Rebecca Caswell-Speight: The Art of Transition (and Negotiation)

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him . . . (Genesis 12:1-4a)

Have you seen the Cheerios commercial? The one called “Gracie?” The Dad starts out by saying, “Gracie, you know how our family has a mom (and moves a Cheerio), a dad (and moves another Cheerio).” Gracie, quickly catching on jumps in by moving her Cheerio and says, “and me!” with a big smile. The Dad smiles back, then he scoots one more Cheerio into the group and says, “Pretty soon your gonna have a baby brother.” Gracie checks her Dad out with a sideways ‘I know what your up to glance’ and casually pushes one more Cheerio to the center and says, “and a puppy.”

I love that commercial. I giggle every time at her response. When I first saw it I remember laughing and thinking to myself, as if “Gracie” was a real person, “that child is going to be a master negotiator someday.” That kid knew how to get what she wanted!

Recently my husband Josh accepted a position with the national office of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the network we most closely identify with. This new calling is exciting for him. It is a dream position working with people he loves being around. When trying to decide if it was something that he should do or not, the fit wasn’t questioned. It was where his passion was and it was a calling that he needed to pursue.

When God came to Abram it wasn’t a matter of if he should go. God promised Abram great things. Abram knew that it was a journey that he needed to pursue. But was Abram’s family as excited about his calling? Abram couldn’t become the father of nations on his own. His calling had to become their calling or else Sarai wouldn’t be considered the mother of great nations along side Abram. He needed the support system of the people around him.

When I think of this calling I wonder what kind of negotiating his family went through before they were called to leave Ur and again Haran for an unknown land. Like Abram’s family we have traveled and lived in places that were not home before. We have lived half of our 14 years of marriage away from Kentucky (home). When we moved back to home six years ago, it was supposed to be for the rest of our lives. We had followed God around the U.S. only to finally return home. Abram’s family had moved from Ur to Haran and settled for 15 years, when he received a new call to move once again–this time to an unknown location. While we at least know the area where we are relocating, Josh’s call will still move us away from home. It will move us away from family, childhood friends, my ministry, a cherished church, and our girls’ schools.

I’m not sure if the negotiating ever happened in Abram’s family, but it sure did in our family. Negotiations started with our oldest, Ainsley. At first the negotiation took the form of questions. She wanted to know how she was going to learn without the Montessori approach she has grown accustomed to in Kentucky. Then she wanted to know if her new teachers would be nice. Then she realized that, like “Gracie,” this was her opportunity to bargain! Ainsley responded that she would only move if she could have a turquoise room. We quickly said yes to this easy first demand of Ainsley’s.

So she wisely made another demand, this time for a new bed. No problem. I honestly wasn’t sure the one she has will make it through another move anyway. She realized that she’d asked for two things and gotten the answered she wanted. It was time to go big! She told us she would only move if she got the biggest room in the house, a pool, and if she could go on a big shopping spree. All of a sudden her demands were no longer reasonable and she was not getting the answers she had hoped for from her parents as we quickly answered “no” to these final demands from our daughter. Ainsley learned a lesson in negotiation that day: if you go too big you lose all negotiation power.

Then our younger daughter, Evelyn got involved. She at first seemed oblivious to the whole moving conversation until she realized that her older sister was asking for lots of things and hearing yes from Mom and Dad. Quickly, Evelyn decided that she, too, should get in on the action. She demanded that if we move she should get to bring all her toys to the new house. Then she decided that if we move she wants to take her bed. Done and done! Whew! Good thing she is only three and doesn’t quite understand negotiation quite like her older sister. Those easy “yesses” turned into a request for a “lellow” room and new sheets. Satisfied that her demands had been met by Mom and Dad, she left to go play with her toys happy, that she was going to get a room in her favorite color.

Having witnessed my daughters negotiate with us, I jumped on the band wagon of negotiations with my husband. “So the girls got what they want, now here are my terms for asking us to move” may or may not have been a sentence that I used with Josh when we were deciding to leave Louisville. However, I welcome you to come and visit me in our new home once we get settled to see my new dining room table and Bybee pottery dinnerware set (a Louisville handcrafted original) that my husband has so graciously determined our new home must have once we arrive.

Josh has tried his best to fulfill our demands, but not all of my demands could be fulfilled by him. I found myself arguing with God about it. God, what about my ministry? I’m a minister, too. I am serving a congregation I love. Why do I have to leave them? I don’t feel ready to leave. God, I’ve had the title of minister since before I was married. If I have to move, I will not give that up.

Since the first days of learning that we would relocate, the demands have lessened and transitioned to more questioning. God, what happens if I don’t find a place to fulfill my calling in my life? What then? From that place, I’ve moved further into a position of prayer: Please, O, God walk with me through this new adventure. Creator God, I lift my eyes to you. I know you are there.

The text doesn’t tell us much about how Abram’s family felt. I like to think that Abram’s family went through a progression of accepting the call for themselves. For us, each day is a new progression in our call as we come to grips with the upcoming changes. Some days it feels like we are conquering it together. Other days I’m ready to take a u-turn and tell everyone that we’ve changed our minds.

I know that even as the negotiations and questions continue, we will be OK. Like the Great Family before us, we negotiate and we question, but we keep moving along the path that God is setting before us.

A soon-to-be resident of Atlanta, GA Rebecca Caswell-Speight has served as a minster in many settings, most recently as Associate Pastor at Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville, KY. She and her husband, Josh, are parents to two vibrant, growing girls.

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