Just over 5 years ago, I moved to New Jersey. While I was unsure as to what God had in store for me, I knew very clearly that this was the next place for me. Prior to being here, I had been back and forth between Uganda and Illinois for 4 years, and before that I lived in Indiana for about 6 years. Well, the time has come for me to move again. This fall I'll be moving to Arizona to pursue my professional counseling license now that I've finished my master's degree. The decision hasn't be reached easily and I continue to go through a wide range of emotions, sometimes all in one day. I'll admit that between the sadness, anger, and excitement, some days I don't know whether I'm coming or going.
When I first got to Jersey, the word that the Lord gave me to cling to was "settle." Quite honestly, I didn't know exactly what that meant, but I was hoping it meant a husband and a family. I was hoping it would mean that I would finally settle down somewhere and have one single place to call home. Instead, I have yet ANOTHER place to call home.
Nerd alert: You know how in the Harry Potter books Voldemort splits his soul 7 times to ensure his immortality? I feel like I can relate... on a less crazy evil-villain-y level, of course. The range of emotions (which is much wider than the 3 already mentioned) seems to expand every day.
Between Illinois, Indiana, Uganda, and now New Jersey, I'm not sure I want to add to the list again. Why? Because it hurts to say "see ya later" or "goodbye." It's both incredibly beautiful and incredibly painful to pour your heart into so many people and to give so much of your time (while taking their's) only to walk away in the end. So often over the last couple of months as the decision to move has been made, it has seemed almost irresponsible. Yet, the love and depth in the relationships that have been created in all of these various places is so worth the pain I feel now. At least that's what I tell myself when a student is sobbing with grief into my shoulder... which happened this past week as they learned of my leaving.
For many of my younger years, I did the best I could to contain my emotion, never allowing people to see me cry or grieve at all, but recently I've failed to contain myself as I tell people about this move. However, as I've reflected on the heightened emotional response I've had lately, I feel no shame or regret. I've decided that to hide my emotions... to ignore the grief... takes away from all that God has done. I have met and come to truly love so many amazing people since being here and I am very thankful that my heart is so broken right now... as strange as that may sound. It is indicative of the relationships built and the work God has done over the past 5+ years and will continue to do. Praise be to God for such strong emotion because it means that I have loved genuinely, deeply, and with my whole heart.
While I'm currently embracing all the feels, I also know (thanks to my transient life) how easy it is to become just a memory in the lives of those you have valued so dearly. This is my current fear. I know how this goes. I have experience here. The best intentions can only carry relationships so far. I'm not good at giving up on relationships and I would never just let someone dear to me go, but the reality is that miles have a funny way of coming in between even the closest of relationships. Even those relationships that feel like family. A prime example is my actual family. I love my nieces with my whole heart and when we're together we have an amazing time, but when they're miles away, our communication is limited and it ebbs and flows for various reasons. But blood... family... is always family. That can't change. Other relationships can. That is where my fear and grief lies.
Yet even as I sit here and think about that fear, I have to ask myself where it comes from. I find myself wondering why it even exists in the first place. "It cannot be from God," is my first thought. If I have been doing this all for the glory of God, then I wonder if it should matter whether I'm easily forgotten or not. God will not be forgotten easily. Experiences with Him don't fade so quickly. For that, I'm so thankful... and so humbled. None of this has ever been about me. It's been about the work of the Lord being accomplished in and through me. That's the cry of my heart right now.
Anyway, there are so many exciting things ahead, I know, but still, I don't want this place to just become my past. I am not the person I was when I moved here. For better or for worse (I hope for better), I am a changed woman. My experiences have changed me. The work God has asked me to do has changed me. Relationships have changed me. I am constantly being reshaped and renewed and I wouldn't have it any other way.
I think that the word "settle" that God gave me referred to being settled in Him... which was necessary as I ministered at this particular church. Never did I think I would be called upon to lead a congregation in the midst of a very difficult season, but had God not been preparing me for it as He helped me settle into Him, I may not have been obedient to His leading. It was not always easy, but I did always know that He was walking with me. He provided the support necessary and I'm so thankful to those closest with me as I walked those long months.
I also think "settle" meant to settle into the youth ministry well and connect like never before... to build a team of leaders and to really know and love the kids... to be vulnerable and share my heart. It's been a privilege to disciple and help these students grow into the followers of Christ they are today. My prayer is that our relationships would continue to grow and that they would earnestly seek a life with Christ as they navigate high school, college, and beyond. The same goes for the many others I've had the privilege of working with and discipling. I know that it's possible to keep moving forward... because "kids" from my other youth groups are still Skyping me, asking me to officiate their weddings, do their premarital counseling, etc.
So, thanks be to God for His faithfulness, for His clear leading in my life, and for the love shared between so many of His people. For those who didn't get it, this is the letter my church received this week. I would appreciate your prayers as this news continues to spread and sink in. Below the letter are some of my favorite pictures from these years.
|Snapchat from Bry|