Over the last few weeks, I’ve been preparing for my relocation to Mississippi where I will be taking a new pastorate. I am very excited to be moving into this new chapter of my life though I have no small amount of internal stress and conflict about what this new chapter necessarily entails.
Please understand, there is nothing coming up in this new chapter that I particularly dread. There are the requisite pains in the neck that go with moving and getting acclimated to new surroundings. I will be going with a reduced brood size since some are going to be in college or working. That is big, but it is simply part of their growing up. My three remaining children will be attending a Christian school for the first time, which is a first for our family since we have always homeschooled previously. That should be a big adjustment, but I anticipate it will work out well.
What Lies Ahead
The stress and conflict that this new life chapter brings has not so much to do with what lies ahead, rather it is what I am leaving behind.
It showed itself clearly to me in two incidents over these last few weeks. The first time was when I was discussing the move with some of my children. I was seeking to encourage them because they were understandably sad about moving away from Virginia. Assuming that they were concerned about being friendless and lonely, I explained that they would quickly make new friends in Mississippi and that they would quickly feel more at home there. Their response surprised me. They all said that they were confident that they would make friends there. They knew that the folks were nice and friendly there. The problem was they didn’t want to leave the friends that they already had. They knew that, while their friendships would continue, there was a very real sense that they were leaving them, and that things would never be the same.
While I know that I have friendships from those same younger years that have continued, I also know that the distance, as well as the changes that inevitably occur during the teen years will change the shape of their friendships. I know that their friendships won’t end, but they won’t be the same. It is part of a chapter that is ending, while a new one begins.
Leaving Things Behind
The second incident occurred while I was going through furniture, files, and old books. Like many homeschooling families, we have tons of books of all sorts. In seeking to lighten the load, I purged the shelves of books that we would no longer need, and that our children weren’t interested in reading to their children one day. I also went through old files of notes, catalogs, and brochures that Kim had amassed. I saw afresh how she had dedicated her life to our family, and her children seeking to teach them not only knowledge, but wisdom and godly character. She had page after page of material, written in her own hand, about organizing and running the affairs of a large family. Though the books and catalogs weren’t hard to purge, I kept a lot of these notes. It was painful to think of throwing them out. I felt that they had something to offer generations to come in our family. It was a legacy of love and wisdom.
The furniture was difficult as well. We had a few pieces that we could give away or sell to other families who could use them. Some pieces, however, had no practical use. We had no need or space for them in our new home. However, it was hard to simply throw them away, because they were physical pieces of memory. One piece in particular was a simple corner curio shelf. It was dented, rustic, and not very attractive, to be honest. We haven’t used it in years, because Precious Moments went out of style many moons ago. However, the shelf was a gift that I gave Kim on our first anniversary. It was a love token.
I gritted my teeth, and hauled it away, along with a couple of other broken pieces of furniture that could not be repaired. As I left it behind, I looked in the rearview mirror, and spoke to it softly as I drove off, as if to tell it (and myself) that the love has endured, even if the token has not.
This process is similar to what many of you have been through as you have moved, or as you have sorted through the belongings of parents or spouses that have passed away. It is a painful, yet cathartic process. In the ending of one life chapter as you move to another, you progressively make little realizations as to what you want to preserve from these memories, legacies, and tokens. You may keep some physical reminders, be they books, notes, pictures, or furniture. You may see these legacies, as I do, in the words, faces, and lives of your children. Or, you may simply carry them in your heart. Your own mechanism for keeping memory alive is entirely personal and unique.
However you may seek to do so, don’t confuse the token for the actual legacy left from chapters that have passed. God has been at work in every chapter, molding and shaping you and your children into His likeness. Each chapter is a stepping stone in a much bigger story, a legacy for future generations to ponder.
So, in looking back at the old memories and legacies, don’t be afraid to turn the page to the next chapter.
Have you found it difficult to turn to the next chapter? Leave a comment below, we would love to hear from you.