How to Find Clarity in the Midst of Change

by | Apr 17, 2018 | Trust

“Ugh! This happens at every meal,” I rant after dropping a fork on the dining room floor.

During Christmas, H and I decided that new cutlery would be our gift to each other. Because we’re comfortable in our marriage like that. And the change was long over due.

When we told our kids about our plans, they replied in tandem,“Thank God! I hate those spoons we’ve used for our entire existence on the planet!”

We had no idea that while they were scooping Cheerios from a bowl of milk, shoveling spicy chili into their mouths, and savoring chocolate chip ice cream, those spoons were making their eating experiences so unpleasant. They never said a word.

The unprovoked honesty of my children, along with the distasteful contrast of tarnished tines and dingy knives laid out next to pretty plates for dinner parties, provided a green light of confirmation about our shared gift.

Change is Vulnerable

In February, my son, husband and I made a planned pit stop in the Cotswolds, on our way home from a trip to Scotland, for finally picking out our present. We stretched our legs by walking into the Robert Welch shop and  perused the cutlery patterns available for purchase.

Dreaming of shiny new silver replacing the tired antique set inherited from my Great Aunt several decades ago, we were finally poised to take the plunge.

Circling each row of place settings, dawdling over desirable designs, weighing them in our palms, feeling the unique features with our fingertips, we were each imagining how the salad forks and soup spoons might look while flanking our blue and white Wedgewood dishes, purchased on clearance at Marshall’s years ago.

“So, have you narrowed it down? Which patterns do you like the best?” I pose the question to both of my men. Strongly opinionated and well researched, normally their feedback speaks loudest, and I tend to acquiesce. Because keeping the peace is a high value for this ENFP, Enneagram 4, wife and mother.

But this time, I discerned my opinion held the most sway in the pack. Perhaps what I want in this scenario matters most because I own the kitchen, or because my husband is humble, kind, and longs to put a smile on my face, or because if Mama isn’t happy, no one is happy.

The weight of responsibility coupled with workers ready to close shop for the evening, brought on a case of decision fatigue. As a slow processor, I was smack dab in the preamble to a panic attack. Picking out forks felt more like the death of me than a gift to be cherished for years.

Then I turned the corner as something surprising happened.

Identify the Voice of Fear

As feelings began hijacking my brain of all rationale and confidence, I began asking myself questions instead of allowing fear to bully me.

Why am I feeling this way?

Where are these emotions coming from?

Why is this decision feeling so big, weighty, and important right now?

Why am I feeling fear about something that isn’t scary or dangerous?

What is the deeper truth my emotions are triggering?

What are the lies I might be telling myself right now?

Suddenly, I was a little girl, following my mother around a grocery store. She’s asking me what I want for dinner and I’m completely overwhelmed by all the choices. Will I still want frozen pizza in a few hours? What if I pick something I don’t actually like? Mostly, I can’t make the decision about dinner options because the bottle of cheap wine she casually placed in the cart is making me feel unseen and insecure.

Change makes you feel like a child again: unhinged, unsure, and insecure about who you are when you can’t determine outcomes.

Tell Yourself the Truth

My hands began shaking and heart pounding the more I looped around all the beautiful stainless-steel options. How can I choose between so many good options? What if I regret the choice I make every time I sit down at the table to eat a meal?

Uncertainty can make you feel vulnerable if you forget that God’s presence is certain. Even if you make a bad decision, He is still working all things together for your good.

“Maybe we don’t need new silverware after all. I mean, is the stuff we’re using really that bad? I don’t know, I guess I need more time to think about this,” I whisper to H while fiddling with a teaspoon.

“We’ve been thinking about doing this for months. And yes, it really is that bad. The silver is wearing off and you already know Harrison hates the spoons. If we don’t do this now, when will be back here?”

During the Exodus, every time the Israelites encounter uncertainty, they respond, “Take us back to Egypt,” and we’re still echoing their example today.

Uncertainty triggers fear and we seek the familiar as comfort. We long for certainty more than the new things God has for us.

Each time I drop a utensil on the floor, my son reminds me that we didn’t pick the pattern he liked best. “I told you we should’ve picked the other pattern, that one is too heavy,” he reminds me with a grin on his face.

As we banter back and forth, I’m reminded that risks are worth taking because God loves me. Those forks, knives, and spoons are a reminder of His goodness.

Fear clouds rationale and causes paralysis. And Truth sets us free to wander into God’s abundance.

Choose to listen to the truth.

