When Staying Equals Transition

I do not like rollercoasters. Not at all. I’m the person who will stand at the bottom and hold everyone’s bags, glasses, etc. Granted, there are times I choose to get on the rollercoaster anyway (strictly metaphorically speaking!). I decide that a move to a new city and new job and all that entails are worth the inevitable rollercoaster ride of transition. And then there are times when life puts you on the rollercoaster. This past year was an example of that in my life…

I knew it was coming. I knew some dear friends and colleagues would be moving away. Then another family announced they would be leaving. We had a large team of interns, all coming to the end of their time with us. The rollercoaster was speeding up and adding more twists and turns. We saw some people off at the airport, with lots of hugs and tears. Then came that day last June, when I said goodbye to 17 dear, dear people all in one go. I was leaving town the next day and by the time I got back, they’d all be gone. I was a mess!

Still, it didn’t really hit me until the September. People often leave during the summer but come September, they’re back. Only this time, they weren’t. It was like I’d been standing next to the rollercoaster for a couple of months, still feeling the rush of air as the cars went past. Now I was back on it, with all the emotion that comes with that. And it just kept going: more changes, more transitions. Good ones, mostly, with new people joining the team, and a precious little baby boy for my dear friends and team leaders. But still, change after change after change.

As the weeks and months have gone past, the rollercoaster has slowed down. The landscape has changed, there is a new normal in my Berlin life. I miss my friends dearly. There is uncertainty but also hope and new opportunities.

For some, this will seem normal and what life overseas has always been like. Not for me, though. Not in all my years living cross-culturally, not in the time I’ve been back in my passport country. Not until this past summer.

I had to learn how to navigate a season of staying that was very much a time of transition. It took me a while to even recognise it as such, to recognise what I was experiencing as symptoms of being in transition. Yet they were pretty textbook.

Emotions all over the place – check.

That strange mix of grieving the season that had ended yet also being excited for new opportunities – check.

Feeling more tired than I should have been – check.

Thoughts and attitudes rising to the top in my heart that I wasn’t proud of and that in a more settled season, I’d been able to ignore – check.


Acknowledging that I was a “stayer going through transition” was such a relief. A burden lifted.

I was free to accept and admit that I had less energy than at other times, and to say no to a few things.

I’ve never been much of a journaler, but in this season I’ve poured out my heart to the Lord in this way. Lamenting, confessing, rejoicing over grace and forgiveness, untangling some of the strands of what was going on in my heart and life. And in the process, starting to move forward, into a new season.

Funny how it goes sometimes. I wasn’t expecting to have my own, fresh story of transition to share when talking to some newbies this summer. After all, I was just staying, right?!

What about you? Do you experience a lot of transition even when you’re staying? What have you found helpful in this situation?

Photo by 2Photo Pots on Unsplash


  1. Spring May 22, 2018

    Thanks so much Bayata for giving me permission to grieve when it is me who is staying! We dont face transition this summer but it is the first one in 4 years. I love how labeling it and approaching it as transition helped you. I agree with you in that when I am able to label/explore what I am feeling it makes a world of difference in how I approach a situation.

    As a side note I also am the one who stands at the bottom of the roller coaster! When we were living in the states, my girls would get free passes to an amusement park. The girls were too small to go on the roller coaster with us. We would stand in line, one adult would go, the other would stay with the girls. When it came time for me to go, I refused to get on! Really it is extra no-fun when you are riding alone! The people in line laughed at me! I just walked away! It was kind of silly to stand in line for 2 hours just to not get on the ride. I should go to an amusement park with you. We could sit off of the roller coaster together.

    1. Bayta Schwarz May 23, 2018

      Oh that could so have been me!!!

      I was amazed myself how much of a difference just “naming” what was going on did make. Subconsciously, my attitude had been that because I wasn’t uprooting my whole life, I shouldn’t be feeling or experiencing what I was feeling. Once I acknowledged that I was indeed going through transition, I had the freedom to feel those feelings. And that made a huge difference!

  2. Serina May 22, 2018

    This is exactly where I’m at! Most of my close friends are leaving the field in two weeks (also my birthday week) and I’ve only been on this field for 6 months! I knew this was the case when I met them and I didn’t want to avoid a deep relationship just because it would hurt later but it doesn’t make it easier. Although these friends have become like family in a short time the Lord is sending us to other parts of the world for His glory and that is pushing me more to make deep community wherever I am. We need it. We crave it as humans and God gave us the Church as a physical reminder of the relationship we need with Himself. We need community and no matter of sadness should stop us from it. It’s a hard truth to swallow when you are the one left behind but it’s a remind of how sweet heaven will be when we are all together. And even that will be like nothing compared to being with the Lord forever. Thank you for establishing this virtual community for now and I can’t wait to see you all in eternity.

    1. Bayta Schwarz May 23, 2018

      You are so brave, Serina, to have invested in those relationships, even knowing they would only be for a short time! What an example and encouragement! And may you have a very very special birthday, even in the midst of the goodbyes! Like you, I am super thankful for this virtual community!

      1. Serina May 23, 2018

        Thanks Bayta! Blessings to you!

