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3 Questions: The Transitions Workbook

From the series 3 Questions

As the author of Looming Transitions (and the companion resources of a family guide and a workbook), I like finding additional resources to help those in transitions. I recently came across The Transition Workbook by Ardath Smith and wondered if it should be added to your personal library.

It should!

You can access and download The Transition Workbook for free here.

Since I love hearing from other authors, I reached out to Ardath with three questions about the workbook.

3 Questions

1. I’m often curious what prompts an author to write a book or create a resource. Please share some of the story behind The Transition Workbook.

Sometime around 1995–96 I began conducting debriefings via telephone for English teachers in Asia returning to their countries of origin. Their organization was unable, because of the variety of teachers’ schedules, to gather returning teachers for in-person debriefings. So, I spent about two hours on the phone with each teacher who had left Asia, helping them to process their experiences, how they had grown, what they had seen God doing in and through them, and so on.

This was as much as the organization could do, and I was privileged to do it, but it seemed inadequate to me. I also became concerned that once our teachers had departed Asia, their opportunities to intentional-ize and maximize any positive and healthy steps that they could have taken as they said goodbye, were gone. It seemed to me that taking such steps could have helped some of them resolve situations or emotions that continued to trouble them.

Furthermore, they could have been significantly more prepared for the challenges of re-entry if they had pro-actively planned for some of the dynamics they were likely to face back in their countries of origin. I wanted our teachers to leave with as few regrets as possible so that they could move forward into the next stage of their lives with freedom. It occurred to me that it would be beneficial if they had a process that would help them walk through their final months in Asia and prepare for re-entry to their countries of origin.  So, I began to develop questions and suggestions that I felt could potentially be of help. These became the first Transition Workbook.  

2. I was impressed that so much space is given to tending the soul and staying attached to God during a transition. The videos that are included act like a guide during a season when one might be tempted to think, “I don’t have time for this!” What drew you to focus on this aspect of transitions? 

What an important question! In fact, I include means of connecting with God that do not need to take much time for that very reason (nightly examen and posture prayer, for example). We are, as your question intimates, so very pressured for time in times of transition. This pressure means that we can become consumed with all there is to do, leading to our becoming disconnected with ourselves, with others, and with God. It is all too easy, under the pressure of little time and many responsibilities, to handily avoid or submerge bothersome internal questions and feelings. Who among us has not at least been tempted to say, “I just don’t have time to think about that right now!” or “There’s no time to feel these emotions right now—I’ll cry later”?  

Now, this is not to deny that there are circumstances that require emergency departures. Such circumstances necessitate acting with little, if any, time for interior processing—sometimes we simply have no choice. However, let it be noted that in these cases, [literally] tender care is needed afterward in order to tend to the probable trauma that has been sustained, and professional debriefing is highly recommended. 

Most changes eliciting geographic moves, however, do not require emergency departure. In these cases we have choice, and we give ourselves (and others) many gifts when we intentionally attend to our inner processes and emotions in the presence of the Lord. Pushing through change while telling ourselves, “I’ll deal with those feelings later—no time to feel that now!”, along with all the other strategies we take to navigate difficult emotions can make our own inner landscapes unfamiliar and even scary territory in the long run. 

Alternatively, processing how we are doing as we go along has the potential to increase our realistic assessment of ourselves, our capabilities, and how God is guiding us.  This is because God deals in reality; as Calvin put it at the beginning of his Institutes, to know God, we must know ourselves, and to know ourselves we must know God. Thus, when we push away the reality of what is happening within us, we also tend to lose our capacity to sense what and how God is communicating to us—and when we learn how to embrace and accept our inner realities, we gain capacity to sense what and how God is communicating.

Furthermore, considering that the most sustaining and stabilizing relationship we have is with our creator, it makes strategic sense to prioritize ways, means, and yes, even time, to share our hearts, thoughts, and needs with God in the midst of major change. If we do this, we will be much more likely to land in our new location with greater awareness of ourselves, of God and what he is doing in and around us, and with more availability to others.

3. What is your hope for The Transitions Workbook?

My hope for The Transition Workbook is that it will help cross-cultural workers to intentional-ize and engage fruitfully in the processes entailed in departure.  I hope that it will help them to depart with fewer regrets by assisting them to speak words and engage in actions that are relationally affirming, reconciling, and life-giving on a number of fronts. I also hope that, by engaging intentionally with the Workbook, they will land in the place to which God is calling them with greater self-awareness, greater awareness of God, and more awareness of both the gifts they have received and the wounds they have sustained, along with some solid next steps for moving forward, and further clarity concerning who they need in the next stage of their life journey.

Thank you, Ardath, for this interview and for this wonderful resource.

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Image credit: Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash.
Amy Young

Amy Young

Amy Young, MA, LPC loves a good story. She served in China for nearly 20 years (plenty of stories there!). As the founder and CEO of Global Trellis, her current story involves helping great commission workers have tended souls and expanding skill sets. Amy has written six books for great …View Full Bio

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