**I started writing this over a month ago, and have had a hard time finishing it. As friends continue to pack up their homes and ready themselves to leave, I am more and more aware of  what binds us together, and what brings us together. As my family and I are saddened to watch friends go, there is also joy knowing that they are leaving to go and do kingdom work, to change the world, to live out their faith. That is a good and joyful thing, even through the sting of goodbyes. **

My heart broke a little this past week.

We have had it easy here the last couple of years, in terms of having friends leave. They haven’t.  Most of those we have known who have graduated have not left the area, so we still see them often.

But this year is different. There are several people, several families, that we will be saying goodbye to over the course of the next month. Many people who started seminary at the same time as my husband are now graduating and moving on. Some have been called into ministry at this time, and will be moving, completing their degrees online. Others have just determined that their time in this place is done, and it is time to bring their gifts and talents to new places.

Last week, I said goodbye to a sweet friend who is moving to Oklahoma. This is a woman who I met the fall that we moved here, due to her work in the Community Formation department.  She is one of those people that exudes grace and love for the other, and I feel blessed to call her a friend.

It was an easy friendship. During the first year we knew one another, it was more casual, seeing one another in a class. Then, when I began to work in the same department as she did, we grew to know one another more. She is a person you want to bare your soul to, and I did on occasion. We laughed together and we cried together. I mourned when she left her position to be a stay at home mom, though I found that the time we made for one another in the last year was even more sweet, and deepened that friendship even more.

We got together one last time before she and her family moved. It was a sweet time where, once again, we shared what was burdening our hearts. We laughed over silly things. And we prayed for one another, praying for blessings, praying for joy, praying for peace amidst the chaos.

It is amazing, this place that we are in. Sometimes in just a few months, and sometimes in the course of a few years, we have the opportunity to develop relationships with others who will go out to all corners of the world. We have this blessed chance to have our lives touched, transformed, by those who we may never meet with again, once we leave here, this side of the veil. It is a beautiful thing to realize that a piece of our hearts travel the world over, in the hearts of others.

And it also hurts.

It hurts knowing that you have given part of yourself to another, risking the chance that, once apart, you may not speak to the other often. It hurts knowing that you have allowed another to hold the broken bits of your soul, trusting them to be gentle, and then saying goodbye to them, not knowing when or where you’ll be able to see one another again. It hurts, putting distance between you and a friend.

And it hurts, knowing how much your children will grieve as their friends move from this place to the next. It hurts knowing that their little hearts will be broken wide open as those boys and girls that they have told their secrets to, ran wild with, played and laughed and fought and lived in community with, as those kids head out of this place into their new reality. How do I explain that it will be okay, that though they are sad now, there is joy to be found in new beginnings, in fresh starts? How do I tell them those things, when I have a hard time balancing it in my own mind?

We are here for a season, and that season is coming to an end in this next year. This time of transition, as friends leave and new neighbors move in, is a common theme in this town.  And soon, too soon, it will be our turn to leave this place, to move our family from this town to the next.   As a family going into ministry, this will be our life in the future…moving every few years, settling in to a new town, new church, new home, new schools, new friends, new community. Our life will be a life filled with transition and change. I only hope we teach our children, and teach them well, the joy and excitement that can come with transition. I pray that we teach them to say goodbye well, and that they can continue relationships despite the miles that separate friends. I also hope that we encourage them to say hello well, to envelope those moving into the community with friendship and love, and welcome them in the way we were welcomed.

As for those souls who have moved on from this place, or those who will be going soon….know that you are missed, know that you are loved, know that you, your families, and your ministries are being prayed for and prayed over. Be blessed, my friends, and I look forward to seeing you again.