Posted on

Letting go to embrace change – MaryBeth Eiler

Letting go of our plans to embrace change or the life we’ve been given requires a daily laying down of our lives, but it’s a path that leads to a deeper dependence on God and the full life He has to offer us.

MaryBeth Eiler

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

The question caused me to hesitate. A few years ago, I could easily conjure up an answer—one that stemmed from a five-year plan that held all the things I felt I should be doing alongside dreams and aspirations. A realistic, achievable plan that offered my life a sense of purpose and direction—or, more accurately, a sense of control. My answer today looks quite different.

letting go to embrace change
Photo – Harriet Calfo

Change necessitated by circumstances

I used to view my five-year plan as a roadmap through which I could take on the world—a safety net of sorts. Of course, it wasn’t a specific play-by-play of how my life would unfold, but it did lend direction, something to fall back on when uncertainty crept into my life. At least, that is what I anticipated to be true until my life turned upside down unexpectedly. Diagnosed with a rare, aggressive tumor in my mid-twenties, I was caught off guard. A health challenge was not part of my well-crafted plans. As I grappled with the diagnosis, it became clear I wasn’t prepared.

Sometimes, we walk willingly toward change. Other times, change is necessitated by circumstances outside of our control. As change was thrust upon me with my newfound diagnosis, I fought it every step of the way. I desperately tried to hold onto the life I once knew by convincing myself that maintaining my former life meant all would be well.

Holding fast to my goals, dreams, and desires, I resisted change. Within a few months, I found myself not only depleted but filled with discouragement upon realizing I wasn’t doing much well by clinging to this attitude. Something had to give. Pretending life was normal when it was anything but wasn’t cutting it. I painfully accepted that I had limitations to contend with. My reality required me to let go of the life I had planned and embrace what I had been given. In the process of letting go, I held both grief and gratitude. I grieved the inability to do what I loved, while simultaneously holding gratitude for all I could still do. In letting go and embracing the life I had been given, I found beauty in the present moment. As my striving began to cease, I gained the capacity to see all the incredible ways God was at work—even amid unwanted circumstances. Letting go of long-held expectations and plans was slow and painful requiring newfound grace for my limitations. Over time, I came to realize that there was beauty to behold in the ordinary and the mundane. There was joy to be found when my striving ceased. Life was found in letting go of my plans and embracing what was right in front of me.

Holding plans loosely

Holding my plans loosely created an opportunity for me to see God at work in the smallest details of my life—in the places I had never thought to look before. Such as when fatigue set in related to my rigorous medication routine, no longer needing medication to help with pain management, a full night’s sleep in a comforable bed when sleep was near impossible to come by. A book on hold at the library ready for pickup the day before chemotherapy to keep me occupied.

As my dependence on God grew through the struggle and lack of control, it became apparent that God hadn’t left my side. His presence grew increasingly more recognizable.

Letting go of our plans to embrace change in the life we’ve been given requires a daily laying down of our lives, but its a path that leads to a deeper dependence on God and the full life He has to offer us.

The truth is, I’m not sure where I see myself in five years, but my hope is that wherever life takes me, I continue to rely more on God’s guidance and direction than my own. While I continue to battle against the need for control, I’m learning and relearning that there is more freedom found in letting go and letting God. While my plans convince me that I have some semblance of control over my life, I’ve found God’s plans always pan out better. I’m learning to hold my plans loosely, to bring the desires of my heart to God, and to ask for His guidance and direction. To embrace change. Doing so has allowed me to pay better attention to those hard-to-ignore nudges. Having the future we envisioned upended is hard, but if it’s taught me anything, it’s that resisting change only makes our circumstances harder. Leaning into God as we let go of what we thought our life would look like and embrace the one we’ve been given is how we experience more freedom. May we continue to practise letting go to embrace what is right in front of us.

MaryBeth Eiler profile photo

MaryBeth is a writer who encourages people to hold on to hope as they encounter unexpected challenges in life. As a rare disease warrior, MaryBeth has found God’s provision in her weakest moments and with it the grace she needs to endure. MaryBeth shares encouragement on Instagram @marybetheiler and at

embrace change iola bookazine

‘Letting go to embrace change’ is just one of the articles found in the change issue. Buy your copy here today for more articles, creative prompts, book introductions and beautiful photography.

