something to look forward to I think I would die.”

I can no longer question the TCK status of my kids. They have arrived. Change and transition is now a constant in their life.

And I’m a lot like my daughter. I’m a big fan of change. I enjoy it.  I like looking forward to trips and moves and reorganizing my house. I like new languages, new friendships, new experiences. When I don’t see change looming in the future I can feel restless and discontent in my soul.

As much as this may seem like a good characteristic for an overseas worker, I am finding it to be a liability. Change has become my crutch. Instead of being a catalyst for growth, change has become my hiding place. It is how I self-deceive and run from the reality of relational dysfunction, emotional pain or spiritual dryness.

I’d rather look forward to the visa run next month than embrace the depth of loneliness that I feel. Instead of dealing with a relational problem I remind myself that the relationship is temporary and doesn’t need fixing. When I am feeling depressed, I go on a reorganization spree moving furniture from this room to that room and back again.

I’ll do anything to hide from the reality and depth of my pain, insecurities and sin. Change is my friendly enabler.

Grief can be especially unresolved in my life for this very reason. There are a lot of losses and traumas that I have never fully felt but suppressed with the allure of the new and exciting.  For me, remaining stationary is a much greater risk then another move across the world because it guarantees to expose the unresolved and unmet needs of my heart.

Maybe this is change also. To be still, to grieve, to plant deep roots, to attach.

As the transitions continue to amass around me with the promise of new teammates and the loss of friendships, I feel God asking me to bare my soul within the mundane and the constant.

He is asking me to give up my addiction to change.

He is asking me to invest deeper in the relationships that I have, to content myself in the old and stop looking forward to the new. I believe that this is the place where God will meet me next, not in the great overt transitions, but in the honest risk of the heart. He is asking me to let the restlessness of my soul fester and allow him to expose those innermost parts of me that I strive to hide from myself and others.

I’m scared.

I don’t have a big trip to look forward to, the future before me looks routine, and I can feel it. The restlessness is building. The boredom is brewing. I just pray that as I press deeper into God he will be sweet and gentle as he exposes my soul.

A soul that is afraid to commit.

A soul that is afraid to grieve.

A soul that is afraid to care.

A soul that fights to protect itself.

This change is scary but change is always good…..right? 

Do you like change? Does change promote or stunt growth in your life? What triggers positive change in your life?


  1. Heather May 7, 2017

    My family and I are shifting to our 7th city in Asian next month. We have been in Asia a dozen years now. Our current city has been an unusual stint of 5 years. There were times I was ready to move on as I wasn’t used to digger roots so deeply. Now as we are moving I am a big ball os confusing emotions. It hurts to uproot but at the same time I am looking forward to the change and fresh start.

    It is scary…..rooting, uprooting, change, boredom……

    But I do see God shaping me in the midst of it all. Thanks for sharing your heart.

    1. Joy Smalley May 8, 2017

      Hi Heather! 5 years in one location may not seem that long to most but it really is a long time for some of us. I will be praying for you as God shapes your heart through the process of feeling all the emotions associated with transitioning again. How were you able to dig deeper roots within your community? Do you think planting roots in this next location will be easier or harder? I’m asking cause I don’t know how to be rooted, lol, but I’d like to try.

  2. andrea May 7, 2017

    Thanks for your honesty. Your openness to hear the Spirit through the question of your daughter is moving, and reminds me of a few holy “multi-level” conversations with my own kids and the Spirit. I wonder what God has for you as you bare your unique soul to the Holy One and others in the middle of the mundane and the constant…

    1. Joy Smalley May 8, 2017

      Thanks Andrea. I agree that I can learn so much about God and myself through my kids. My kids are pretty great. I’m also curious as to what God has in store for me…I think whatever it is will be hard but good.

