Last week my children left for Arizona after saying farewell to all of their friends. Many of these goodbyes were full of tears and the bittersweet reminder that love can sometimes sting a little. I stood back and marveled how each of them navigated these age old, but new to them waters. On the last day they played outdoors going down the slide on the fort we built together, crossing the stream to their Terabithia, and hanging from the climbing tree’s limbs one last time. This house is the first that they remember. Its where first BFFs were made, first teeth were lost, and first crushes developed. It’s where the little hash marks scar the corner indicating children’s growth and tiny hand prints can be found in the cement. It truly made a wonderful home and it was obvious to me that it hurt to say goodbye. As their father, part of me wanted to take all their pain away and somehow make it so they’d never have to say goodbye again, but I knew better and let them experience the changing of the season for themselves.
We have been at the “in between” stage for a while now. It started with us telling the kids we were thinking about moving. After that, we started downsizing and packing. Next came moving things into storage. Finally, we were allowed to let the secret out once the house was on the market. The days since have been a whirlwind of emotion and the perpetual stress of the “hurry up and wait.” For 45 days these children were told to not touch the stainless steel, drip water on the polished floors, or leave any sign of us living within the house. When a show request came in we could hide the beds, wipe down counters, sweep, mop, fill the air with febreze, and load the animals into my truck in less than 30 minutes flat. We had the drill down so fast that even Seal Team 6 would be impressed.
All of this transition has been excellent for reflection and pondering questions of ultimate concern. While I can’t say that I’ve kept my cool every second, I can most assuredly testify that it is well with my soul. The very essence of my theology is finding peace amongst the flow. My sermons, writings, and daily conversations are bursting at the seams with the motif of change and process. Rather than a longwinded exploration, I will offer just a few of beautiful reminders my children have given me in the last few weeks.
- As Richard Carson says, “don’t sweat the small stuff.” When bigger stuff is going on, we can better see how small the small stuff really is. It’s been cool to watch my children let the little things slide off.
- Ask for help and be willing to lend a hand. I am much better at the latter, but this project has simply been too big. My kids have been remarkable at expressing their needs and chipping in.
- Share boldly. My children have been so incredibly open and honest during this process. I’m not going to suggest that hearing a teary eyed “Daddy, I don’t want to move” is easy. But, can you imagine how awesome it would be if you weren’t trying to guess what others are thinking and feeling?
- Empathy is the oil in a well-oiled team. After we ask about another’s experience, we are able to connect and grow even closer. Because my children have been so open asking for help and stating how they feel, I can identify potential hot spots and better assess how to come alongside them.
- Remember that everything has a season and even death can be beautiful. On the day I returned from the airport after dropping off my children, I noticed the first turned leaf on the big oak in the front yard. Every year I watch these leaves transform in glorious splendor and marvel as they die and slowly drift to the Earth. They signal that all of creation will soon join them in sleep and stillness until their resurrection come spring.
- We are not our things. Our things are not a part of us. The more we learn this important lesson, the more we will find peace in the now. How does one decide which of his children’s pieces of art to save? Capture experiences and let things go.
- Plans and expectations are the thief of joy. We priced our house competitively in a hot market. There is no good reason that it didn’t sell in the six weeks it was listed. But, each time there was a showing and no offer wed simply say, “the family whose prayer is still yet to be answered is out there somewhere.” I see it nothing short of providential that some friends were looking to rent a house at the time we were ready to rent ours.
Last one, but this one I learned more from my friends: Dig your well deep. Invest in relationships, your spirituality, and your community. Even if you are only staying for a short time, when the time comes and you grow thirsty, you will be glad that you did.