Transition to a new normal?

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Transition is particularly hard when we’ve already been through a difficult time, don’t really know if where we’re going, and are pretty sure there will be more difficult times ahead.

We had all hoped that corona would come and go and things could go back to normal, but sadly that’s not going to happen. If anything, the future is more uncertain and we move out of a strict lockdown and into a vaguer territory of going out and ‘being alert’!

My family has experienced lots of transitions of the last two years, as we moved home a lot due to my husband’s work, including five times in one year and also moving into a tent for ten weeks!

We found the disruption to our lives intense, and it would have been easy to look for things to help us survive. However, I knew this wasn’t a short period of time, and I want us to thrive! So I worked hard on taking with us the rituals and routines which we had developed in our family life, including those involving our faith at home.

Most mornings we have breakfast together, and I read a Bible story. At the moment we’re reading the Indescribable science-devotional book, which if you’ve got children between 4 and 12 and haven’t got it, you should definitely look into it! I resisted for a while as it seems like a bandwagon, but I finally gave in and discovered why everyone’s raving about it. In other seasons of life, I’ve just read stories from a Children’s Bible Storybook or directly from the Bible. I like using the Contemporary English Version as it simplifies some of the language and flows nicely when read out loud. Sometimes my children have chosen what we read, like the time my eight-year-old asked for the story of Zebra…. which turned out to be Deborah, and led to us reading the whole of the book of Judges.

Another ritual we have is our weekly marking of the Sabbath. This has been even more essential during Lock Down when we’ve often not known what day it is! On Friday, we try to finish any jobs which can be finished or at least put on pause (I’m looking at you, washing pile!) and we have the best meal of the week, which for us is always roast chicken. I make fresh bread, which we share along with red juice or wine, and remember their original meaning to God’s people as well as the extra special significance Jesus added to it at the last supper. We light candles, waft their light and welcome the presence of God in our home and we wash our hands with water and ask God to make our hearts clean. It’s a simple ritual (you can find a download of it here and we do it each Friday, wherever we are living and whatever we are doing. It’s more important than church to us as it’s the time we meet with God as a family in our home, we say sorry to each other and we connect with God in a meaningful way right where we do daily life. If this sounds like something you’d like, but maybe a lighter version, I’ve also written some Simple Words for Sabbath which you can download here.

One model I’ve used to help us in transitions is the R.A.F.T. model which I learned on overseas mission training over 20 years ago, which I’ve seen attributed to David C. Pollock in his work about TCKs (Third Culture Kids). The model suggests we:

  1. Reconcile

A hard one to start with! This means we should sort out any unfinished business, and fix relationships which need it. As we come out of lock down and into a more complex time of social distancing but not complete isolation, there are some relationships in our homes which it could be helpful to do some repair work on. Living with each other ALL THE TIME can be exhausting, and we will all have had times when we’ve not treated the people closest to us in the best ways. As we move into a time of going out, let’s look for opportunities to ask for forgiveness and to forgive each other so as to move into the next season free of baggage which we might otherwise carry.

  1. Affirm

This is a nicer one! As we reconcile with people, we can also affirm our love and care and appreciation of them. There may be some people to whom we’ve drawn closer due to lock down, whom we might not spend as much time with once we’re out and about again. Maybe neighbours or friends abroad whom we’ve had time to ‘zoom’ with. We might not be going to leave these people, but when we transition, it’s good to affirm our relationships, telling people what we appreciate about them (not leaving it until their funeral!). This is also something we can do with our family. As we move out of a time spending ALL our time together, we can affirm our relationships and love for each other, despite the difficulties we might have had over the last few months. This helps us all to feel more connected and confident as we move into the next season.

  1. Farewells

This one might not seem so relevant, but we will be leaving some things behind as we move into a new normal. For some, it will be saying goodbye to long walks or bike rides in the country. For others, it will be saying goodbye to eating every evening meal together.

I don’t know about you, but I find farewells hard, but when I do take time to say goodbye it really helps. My husband had an accident before lockdown and his work contract ended, which meant that he didn’t get to say goodbye to colleagues or have a last time in the office where he’s been working, so as long down loosened, we took a drive up to the office for him to do a farewell. I hadn’t realised he would need this, but it makes sense, doesn’t it?

  1. Think future

Have you got a list for this A.C. on your kitchen wall? We have a list of things we will do After Corona, and it’s helping us to think of the things we want to do and work out which we are currently able to do, and what needs to happen for us to be able to do them. My nine year had her birthday in lock down and wants to go to a shop to buy a new bike. Planning what sort of bike she wants and where we might go to try one is a way of planning The Future in a tangible way.

For many of us, we will be thinking about how we will do church in The Future. Thinking about and planning this together is helpful because it allows us to build a picture of our new season.

What have you found helpful in transition?