Tears streamed down my face as I sat in a terminal at the Cape Town International Airport. I’d just bid farewell to my mom. She’d literally traveled from the other side of the world — my hometown of Anchorage, Alaska — to help my husband and me in the early weeks following our daughter’s birth.
I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. And I certainly didn’t feel ready to tackle motherhood without her. Questions plagued me: How did this Alaskan girl end up so far from home? When will my daughter see her Grammy again? How did my life change so fast?
It all began in June 2007.
At 27-years-old, I’d just completed my master’s program and was headed to Cape Town to work on a project related to my studies. I’d determined this 10-week trip would be the final chapter in my long log of overseas living. As memorable as my experiences had been, I decided that relationships were what mattered the most to me. I longed to settle into a life devoid of major change or upheaval — a life where I could meet my mom for lunch weekly or visit my childhood friends and their babies.
But it turned out that my plans and God’s weren’t the same.
The day I arrived, mutual friends introduced me to the man I would say “I do” to less than a year and a half later. Before our first anniversary, I held our baby girl in my arms. Just as I grew comfortable with one phase of life, I had to quickly shift gears and enter the next.
A dear college friend used to say, “There is good news and bad news. The good news is that life changes, and the bad news is that life changes.” Those words seem appropriate as I consider change in my life. Often, positive and negative have traveled hand in hand.
I remember counting down the days until my wedding with excitement and anticipation. Yet I also realized that the beginning of married life meant the end of my comfort zone in Alaska. During those first few months of marriage, I adored my new role as wife. At the same time, though, I experienced extreme loneliness as I missed my home and struggled to form new friendships in a different country. I enjoyed where I was and yet deeply desired change. And now, as I gazed at my baby girl, I felt satisfaction and happiness but also missed my mom. I wished her visit didn’t have to end so quickly and longed to live closer.
Through all of my conflicting emotions, I’ve taken comfort in the one thing that remains the same — Jesus is my anchor. Regardless of circumstances, He is my constant. He is my never changing. While it’s still a process for me, I’ve realized that when I recognize this I’m able to navigate change with confidence. When it comes before I want it, or life doesn’t change soon enough, I know that Jesus is with me.
It’s easy for me to long for change, either dreaming about the future or eager to leave less than ideal circumstances behind. In the same way, it’s not difficult to be content in a season that I desire to freeze like a photograph. The problem with both of these scenarios is that I’m seeking joy in my circumstances when I should find joy in an always constant Savior. Paul writes to the Philippians in chapter 4:11b-12:
For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
Ultimately it doesn’t matter what is happening in my life externally. Internally, I can choose to find contentment in God and how He uses change to draw me closer to Him.
Just as my baby girl changed those few weeks since her birth, life will continue to change. Sometimes noticeably, sometimes subtly. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. Whatever change brings, though, I know that God is using it — whether I perceive it to be good, bad, or both — for my refinement and ultimately for His glory.
As much as I love my current situation, sometimes I still long for weekly lunches with my mom or those visits with childhood friends. While they may be an ocean away, it’s OK. I’m learning to find joy even in the moments of longing, reminded that my life and the change that often comes are in the hands of an ever constant God.