  3. Deanna Joy May 8, 2017

    Thanks Joy – I’ve returned to the states after 13 yrs in mainland China where I was living as the only foreigner in small villages – God has stranded me in East Texas in a 40′ motorhome with no motor (I destroyed the pistons and will cost $12,000 for a new engine). I am being forced to sacrifice my desire to travel with my RV evangelizing America with a book I wrote on what it means to be priests in the Kingdom of God, reciprocating love to the Father in preparation as His son’s bride. I am forced to work 40 hr week to pay off a debt a man I married and ran from after 4 months got me into – I beleived he was God’s restoring gift to me – I long for the changing impromptu on the fly God encounters I experienced living overseas – I’ve been angry, depressed. hopeless, fail to be able to truly worship and pray as I have been use to – I am now being restored by good friends and fellowship – It means that I am having to build relationships that I have to realize may be longterm relationships and as you say – I’m scared – really scared I will fail their expectations of me (I don’t want to expect anything from anybody and vice versa – come and go God encounter relationships are exciting and don’t need an emotional committment I don’t know that I can give at this point in my life. I also fear they will fail me in honesty and trustworthiness and sincerity of their faith. I need to reread your post as I noticed there are things you shared that will help me in my journey as well – thank you – blessings of grace and new mercies every morning – let’s pray for each other! Deanna Joy

    1. Joy Smalley May 8, 2017

      I am so sorry Deanna to hear the struggles that you are currently enduring. I have prayed for you already and I will continue to do so. I like how you correlated your fear of long term relationships with the fear of failing expectations. I think that I fear much the same thing. Blessings and grace to you too, Deanna Joy, and may God bring both of us healing through the relationships he provides. God is faithful 🙂

  4. Deanna Joy May 8, 2017

    This is my prayer as well!! – I just pray that as I press deeper into God he will be sweet and gentle as he exposes my soul.

    1. Joy Smalley May 8, 2017

      Yes!! Slow and gentle, please, Jesus.

  5. Katie Rose May 8, 2017

    YES YES YES! I am about to leave (2 months, 10 days) the field and return “home.” And I definitely feel like that is a marker I’m looking forward to at the expense of processing through “all the feels.” Thank you for this reminder.

    1. Joy Smalley May 8, 2017

      Hi Katie Rose! I love that you are counting down the days until your return “home”. It is a tough thing, in my opinion, to know when to feel and when to put feelings aside so that you can live day to day life. I pray that God gives you the time and opportunity to process through some of those emotions. If not before you go “home” then during your stay. Blessings.

      1. Katie Rose May 8, 2017

        Yes, thank you so much for your wise words! Hoping to take some time soon to do that!

  6. Jenilee May 8, 2017

    Growing up a PK and now living the M life, I can completely relate in so many ways. Thanks for being open and writing that out!

    1. Joy Smalley May 8, 2017

      Hi Jenilee! I can imagine PK and MK are similar in how they learn to cope with transition and relationships!

  7. Becca May 8, 2017

    We’ve decided to send our oldest son to boarding school in the Fall. He’s ready for it and we’re excited for him. But I’ve felt so restless all year. I imagine someone calling and offering us a perfect job, something we couldn’t resist….somewhere else. Of course, that “somewhere else” would have adequate educational opportunities for all our kids, positions that perfectly fit our giftings and we would finally have a fruitful ministry, rather than slugging it out here as pioneers. Think of the pain I could avoid!

    If I’m honest, I don’t actually believe God is leading us away from here. I recognize that restlessness as a dangerous temptation. As I wrestled with God, He put a song in my heart. It’s the weapon I use to combat “flight” mode :):

    Restlessness. A feeling that creeps into your soul.
    A trap set to distract you. Mountains threaten to block you from this road.
    But I pray, that Christ will be more and more
    At home in your heart, as you trust in Him
    Rootlessness. Whispers you don’t belong here.
    Empty Promises: There’s something better out there
    But I pray, that Christ will be more and more
    At home in your heart, as you trust in Him.

    May your roots go deep, deep down into His love.
    Roots that go deep, deep down into the soil of His love.
    Love greater than your restless heart.
    Love stronger than what’s pulling at you hard.
    High enough to cover your fears.
    Wide enough to fill all your years.
    But I pray, that Christ will be more and more
    At home in your heart, as you trust in Him. Trust in Him! Trust in Him.
    [from Eph. 3:16-19]

    Here’s to following Jesus anywhere…..even if it’s HERE. 🙂

    1. Joy Smalley May 8, 2017

      Hi Becca. Thank you for the words of that song, they are beautiful . I love the words…pray, that Christ will be more and more…alongside the idea of putting roots down into his love as opposed to a specific place. Thank you for sharing. I will be praying as you say goodbye to your son, it is a high cost and not without its grief. May God bless both your family and your place of ministry!

