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Bridging Transitions – Part Three {Giving Birth}

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Bridging Transitions – Part Three {Giving Birth}

I don’t usually yell at my husband. I’m not a yeller. But in this instance, I was screaming my head off just inches from his ear.


Daryl patted my arm and looked around in dismay.

“It’s transition,” mouthed one of the nurses. “This is totally normal.”

I’m one of those crunchy-hippie-granola folks who willingly chooses natural birth. It’s funny because I’m not that much of a hippie in real life. I wear black pencil skirts to work and I eat way more Skittles than granola.

But birth I do the natural way.

It’s intense as all-get-out, but when I go to the same mental place I do when I run long distances, I can manage it. I can’t think about every footfall or agonize over the miles yet ahead or I’ll never make it. But if I just take one step, one yard, one contraction at a time, let it pass, and then tackle the next one, I find a way through.

I’m no hero—I have relatively quick, straightforward labors, and I’m 103% sure if labor went long I’d beg for an epidural.

Yet even with an easy natural birth, there’s this pivotal point when most women stop feeling at all like themselves and start behaving like wild, cornered animals.

It’s called transition.

Transition is the worst pain ever. Evereverevereverever. I walked on a broken ankle for three months in high school. I’m not a wimp. But transition? Yeah. It’s serious.

I have usually silent friends who’ve admitted to screaming through transition; incredibly modest friends who’ve told me they ripped off every stitch of clothing. I usually pride myself on my self-control, but during transition with my firstborn, I alternated between growling, yelling “NO ONE IS HELPING ME!” at everyone within earshot (all of whom were helping me), and praying loud, charismatic prayers to Jesus at the top of my lungs. I’m not charismatic.

With my second birth, my husband could tell by the changes in my demeanor that I was entering transition. Unlike the first time, it didn’t worry, confuse, or scare him, but he definitely knew to get his ears well out of the way of my vocal chords.

“It’s super intense,” he said afterward, “but at least I recognized it. You just let your body and Jesus take over.” Pretty much.

Birth transitions are raw, visceral examples of every other kind of transition we face. Some are big and some are small, but none are easy. They’re rarely pretty. They often involve some pain, some yelling, and some gnashing of teeth. When you’re in a transition you may look, to people on the outside, like you’re losing your ever-living mind, when in reality, you’re just doing your best to push through to the other side.

My husband and I bought a house this year. Our first. Like the births of both of our children, it was a joyful, sweet, incredibly good event. We anticipated it for years and planned it for months. Yet it was still a transition, and like any other, it was hard.

For years we saved. For months we searched. For weeks we packed. No one could find their favorite books or toys or pairs of jeans. We ate In n’ Out burger more than was healthy for any humans, and at one point we owned four can openers because we kept having to buy more.

As the moving date drew near we all got snappish and inwardly focused and exhausted. And when the final days came—cleaning our old condo at odd hours of the night, packing the last of what seemed like a thousand boxes—we prayed a lot of fervent and exhausted prayers.

In the worst moments of my births, I stopped yelling and began to whisper, “Help me, Jesus. Help me, help me, help me.” (tweet this)

In the worst moments of this move, of each new job, of each new school year, of each of the transitions life has thrown my way, I’ve done the same.

Anne Lamott writes in Traveling Mercies that her two favorite prayers are “Help me, help me, help me,” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Transition is hard. If you’re in one right now, you know what I mean. Even good transitions bring a weight, an ache, a season of deep and abiding fatigue.

But on the other side of each transition, life is made new. Jesus walks with us through the pain and waits for us on the other side making a way, a path, a road through the wilderness.

Much of my life is built on logic and reason, the study of Scripture, theology, and the ways of God throughout history.

