What has CHANGE taught you this year?

This time last year we had just said yes to our first expat adventure.  We were facing massive unknowns, planning for the transition that this change would bring and choosing our attitudes.

This year as I reflected on that season in our lives the thoughts and feelings came back in a flood.  In order to fully share that experience I have to take you back in time…

I grew up in a little town in rural North Dakota.  A town so small we had no stoplights and no 24-hour grocery stores, and the closest mall was a 90 minute drive away.  (The entire county today has approximately 9,000 people in it.)

In spite of the small size, the people there are committed to creating  “cultured” events for the community.  One of those events takes place each December.

For months volunteers come together and practice Christmas music.

Then just before the holidays the community packs into an old gymnasium that has been transformed.

As a child I remember a slightly run down, musty and sweaty smelling building that suddenly became a magical stage, filled with risers, candlelight, angelic voices and dozens of fresh evergreens that were so strong their fragrance would fill the entire building.ctabe-chorale2


For a couple of hours we would be surrounded by music that you would never expect to hear on the plains of North Dakota.

Each year the concert finale would be a song that has become a favorite, Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus…

Last year, just before Thanksgiving, we were asked to make our move to this big sandbox on the other side of the world.

We knew when we said yes to this adventure that many of the freedoms we had always enjoyed would not exist here.

So as our last Christmas in The States approached, I found myself savoring the things I typically love at an even higher level and wondering what our next Christmas would look like.   Then in early December our church choir and a local orchestra gave a concert that very much resembled the community concert I had grown up with.

As I sat there willing every cell in my body to soak in the music, several thoughts ran through my mind:

  • First I hoped with all of my heart that they would sing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.
  • Then I found myself grieving my future ability to sit in a church and hear this music.
  • Then I realized I would not even be able to walk through a mall, or down a street or go to a community event and have this music playing in the background.

As my heart was overwhelmed with sadness I choked, and tried to hold the tears in:

  • Suddenly the negative thoughts turned positive as I realized how blessed I am to have known this kind of freedom.
  • And then realized that although I always thought I appreciated my freedom, I hadn’t really understood the gift I’d been given.

And then as much as I tried, I could no longer hold back the tears…

What has change taught you this year?As I finalize this post it is one year later:

  • I’m in a land that looks like a time-machine has blended the middle ages with the present day.
  • In spite of the limitations of the land, today’s tecnology has allowed me to play that cherished music.  As I do, I close my eyes and imagine that I am sitting in that gym surrounded by familiar faces and the intense smell of fresh pine and remember what it is like to be in a place where I can freely celebrate with others in public places.
  • I am missing the treasured parts of this season but I am thankful beyond words for the understanding I am gaining.

For those of you who live in free countries and can practice the faith of your choice without fear of arrest or execution, those who can walk through streets, or malls, or sit in restaurants or go to large public arenas and hear that music playing: Please close your eyes, let that music move you and savor it like you’ve never savored it before.  You’ve been given a gift that some people will never experience on this side of heaven.

Your Turn!  iStock_000009905754XSmallPlease share:  What has change taught you this year?



For those of you that want to enjoy that favorite song, check out the YouTube Video below.

news-1205-choraleKnife River Christmas Chorale

And for those of you in or near Mercer County North Dakota and able to attend the Knife River Christmas Chorale please go and savor it for me!  (I’d love to see pictures, videos and to hear from you!)

image credits:  The Hazen Star, iStock

President, Giana Consulting

Chery Gegelman is an adventurer that loves to learn. ...Deep conversations, books, travel, and daily living are all food for growth.

As a speaker, facilitator and workshop leader she creates energizing environments that reflect God's grace, tear down walls, help people to consider new perspectives, and inspire change.

Chery is the Founder of Giana Consulting and Conversation Safari's, listed as a Great Leadership Speaker by Inc., writes a recognized leadership blog and has co-authored two leadership books.

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16 thoughts on “What has CHANGE taught you this year?

