Even though we’re back in West Africa, we’re not at our “permanent” (I wonder how long you have to be somewhere for it to be considered permanent) location yet. Changes aren’t new to us and as we’ve live this transient life of ours, I’ve learned some things that have helped tremendously. So, in no particular order here are my….
Top Ten Transient Life Tips
Keep some sort of normal for the kids. When we were at the training center a wise woman shared how she always read to her daughters every night at bedtime. Even if they were guests in someone else’s home, she would excuse her self to keep this bedtime routine with her girls. That’s stuck with me, and while for us, we don’t always read, we have a bedtime routine that we keep almost every night.
First day of school for the year 2019-2020
Be clear with the kids about plans and expectations. They can get frustrated when plans change suddenly, when they don’t know the next thing that’s planned, or different chores are expected of them. I’ve seen kids get in trouble, not because they were trying to do something wrong, but because the rules were different than they were used to.
Obviously, this will vary based on child’s age and personality, but keeping kids informed can really help them. Sometimes that means writing out a chore list or schedule. Sometimes it means being honest when you don’t know the plan and just informing them of the possible schedule and you’ll let them know when you know more.
Keep thanking God in all things. It’s easy to start dwelling on the difficulties and for me that ends up in a pity party. God has not called us to complaining, but to thankfulness (1 Thess. 5:18). Despite challenges in a transient life, I’ve found theirs a lot of blessings.
Be organized (I don’t feel very qualified to speak on this subject, it’s very much a work in progress in my life). For me, keeping a running to do list reduces my stress immensely. Trying to remember things based on my own memory power is stressful. I believe it’s easier for people like us, who change places and routines often, to forget things even more quickly. I like keeping my to do list by my bed. I often remember something right as I’m drifting off to sleep, so I can write it down without getting out of bed and sleep peacefully, not worrying about remembering it in the morning.
Pack in “kits”. This doesn’t always work, especially when traveling by plane and you have weight restrictions. But when we can, we like to have an office supply box for example. Then when we need something officey we know right where to look. It also makes moving in easier, just put that whole box whereever you want and next move, grab it up gain. Easier than unloading and loading every item each time.
Keep a record. I amaze myself at how easily I forget when major life events happened. When we were taking foster classes they talked about having a “life” book for the child, to help them keep a record of what happened in their transient life. I started doing this for our family. Every year (okay, I’m a year behind, but trying), I make a photo album to keep records and memories of what happened that year. FRUGAL TIP: I get Shutterfly emails and have gotten free albums before as a special offer, just paying shipping.
Do something small to make anywhere feel like home. Something I’ve just recently started is making our temporary apartment a touch more personalized. Right now we’re in a guest house that is fully furnished, so we don’t have to have our own things out, but I did put a shiney blue table runner and scented wax warmer on the table. It’s a very tiny thing, but makes it feel a little more like our home. The table runner is from the country we used to work in, so it has fond memories attached to it and the wax warmer ads a nice scent and cozy glow in the evenings.
Give everyone in your family grace and patience. When I’m stressed, I want others to be longsuffering with me, but when others are under stress and impatient, I forget to share that same longsuffering towards them. We tend to be grumpier when life is up in the air, and I need to remember to be extra patient with my family.
Don’t be afraid to tweak (or completely overhaul) aspects of your life. Over time I’ve changed thoughts, ideas, values and even convictions. Now we shouldn’t be tossed to and fro by any wind (Ephesians 4:14), but it is okay to look at this new culture/problem/job description/parenting stage etc…and figure out what works and what doesn’t for that period (as long as it lines up with Scripture of course). One little example, is when we were in full time French and culture study, I stopped baking very much. It was just a personal decision. I felt so busy and that was one thing we could live without during that period. Now that we’re back and I’m re-evaluating my job and life now, I’m hoping to bring back some more baking again. Just because something works for one phase of life, doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll work for another phase.
Stick to close to God. He’s the steadfast anchor that has not even a shadow of change (James 1:17), even when all else changes. No matter if you move, loose someone close to you or grow old, He is the One that will still be there for you. If you throw out all my other ideas, at least follow this one! I can’t emphasis enough how much God’s unchangingness and steadfastness has meant to me when other things seem topsy turvy.
Alright, any of you veteran transient life people out there? Please share your tips too! Let’s all help each other out.