The Answer When Shifting is Constant

For the record, I still can not drive a stick shift.

When we first got married, my husband drove a little, blue Ford Festiva. It was a stick shift and he tried to teach me in the parking lot of our church.

The parking lot was set on a hill, which in his mind was perfect for teaching someone to drive a stick shift.

In my mind, it was the hardest thing ever and I had the meanest husband ever for thinking I needed to learn how to drive his car. There were tears.

That was 17 years ago. I’ve tried to learn again. A few times, actually.

I’ve driven our manual truck on open road with no hills or stops. But that’s about it.

In West Africa, the roads are full of children playing, animals crossing, taxis darting all around, people selling things between cars, congested traffic, buses barely pulled off the road, overloaded semi-trucks with wheels wobbling dangerously, and the skeletons of wrecked vehicles left in the ditch.

Driving here means starting and stopping. It means passing long lines of slow traffic, dodging animals and people, shifting up to go faster, and almost instantly, shifting down to go slower.

For some of you, you are thinking about how much you do love driving a stick shift! I have friends who drive here as easily as anywhere else.

For some of you, you drive overseas because you have to. Not because you like it. You get up and face your fear every single time you sit behind the wheel.

For the rest of you, you don’t drive overseas. For a myriad of different reasons. Maybe a mental block, maybe fear or maybe you don’t even have a vehicle to give it a try.

Taxis are fun, right?

For me, the constant shifting required to drive on such busy, crazy roads is a major hurdle in my mind. It doesn’t come naturally to me at all. I want to shift into gear and just go. I want to settle into a comfortable speed and just drive.

Yet, driving here isn’t like that.

Life here isn’t like that.

Life overseas means constantly evaluating the shifting things around you and learning to drive through it.

Nothing is automatic. Nothing stays the same. Nothing comes easily.

Shifting is constant.

So, what can we do when life is constantly shifting?

How can we be prepared for the daily, sometimes hourly, shifting of life and work overseas?

Build a strong foundation on solid, firm ground.

What is the answer when the power goes out on the hottest night, the grocery store doesn’t have any meat, every ATM you’ve tried is empty or the team you’ve been working with leaves?

When your language fails, your neighbor steals, your papers are missing or your VISA doesn’t come through?

Build a strong foundation on solid, firm ground.

When life shifts because a large donor loses their job or a supporting church can no longer help or a team cancels last minute or a mean email hurts deeply?

When sickness won’t leave, discouragement mounts, and feelings of loneliness overwhelm?

Build a strong foundation on solid, firm ground.

How do I know this?

Because Jesus said so.

Jesus lived his life as an example. He spoke words of truth, giving guidance and help to those who were listening. He taught us how to live. He modeled a life of prayer, love, giving, blessing, helping, resting and going. He taught us to stand up for truth, to remain humble, to go the extra mile, to treat others how we would want to be treated.

He faced incredible challenges, great shifting, cultural difficulties, friendship struggles, religious tensions… you name it, he faced it. Yet, his example continued unchanging.

A million life lessons with eternal impact came through Jesus and his time on earth.

In Luke 6:47-48, Jesus tells us what happens when we hear him, when we listen, when we build our lives on a firm foundation.

“As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.”

In Luke 6:49, Jesus also tells us what happens when we disregard his example, fail to listen and rely on things that will shift beneath us.

“But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

I also love how Matthew shares his version of this story in Matthew 7:24-27.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to collapse in complete destruction because of the shifting things around me.

I don’t want to fall with a great crash.

I want to build a strong foundation on solid, firm ground.

On the Solid Rock.

Even when I can’t feel him or sense his hand at work, I want to have faith in him as the foundation we stand on. I want to follow his example in the face of constant shifting. I want to hear his words and put them into practice regardless of the changes and shifts of overseas life.

What do you do when life feels like it is constantly shifting around you? How do you keep your faith and follow his example when so many challenges shift you during the day?

Photo by Reinaldo Kevin on Unsplash


  1. Patty September 30, 2018

    I feel I haven’t stop shifting since I arrived on the field. Half of our m’s left for stateside, others resigned, and things are constantly changing.

    I love your example of driving a car. I learned on flat land in Florida and hate driving in my city here. I do it but man some days I just want to stop traffic and say where did you learn to drive. It took me 9 months to attempt the circle of death (aka the traffic circle). The largest 8 lane traffic circle you ever saw.

