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say goodbye


“Every beginning is a consequence. Every beginning ends something.” Paul Valery, French Poet

We are officially in the “in-between”.

I wrote a little on transitions here and here back in January. Today I am revisiting this topic as we are a year into our journey towards career missionary work and almost five months deep into the complete uprooting of our entire work/family structure.

While we are waste high in the in-between season of change, I am learning so much about the power and necessity of a proper ending. As the French poet wrote “Every beginning ends something”, I believe that there is both beauty and tension, anticipation and grief as we wade into the process of closing one chapter and opening another. And even though both are separate and stand independent of each other, they also overlap and pull bits and pieces from each other before the beginning has become the new normal; before the ending has truly ended and the beginning has fully begun.

The “in-between” is the ending and beginning converging on one another – giving and taking, pulling this way and that way, and sometimes wearing both sadness and a smile all at the same time.

This is where we are. Not every day, mind you, but when we face an ending the texture and weight of the “in-between” season feels very tangible in our hands.

And I am learning the value of saying goodbye.

I am a missionary kid. The transient lifestyle is not foreign to me. I remember all the goodbyes. I remember the tears and the hugs and the missing of family and friends. Goodbye was normal. But what was also normal were beginnings. Say goodbye here, and say hello there. Over the years I developed, almost, an ability to turn my emotions off and on like a light switch. I could feel the goodbye deeply in the moment, but then feel completely fine twenty-four hours later. In fact, in my adult life there have been many times that I just forwent the goodbye altogether. I’m not sure if it was some sort of callous on my heart, but I just didn’t feel the sorrow of parting ways anymore. I would feel sad about the ending, and I knew in my head that this was a sad moment, but I could move past it very quickly. I found that I simply didn’t want to deal with goodbyes. I’d rather just assume, “I’ll see you later,” and keeping on moving forward.

This past year I have been learning that grieving is a gift, and goodbyes are precious. Grieving is not weakness. It is not a sign of some inner frailty or inability to cope. Grieving and making goodbye a priority are absolutely necessary in order to detach from the past and embrace the future.

Yesterday afternoon after we picked the kids up from school, Joel and I took the family to the Pumpkin Patch. We went on a hayride, ran through the field of pumpkins, the kids picked out their favorites (even Jasper), we looked at the animals in the barn, played in the dirt, and sat around a picnic table eye-to-eye, relishing in a moment that we will always remember as both an ending and a beginning.


Will we never see the likes of a pumpkin patch again? Doubtably so. However, the next time we are in the United States Sydney will be in college, and our family of six will look a little bit different by then. We are ending, not just an annual family tradition, but we are ending a way of doing something as an entire family unit. While Sydney will still be under our roof for several more years, the next time we find ourselves watching the leaves turn red, yellow and aubergine, she will be in college. I think I’m saying two goodbyes in one this time.

Never-the-less – and please forgive the sappiness of this post! – the value of the goodbye, the ending, the concerted effort to recognize or create a “ritual”, so to speak, is that it allows the heart to feel its emotions and open itself up to the new beginning.

On our ride home yesterday evening, covered in hay and dirt, I let myself feel the goodbye. I cried a little bit. And today I am looking forward. I am thinking about planting pumpkins in Malawi, and wondering if that’s crazy. Today I am embracing the joy that is before us. We made our memories and we all knew it. We were all aware of how precious that moment was yesterday. The consequence of giving ourselves permission to say goodbye to this family tradition is that our hearts are increasingly drawn towards the beginning of this new chapter in our lives. We can’t move on until we’ve let go. And letting go requires a goodbye.

What is your “in-between” right now? Are you bouncing back and forth from ending and beginning and feeling the instability of it all? Are you feeling unhealthy shame for your need to put closure on something in your life? Are you burned out on change?

Here is a quick recap of what I am learning in my own season of transition:

Say goodbye.

Whatever the ending is for you, take the time, and give yourself permission, to officially say farewell. Maybe it is a “last” for you, kind of like this year will be for us. Maybe it is a ceremony of some kind to give you closure. Maybe it is simply journaling your feelings and letting things go. Maybe it is an action step to close out today’s chapter and start the new one tomorrow.

Let the ending come so that the beginning can begin.

Say goodbye.

“There is…a time to plant and a time to uproot…a time to weep and a time to laugh…a time to mourn and a time to dance…a time to keep and a time to throw away…He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3


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