Posted on

What can we find on the other side of change? – Noreen Sevret

I listen to the crackle of the campfire in front of me as my husband and I sit and watch the logs slowly burn and sparks fly high into the sky. Fall evenings by the river are ones to slow down in and appreciate together. The nostalgia of past memories are caught inside me as I think back to years when the feet of a little boy sat next to me watching the campfire and roasting marshmallows, anxious to put the toasted marshmallow and Hershey’s chocolate on the Graham cracker, top it off with another Graham, and then take that first bite. That oh-so delicious taste I can taste as the sun descends in the sky across the river from where I sit on this evening. There is always something beautiful that can be found on the other side of change.

campfire change

Many years later the same feet of the little boy, but all grown now, were taking him off in a different direction as I sat by the warmth of the fire. I reminisced about the campfires of long ago and enjoyed the memories as they tugged quietly within my heart. I sit on my camp chair, look down at the grass and see one small, yellow leaf near my feet, resting from its journey from a nearby tree. I pick it up and hold it in my hand. I think to myself how this is simply the beginning of a new season of vibrancy. It has always felt too soon for me; the change of seasons, that is. I always find myself unready for the season that comes with the falling of the leaves, yet I knew I had to adjust to the redesign in how it colored my world.  

change yellow leaf

Lingering beside the campfire for a few minutes longer, I found myself lost again in the nostalgia of the days when picnics with my 5-year old son were often held by the river and when he would say, “Come swing with me, Mama”, running out the back door for the swing set and wanting me to follow him. Those precious days of carefree life, picnics, and walks by the river to explore and see what we could find are now a distant memory. My walks by the river this year did not include a little boy anymore, but they did include the grown up boy’s dog, Cookie, and his childhood Australian Shepherd dog, Sophie, as they wandered through the edges of their home here and found places to explore. In walking with them I found beauty tucked along the edges of the woods where the wildflowers grew tall by the river’s edge. 

I know I am not in control of the seasons as they come and go and realize I am not always ready for, or even want, the eventuality that comes when the leaves begin their falling from the trees in my yard or from the places in my heart. The one small yellow leaf I found is but a reminder of the fall season that is here, bringing with it much more change than just the coloring and falling of the leaves. It has brought with it a different world with the impact of COVID-19 and the reshaping of my life within its reality. The colors of life became different within its realm, and my attitude has had to shift with every day, every news report I read, every uncertain moment, as well as every place of beauty I have intentionally walked toward to fight against a pull of discouragement.

I know there is beauty to be found in every season, even this one. I have experienced three incredible things on the other side of change ~ hope, a heart closer to God, and healing: 

Hope on the other side of change

In looking at the beauty of a flower or a sunset and knowing the creation of God was evident in what I set my eyes upon, because God could create this beauty, I knew He would also walk with me through uncertain seasons. I have found the way I walk through the stretching and ever changing times makes a big difference in how I find and hold on to hope. 

In the last six years, I have found hope while learning how to live as an empty nester and pray continuously for my son who grew up and left home early. Hope was found in the time of selling the business my husband and I owned for 21 years without knowing all the next steps ahead, including new career changes for both of us. I held on to hope as I sat in a hospital room from time to time in the past year and a half while I watched my husband suffer physical pain and continued to ask God for his healing. I have found hope while living life in the middle of the ongoing pandemic where I have experienced God’s provision for my family. When my husband got sick, our son returned home to live, the unexpected gift of his being here for another season or more is one of the blessings I’m grateful for. I’m also grateful for the good days my husband has and the decrease in his daily pain level throughout this year. Oh, how I have fought against the seasons that came when the leaves would fall and also against the falling pieces left inside my heart! Each time, however, I felt God was saying to me, “I will get you through. Just trust Me. Put your hope in who I am and not in your circumstances.” I did, even when it was hard. I put my hope in Him. “Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.” Hebrews 10:23 NLT

