I needed this time, this space tonight. Sitting here in the darkness on my back porch, watching the colors of the sunset slowly fade away beyond the mountain, listening to nothing other than the music of the insects, catching the occasional glimpse of a lightening bug. Peace. The last few weeks have felt incredibly hectic. Not just physically busy, they have been emotionally “busy” as well. I desperately wanted to sit and write about it all but just...couldn’t. I could not find the words, or perhaps even identify what was going on in my own heart yet much less write about it. The words felt stuck inside me somewhere and so it all stayed tucked down, hidden while I did what had to be done in preparing for the next phase of my life.
You see, I just finished moving furniture into an apartment to relocate for graduate school. Up until now, all the preparations, applications and resulting discussions have felt like discussing a dream - it all felt a bit unreal and theoretic, and far in the future. But now, well, now things are real. We have an apartment, our furniture is moved in and Matt even has a new teaching position in the local school system. And, all of a sudden, I am terrified.
With every new beginning there has to be an ending and letting go of sorts, even if the new beginning is something you dearly want. And life after loss can be full of really conflicted emotions because, first of all, we did not ask for or desire a new beginning. Starting over after loss is a necessity but it is not one we were looking for. Yet, even so, new beginnings are hopeful aren’t they, a confirmation that with the death of our loved one the world did not stop spinning and our life is not over as well. New beginnings are a sign of hope for a good future. And that is something I desperately wanted to be assured of after losing Phil - I wanted to know that his death did not end my life as well, I longed for signs of hope. So I rejoice in my new beginnings: finding love again, graduating from college, writing and publishing a book, and, now, uprooting our family to take this risk of going to grad school. I am deeply and humbly grateful. Still, today, it feels a bit like jumping into the deep end of the pool and not being sure I remember how to swim.
As I drove down the road to Tuscaloosa on Monday, with my pup Ruby riding beside me, I listened to this song by Danny Gokey over and over:
“Tell your heart to beat again, close your eyes and breathe it in,
Let the shadows fall away, step into the light of grace,
Yesterday’s a closing door, you don’t live there anymore,
Say good-bye to where you’ve been and tell your heart to beat again....
Beginnings, just let that word wash over you.
It’s all right now, love’s healing hands have pulled you through.
So get back up, take step one,
Leave the darkness, feel the sun,
Cause your story’s far from over and your journey’s just begun...”
As I drove, tears ran down my face. I felt such an incredible mix of emotions. So thankful for this opportunity, so grateful to be able to chase this dream, so amazed that Matt would choose to follow me on this quest and support and love me in it. And yet, in the midst of it all, I really felt a sadness at missing Phil, of knowing that life goes on without him and I wondered what he would think or feel - would he be proud of me for refusing to lay down and die too, for continuing to fight? I suppose any new beginning after loss brings us full circle to the reason we have the new beginning in the first place, and that is the loss that brought us to this point in life. I also felt a twinge of fear. What if I had it all wrong? What if I had just imagined somehow that God was leading me to this place, down this path? What if I ran out of money or could not get a job? What if, what if, what if....
Graduate school was not on my bucket list. It was not a dream of mine, in fact, I had never considered it before Phil died. But I felt this magnetic pull and drawing towards it that I could only interpret as God’s calling to me for this next assignment in life. After a lifetime spent in ministry, I felt a pull to a new way of loving people, a new place of ministry. The door is closed on so many things in my past, things I loved and still, on some days, grieve the loss of. As I drove down the interstate towards my new beginning, these words echoed over and over in my heart, “Yesterdays a closing door, you don’t live there anymore, say good-bye to where you’ve been and tell your heart to beat again...”
Tuesday night I went out alone to grab a few more things we needed for the apartment. As I made my way back to our new “second” home, I drove north over the Warrior River and saw the sun setting in spectacular fashion to my west. Sunsets have always felt important to me, healing, like a benediction and prayer of sorts. Last night as I saw that sunset, I felt God whispering to my heart that this was my new path now, my new assignment, my new beginning. The sun was setting on the past and rising on my future.
“Cause your story’s far from over and your journey’s just begun...”