I’ve been thinking a lot about the wise words of the sage philosopher … Semisonic.
Yes, the 90s rock band.
The lyric “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end” has been pulling at my heart. This week has been a week of beginnings and endings for us.
Monday we went ice skating. Temperatures are warming up and the snow is starting to melt, so our local ice rink shut its doors for the season. We drove up the hill to ice skate one last time and say goodbye to sledding and snow men and all things winter
Friday, we went hiking. Temperatures are warming up and the snow is starting to melt, so we drove up the hill and said hello to a new season of outdoor fun. This marked the beginning of hiking and biking and picnics and all things spring.
Monday we said goodbye to winter, Friday we said hello to spring.
Goodbyes are really hard for me. Letting go takes so much more skill than holding on. My spirit lingers in the goodbye.
This is not a good trait for a military wife to have.
A few months ago, my family moved from the oceans of Okinawa, Japan to the mountains of New Mexico. The hello has been wonderful and a long time coming, but the goodbye has devastated me in some ways.
My heart aches for my little Japanese neighborhood on the bay and cherry blossoms and eisa dancers and, for the love, real ramen and even the typhoons. (You can read more about our time in Okinawa here http://downbythebay.blog.com/ )
Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to be living in America again. It is my home. I don’t really feel like I fit in, though. People look at me funny when I bow. They confusedly answer hello when I say, “hai”. All of the little cultural habits that once felt so foreign to me as I tried them on for size in the Japanese culture, are now second nature to me but foreign to everyone in my own culture.
I struggle to find my footing in this strange new place called home.
Friday as we slowly meandered our way through the trees and took deep breaths of crisp pine scented air, I felt a kinship with the mountain. I recognized its struggle. In some ways, it wanted to roll back over under the blanket of melting snow and remain in the winter; chunks of stubborn ice held on for dear life in shadows yet untouched by the sun. In other ways, it was waking up to this new season, fresh and happy to greet hikers on the trail that had laid abandoned all winter. Green shoots were beginning to peek their heads out of the snow, the birds were singing in the trees, the mountain was beginning to come to life.
It was in transition, neither fully winter nor completely spring.
I think it wanted to push the snooze button. Just 5 more minutes, mom.
Even with the fresh promise of spring, it still wasn’t quite ready to let go of winter.
As we walked, I felt like more than my boots connected with the melty slush on the ground. It wasn’t still fully the beautiful blanket of white snow it had once been, but wasn’t completely yet the life-giving water it would soon melt into. Both the snow and myself were in transition from one beautiful thing to another, living in the in-between where life gets kinda messy.
God is teaching me that it is okay to linger a while in the goodbyes, but it is better to focus my eyes on Him and keep following after Him. He has new and exciting things to show me, new and exciting tasks for me to do.
Jeremiah 29:11 tells me that God has plans for me to prosper and not to harm me. He has plans for me a hope and a FUTURE.
He has lots of exciting hellos in store for me in the future, but they will come at the cost of saying some goodbyes.
He reminds me that I once felt awkward as my toes took their first steps through the Okinwan sand. The salty tropical air once felt foreign in my lungs. Once upon a time, not so long ago, I stood under the warm Okinawan sun with cherry blossoms and eisa dancers and, for the love, real ramen and even the typhoons while I mourned the goodbyes I had just said in America.
Over time, as I watched blue fish swarm around my daughter and laughed with my Okinawan friends and tried strange new foods and was taught proper chopstick etiquette by my students, Okinawa slowly crept into my bones. It became a part of me.
This new place will, too.
I can already feel it a little in the sunsets over the mountains. I feel it a little in the gentle rustling of the wind between the leaves and in exhilarating sled rides down the steep hills. I feel it as I watch my kids come into themselves a little more each day here and I slowly begin to see the faint outlines of who their adult selves will be.
I gained so much during my time in Okinawa. My family grew stronger as we weathered some storms, I came home with 2 more children than I left with, and God called me so much deeper into relationship with Him. I would’ve missed all of that if I had been unwilling to suffer through the goodbyes that led me there.
As I sit on my sleepy mountain and contemplate messy transitions and dirty snow, God whispers for met to get up and keep walking. I will take these next steps with my heart focused on hellos and on the God who makes all things new – including myself.
(These pictures are of our last night in Okinawa, and our last minutes in America as we were in line to board the plane)
Here are some pictures of our week of goodbyes and hellos.