The Hidden Gifts of Transition

Any musician will tell you that transitions are the hardest part of music; but for a piece to bear itself unto completion, it must transition. Transitions are part of wholeness. Transitions signal that greater goodness is coming. Nevertheless, transitions often suck.

Almost two months have passed since I waved goodbye to my parents from the Juancho E. Yrasquin airport on the tiny island I now call my home. Tears stung my eyes as I clutched my husband and kids, feeling bewildered, empty, and exhausted. I tried to intellectualize my sorrow, hoping the knowledge of my feelings would somehow diminish the pain of them. Salty water continued rolling down my face and into the soft curls of my daughter watching her gramma and grampa take off indefinitely into the sunset. Everything about the moment ached.

The rugged edifices of Saba dared me to thrive as we drove home to make dinner and put the kids to bed. We already had a week of learning a new culture under our belts, but it was with the gracious support and wisdom of my parents who have traveled this road oh so many times. Their endless encouragement carried us through our initial shock of no longer being amongst familiarity. I don’t remember much about that first night on our own, just a dull grief as I felt our carefree days coming to a close.

I still wasn’t sure I wanted our new life.

I spent a large portion of the spring not-so-secretly hoping that my husband would give up this “fool’s errand” dream of becoming a physician, and pursue the starving artist dream with me. I am an endless supply of ideas, creativity, and business ventures just waiting to happen. He was all about the artist part, being a fantastic woodworker and photographer, just not about the starving part. It sounds more romantic than it is. But artists always believe they are the exception.

People love to unload their worst case scenario horror stories on anyone about to do something difficult and/or out of the ordinary (just ask brand new parents). “Med school eats marriages for lunch!” “You won’t see your husband for years!” “Hope you like being alone!” Believe me, I was well aware of all the ways I was going to be miserable. But God had given me promises that said the exact opposite. These fragile seedlings needed life-giving water to take root and grow, not the ravages of foxes in the field.

As the first day of classes neared it became harder for me to breathe. I didn’t know how to let go of my husband without being angry at him. The White Coat Ceremony went off without too many hitches, and I caught glimpses of the community of baby lovers who would offer me sweet respites from the rigor of mothering. But there was about to be a huge imbalance in the division of labor on a daily basis, and I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t crack and leave it all in a blaze of flames. Parenting WITH the help of a loving partner is hard, how would I manage the trauma of child-rearing in large part by myself? This felt like walking into prison with no guarantee of getting out.

I have come to realize the important difference between the death of the flesh and the death of the spirit. The death of the flesh is a good thing, albeit painful, it is death after all, but it refines. The falling away of selfishness can feel seismic. It’s the dying away of things that hinder you from becoming your fullest, true-est, most glorious self. Flesh keeps freedom at bay. The death of the spirit, however, is a horrible thing, a cruel work of hell to strip you of your identity and steal any semblance of hope you have of flourishing. I now pray for grace when my flesh is dying, and help when my spirit is dying. I want to be all I was created to be, but it will never come at the expense of my spirit. God said he came to give us life and that it would be marked by abundance and peace. I cling to this when the crappy days beckon me to give up and go home.

Ironically, the more I let go of MY visions for our time here, the more we thrive. I tend to micromanage transitions, creating schedules and plans for myself and the kids, but as I just allow the day to be whatever it needs to be, pressing in to the immediate task at hand, peace and happiness abound like steak and wine. The days pass with satisfaction as community and solutions like Daycare for my daughter fall into place. The kids feel more secure and have fewer meltdowns. I actually have MORE time to do the things that make me feel like Kelsi, beloved woman and daughter of the most high God.

As we feast solely on the bread for the day, it is far more sustaining than trying to hoard up strength to make it through the year.

And you know what? Our marriage is better than ever. We have come to trust each other more deeply, appreciate each other more readily, and savor the simple attributes of a good relationship. Romance doesn’t have to be 24/7 epic to be true. Maybe it’s a 20 minute episode of “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” before bed, or reading a Travel Memoir aloud while water is purified for the next day, or dance parties to the Trolls soundtrack while we pick up toys. We are WITH each other, making each kiss count, carving out this dream and building momentum towards a brighter future than we ever could have imagined on our own.

Although we are working harder than ever, we are the happiest we have ever been, tears and all.

This season of our lives is far from perfect, but it is becoming. I think God is looking at us, saying the same thing we say to our now toddling twins: “I know it hurts when you fall, but guess what? You are trying new things, exercising your bravery, and that is something to be celebrated.”