Today is a big day. My family is moving from the place where I grew up. Since they will be 10 minutes down the road from me, you can imagine my excitement. However, I can honestly tell you that this move is somewhat bittersweet. Sure it’s more sweet, but I can’t deny that there is just a little bitter.
Wainfleet is a small country township (not even a town) in the Niagara Region. We moved there just before my 5th birthday in 1992, when my Dad accepted a job as Lead Pastor at a local church. I was too young at the time to know that I would grow to love that place, that it would shape the woman I would become. I didn’t know that in that place I would welcome a new baby brother, that I would say goodbye to my older brother, that I would grow to love Jesus and his church, that our family would be so deeply loved by so many people, and I didn’t know that saying goodbye would feel like this.
Three years ago I left Wainfleet for the big city. But my home and my family was still there, I knew I could visit and I knew that I would return often. I would return to see the changing of the seasons, the corn stalks tall and then cut short, the backroads covered with snow, the sweet smell of summer in the air, and the buds on the trees telling us that spring has come. When my parents decided that it was time to leave Wainfleet, I was very excited because I knew that they would be moving closer to me. I also knew that their time in Wainfleet had come to a close and that God was directing them to a new place. So a few weeks ago I went home for my last visit in our home. My spirit was upset all weekend and I was agitated. I wasn’t sure why my emotions seemed to be all over the place. One evening I sat on the floor in my room and started to pack up the things left on my shelves. I began to read through notes that I had kept from years before, I looked at pictures taken from a time ago, and scenes from my childhood flashed in my mind. My Mom came in and sat with me for a while; she knew something was bothering me. My words turned into sobs and heaves as I sat on the floor packing. I told my Mom that I didn’t know why I was crying, that I was happy they were moving, but that this place had so many memories.
I once heard that grief isn’t just about losing people, it’s about losing. Grieving is a natural response to change, to losing something that once was. As I sat on the floor of my bedroom, I was grieving my childhood and the places and people that I have loved. I was grieving the memories of walks down Perry road, church Christmas pageants, youth retreats, drives by the lake, and trick-or-treating for hours because my Dad knew all the good houses to visit. I was grieving late night drives to Starbucks with my kindred spirit, grieving being able to walk across the road to my Dad’s office just to say hi, grieving the times I stayed home sick so I could go to morning break with my Mom. I was grieving missions pot-luck’s and pioneer girls and vacation Bible school. I was grieving a childhood that was wonderful in every way.
And I was crying because I was realizing just how good it was. I was crying because I can’t go back, because I can’t go back in time when things were different and make it like it used to be. I cried because I am no longer a child. And it might seem obvious that I’m not a child, but what’s not obvious is that there are parts that used to be that I want to hold onto so tightly. But I can’t. I have to let go. I have to grieve all that was so good and all the things that I am so thankful for. I have to remember those people and those places for everything that they were and are, and all of the ways that they have shaped me.
Sometimes we hold so tightly to how things used to be; wishing that we could go back, wishing that things could be just how they were with those people or that relationship, but we can’t go back. We can’t make it like it was because we are not the same people and they are not the same people. We were not created to be static; time changes us. We cannot be fully alive and fully present when we are living in what was, what used to be, what is no more.
So we celebrate what used to be, we remember and we give thanks that it happened. But we can’t stay there because we weren’t meant to. We cannot be static because God is not static, it is not his way. He has new things for us. He wants to move and mould and change us. And we can’t experience all that God has for us if we aren’t willing to embrace the now and the not yet, the things we can’t see.
Today my family is moving from a place that was so good to us. It’s a place where we gained so much and also lost so much. It’s a place that will always hold rich memories for us. We will go back and visit and we will keep in touch with many friends, but we look forward to the new things that God has for us. We give thanks that the story isn’t over, that we get the chance to live it, and so we choose life! We choose to change and grow and grieve and celebrate all that is.
Donald Miller spends a lot of time writing about how to live a good story. His writing has impacted me in many ways because his honesty connects with the deepest parts of my soul. This quote from him sums up everything I desire and hope for today, for this season and for my life:
“I want to keep my soul fertile for the changes, so things keep getting born in me, so things keep dying when it is time for things to die. I want to keep walking away from the person I was a moment ago because a mind was made to figure things out, not to read the same page recurrently. Only the good stories have the characters different at the end than they were at the beginning.”
Today we turn a new page in a story that is evolving and changing and different than anything we could imagine. And it’s ok, because when we decide not to be static, we realize that God is pretty good at helping people to write a good story with their lives.
So let the adventure continue.