Stewarding Yourself During Change

I feel like a farce. I am attempting to write an article on stewarding ourselves well. But as I write, my life is nothing close to an acrobat gracefully juggling balls. I don’t want you to hit the proverbial wall, and yet here I am, perched up on that wall, typing this for you.

I am finding experiencing culture shock is very similar to experiencing grief. One minute I am riding high the waves of cultural adjustment – celebrating productive interaction in another language, running successful errands, building friendships with local friends – and the next minute, I am no longer riding the waves… they are riding me. They wash over me, threatening to knock me off my feet. 

When this happens, all I want to do is retreat. But the constant demands of language learning and of having young children to care for makes it difficult to stop, to journal, to process what is going on.  On top of that, for the past several months we have had three different diets going on in our home for health reasons. I have been spending anywhere from 4 to 6 hours in the kitchen every day. It has been brutal.

In the lows of culture shock, I feel self-pity, overwhelmed, paralyzed, extremely tired, or confused. My capacity for stress is very small. Some nights, without clear triggers, I experience brief surges of panic as I am falling asleep. The adrenaline that has kept me going all day doesn’t know what to do when my body wants to relax. It is like change and transition are too much for my body to mediate.

Here are some ways I am learning to steward my human limitations, my giftings, my fallenness, and my brokenness in this season. These are not my way of caring for myself because God isn’t – and believe me, I have been tempted to doubt His care.

Rather these are my way of entrusting myself to my Father. He has entrusted this family, this body and this life to me. So I honor Him by accepting them as His assignment to me. I trust Him to care for me.

So here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Work out to enable your body to endure in the middle of all the change. We are embodied souls. Our soul’s capacity to endure suffering and difficulty is often linked to our physical capacity.
  2. Be aware of self-pity. Don’t compare yourself to others who are not in transition, who have been in the same home or had the same life for a while or who are not limited in the ways you are. They are suffering in different ways.
  3. Acknowledge all the change, grief, homesickness and isolation you ARE experiencing. Name the things that are difficult and talk to Christ about them.
  4. Accept it if you feel like transitioning with a family is really hard, it’s because it really is. If you feel like transitioning as a single woman is really hard, it’s because it really is.
  5. Ask the Lord for eyes to see how moving with kids or moving without them is a grace to you.
  6. Embrace that transition and feeling settled is going to take a while. There’s no rule that it should happen by 3 months, 9 months, a year, or longer. I think we lose heart when we expect to get over culture shock quickly, and we feel downcast about how exhausted we are.
  7. Simplify your lives. We have a very simple meal rotation going on. I chose 6-7 dinners, and we have been eating that every week. We have had to limit social activities A LOT. We have not been able to practice hospitality as frequently as I’d like (which has been its own source of suffering because, hello, isolation!). But it has made life simple, and we have needed simple.
  8. Be proactive in giving space to each family member to process and recharge in the ways you all need. As with grief, each family member will experience culture shock and transition differently. Are you aware of what each one in your family needs?
  9. Mama, take the space you need to transition. Receive grace from your Savior to do that. We are so busy taking care of everyone else that we often ignore our own limitations and brokenness…until we can’t do it anymore.
  10. Use the gifts God has given you to build others up and to feed your joy. For me, it is writing. I can’t do a lot of writing but I am doing what I can when I can. It keeps me sane, and leads me to worship. It’s also one small way I can comfort others with the comfort He is giving me.

Change and transition can be more than our bodies and minds can handle. But friend, the best news is that even when we do hit a wall, this is true:

“He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together” (Col. 1: 17).

Christ is holding our whole lives because we live in Him. He will effectively reconcile all things to serve His purposes, including all the hard in our lives. He won’t let us crumble, and the wall will not destroy us, because He holds us fast.

What are some of the limitations God is giving you to steward in this season? What are some ways that you practice self-stewardship?

Photo by Nolan Simmons on Unsplash

12 Comments

  1. Kristin January 23, 2019

    This is excellent! Would I be allowed to share this on my blog (including author info)?

    1. Lilly January 23, 2019

      Hi Kristin! PTL. Sure! May the Lord use it.

      1. Kristin January 25, 2019

        Thank you so much! I know God will use this to help others! Thank you for writing it!

  2. Danielle Wheeler January 23, 2019

    So, so good Lilly! Rich and honest and full of Spirit – inspired wisdom. Thank you for sharing. A heart “Amen!” to every single one. Transition mercy and grace and strength to you and your sweet family.

    1. Lilly January 23, 2019

      Thank you Danielle! So much. Psalm 71 has been in my heart a lot this past week. I am so thankful the Lord revives and never forsakes us when our energy is spent… so we can proclaim His righteous deeds and His alone.

  3. Grace L January 23, 2019

    Excellent list, Lilly. Thank you for sharing out of your weakness. We can all relate to what you are sharing. I think I would add that it will get better. Cultural transition is hard, and entrusting ourselves to our loving Father is what we have to keep coming back to. After years on the field, I am convinced that one of the things that God loves the most is our being in relationship with Him. We will go to the Father more often when we have to keep calling on Him to help. He loves to help us and answer our prayers and get the glory when we see His hand upon our problems.

    1. Lilly January 23, 2019

      Grace, love these thoughts! This is so true. I have been noticing recently my relationship with my youngest son. He is almost 1.5 years old. A relationship of trust has built over time as he comes to me for his needs over and over again, and I take care of him. I love that I am his person… It made me think about my relationship with my Father… It challenged me – would I trust Him more if I came to Him over and over again and saw him answering my prayers?

      1. Grace L January 24, 2019

        Hi Lilly. Yes, from my experience, the more I go to the Father with my needs, big or small, the more I see the answers, and the more I can trust Him. Even a momentary prayer, shot up in the midst of those waves breaking over you, will be heard by your Daddy, and He will answer and provide. I love Isaiah 41:10 where He says to us: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” This is His promise to you. Hold out your hand as you go under that wave and Father will grab hold of it.

  4. Celia D. January 23, 2019

    Praising the Lord for the grace He has shown you. In our weakness His power is made strong and He does indeed, hold all things together–The Author and Perfector of our faith!

    Is there a way to email the author of this article? We have transitioned to life in the States after living in the Dominican Republic. Our babies were also very small and I too share these cross-cultural experiences as many young mamas have. I would love to correspond with you and be an encouragement to you! Thank you so much for sharing. I pray this will encourage others and yourself on those really hard days! The Lord is faithful!

    1. Lilly January 23, 2019

      Hi Celia! That’s so fun! I am from the Dominican Republic…did you know that?! I am trying to figure out a way to share my email with you. Do you have an email address I can email you to?
      Yes, Lord – you are so faithful.

  5. April January 23, 2019

    Lilly, what a helpful post! I am printing this list off and putting it on my fridge and implementing them right away.
    We have been in transition for 2 years now and I thank you for some practical steps to endure it.

    1. Lilly January 27, 2019

      April, praying for you right now as I think of you being in transition for 2 years.

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