And when truth seems as though it’s hiding in plan sight, be still, stand firm, and allow God to fight for you. (Exodus 14:13)

Like the Israelites, don’t allow the things that are tangible to enslave you – what you eat, where you sleep, how you look, your paycheck, or the cutlery on your dinner table. We are safe in the uncertainty of the wilderness that transitions often bring with them because His presence is continually with us.

What more do we need?

Are you going through a transition? Waiting for uncertainty to change to certainty? How might those six questions I asked myself bring clarity to your situation?


Added on 4/19/2018 after many people requested a photo of the cutlery we picked. Here is the pattern. Tada!

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  1. Doris

    Hi, Shelley! Thanks for this. As I write this, I am waiting to have surgery on April 25th. There is a growth on a gland (salivary) below my left ear that needs to be removed and part of my thyroid gland has a mass we have been watching. They will remove both and biopsy both. As i left Doctor’s office I was ok till I got out to my car then I just shook and wanted to cry. Fear was really beginning its attack. I turned on the radio and (God knows music gets me back on focus on Him) a song called Fear Is A Liar by Zach Williams was playing. I don’t know if anyone saw me driving home singing to it and throwing that fear in the fire as the lyrics say to but it helped. Since then I seem to swing between peace about this and truthfully – panic. Seems like we have to fight fear daily even when there is no surgery, we just have to put on the news, right? 🙂 So these six question are a help. So I will have an additional “rest/Sabbath” time coming up. I have still been working on a prior thing you wrote about being hemmed in, what could be hemming us in. Often fear hems me in. So dealing with this, I pray, will finally free me from that. Thanks for all you share with us. I pray for H and you daily on my list of pastors and their families. One more thing, I thought I was the only one that got paralyzed over decisions like you had with your new silverware. Is that a woman thing? 🙂

    • Shelly Miller

      Hi Doris, I don’t think being indecisive is a gender issue as much as a personality issue. Some people, whether male or female, struggle with decision fatigue more than others. I also think that paralysis like I’m talking about in this post can be learned and unlearned as well. We can implement new habits that lead to new ways of thinking that help us move forward instead of staying stuck in the familiar.. I’m praying for you regarding your surgery. That an overwhelming peace will pervade every little detail and your heart. Lots of love!

      • Doris

        Thanks for your prayers and I love the silverware pattern!

  2. Dea

    That day when everyone got real about the silverware!! Even with the way clear, when we feel uncertainty, we want to turn back! I so get that because this story has been mine too many times. Thanks for charting a way through and the reminder that there is a way through the wilderness.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks for being here Dea! You would’ve had a real chuckle in that store with us. 🙂

  3. Cathee Poulsen

    I simply cannot believe you didn’t include a photo of your silverware choice. You’re killing us!!!

    • shelly

      I laughed out loud when I read your comment Cathee. And then I added a photo at the end of the post. Tada! Thanks for being interested.

  4. Mary

    Hi Shelly, thank you for this. I read it earlier today and I’ve been ruminating on it most of the day. I needed a reminder of the way through the wilderness. Thank you so much!

    • shelly

      Thanks Mary. I pray that whatever it is that spoke to your situation in this post would be healing balm of clarity for your heart. Lots of love!

  5. Nancy Ruegg

    Amen to: “Uncertainty triggers fear and we seek the familiar as comfort. We long for certainty more than the new things God has for us.” I’m reminded of the six times my pastor-husband was assigned to a new church over his forty-year career. I feared every move except the last one for just the reasons you identified. I longed for certainty and familiarity over the new things God had for us. Now, looking back, I can see the blessings and lessons we gained from each congregation, each locale. What you’ve shared today, Shelly, is wise and important insight!

    • shelly

      Nancy we’ve moved a lot too so your comment resonates. I can empathize. Thanks for being here and offering encouragement, I’m grateful.

    • shelly

      Thank you Pam. I’m enjoying all your beautiful artwork on FB too! You are so talented.

  6. Melissa

    I’m jotting down your quote about ‘uncertainty triggering fear’ in my journal because it is spot on. Thank you for processing your experience and sharing it in such beautiful and relatable words. Funny how a simple domestic decision can bring us right back to God!

    • shelly

      Thanks for your kind comment Melissa. I’m always grateful to know when something I write resonates with my readers. I really appreciate that you took the time to leave a response. Lots of love.

  7. Wanda Shepherd

    I just saw your silverware in your Instagram photos. Gorgeous! I hope you get many years of enjoyment out of them!

    • shelly

      Thank you Wanda! I hope so too. Just added the photo here as well for those not on IG. Psst . . .I’m glad you’re over there too. xx

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