Staying afloat during a tidal wave of transition

A couple of months ago I shared the post, “When life changes – but you don’t want to.”

In it I described how a treasured boss would be retiring, and shared a few tips for coping with impending change.

th[2]This month the tsunami of transition came crashing down with full force.

Perhaps I was naïve to think I might have a few days (or even weeks) of calm after my boss’s last day to grieve and re-group before my world turned upside down.

That first morning, I quietly entered his bare office and was overcome with emotion.  The pain felt very much like when I visited  my father’s vacant home after he died.

I wasn’t alone in my struggles.  There was a subdued mood across campus, and a teary-eyed co-worker said it felt like the “heart” had gone out of the building.

Yet at 10:30 a.m. that morning, before we even had a chance to dry our eyes, we received the announcement.  Our new college president had been appointed and would begin in six weeks.

Instantly, the mantra became “moving forward.”

The world as I knew it shifted, and the flood waters of change rapidly rose around my ankles.

DeskIn a matter of hours, I went from emceeing a retirement party to planning a welcome reception.  I dove headfirst into helping select new office furniture that would displace the weathered set etched with memories.  IT staff boxed up the computer equipment and began stringing cable to accommodate the latest technology.  Maintenance folks began prepping the room for new paint.  I felt swept up in the frenzy to prepare for our new leader.

Like my situation, many transitions happen whether we’re ready for them or not.  So, when a tidal wave of change crashes into your life, here are six tips for staying afloat.

1. Don’t ignore your grief. On the outside, I was required to “get on board” with the changes in a split second, but internally, I’m giving myself permission to continue the work of grieving. A couple of days into the transition, I found myself answering emails from my former and future bosses almost simultaneously.  As I looked at both of their names in succession in my in-box, it was a visual reminder of the parallel journeys of grieving what is gone and preparing for what lies ahead.

2.  Embrace the learning curve. When a barrage of questions about my new supervisor’s preferences came my way, it was initially unsettling to say, “I don’t know!” Yet each time I found out the answers, I moved a few inches up the learning curve.  Instead of bemoaning my lack of knowledge about my new boss, I am beginning to enjoy discovering who he is and what he likes.  Every transition involves learning new things, and doing it with a positive attitude makes it easier.

540_293_resize_20130301_0b8d3e4c0c52141e8b5208d2c60b8fd8_jpg[1]3.  Rely on a firm foundation: In my workplace, we are fortunate to have a bedrock of stabilizing forces during our transition, including excellent interim leadership, an award-winning workplace culture, and an institutional history of perseverance.

On a personal level, my faith in Christ is the rock I cling to when the storms of life attempt to overwhelm me.  Matthew 7:25 describes the stability available when we place our trust in God: “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.” (NIV).  Before a storm ever hits, it’s critical to make sure our “house” is built on a firm foundation, not something (or someone) that will wash out under pressure. [1]

4.  Remember who’s in your boat. During times of transition, our co-workers, friends, family, mental health professionals, and spiritual leaders can be great resources. Even more importantly, God is always near.  As told in Matthew 8, the disciples and Jesus were crossing a lake when a furious storm swept over their boat.  Afraid for their lives, the men cried out to the Lord, who with authority rebuked the winds and waves.  When we have Jesus in our boat, we can weather any storm.  As an old song proclaims, “Sometimes He calms the storm and other times He calms His child.” [2]

th8KI92M555.  Open Your Heart: Not long after my dad passed away, a dear friend gave me a card that read “open your heart to all that God has planned for you.” This remains great advice as I continue to adjust to life without my father and deal with major workplace changes.  It would be easy to cling to the past and be resistant or fearful of new things—but God is calling me to step out in faith and trust His plan for my life.  I am grateful for Philippians 1:6, which promises that “he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion.”  When I open my heart to new things, I allow God’s work to continue, both in me and through me.

6.  Remember it’s only temporary: Transition by its very definition doesn’t last forever. All I have to do is think back to the countless other transitions I’ve survived.  Just like everything (and everyone) once felt new during past seasons of change, things will eventually feel familiar and a new sense of routine will emerge when this transition has run its course.

In the meantime, I’m going to adjust my sails, trust my heavenly Captain, and do my best to enjoy the ride to the other shore.

[1] “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.” Matthew 7:26-27 (NIV)

[2] “Sometimes He Calms the Storm”  – performed by Scott Kryppane

“All who sail the sea of faith find out before too long how quickly blue skies can grow dark and gentle winds grow strong.

Suddenly fear is like white water pounding on the soul.  Still, we sail on knowing that our Lord is in control.

Sometimes He calms the storm with a whispered “peace be still.” He can settle any sea, but it doesn’t mean He will.

Sometimes He holds us close and lets the wind and waves go wild. Sometimes He calms the storm, and other times He calms His child.

He has a reason for each trial that we pass through in life, and though we’re shaken we cannot be pulled apart from Christ.

No matter how the driving rain beats down on those who hold to faith, a heart of trust will always be a quiet peaceful place.”


6 thoughts on “Staying afloat during a tidal wave of transition

  1. Thank you for sharing from the trenches of life. I love how you keep seeking the high road–to keep trusting the One who loves you through all this. What a difficult year of loss, but it is obvious that He has walked with you every step of the way. You have chosen to see Him at work and trusted Him whatever comes your way. Thank you for sharing your story and life.


  2. I pray things are going well as you adjust to a new boss, and grieve for the loss of your old boss and good friend. May God continue to hold you in the palm of His hand. Love, Lorna


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