  8. Addie May 8, 2017

    “Instead of being a catalyst for growth, change has become my hiding place.”
    YES! Thank you for your words that I needed to hear and pause to think about. I’m in my mid twenties and have moved 15 times… 12 in the last 10 years. This is the first year in awhile that I’m not anticipating a major move, and I’m surprisingly nervous for it. I know God will meet me here, but it will also be a change in waiting for Him instead of running to Him!

    1. Joy Smalley May 9, 2017

      Hi Addie, I have also moved a ridiculous amount of times and it is nerve wracking to sit still. I have lived in my current house for 2 years now and we have a year left on the lease. A part of me really wants to move and the other is longing to stay. Praying God gives you sweet moments with himself as you wrestle through some of those nerves.

  9. Debbie May 9, 2017

    Thank you for sharing your life with us. I will be returning to the states this summer for 6 weeks. It will be my first time back in 5 years. I’m nervous,a bit scared. How have people changed, how have I changed. There is a part of me that is excited as well. What does my Daddy have in store for us. What surprises might He have.

    1. Joy Smalley May 9, 2017

      Hi Debbie. 5 years is a long time and I can imagine the nervousness at all the changes . I pray that God gives you peace and grace in the midst of it all. Enjoy your 6 weeks back in the States!

  10. Ellie May 9, 2017

    This post resonates with me too. I am avoiding all the feelings being back “home” in the UK somewhat unexpectedly and reasonably permanently and have applied for jobs (that I didn’t get) and found other things to “keep me busy” thinking it was right but am now aware that it was running as you say into the safety of not having to deal with all the grieving etc. Eek.

    Have you seen that video circulating on FB about how psalm 23 and the “green pastures” referred to in Israel are small bits of grass behind rocks? I really didn’t like it! 😉 – I want the lush lush fields of rest in some ways. (And to me perhaps that looks like a job, plenty of money, and not too much emotional digging?!) But God keeps asking us to keep seeking, keep grieving/healing/moving forward (internally if not physically in terms of place!) Gah! This God we serve.. He loves us and he loves us and we fight him and we fight him.. sigh. I guess I hope heaven is a good combination of exciting work and rest and no more emotional digging?!

    Blessings Joy and all our other change-addict sisters!

    1. Joy Smalley May 9, 2017

      Hi Ellie. I haven’t seen that video on FB but I will have to look it up. I think I will agree with you. I always considered green pastures to be full and green and lush where there are no feelings of grief or anxiety, just calm and peace. God does love us, doesn’t he, to keep after us in all his gentleness? I appreciate the words that you wrote, they were very encouraging to me 🙂

  11. Karen Huber May 10, 2017

    Hooked on change. Yes! I remember our two-year anniversary in Dublin… after a dozen years of moving every two years. My feet got fidgety and my thoughts antsy and I thought, “Shouldn’t we be moving on by now? What’s next?” Thankfully, the answer at the time was no. But my, how we get used to always looking for The Next Thing.

    1. Joy Smalley May 10, 2017

      Yes! I’m ‘glad’ you can relate to my inner turmoil, lol.

  12. Patty Stallings May 10, 2017

    Joy, this is gold: “I believe that this is the place where God will meet me next, not in the great overt transitions, but in the honest risk of the heart.” It seems He is always looking for the heart willing to risk surrender. May this be a season of deep calling to deep!

    1. Joy Smalley May 11, 2017

      Thank you Patty!

  13. Kathryn borba July 5, 2017

    Thank you for your honest and piercing words. I recognize myself here in this addiction to change. We’ve been back stateside for three years. In that time we’ve changed cards twice, moved three time, and had two kids. Now we’re “settled”: God lead us to buy a house (yikes!) and my husband is finished with his teaching credential course work. The thought of not being in a tempest of chaos is unnerving. I even applied for a job (which God did not allow me to have) because the uncountious thought of not having something new going on was unheard of. Sigh. a God has some work to do in my heart.

    1. Joy Smalley July 5, 2017

      Hi Kathryn! I can relate to being in the ‘tempest of chaos’ for so long that it is totally unnerving for there to be stability or calm. Almost like I’m in the eye of the storm, just waiting for the next uncontrolled trauma. I pray God meets you in these moments of un-change. Enjoy your new home. Enjoy the peace. Enjoy the calm. May God bless and heal your heart in the midst of nothing new 🙂

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