Transition – A Restless Hopeful Space

Sylvia Castelino Derby   |   September 27, 2019 

My husband, Jon, our fifteen-month-old daughter, Diya and I decided to leave Delhi and India to pursue the work of Restorative Justice—a calling we felt God had put on our hearts. We had prayed about this and felt at peace, even though nothing was certain and there were so many unknowns. On April 11, 2019 we flew from Delhi to the U.S., and I began the transition into several firsts: living outside India, taking a break from work, and being a full-time mom. After we travelled for a couple months and spent time reconnecting with Jon’s family, resting and discerning next steps, we settled in Fresno, a city in central California, to pursue the work of Restorative Justice.

Maybe a week after Jon joined full-time work, I began experiencing a deep sadness; I missed home terribly. Ironically, some of the things I missed about India were things I would often complain about: the crowd, the smells and the sounds, even honking horns! But more, I missed the meaningful friendships and relationships I had developed in Delhi. I missed our community, our routine, and our life. As this culture shock hit me, I realised that an even more difficult transition was going from full time job as a human resources professional to full time job at home taking care of my little one. I missed my job and my colleagues. I had a deep sense of loss: I had left everything and everyone familiar.

Stepping away from full-time work and transitioning into a stay-at-home mom have been the hardest transitions for me. When I left my job, it was as though I lost my sense of identity. I longed to manage a team of adults, rather than manage my baby. I felt the need to be out there, doing something. While taking care of Diya required a lot of work and attention, I quickly dismissed the idea that caring for a baby had value and worth. I felt the need to leave our apartment every morning and go someplace. I desired structure and consistency in my day and felt uncomfortable with the new freedom and flexibility each day brought; something which I thought I would love. This was the start of a journey I am ever so grateful for.

This deep sadness and restlessness pushed me to reach out to friends and family. But more than that, it forced me to be still—to be alone with my thoughts and with God. I began asking myself why I felt this way. I realised that I drew so much of my identity and worth from what I did, rather than who I was. I had said yes to follow God’s will but now I didn’t seem to like what God was asking of me. In this stillness, I felt God calling me to just sit at His feet rather than be constantly busy doing something – and that made me uncomfortable.

In this stillness, I also discovered rhythms and thoughts that comforted me:

Our poverty; God’s dwelling place.
Non-negotiable quiet time: My quiet time was a place to constantly invite God into the poverty and restlessness in my heart of seeking my identity, meaning, and worth in what I did. Henri Nouwen said – “Each human being has a place of poverty. That's the place where God wants to dwell! We are so inclined to cover up our poverty and ignore it that we often miss the opportunity to discover God, who dwells in it.”

I persistently prayed for the grace I needed during this time - grace to find joy in where I was, grace to simply love, care for and be present for my little one, and grace to be open to new experiences and new friendships as I began life in Fresno. During these prayer times, I experienced God’s presence in beautiful and intimate ways. I felt God inviting me into a deeper relationship with Him. The passage of the vine and branches from John 15 kept coming into my mind as a reminder that Jesus was asking me to “remain in Him, just as He remains in me.”

“I cling to You; Your right hand upholds me.” (Psalm 63:8).

Memorising verses: Often, I felt so low that it was difficult to pray. I knew I needed God to be with me even more during this time and hence I memorised verses. It was a way to ask God through His word to intervene and protect me against negative thoughts and emotions.

“Vulnerability is courage. We must ask ourselves…are we willing to show up and be seen?” – Brene Brown

Being vulnerable: I needed to confront my feelings, be true to myself and share with Jon, close family and friends that I was having a hard time. I chose to acknowledge that I was not doing well, and that was okay – I didn't need to have it all together. I gave myself permission to feel sad, to cry, to grieve all my losses. I asked for help and spoke with friends who would listen and understand. These conversations helped me gain perspective and their prayers comforted me.

Being grateful: As I processed the change and transition, I was filled with gratitude because God revealed how He had led me to where I was and His faithfulness during my journey. Even as I grieved the losses, I felt grateful for and remembered the many ways God blessed my time in Delhi with significant life events, rich experiences, and deep and meaningful friendships.

Openness to new possibilities and choosing joy: I felt nudged to open myself to new possibilities, experiences and friendships and to choose joy in the day to day. I pursued new friendships with people and found ways to hang out and share life stories. I chose to find joy in reading to Diya, taking her to the swimming pool, or enjoying times when we did nothing but just cuddle. I sought out opportunities to serve, like volunteering to make food for an event.

Physical exercise: Even as I cared for my mind and spirit, I was reminded that my body was a gift from God and I needed to care for it. The things I loved doing in the past were yoga and taking a walk, so I began including these activities as part of my daily rhythms to ensure I stayed healthy and fit for myself and my family.

As I mull over this season, I feel grateful that from my deep sadness and restlessness were born the desire to find joy in the simple things and the everyday, to be open to new opportunities, to be part of new stories, and to celebrate life fully. Maya Angelou writes “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” As I walk in this space of being uncomfortable and restless, I want to recognise that God is shaping me and creating me into something beautiful through these hard times. I don’t think I am a butterfly yet, but Diya is teaching me to notice butterflies and the beauty around me, to smile, and to laugh more.


Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

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Sylvia Castelino Derby

Sylvia was raised in Bombay, lived in Delhi and most recently moved to Fresno, California with her husband, Jon and toddler, Diya before which she served as the Director of Human Resources for International Justice Mission for nine years. When she can get some free time, Sylvia enjoys some deep conversations with her husband and friends, a good cup of coffee, some time to journal and being by the ocean.

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6 comments on “Transition – A Restless Hopeful Space”

  1. You are a warrior woman who is not afraid to stand in your truth and let us surround you with love and prayers ! You are a gifted mother, daughter, wife and friend. May you feel our hearts and prayers lifting you up !! Bless you for being so brutally honest and forthright. Many will gain value through your story! I adore you my friend! We must visit again soon.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Lynnie! Grateful for your friendship, love and prayers. We look forward to seeing you soon. You must come and visit:) We’d love to have you over.

  2. My dear sister,
    Thank you for sharing the ups and downs of your formative journey. I truly believe that our loving and wise Lord walks beside us, and at times carries us, during life’s challenges and transitions. It’s beautiful how in the midst of this difficult time you are aware of His presence and calling for your life. You are truly a beautiful butterfly ????! Greg and I love you so much!

  3. "Be still and know that I am God". Psalm 46:10

    It is so hard to remain faithful in the quite times and in times of transition, but even harder, I think, when we fill our life with too much work, stress and activity. I think you are growing in wisdom, character and wholeness so much more now than you otherwise might have as a result of this season that God has asked you to endure. Whether you know it or not, you have often encouraged me and provided me with things to ponder when you share from your heart and experience.

  4. Hi Syl!
    I saved this to my reading list and finally got around to things I put off during school. Thank you for writing this and sharing your heart. Vulnerability is indeed the key to freedom, and I appreciate your example!

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