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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

New Beginnings: #1 Who Are You?

New Beginnings . . . those words speak of hope, life, starting over, second chances, something new and exciting on the horizon. Energizing. Hope-giving. Anticipation.

I expected the Necessary Endings of leaving a life I'd spent 18 years building and maintaining to be difficult, but I had great expectations for the New Beginnings. I knew that even New Beginnings come with challenges, but the anticipation of new opportunities was also energizing. My previous experiences with New Beginnings had left me with the expectation that the challenges were outweighed by the benefits.

Imagine my surprise, when about a month after my move, I reached a crisis point. I was exhausted and overwhelmed and my dreams and expectations seemed far from being realized . . . E.V.E.R. being realized. However the biggest impact and surprise was that I felt like somewhere, along with the things I couldn't find amidst the waiting-to-be-unpacked boxes, my identity had been lost in the move. Dear friends helped me see that it hadn't been lost, just misplaced for a time.

For 18 years I had been Dar - ministry leader, teacher, administrative assistant, journaler, and coach/counselor. Now I was Darlene, disconnected from church and ministry due to my new job, care-giving responsibilities, and schedule. I had become a Unit Secretary learning to function in a field where often even the words sounded like a foreign language. And, I had no time to journal, no space to find solitude or silence. So many of the things that made up who I am had been replaced by something foreign to who I am.

Thankfully, dear friends reminded me of who I am and helped me to begin to think about how to make sure my identity didn't get stuffed in a box to be unpacked later or donated to charity.

New Beginnings ARE a time of hope, anticipation, second changes, yet even the very best of new beginnings contain profound challenges and inherently involve change. Change impacts our identity. So how do we retain our identity in the midst of change, especially profound change? What do you do when you feel like you're losing yourself in the midst of a new season of life?

1. Remember and re-member. In the midst of unpacking, of adjusting to the new job, of meeting new people, of adjusting to a new spouse or baby, of starting a new ministry take time to remember who you are. Take time to remember your strengths, the contributions you have made in the past, the things that define you. Then take time to re-member yourself, to put yourself back together. Change pulls at us from different directions, making us feel like we're a rag doll caught between children in a tug of war. We're close to losing vital parts. When we remember who we are and then put ourselves back together we're rescued from the tug of war and able to retain our wholeness.

2. Maintain Connections. Maybe you've been blessed to have family that is part of your New Beginning, family who can help remind you of who you are. Yet, New Beginnings create stress for the whole family, so take time to stay connected as a family. Maybe you've left behind dear friends who helped you stay the course in the past. Keep in touch with them. Accept their reminders about the best that's in you or about what God has been doing in your life. Let them help you remember the best of who you are.

3. What Defines You? What are those things that if you don't do them or don't have them you're not yourself? What are those things that others would say, "As long as I've known you, you've _______"?For me, reflective silence, solitude, journaling, and ministry have defined me since I was a teen. Without them I don't feel like myself or feel able to cope well. With help from a listening friend, I was able to recognize the importance of prioritizing these things in my new situation. It may take creativity, cooperation from others in your life, and determination, but maintaining your identity is critical to your new beginnings. You are the only you the world has and if we lose you, we lose an important voice.

What have New Beginnings been like for you?
Did you ever feel like you were losing yourself? How did you cope? 

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