    Some days I am just tired of shifting. I just want to cruise into my next place without difficulties.

    1. Jenilee Goodwin October 1, 2018

      I can absolutely relate. There are so many changes happening around us just since we’ve been back this summer. And I just want to dig in, work and cruise on! But I have to remain on the sure foundation that is only Jesus even through so much shifting..

      And still try to get in some driving lessons. We have circles of death too lol 😉

  2. Barbara September 30, 2018

    When I was in my country of service there was an amazing beach with huge rocks. I climbed them and sat on them and watched the 15 foot waves beat on other rocks. These verses always came to mind, that I was sitting in the foundation which was my Eock and I could never fall lower than my foundation. Of course I had to watch the tides or I would get stuck on the rocks. Now here in the States for a while, I think of these rocks often. And those verses.

  3. Ruth Potinu October 1, 2018

    Loved this. I still don’t drive much where we live especially because like you mentioned people just running out in the road. Scares me so much. Thank you for this beautiful reminder to remain grounded in an often shifting life.

    1. Jenilee Goodwin October 1, 2018

      Thanks for standing with me! 😉 and yes. remaining grounded through it all.

  4. Elizabeth October 1, 2018

    Your early marriage story sounds eerily similar to my own early marriage trying-to-drive-a-stick story! Thanks for the laugh.

  5. Sarie October 1, 2018

    I had to smile when I read your account of learning how to drive a stick-shift in West Africa. 29 years ago, I met the man of my dreams as were both serving in Senegal, W. Africa. Early in our “dating” weeks, he tried to teach me how to drive a stick shift -it didn’t work either! We decided that the better arrangement would be for him to do the driving and for me to do the talking as I spoke French and he did not. It was a much better arrangement. I did eventually learn how to drive a stick shift when we moved to Spain 8 years later, but, I still avoid steep inclines!?

    Loved what you said about things shifting around us, but thankfully, we serve a God who does not shift! Such a great reminder. I will take that word picture with me every time I manually shift gears.

    1. Jenilee Goodwin October 3, 2018

      Thanks for sharing your Senegal story… I know that country well!

  6. Ines Vargas October 2, 2018

    I live in Venezuela and I know exactly what you’re talking about. My husband and I (along with our teenage daughters) were called to serve as missionaries in Spain. The visa of my husband was approved and that of my daughters and mine denied 🙁 My husband had to travel to Spain and we are still here in Venezuela doing all the paperwork to apply for the visa again. But “Build a strong foundation on solid, firm ground”. As you say “Even when I can’t feel him or sense his hand at work, I want to have faith in him as the foundation we stand on. I want to follow his example in the face of constant shifting. I want to hear his words and put them into practice regardless of the changes and shifts of overseas life”.

    1. Jenilee Goodwin October 3, 2018

      Praying for you as your wait for your visas. Thanks for sharing your story with us so we can stand with you and pray!

  7. Barb Van Wyk October 3, 2018

    Great analogy! I have been able to drive a stick now for over 30 years thanks to my big brother teaching me so he could sit in the back seat with his girlfriend! When I first learned I remember having to be conscious of and fully engaged with each shift. Chugging and killing it occurred regularly. However as I gained experience over the years shifting became second nature. It happens almost automatically now…I can have a conversation, chew gum, and shift simultaneously:-)

    I have found this to be true to some extent with living overseas. Some aspects of the moves and adjustments don’t require much thought now that I know how to do the daily stuff (where to shop, what meals work, driving on the left side of the road, etc). But other things are much harder and are requiring my full attention. Especially the shift from being with the kids to it now being just Bob and I. It not only requires a big shift but a complete recalibratation to a new way of doing life and ministry. I feel like I am chugging and sputtering a bit…trying to find the cruising gear of the empty nest. Some days I think I have found it and then the next day it’s grinding it out…you know like “grind em til you find em!”
    In all of this shifting I, too, am thankful for the Rock and for His constant presence, provision, and assurance. Yesterday, in an especially anxious moment, He comforted me with the words of Psalm 46:5
    God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.
    And He has , and He is, and He always will!
    Keep calm and shift on!

    1. Jenilee Goodwin October 3, 2018

      Amen!!! Thank you for sharing that verse with us. It’s perfect for the feeling of shifting we often get throughout the days overseas.

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