|Our worship team...two are leaving!|
For those of you who have followed me for awhile or knew me before I began blogging, you'll know that we live kind of a unique life...almost five years ago we left our home in Canada and a thriving church that we loved to take a little church that had dwindled down to 25 people, and with us came an interesting dynamic...a team of Canadians! First was our worship pastor, Marcus, and then came a bunch of our kids' friends...all students at Portland Bible College who spent every weekend with us for the last five years helping us to grow this little church to 150 and truly becoming a part of our family. Many of my blog entries have included this extended family, with a dedicated "Table Talk" that was based on the escapades, antics, discussions and humorous events that took place around our table at our huge Sunday dinners. Over the past five years we have had Marcus, Matt and Megan, then Jamie, Tasha and Bryce, then Ryan, Tim and James, and then John. These kids regularly made the trek from northeast Portland to Newberg four times a week, bringing with them a wide assortment of friends from literally all over the world. Our church has been greatly enriched by their enthusiasm, energy and passion for the Lord and His House. They have played instruments, led worship, cleaned and repaired the church building, gathered kids and led small groups, practiced preaching, gave exhortations, prayed and fasted, run events, set up and tore down more tables and chairs than they'd care to count, ran errands, loved people and gave up a lot of campus life to serve us. And our own kids were able to make the toughest transition of their lives (giving up lifelong friends and a huge, thriving youth group to move to a tiny church in a small town where they knew no one their age) because of this evolving gang who kept them happily socialized and connected. Our family was blessed and enriched by the great fun, lively discussions, rowdy sports games, happy holidays, and the vibrancy of youth they brought into our home. Sometimes, when the mess would be almost overwhelming, with piles of laundry, sports gear, 50 shoes scattered in the entry, dishes, empty Stumptown cups and chip bags, and makeshift beds all over the house, I would think to myself, "One day this season will be over and this full house will only be a memory, and I will look back on it and think, 'Those were some of the best days of our lives.'" And then I'd be okay, cheerfully scooping up the garbage, stripping the sheets, and re-loading the dishwasher week after week after week, knowing one day it would end.
Well, that day has come. This past week was both a dreaded and anticipated time in my life. I was thrilled that so many of "our kids" were graduating and taking the first step into the call of God on their lives, but I was sad that we---our family and our church---were losing them.
We had a farewell service and our "Last Supper" with our gang, and then the next week we had the very last service and a huge Sunday dinner with 30 people as we celebrated (yes, celebrated) the kids who were leaving. I'm not much of a crier, but I'm happy to say I shed a few tears at both the farewell service and again at the last service. Why am I glad I cried? Because it means that I loved and was loved...which is a very beautiful gift. I truly love those kids...each one. They are unique and precious to me. And I'm pretty sure they love me back, because I sure got a lot of hugs and kisses and meaningful words of thanks and appreciation!
So we sent them on their way with blessing, waving goodbye on our front porch with a bit of a lump in our throats, and then spent the last week washing away all trace of them, by laundering all the duvets, comforters, sheets and blankets, sorting and putting away or giving away the things they purposely left behind, setting up our kids bedrooms as single rooms again, eating up the left-overs, and finally, today, going to church for the first time without them.
You know what? It was just fine. They are gone, but God is good. We have a new team to raise up, and it will be exciting to watch them grow and develop...and we may even be a little surprised at who steps up to the plate! There were no tears today. We rejoiced over what the Lord has given us...a healthy, growing church brimming with potential...and we have not only the Lord to thank but a group of students who came here as rowdy, fun-loving teenagers with a passion to serve the Lord and left as young adults, having "bore the yoke in their youth" for us and for God, and being better men and women because of it!
What a privilege to have influenced and poured out our lives to these anointed young men and women of God only to receive so much in return.
So parting is sorrowful, but it is also sweet. Good-bye to the brightest and best! How we love you! You will always have a place in our hearts and in our home.