By Tammy Carpenter
If you could name a theme in the life of every missionary, this is probably it: TRANSITION. A friend even joked, if you ever find yourself talking to a missionary and don’t know what to say, it’s easy, just ask “how’s your transition going?” It’s true, missionaries seem to always be in the midst of some kind of transition: moving houses, moving from one ministry location to another, going on home assignment (furlough), returning from home assignment, changing roles, leadership changes, new team members to welcome and adjust to, and the list goes on. Sometimes these changes are planned and chosen, sometimes they are unexpected. Either way, they usually come with a lot to process and even grieve.
What has been the theme of my past few months (…year, or even 20 years)? You guessed it: Transition. I have felt it acutely in adjusting to my role as a counselor at The Well. I teach people about transition for a living. I know this stuff inside and out as a trainer, a coach, a counselor and someone who has been through it numerous times. And yet, transition is something you never get “good” at. You may get better at knowing what is coming and how to care for yourself during it, but you can’t escape the difficulty. Like so much in life, you just have to walk through it.
In training others about what to expect during transition, we often illustrate transition with a picture of a bridge. As we leave our place of belonging, it is common to feel: the reality of changing relationships, excitement over new things ahead, loss of position or being known, grief and sadness, frustration over all you have yet to learn and how you suddenly feel incompetent when you used to be good at what you do.
As we continue to walk forward, we begin to get our feet under us and discover new skills, gifts, and regain confidence. We start to feel known and secure again, as we come to a new place of belonging.
For me, this has meant leaning into the Lord’s grace and accepting that I feel new and green in this field of counseling. I am on a steep learning curve. It’s tiring and at times overwhelming. It has meant giving myself grace that I am not yet a seasoned counselor in month 2 ...3 …4 …or 5 of my career as a counselor (yes, you can laugh- I laugh at myself about these crazy expectations). It has meant a lot of feeling like I am walking in shoes that aren’t quite broken in yet.
And God meets me here. He has been slowly bringing knowledge from my head to my heart. He is in control. He put me here, at this time, with my gifts and my limitations to be used in the lives of people who He’s working in. He’s doing the work and He’s being glorified as I offer me to be used by Him as He grows the people I serve.
Tammy is passionate about people knowing Jesus, growing in their spiritual and emotional health, and fully embracing who God made them to be. She is from the USA, and has served as a cross cultural worker in Asia for 19 years, in two countries and in a variety of roles. She now lives in Chiang Mai with her dog Sadie, and loves anything outdoors.
Tammy is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Illinois. She obtained her M.A. in Counseling from Reformed Theological Seminary Orlando. As an intern at Oviedo Counseling Clinic, Tammy gained experience in both individual and couples counseling. Some specific areas she works in are depression, anxiety, cross-cultural living and life transitions.