Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Sweet By and ‘Bye

“Drawn like the rivers are drawn to the sea; no turning back for the water cannot help but flow. Once we hear the Savior's call we'll follow wherever he leads because of the love He has shown. And because he has called us to go we will answer …” ~Steven Curtis Chapman, “For the Sake of the Call”

“Tell me why, why does following your dreams take you far away from me? … Tell me how to fill the space you left behind, and how to laugh instead of cry, and how to say goodbye.” Michael W. Smith, “How to Say Goodbye” (video below)

“The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.” ~Genesis 12:1

You have to excuse the video. I cried today. I didn’t want to be the only one. :-)

OK, actually I just teared up, but to me that’s the same thing.

The years of working really hard not to cry have left me in a place where actually shedding tears is still somewhat of an anomaly, so, it was unexpected.

But not unwelcome.

We received word this morning that the Papua New Guinea branch is working up the official invitation for us to serve there. This was very good news and we are excited! After I shared the e-mail with my husband, I left to go to work for a few hours. As I drove, I began to think,

Wow. This is really happening! All these years, and we’re actually going to do this!

Then the tears came.

I fought back tears of sadness for what we will lose, tears of gratefulness for what God has done, and tears of joy for where he is taking us. Why do emotions have to be so complicated?

Seems like for the last several weeks we have had to say goodbye to many people – some going as missionaries, others simply moving away with new jobs or life stages. More than once I have heard others say out of a sense of being overwhelmed, “OK … no one else is allowed to leave!!” More than once I have said, “OK … no one else is allowed to leave before I do!”

I’ve wondered occasionally how it will be when we go. I think in some ways it is easier for the people who are doing the leaving because things are new and exciting and, hopefully, they feel they are following God’s call to wherever. I always thought I would probably be okay with leaving, but today I had to wonder again.

How hard will it really be to say goodbye to the cat? (and the lizard?)
How hard will it be to say goodbye to our friends?
How hard will it be to say goodbye to our families?
How hard will it be to say goodbye to life as we know it?
How hard will it be to say goodbye?

I went to college away from home. Actually, my mom says she was ready to throw me out that summer because I was so obnoxiously itching to leave (not exactly her words), so that transition probably wasn’t that difficult, but still, I had to say goodbye.

I moved away by myself for my first “real” job a few years later. That was difficult because I was, frankly, scared to death of what I was going to find out in Arizona. When I had first driven into the area a couple weeks earlier, I called my parents and cried, “They have gravel in their yards!!!” It was too much for this Southern girl to take. On top of that, I had planned on going with a husband. That didn’t happen, so I was going alone, after all, to do a job that was really more to his liking than mine.

When I finally did marry two years later, I moved overseas, leaving those I had grown close to through ministry. I had never spoken a word of German in my life. A mere five months after I arrived in country, I said goodbye to my new husband as he deployed to Bosnia for a year. We moved four times in the first five years of our marriage.

When we came to Texas, we said goodbye to the military (which in itself wasn’t so tragic, but it was life as we knew it), friends, and family – ending the first (and only) time we have lived near either of our parents. While living here, I said goodbye to my little brother as, in death, he finally experienced complete healing from a lengthy, painful illness.

Now we anticipate saying goodbye again and heading to, well, the uttermost parts of the earth.

Yet, if I have learned one thing from all of this (and I know that it doesn’t hold a candle to what many people have experienced), it is that, if you are following God and allow yourself to be enriched by your new environment (rather than, as I have seen many people do, be crippled by loneliness and frustration at circumstances you may not have chosen), you will find in your new situation a multitude of unexpected blessings. In fact, the pain of separation from the comfortable actually fades more quickly in light of a positive response to new experiences, friendships, and joys.

But you have to get through the goodbyes first.

Bottom line, I would not trade the experiences I have gained for all the geographical stability in the world.

I loved college. I grew in my independence, but also in my decision-making abilities, and gained not only education, but smarts in a wisdom sort of way. I made wonderful life-long friends, and got to see my ‘Jackets to the Final Four and an NCAA football co-championship all in the same year. I had opportunities to develop my vocal and dramatic skills, as well as learn about electromagnetics. (What can I say? I’m a well-rounded nerd.)

I came to love life in the Southwest (yes, including the overabundance of succulents and dearth of grass.) I fell into a ministry in Arizona only to find that God had actually suited me for it. Now I enjoy a passion for youth that I never before knew I possessed. I learned valuable ministry skills and made many friends. My current missions outlook was shaped by a wealth of real life experiences. (Oh, and I met my husband.)

In Germany, I fell in love with the military chapel youth group and even took them to camp on an island off the coast of Spain. I traveled to several other countries, was privileged to serve as a staff member at a youth camp in Switzerland, and made more life-long friends. Eventually, I was able to return to Arizona for several months and rekindle the friendships I had made there. I learned that the Pacific Northwest is more than just the measure of its rainfall – that natural beauty supercedes the drizzle. I got to begin my seminary education at a small, intimate campus with wonderful friends and professors. (One was ever-gracious when I had to leave class early because I was in labor.) I learned the joys of living near family and was able regularly share with them the first nine months of our daughter’s life.

In Texas, I found a wonderful church, made great new friends, and reconnected (by God’s design) with some “old” ones. I learned how to raise kids away from extended family. I found that the more you celebrate milestones and holidays with friends, the more like family they become. I learned the joys of living in a house that I could “improve.” I learned through my brother’s illness and death that God’s plans are, indeed, higher than ours, and that He does have a purpose for everything. I experienced the rewards of being involved in the education of not only my own kids, but several hundred others as well. I was taken to the place where God brought healing from depression and gave me strength to be able to say our next goodbyes.

I am sure there will be tears. There should be tears. No matter the reason for it, every deep goodbye leaves a bit of a hole in your heart.

Speaking to me shortly after his mother’s death in 2006, a wise friend said something very profound: “I am grateful for the hole [in my heart], because if there were no hole that would mean there was no love.”

Fortunately the same One who calls us to go longs to fill the holes left by those we leave behind.

And because of that the tears do not have to be bitter.

In fact, as evidences of love, they are actually very sweet.


  1. Emotions are complicated, aren't they? And, that video and your post make me cry, too, sorta happy and sad all at the same time.

  2. I'm in denial about your leaving. And, I'm very happy there right now. Thank you very much.

  3. Thanks Sharon...there were true words of wisdom!

  4. To answer the video, I don't know. You let them go and trust God will do great and mighty things through them!

  5. I had to learn about this through your blog? :-) I love you so very much and it blesses me to see how God has led you on such a great journey in life. And now the journey and adventure continues. I don't know how I'll say goodbye when the time comes, but I know there will be great joy in knowing that you are following God's calling - and that He knows the plans He has for you! I know you will be blessed and be a blessing to others.

  6. Crying with you! Rejoicing with you! and praying for you Lynette

  7. Leaving when you have been engaged in people's lives is not easy for them or for you. In my attempt to find excuses to stay at Wedgwood, I realized God repeatedly asks people to get up and go, knowing how they would feel about it. He He is in the people moving business, strategically placing His people in places to grow His kingdom. I will be praying for you guys as you take this journey as a special to be together. Love technology though so we can keep up!


We are missionaries serving God and the task of Bible translation by serving the missionary community in Papua New Guinea through Personnel Administration and MK Education. We thank you for your prayers!

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