Heart drawn closer to God

A heart drawn closer to God ~ What made the difference for me was choosing to embrace a closer walk with God in the middle of each season. No matter what the situation, when I sat myself down in the middle of His love for me, I drew closer to Him and adjusted my attitude to look to Him for my strength and my hope. “Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you…” James 4:8 NLT

Healing on the other side of change

I began to find healing in seasons where change was rampant and I felt like I was blowing away like the one small yellow leaf held in my hand by the campfire. I started looking for God in something beautiful each day. My heart began to heal as I depended on the Word of God, which says, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord is the one who goes before you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor forsake you.” Deut. 31:8 NLT.

I let the one small yellow leaf fall to the ground and bring my heart’s attention back to my warm place by the fire. On this side of change, yes, life is different, but I walk with hope, a heart drawn closer to God, and healing inside where God has met me as I wrestle with difficult things. As the transformation of color happens again on the New York hills I set my eyes on, I trust God, knowing there is always something beautiful that can be found on the other side of change. 

Noreen Sevret

Noreen Sevret lives on a picturesque river in Upstate New York with her husband and their son. She has a passion for finding beauty in unexpected places from behind the lens of her camera and writing about how God speaks to her heart through that picture. She facilitates journaling classes at her church. Noreen enjoys spending time with family, writing worship songs, playing the piano, reading, participating on book launch teams, going out for coffee with friends, and going to beautiful places in NYS and beaches in NJ with her husband. She also works as an office manager for a local funeral home. IG: @writerbytheriver.

iola bookazine change issue

This is just one of the beautiful articles in the Change issue of iola bookazine. Get your copy here.

Posted on

Hiding under all that is charred – Shelby Hughes

Smoke fills my lungs as I near a fire that towers seven feet above me. I watch in terror as the wind shifts, and that fire takes on its own embodiment, turning itself toward our cabin. Mom springs into action, grabbing a nearby towel and wild with rage and fierceness, she beats the fire in front of her. She yells for my brother and sister to do the same and for me to get more water and towels.

Throwing the remaining water on the fire, I race back inside to fill the buckets. I heave oxygen into my lungs in the pause of impatience. Oxygen I desperately need. Pause I desperately need. But I can only think about getting back outside to put out the fire.

charred trees

I don’t see the benefit of waiting. I feel useless. 

Buckets filled, I race back outside, eager. But the fire can’t be extinguished by me and my family alone. Mom races inside and calls 911. She rushes back out and continues where she left off. 

My body moves despite its exhaustion and my thoughts race, questions taking over, scared prayers whispered while looking beyond flame and smoke to deep blue sky where great grandma had told me Jesus was. But he feels much further away. 

I race inside, and it is there while waiting for buckets to fill with water that I yell angry, despair-filled, pleading prayers to him somewhere way beyond the blue. 

The phone rings, hushing my frustration. I answer in case it’s Dad who’s speeding home from work. But it isn’t him. It’s someone from our church. I fumble over words, speaking in fragments.

“hello…yes…it’s us…out of control…I gotta go…”

I grab the buckets that finally finished filling and run back outside.

The cycle continues. I rush outside with water. Race inside, filling buckets. I answer a ringing phone or yell at God to answer me.

The fire moves away from the house and deep into the woods. Dad arrives. Firetrucks come. Everyone disperses into the woods to find and fight the flame. 

Mom instructs me to stay at the house, so I answer phone calls. Neighbors call. Folks from church call. They each ask how they can help. I am near 12. Uncertain.

“However you can, like, now” I answer.

It’s an invitation to show up, to be present. And each arrive, some go into the woods to help put out the fire, and others stand in a circle of prayer and concern. One woman brings towels. I don’t recall mentioning towels, but she brings fresh, clean towels that aren’t tattered and filthy.

Hours later, my parents come out of the woods soaked in sweat and soot, and upon seeing nearly half the church waiting to help, tears of gratitude wash away grime from their cheeks. 

The fire is over. 

But the months that follow yield still smoldering trees that sizzle at the touch of rain. The months that follow are bleak—no beauty in charred land. Summer feels dead. The fall and winter cold and dark. Lifeless.

