The past two weeks - like all last two weeks of school have been incredibly busy. However, this year I have a new perspective. A new sorrow. A new direction.
Living in an overseas missionary community has far greater benefits than it does drawbacks. However, the constant transition of the people around you can be draining. At the end of each school year we are so overwhelmed by the completion of the school year - grades, packing our offices/classrooms - that is is so hard to add on the goodbyes that come along with living in this community. This year was the same - trying to get a job done while in mourning over friends that are leaving. As well, trying to be intentional about new staff coming in - connecting with them, praying for them, and being excited for their new adventure.
I was speaking with a friend yesterday about the weird balance we have to maintain between deep sorrow and joy. It is an odd balance. I am not sure I would have ever understood it before living here in this community. Now that I am here - I get it. Now that I see it for what it is, what do I do with it?
God's word never fails us - He knows and communicates with us - we just need the eyes to see and the ears to hear. So if you are experiencing transition of this nature - I urge you to not get swept away in the emotion or busyness of it all. Draw in closer to God. He will give you the exact portion you need to sustain you through this time. Here are five transition tips for the "stayers" that I have so far realized. I hope they are helpful to you as well.
1. Don't stop laughing. It is so easy to withdraw because you are so busy getting "it" done. It is also easier than facing the realities that are headed your way. However, it is so important to remember that the relationship you are mourning was built on so many very good things. Especially laughter. This year I said, "See you later" to my "adopted" daughter. She is headed home to Colorado for the next adventure that God has in store for her. Her goodbye has hit me hard. She oozes joy. Her smile is infectious and I came to love her as my own. We spent time as combatants in our "Survivor" allegiances. My office was right across the hall from her classroom and I was fortunate to be able to hear all of the PK/K stories. She even managed to put up with my "Gummy Bear" dancing with her students. Our relationship was full of laughter. Don't miss out on the fun and fellowship because you are afraid of the goodbye.
"You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. – Psalm 16:11 (NIV)"
2. Be excited for the ones leaving. It is so easy to beg them to stay - but the truth is if we really love them we have to let them go. We need to want for them what God wants for them. In our selfishness it is understandable to want them to stay - some try and approach this with serious, logical sense; some with humor; some with outright desperation - but we need to let them go so they can follow the path God has for them. But we also must give them permission and support. I know it is hard to hear about their future plans, but they need to know they are supported. God's Word tells us "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10. We need to trust God's promises that the good works that are next for them were prepared for them and they need to walk in them. I just gave a hug to another leaver - he has an interview shortly after his plane lands for a job back in the U.S. - I certainly didn't want to say goodbye. BUT - I am excited for his next steps. I pray that he is given wisdom in future choices. It does not mean I will not miss him - I saved the tears until he drove away. :) But I do want him to be right where God wants him to be.
3. It's ok to cry. My mother-in-law said everyone needs someone to cry over them sometimes. I forget why she said it and what was happening - but the words have stuck and I find them to be more and more true as I experience life. Now, I will be honest here and say I am extremely emotional. Commercials have been known to cause a tear or two. My kids just pat me on the back and say, "Oh, mom." So I have to "reign it in" sometimes. But people do need to know they will be missed. When they leave after four or five years they want to have good closure and know they have impacted someone's heart. Even Christ - who knew His power and the reality of eternity much better than we ever will cried because Lazarus had impacted His life. (John 11) Let them know you are sad - but then don't forget #1 & #2. :)
4. Don't stop loving people. Ok - I admit - it gets painful. I get tired of saying goodbye and become emotionally wrung out. I realized a few weeks ago though that if I had never said goodbye to some fabulous people - I never would have been able to say hello to more fabulous people. My husband and I are introverted. We need to withdraw from the world to regain energy. So it would be so easy for us to withdraw and not do the whole hello and goodbye thing. As a matter of fact - that is a balance we have to negotiate often. (Pure extrovert? Sorry - I know this is a confusing idea for you!) But we are getting ready to welcome in 13 new staff members and 10 new staff kids - WHOA! Here's the thing - they deserve to be celebrated - they deserve to make friends and establish a community. In the difficulties of saying goodbye - don't forget to open your heart to new hellos. I bet they will also be fabulous. Oh - and it's God's command to us - AND beneficial for us: 1 Peter 4:8, "Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins."
5. Be intentional. I love that my world grows and grows every year - I have people I have come to truly love in all parts of this big, big world. I certainly can't be best friends with them all - but I can be intentional. A quick note on Facebook, a short email, maybe even a Skype call - technology has opened doors that make this an easy thing to do. So be intentional to keep reaching out to say hello and keep in touch. They want to know they are not forgotten - and you need to be reminded of God's goodness through these connections with others. Most importantly - be intentional in prayer. Philippians 2:3-4 reminds us that we should be continually doing for others. We should be humble and mindful of others. Many read this verse and immediately think about service projects or giving. Those things are important - but I have learned the best thing I can do for my friends and loved ones is pray. It costs me nothing but the returns are great. The ability to pray for one another is a great privilege.