Bittersweet. The word everyone uses when facing a transition or major life change. We use it to encapsulate our conflicting emotions: excitement about what lays ahead mingled with nostalgia and sadness about what must be left behind.
I first experienced a bittersweet transition when I graduated high school. A new adventure stretched out before me; yet, it meant moving away from, and inevitably loosing, close contact with many of my high school friends. Graduating college was also bittersweet. It was that long-awaited transition into adulthood: no more homework, no more classes, etc. However, I mourned the tight-knit college community, familiar sights and sounds of campus, even the mandatory daily chapel sessions we all complained about.
When Mitch and I took the adult leap into his first professional job as a Youth and Family Minister, we moved from the sweet little community of York, NE to the sprawling metro of Phoenix, AZ. During this whirlwind of a transition, we felt many bittersweet moments. We didn’t want to be stuck in our “entry-level” jobs in York. Many of our college friends were moving on to bigger and better things. We felt it. It was our time. Our adventure awaited, and we fully embraced it. Nonetheless, it was hard not to also feel the bitterness of having to leave a church family we dearly loved, our adorable downtown apartment with the huge old windows overlooking the post office (rent was so cheap–$350!), several close friends, and the brick roads winding through the picturesque neighborhoods.
Now, we face another bittersweet transition in our life. We feel God calling us back to the Midwest. Yes, our hearts desired it, but through our prayers over the past year, God has made it apparent that it is time: Time to go.
The past few weeks has left me emotionally drained at times. My heart longs for the green grass, tall trees with branches reaching up to the sky, the friendliness of strangers, and the natural, unassuming hospitality of Midwesterners. We are anxious to join the Fairview Road family and begin serving there. Did I mention we will be MUCH closer to our families? Our Rebekah growing up with her extended family as an active part of her life is so important to us.
Still, the deep sadness we feel about leaving so many people we love here in the Valley of the Sun puts the bitter in this sweet opportunity and next chapter of our lives. To the youth group teens that we have had the honor and privilege of sharing Jesus with–you have brought us immeasurable joy and been our whole reason for moving here and staying as long as we have; to our church family–so many of you took us into your homes (even on holidays) and made us feel like a part of your family; to our friends and teens in other congregations–we will always be grateful for the time and experiences that we have shared.
Life is a beautiful tapestry woven of all of our experiences (mistakes and victories alike) and relationships. Though we move on in life, we are always connected by the times we have shared. We have mutually impacted each other’s lives–hopefully for the best!
My heart feels scattered at times. There are days I want to retrace my steps and pick up all the pieces of my heart that I have left behind. Yet, the past is frozen only in our minds. When we revisit those places and people, we can reconnect and share great joy in what God has done in our lives–but we cannot go backwards. Nor should we want to do so.
Fortunately, when we leave pieces of our heart behind, that clears room for the future. God prepares new experiences and relationships with which we can fill our lives and hearts. And the beauty of social media is that we can stay connected with those we hold dear easier than ever before.
As we face another bittersweet transition, I am pushing myself to allow my heart to feel both the grief and the joy. I want to give every person we love here yet one more hug and to tell them how much they mean to us. And, I cannot wait to form new friendships and memories in Columbia. Even though we were only in Columbia for a couple days, the kind people we met impacted us with their generosity, love, and enthusiasm for serving the Lord.
I am striving to embrace and engage life through this transition by allowing myself to feel all the emotions and accept them. I cherish the past three years, and I know that through them God has prepared us for this next chapter of life and ministry.
What were some of your bittersweet transitions in life?