Well the day came at last. I cleaned out my files, emptied out the drawers, collected my books, organized my scads of mechanical pencils and paper clips, put my tinker toys away in boxes, and hauled it all to the van. I officially moved out of the children’s pastor office. A chapter ended.
It wasn’t totally horrible. The worst part was in the morning when I was stuck in the office for hours going through pile after pile, notebook after notebook, file after file. You’d think I would have dealt with some of those piles and files along the way, but never really felt I had the time to be that thorough. And truthfully even if I had the time, I would have found more interesting things to do with it. But today it sort of afforded me a look back. I forgot how much time I spent researching and collecting ministry ideas until faced with dumping the contents of all the research files. I forgot how many drafts of the mission and vision we came up with before we nailed it down. I forgot how many versions of the ministry logo there were before we got it just right. I forgot that I taught on the attributes of God in children’s church using Nerf balls and dissolving paper, and that I sent out a feedback survey to all the kids’ workers after my first year asking them what they thought about it all. It was kind of strange. When you spend your whole life asking the question “what’s next?”, it makes it kind of easy for you to forget all the things that were on the path to “next.” There’s never any time to savor the moment because the moment is going to be gone any second and you have to be ready to take the next step.
Not that I’m complaining. I’m definitely a “what’s next” kind of lady. I’m just saying I’m developing a love for remembering.
I will admit to getting a bit weepy at times during the clean out. The “what’s next” for me equals not being here with these dear people. It’s been such an exhausting emotional journey these past few days, and goodbyes make me crazy anyway. I can sit here in the comfort of my own kitchen saying everything I want to say just the way I want to say it, but when I’m saying goodbye I just choke up and only squeaky sounds come out. I can never say all the words that fill my head, especially to those I really want to say them to. It’s a dastardly problem.
I was rescued from the choking up by my friend Kristen who came to the staff lunch party they were throwing for me. She showed up at my office and her presence diffused some of my melancholy. I know that Kristen will be my friend forever, even if I am living 1400 miles away. And then suddenly Orlando stood in my doorway. He escaped from school to come be with me at this lunch, and just seeing his face gave me courage. I was so thankful to not have to do this goodbye lunch without him. My dear friend Tee, who was in charge of the food, had Kung Po Chicken, Green Beans Caesar, and banana cream pie waiting for me when I arrived. All favorites of mine that she learned by scoping out the blog post from May 4. Sneaky girl. Of course the choking started up again as my friends began to share stories and remembrances of my time with them. Encouraging, uplifting words that I will treasure in my heart. I tried to tell them what they’ve meant to me, but all I really did was squeak.
And then I went back to finish the office. And when I did, I walked across the hallway and gave Pastor Ken my office key. I had to make a quick exit before the squeaking began again. Then I went to see our assistant Becky, and told her this was the last opportunity to come down to my office and tell me things looked better. She did, just like always. And I would have told her how meaningful her friendship has been to me, helping me navigate the waters of Petra and listening to all my ideas and giving me honest appraisals. I would have told her I’ve loved getting to know her, that I think she’s one of the brightest, most accepting people I know. But of course, all I got out was “It was fun” before the lump started in my throat and the squeak began.
So then we stood in the doorway, I said “goodbye office” and I closed the door, officially locking myself out. I gave some quick hugs and walked out the door. It was over, almost as suddenly as it seemed to begin. So I got in the van, turned on the engine, and asked the Lord the one question you knew I would ask.
“Okay, God,” I asked Him, “What’s next?”