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The Game of Life was fun to play as a child, but gets complicated.

When circumstances shift unexpectedly and become challenging, awkward, or even painful, pay attention. Maybe the shift came with recent news. Maybe it came with mystery and no apparent explanation of what is actually going on. Perhaps many questions came next. Perhaps good people behaved in hurtful ways, acted differently, or things got confusing.

Recently, I found myself in that kind of situation. I was face to face with a change in my circumstances, not initiated by me. I rarely make any changes when I am content. Yet I’ve learned that the gift of growth and good is often hidden in opportunities that come with discomfort in change I did not initiate.

What can I control when things seem out of control? What tools do I have to get through the situation? I reflected back on other times where change came my way and identified some things I could do to get through this new challenge, along with the layers surrounding it.

In a Brene Brown course I took online years ago, based on the wonderful book The Gifts of Imperfection, I sketched out a “change map.” Starting at the point of awareness that change was coming or needed, I mapped out steps I took to end up in a better place down the road. That was such a helpful exercise. I recently looked again at that map and reviewed the tools. I could apply some to my current situation, and that was empowering.

Are there new possibilities? What is just one next step to take? Read the road signs and determine options.

In a season of redirection, focus on internal growth. Look for the strength to accept things are now different. Realize that expectations will not be met in an expected way. That’s not easy. Leaning on family, friends, community, and faith provided the support I needed to keep my head clear and heart strong when circumstances intersected with change.

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We all come to forks in the road. I’d prefer a spoon. And a bowl of ice cream. But off I go in a new direction, whether I want to or not. When things don’t go the way I’d planned, will I pull off the road or continue to go forward and grow as I continue down a new road?

Often the new road is winding. Watching for ways to grow in those troubled days is too much at times. Just keeping focused on the road, moving at a safe speed, hoping to get home safely, takes all we’ve got.

If you are like me, I work hard to make sense of difficult circumstances. On days that feel uncomfortable and odd, it is exhausting and sometimes a waste of my time and energy. If I’m feeling anger, I work hard to make sure that doesn’t cause the flat tires of bitterness or blame, which only slows me down. I need to keep moving down the road looking for a better place.

Some circumstances bring major delays in life. Often those leave us waiting and waiting. Our frame of mind or trusting heart goes under construction. We are reminded to use caution, to be patient and kind to ourselves and others. Waiting is a challenge in itself.

Some dark times cannot be simplified when choices are limited by commitment or resources. Some change brings limited options. Some change brings that impact like a truck overturned and spilled cargo blocking the road. So much to clean up and sort through before making any decisions! Sometimes the only choice is how we respond at that moment. Though change and weird circumstances can bring delays to plans, but growth is still possible.

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Perhaps we need discernment and good counsel from wise people to determine if we’ve simply hit a speed bump to endure or need to merge at the end of the lane to a new lane in the journey of life.

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I have learned that rough situations lead to new opportunities. Willingness to look beyond the situation, listen, watch, wait, and prepare to change can be so helpful. If you remain in difficult times, at least growing stronger is a hopeful option. But you might just find an open door to a new phase of life that brings more good.

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Stay strong, my friends!

P.S. Recently, my job ended earlier than I would have planned. It’s a long story, and things are working out. It was a patch of rough road. Nothing tragic. Lots of challenge. I’d be happy to share more, but not here. However, it was unexpected and filled me with uncertainty, disappointment, and insecurity. I am still “under construction,” but enjoying a bit more of a scenic byway as of this posting.