But in the throes of transition, it is not my intellect that carries me. It is the grace and love of the God who knows suffering and promises to walk with us through the fire. (tweet this)

Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


Courtney Ellis

Courtney Ellis is an author, speaker, and pastor in California. She’s mom to two small boys and wife to one tall man, and when she’s not at church or parked in front of her keyboard, she’s running the trails, listening to Christmas music during inappropriate seasons, or seeking out new sugary treats. She blogs about faith, parenthood, and ministry and offers free weekly 10-Minute-Devotionals at





Read more:

Bridging Transitions – Part One by Andrea Stunz

Bridging Transitions – Part Two by Dana Herndon

Bridging Transitions Part 3

Bridging Transitions – Part Two {No More Littles}

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Bridging Transitions – Part Two {No More Littles}

It hit me the other day that I am no longer the mom of littles.

I guess the fact that 2/3 of my children are taller than me, my oldest is driving and preparing for college, my middle child will be in high school next year, my youngest spends time with friends on her own should have clued me in.

Read the rest of this entry

STAGES – Living Gracefully with Aging Parents

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Stages Final

Continuing on with our STAGES series, a dear friend, Terri Fullerton, is sharing a piece of her life and heart with us in this post. When I read this on her blog, Conversations at the Table, I knew it had to be included here. She graciously agreed to share it with us. I know this will resonate with so many of us and encourage us to live gracefully with our aging parents. I hope my kids will read this one and tuck it away for future reference. I’m already praying for an extra measure of grace for them as they deal with me as I age. 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing this, Terri! It is a pleasure to have you join us on EPFH today.

Living Gracefully with Aging Parents, by Terri Fullerton

Imagine that you are given a stack of index cards in your young adult life. Your task is to write one answer per card. These are your Life Index Cards.


Who do I love?

What do I believe?

What do I value?

What are my dreams?

What makes me feel alive?

What are my hobbies?

What are my roles?

Where do I enjoy serving?

What is my daily routine?

The answers change throughout your life because your interests are fluid. Something ignites a new passion. Seasons of life refine values and nurture growth. Deep pain and anguish unearth valuable gems of clarity and maturity. Getting older is similar to the art of photography.

Growth teaches you when to use both a wide-angle lens to capture the bigger picture and the telephoto lens to zoom in on specifics.

Sometimes we stumble through this process. Our mistakes provide rich opportunities to clarify some of our values, like ‘What is the loving, graceful thing to do in this situation?’

By the time you reach your 50’s, you have seen the aging of elderly parents or  your spouse’s parents. You may fight this and deflect the issues. Be aware of the quaking in your own soul. For many of us, losing our parents is a deep unspoken fear we do not face very well.

At first their aging is like small, slow waves. You see a parent try to recall a specific year or word they have used lots of times. Sometimes it catches you off guard. You may laugh with them or get irritated, but hopefully you offer a hug or a smile. I was standing in the kitchen with my father-in-law a few years and I asked him what he had for breakfast. “Fruit and… oh, what is that word?”  “Describe it to me.”  “Well, it’s round and you toast it. It has a hole in it.” “A bagel!” I exclaimed. “Well, you know, you are not a bagel maker and you don’t use that word every day. I can see why that one may get hard to retrieve.” We laughed and hugged each other.

I wish it stayed this simple but it doesn’t. It seems like the mind and body of an older person is like a jigsaw puzzle with an ever-growing number of missing pieces. I don’t know if it’s possible, but maybe we can be a living puzzle piece and remind our parents of the things they can’t quite figure out.      

Remember the Life Index Cards? Unlike the seasons of adding to them or refining them, aging is the process of letting them go.

Energy levels decline and reduce their hobbies. Physical challenges decrease the ways they serve. Gardening and taking care of their home of almost 50 years becomes too difficult. Their connection to their memories is like an unpredictable tide. Recalling memories, making meals, taking the boat out on the lake to fish become frustrating tasks. What was once second nature becomes a complicated process.

No wonder it is so hard. No wonder older people sometimes hold on tighter to things they need to relinquish. I imagine it is really difficult to watch your hand of index cards get smaller.

I am reminded of Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning. In this book, he chronicles his experiences in Auschwitz during World War 2. A turning point for him was when he started thinking about what the Nazi’s could not take away from him; namely the way he chose to respond to what happened to him at the concentration camp. I wonder what cannot be taken away from aging parents. Which cards will remain?

