For the last 19 years I've lived in Wainfleet. I've had my childhood here. I've made some of my dearest friends here. I've moved to the highway twice and back to Perry Road three times. I've learned to drive, learned to wear jeans, learned to work, made it through Winger School, E.L. Crossley Secondary School and Niagara College and all while breathing this country air into my soul. My roots have grown deep into this place, into the fabric of life here; so much of me is woven into the people here and the experiences we've had together.
In September I'm moving to Toronto to go back to school, I've written about this previously, which means that for me this summer is one of finishing. I'm finishing a job that I've loved at a church that I've loved. I'm finishing another job at a group home full of people that I've come to love and cherish. I'm finishing being a jr. high leader to my kiddos at Port Colborne, hoping that someone will take my place and love my girls just as much as I do. And while I've felt led all along that this is the right thing, I didn't really imagine the grief that comes along with finishing, in a way, with ending.
4 and a half years ago the children's pastor at Wainfleet BIC and myself sat in an empty board room at a large table overwhelmed with the task before us; to begin something new. We wanted to start a new Sunday School program at Wainfleet, one that would be drastically different from anything done before, with new approaches, a new style and a new look. We were overwhelmed but began to put the pieces together one by one, we dreamed and brainstormed and prayed that God would give us the right people in the right places. It's been 4 years since the beginning of 252 Basics and I'm amazed at how much the program has evolved, how our team has grown and become stronger, how I've watched people serve, watched people become better leaders, give of their time, their energy, their gifts and how much those things have impacted us as a church family and impacted me individually. I'm not the same person that I was when we started 4 years ago and I wouldn't be surprised if there are others that could say the same thing. Last Sunday we had our end of year 252 Basics party and we sang and played games and ate yummy snacks and we had a sharing time where the kids could share some of their favourite 252 memories. I was amazed at how many of the kids shared memories not just from this year but some even from our very first year. At the beginning of the party I welcomed the kids and asked them if they were excited and one of the kids who I never really thought loved being there shouted out 'NOOOO'. In my head I was thinking of course we would go to all this work to plan a fun morning and first thing you shout out is that you're not excited! I said to him 'what do you mean no, this is a party', to my amazement he responded that his lack of excitement was because it was the last 252 Basics of the school year. I was shocked! This little guy's response probably will never leave me because in his one little statement I was reminded why it's all worth it. That was my last day leading 252 Basics and it was a perfect ending.
As I begin to think about not going to work at Bethesda in September and not seeing the ladies I already feel an emptiness in my stomach. As I think about not coming into the church office and having 3 hour check-ins with Renee, the children's pastor, I can already feel my heart sinking. As I think about not being at youth on Tuesday nights to hear my girls talking about their boy problems, their friend and family problems, their French work that they hate, the test they didn't study for but still fervently prayed that they would pass, and hear them laugh and giggle and brace myself for them jumping onto my back at any moment, I already miss it and it's not even gone. As I think about the wonderful childhood that I've had; waking up and walking downstairs to find my Mom in her brown rocker praying for the day, setting my alarm 5 minutes earlier so I could beat Josh into the shower, long drives with Dad talking about everything from how standard vehicles work to the theology of the church and always being able to have a good laugh with Greg, hearing Ben laugh and yell at the top of his lungs during the singing time at church, as I think about these things I realize how these moments and these memories have each ben gifts.
Someone asked me the other day if I'm planning on coming home on weekends and I realized by the tone of the conversation that they assumed that my life would still be based here but I'd just be finishing up school. This might have been the case if I'd gone straight to University after high school but I think maybe it's different because I'm a bit older now and it's time to start something new. In a way I feel like I'm leaving my childhood and beginning the next chapter. And I'm scared to death. I'm scared that it will be a mistake, that I'll get there and want to come back, that I'll wish I'd never left. It's a risk and with any risk there's always a chance of those things but there's also a chance that it will be great. That what is ahead will be worth the pain of finishing what is behind. But I'll never know if I don't take the risk.
If I'm a bit sentimental these days you'll know why. I'm recollecting 19 years of wonderful memories, I'm looking back at how much we've all changed, I'm hugging longer, taking more pictures, and maybe shedding just a few more tears. I'm trying to figure out what it means to let go without secretly holding on. And for the first time in my life if you ask me what I'm going to do when I'm done school, I'm going to tell you that I don't have a plan. I've always had a plan, it didn't always happen like I thought it would but I've always at least mapped out a few possible routes. This time I'm plan-less.
And do you know what?
It feels great.
They say that to start a new chapter you have to close the last one. I don't remember them saying too much about the ache that seems to accompany it. But in all these things I hold tightly to the promise that I go forth not alone.
And just maybe I'll find out that ending really is beginning.