  1. What a beautiful stunning soulful post. I could not help but be swept away by your story.

    I realized as I was reading your post, you were describing the curve of change and I could not help myself and illustrate it with your OWN WORDS.

    “First I hoped with all of my heart”.. we go to hope when change first occurs
    “Then I found myself” …. we find ourselves when change is upon us
    “Then I realized I would” …. realization is acceptance of change.

    Acceptance of change leads to transformational beings.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

    MUST READ for everyone!


  2. Lolly,

    I read your comments and my heart overflowed. I am continually in awe of your ability to engage with thousands of people and make each one of us feel as if we are the only one in the world! (THANK YOU!)

    Thank you sharing the post and for sharing your thoughts from the heart! …I am delighted that you noticed the change curve! I continue to hope that by sharing the personal side of this journey that others struggling with personal or organizational changes will be encouraged, strengthened and reminded that they are not alone.


  3. Beautiful and touching post, Chery! It’s amazing to see how the things about us that don’t change become shiny and more lovely because of things about us that do change.

  4. So beautiful, Chery! I know what it’s like to leave life as you know it behind and this post reminds me that although you have moved to a foreign land you are still present – your heart, your voice, your experience, your life. It’s not a clash of cultures but a merging of understanding and seeing warm and special times of the year transform into new memories and new ways of being. While I don’t have a memory just like that one from my past, it still resonated withe me because I left my “life at home.” My change journey has brought me to the place that this is home too.

    I feel you… across the desert and over the oceans and I wish I could just hang out with you and tell you how much I understand.



  5. Alli – There is something so beautiful about being understood that your use of that word caused it to jump off the page at me and my eyes misted. I know you get it. ~~And meeting you in person would rock! 🙂

  6. Lovely, evocative post Chery. The journey has both pain and pleasure and your post brings out both beautifully. But at your next destination you will have memories of the sandbox too. Is it not wonderful how a piece of music, a word, an image or a smell can provide ‘beam me there’ transportation?

    And what have I learned this year? That change happens not just to me but to people very close to me, and that my reaction to it has a much bigger impact than I thought. So I have resolved to talk about my change to my daughters and to help them to make more sense of theirs, rather than predicting what their change should be.

    • Thank you David!

      I love that you referenced music, a word, an image or a smell! That is SO true! For me – music and smells top the list and can transport me in seconds! (Bounce dryer sheets and Ramen Noodles consistently transport me back to my first dorm room, and make me think of my favorite roomate!)

      Your learning rocks! …It sounds like your daughters are very blessed to have you!

  7. Cherry, what an awesome blog post that has evoked a lot of memories for me. Stopping to think about change is really critical. I love the way you look at your current situation as it colors your life and makes it worth the while.

    What has change taught me this year? That it is possible to win over my fear. That there is still some good in humanity. That to lead, I have to be ready to be vulnerable. I also got to appreciate the value I can add to others.

    • Kimunya – Thank you so much for sharing! Your learning’s about fear and vulnerability hit home big time! Thank you for the value you continue to bring to LWG and to our world!

  8. Page – Thank you SO much! …For the note which means fhe world and for the song! I saw it the other night and as you guessed… I LOVE IT! Warm thoughts and hugs to you and your family too!

  9. You are a great storyteller, Chery and you have transported all of us to your world of a year ago!

    Please know that you have touched my life with your powerful images and insights into a very different world. I love reading about your take on the culture and life of the sandy world,where things don’t always make sense or feel honorable.

    I hope this holiday season brings you peace and joy! I have loved getting to know you more.

    • Thank you Terri! The more stories I tell the more I feel the need to tell them! (Addicted I think!) I can feel your understanding of this experience – thank you for listening to understand! I can’t wait to hear more about your Holiday’s! I know it was a very special season for you!

  10. Chery, were you at the Christmas Eve service? I hope so. A gym transformed and finishing with the Hallelujah Chorus! I’m enjoying your blog now that I’ve found it.