  3. Katie Rose May 23, 2018

    As I enter this summer, I am inching nearer to meeting my “one-year” mark. But this time around, it’s one year back in the States. In that time, a roller coaster larger and longer than I ever, ever expected has taken off in my life. Although in real life I love them, metaphorically, they aren’t so much fun. But there have been stretches of smooth track, too. Stretches without loop-de-loops and stomach-churning drops. Keeping that perspective, being grateful for the long, monotonous workdays or the weeks where schedules and coffee dates are moving along–helps me when the schedule falls apart, sickness comes, that general fatigue like a blanket on the days when I miss India the most. In it all, God is near, unaffected by the twists and turns, but willing to take them right there with us. I know staying equals transition in this season; I’m not sure how long it will last, but I’m grateful for all the many journey metaphors he gives us in his Word! Praying with this lovely community this morning.

    1. Bayta Schwarz May 23, 2018

      Oh Katie, I almost feel queasy just reading that description 🙂 Seriously, though – re-entry is a veeeery long transition! In some ways made more difficult by being “hidden” from many of the people around us. And oh how I can relate to missing your previous home! This phrase is one I need to hang on to, for sure:”In it all, God is near, unaffected by the twists and turns, but willing to take them right there with us.” Thank you so much for sharing and for being part of this community!

  4. Grace L May 23, 2018

    Having been in this one location overseas for 12 years, we are continuing to stay. But we have been struggling with some transitions by having new team members join us in the last year. Instead of it being helpful, it has seemed like it has brought division and tension. My husband and I were the first people in this area, but with these newcomers, it seems that they are creating their own subteam and exclusive little group. This has been a tough transition time, and I know there will be other transitions coming up as the team grows even more. I also think that identifying it as transition, even though we are staying, is helpful. This has been a good way to look at transition, when others around you are transitioning and causing so many changes.

    1. Bayta Schwarz May 23, 2018

      That is hard, Grace! I really appreciate you sharing. Have you come across this post from a couple of years ago? I go back to it regularly and am always encouraged and challenged in equal measure. Regardless of whether we’re stayers or newbies, the mix is hard. And potentially so beautiful! And hard… May you exprience God’s care for you in very personal ways in this season!

  5. Nancy May 23, 2018

    This is such an important topic Bayta, the fact that not only do the leavers have to grieve leaving but the stayers must grieve their losses too. When we can see that and freely tell God our pain and our sorrows, we can be open to receive his balm of healing. My son often said that living this cross cultural adventure is like a roller coaster. We can choose to hold on tight and close our eyes and be scared or we can choose to lift up our arms and enjoy the ride and receive what God wants to give us.

    1. Bayta Schwarz May 23, 2018

      I completely agree, Nancy – even if it took me a while to get there! I love how your son puts it. Unfortunately I think what will always come naturally to me is closing my eyes and hanging on for dear life 🙂

  6. Patty May 23, 2018

    I have not rode a rollar coaster in years but these last three months have felt like one. In March I got to go back to SC for a two week vacation with a few church visits thrown in. What hit me in the first turn was things at home don’t stay the same. Things are constantly changing there too. My first day home I found out some dear friends are moving to another state. I know it God’s will because everything lined up without a hitch. But losing friends that you have fellowshipped and had community with for 10 years sort of jerks you into the next downhill section of the ride. Then with out warning, the message comes that one of my closest friends has a heart attack and dies on Easter. No warning signs. Just gone. On that same day news came that one of my sweet 80. year old prayer warrior passes away. Two corkscrews turns and I think when will this ride stop. Last a day before getting on the next flight home to my country, my other friend tells she is moving to Florida. After returning, team members begin to take stateside trips. Two families have left and two more will go in June and July. So how does the ride ends…..hanging on to Jesus with all I got. And thankful He is hanging on to me. Needing closure on some things and trusting God for everything.

    1. Bayta Schwarz May 24, 2018

      Oh that’s hard! Especially when it hits so unexpectedly, and in both your worlds at the same time! I love what Katie said in her comment: ”In it all, God is near, unaffected by the twists and turns, but willing to take them right there with us.” May your heart know that God is indeed right there with you, comforting and strengthening!

  7. Grace L May 24, 2018

    Thank you, Bayta. I had not read that blog post and found it most interesting and insightful. Thank you for your understanding and encouragement. That means a lot.

  8. Janice Phillips June 4, 2018

    This is totally true! For my first ten years in west Africa I was single, working at an MK school where people left every summer, and the student body changed every year. For the last ten years I’ve been married with children, working at a differnt school, but still experiencing transition every June and August. This past year has been our home assignment in the USA. We go back to west Africa in a month, but to a different home, different ministry, and I’m grieving the past and am excited for the future at the same time. You’d think I’d be a professional at transition, but I still hate it. Thanks for putting my feelings into words, and validating them!

    1. Bayta Schwarz June 5, 2018

      Isn’t that so true?! Knowing all the theory and having lived through them numerous times doesn’t necessarily make it easier. And maybe that’s a good thing. If it all became routine, we’d probably miss out on too many precious relationships. But it’s till hard and takes so much emotional energy. Every blessing for this next transition!

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