There are some things they get to keep like their faith and the incredible legacy of love they have birthed and invested in over their lifetime. Help them to hold on tight to these cards. And if, for some reason, your aging parents drop them, be willing to pick them up and try to put them back in their hand.


photoTerri is a wife, mother of two adult daughters and perpetual dog owner. She loves writing, reading, photography, hiking, snowshoeing, traveling and collecting fossils. She values questions that lead to deeper questions as they cultivate the soil for deeper roots of faith. Terri is a mentor at FaithWorks where she also leads Bible studies. She rotates teaching a Bible Study at the Haskell Detention Center and Jail. Terri is a recent graduate of WritersBootCamp led by Margaret Feinberg and Jonathan Merritt. You can follow her blog at

Other posts in the STAGES series include:

The Introduction
I Thought I Loved You Then

STAGES – The Introduction

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I’m currently going through a doozy of a life stage. At my age, I’ve gone through a few of those. Some not so doozy-like, which I should be more grateful for. Rarely do we find our lives rockin’ the comfort zone. I remember one time in particular, somewhere around our 15th or so anniversary, that my husband and I were in “sigh” mode reveling in the moment of peace and calm. It didn’t last for long, but it was nice there for a few months. Then on to the next stage. Most of the time we are in a stage or transitioning from one stage to another. We can take little vacations from the stage or transition, and those vacations are often necessary, but we can’t hide from it forever. Life happens, right?

You’ve heard it said that “if you’re not growing, you’re not going” or this one, “if you’re not trying, you’re dying”. Well, the truth is that living in a comfort zone is well, not living. It’s not where life happens. Life happens when we step outside of our comfort zone and take risks and move forward, even if we’re only stumbling forward.

Regardless of whether we’re going and growing or dying or trying, on some level, we’re moving forward. It’s just the way life goes. We are born, we start school, we become teenagers, we may go to college, we may get married, we may become parents, we go through physical and hormonal changes, our kids get married, we become empty nesters or retire from our jobs (which is essentially the same thing only one gets a nice watch and a party), we become grandparents, our parents age and we might become caregivers for them, we may be in that sandwich stage of being parents to our kids and our parents, our parents may need help beyond what we can give them… then there are transitions from each of these stages to the next. And sometimes some of these stages get all stacked on top of one another or we go through a season of immense pain during any particular stage and it seems like we’ll never make it out alive.

Here on EPFH, we’re beginning a series called “STAGES“. Pretty original, huh? Hey, while going through stages is not simple, at least the title can be. The series will continue on until we run out of life stages or people who want to share them. The plan is to offer a few each month, in no certain order, sprinkled in with our other great posts about other great stories. Our amazing contributors and some phenomenal guest posters will be sharing bits of their STAGES stories that they have either made it through or are currently making it through.

Stages Final

The STAGES series will be all about “the passing on of love… one toe tickle at a time”. Our desire is for you to walk away from reading these posts with a sense of hope that you are not alone. That you are not crazy. That you can indeed survive. Because someone else has. And they did not go crazy. They actually lived to write about it! As this image depicts, we want you to feel like your great grandfather tickled your toes and passed on some kind of wisdom and love through the point of contact – and maybe even make you giggle. But a few tears will be okay too.

 When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” 1 Corinthians 13 (The Message)

We can’t stay infants forever. We grow as we go. Our desire is to grow together. To encourage each other along. Sometimes we get so involved in our own life that we can’t see what’s around us. Sometimes we’re squinting through the fog of our stage so tightly that we can’t see others around us who want to help. Who can help. Who want to love. We hope we can do that for each other here.

We hope you’ll enjoy this series. This, of course, is the first installment but in the future, if you’d like to read more, just go to the search field on the sidebar and type in “STAGES“. We count it a privilege that you would allow us to be a part of your journey. As always, the stories we share here are shared in hopes that they might encourage you along in yours.

~Andrea & the EPFH Team