It’s hard to wait for newness, for normalcy. And in the waiting, we sometimes forget to forge on with faith. We look at charred, empty land and cast our eyes downward. And they stay down for so long that we almost miss it. And we must navigate the heartache of it all, our senses attune to the black, the soot, the brokenness.

After months of smoldering darkness, Dad takes me into the woods, kneels, and pushes away soot with calloused, work-worn hands. He’s lived through more—seen more. And I kneel with him, uncertain yet again, but hopeful. 

And there, sprigs of life. Gentle. Tender. Bright green, tiny buds.

I take my smaller hands and search the ground, my eyes wide with wonder. Hiding under all this is something brand new and beautiful.

I push away the soot, revealing the bright green buds, and see beauty and life. But beauty and life couldn’t be seen right away, because we had to wait for spring. 

We stand back up, and my Daddy speaks words that I speak now into present, metaphorical darkness. “This will all be green again. Slowly. But you’ll see it. Gradual, ‘til one day any remnant of what happened here will be hard to find.”

Hiding under all that’s charred

So, I keep searching, hopeful. Still waiting, because spring is not yet here. It’s not quite time. But the days are growing warmer, and I know I’ll see those sprigs of life. My Father promises a new thing. And though this land will never look the same, I will take the newness in with wide-eyed, child-wonder. Because hiding under all that’s charred is something brand new and beautiful.

hiding under charred

Shelby L. Hughes is wife to Youtuber, @TheAmp4Life, mom of three beautiful daughters, and author of Every Little Life: process your grief at your pace and in one place set to release in November of this year. Every Little Life is an interactive book for women who’ve experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, and infertility. She also has a 7-day devotional called Conquering Change and is the host of Making The Time podcast. Shelby encourages women, wives and moms to focus on what’s right in front of them over at You can find her on Instagram and Facebook @shelbyhughesauthor.

This article is one from the Change issue of iola. Read more and buy your copy here.

Posted on Leave a comment

Change in life (or how my eye rolls turned to tears) – Abi Partridge

With ribbon thread through cut swallowtail flags from a nine year olds’ t -shirts, (kept for his brother), and small jumpers from his newborn days (kept for nostalgia) – I made bunting. I hung this around the conservatory window-walls where we held his family birthday party instead of the garden because; English summer. Some things never change in life, the English weather is not one of them.

Surely it was only a few days ago he wore those jumpers for a couple of weeks, before his body left them behind as no longer enough. I have been running to catch up with him ever since. I didn’t want to hear it when he was younger, inwardly eye-rolling as the wiser mothers comment “they don’t stay small for long” when exhausted from labour cries of “how long?” and sleepless nights praying “when will?”. Now my pride hates to admit it was true.

I treasured the opportunity to throw perhaps one last party for him and created themed activities and games around what the age of eighteen means he can do. We all celebrated him with temporary tattoos, pirate name changes – voting for our favourites and blood red jelly in syringes (because at 18 you can give blood). The mix of childhood fun and marking of time, mirroring the dichotomy I felt at this time.

Pain in change

I muse over the change in life with a melancholy pain. Why do we wistfully remember and wish for days gone by? They weren’t particularly the “good old days”, or didn’t seem so at the time, as I look back do I reframe it with a rosy filter? What is it that I miss? What is it that I long for?

I miss those chubby hands in mine, the same ones throwing bread to the ducks, then patiently building lego space ships, writing handcrafted cards then essays. My eyes no longer roll but well. I miss the purpose found in him needing me and now I ache with a job somewhat finished. An ache that is both a satisfaction and a yearning.

Change and gratitude

Growth and change provide a gentle release from providing support. Fresh freedom and a strength in us both that only comes through the passage of growth. Life’s challenge to us: move through change, keep up, let the waves of change move, yet support our head, like a buoy bobbing above depth that threatens to pull us to the inertia of the sea bed. I pause a memory of hands holding scooter bars as his text message chimes in, and hold both our past and our present in gratitude.

iola change issue front cover image

iola the change issue is out now! Read more here.