Life: A Series of Goodbyes

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Because our lives right now are being built up to a time soon where we will say goodbye to Africa, and almost everything feels like a goodbye in some type of way, I got thinking about this goodbye thing.

Let me say upfront: I am REALLY, SERIOUSLY bad at saying any type of goodbye. Having had a brother living overseas since I was 18, and always knowing when I saw him, I’d come to a time when he’d leave again, I thought I’d be used to them. Not even used to them – but I’d find a way to cope and get through them with grace and dignity. Alas. As much as I try, that feeling of dread descends two days before and I get my ugly cry on every. single. time.

Here’s what I figure. Life is just a series of goodbyes. From the moment you’re born, you navigate your way from one goodbye to the next until the ultimate goodbye, which isn’t really a forever goodbye at all. Well, in my books anyway.

You’re born and you say goodbye to anonymity. You are given a name, and a family and you are known. You grow and say goodbye to infancy, to being a toddler, and eventually goodbye to your childhood. You say goodbye to friends, to family. You say goodbye to cities you leave, to places you’ve been. You say goodbye to phases of life, to the people who’ve journeyed with you there. You say goodbye to memories, to pasts, to promises.

Why are goodbyes so hard? I think it’s because I know that even though a piece of my heart stays behind, the time has come to move on and ultimately, the unknown is scary. Do I crave the comfort of all that we’re leaving behind? Leaving behind not only places – but do I crave the comfort of safe spaces, of familiar faces, of people who know what I’ve walked through, a place where I’m known? Um, yes.

But here’s the thing: on the other side of every goodbye, is a radiant hello. Journeying to a goodbye, a point in life where I know I’m leaving behind and entering something new, that’s the glorious part of living. Who I become, what God teaches me, how God uses me, who I meet, who I carry and who carries me, how and for who my heart breaks and mends, how I process pain and elation and what it teaches me, how I impact the world where I am for that time and how my world at that time impacts me, how God can use me exactly where I am because of where I’ve come from – that all brings me to a point of goodbye. But not any less important, is the magnificent hello.

Hello to new friends, while I never forget the ones who’ve marked my heart with their fingerprints already and carry them with me always.

Hello to new beginnings – while I carry the scars of my past, they bear testament to what God has brought me through – a beautiful testimony of redemption.

Hello to new places – my new phase or place will be impacted by all I have become, through the journey God has taken me on. Every heart breaking, painful, joyous, spectacular, nervous, unsure, confident, confused step I’ve taken, God has intended to get me to where I’m standing right now. My story has prepared me for  where I’m going.

Hello to the unknown – closing the door on the familiar. Beautifully scary – but I have a God to whom nothing is unknown, and I gotta place my trust there, in Him.

They say if there’s a Goliath in front of you, there’s a David inside of you. I’ve got a Goliath of a goodbye coming up here in a couple of weeks. I’m just praying that the David I have hiding in the coves of my heart pushes through the waves of ugly cry tears and reminds me that on the other end of this painful, heart wrenching goodbye, is the dawn of a glorious, soul shaping hello, whose full impact on my life I won’t be able to see unless I’m willing to try.

One thing I do know for sure though – the One who goes with me, and is taking me there, He knows. That should be enough for me. I’ve just got to be brave enough for the goodbye.

Stepping Off The Edge

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Recently, God’s really challenged me on faith. Believing in the dark because let’s face it, believing in the light is pretty easy. Everything is clear there. The rubber hits the road when waters of life are muddied, you can’t see the wood from the trees and you are found wishing you knew what was around the corner and why God was leading you there.

My dad always tells me that the longest journey you can take is from your head to your heart. Things I know in my head, do they resonate in my heart? Things can roll off my tongue so easily –  “Oh wait, Hebrews 11:1 – Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Or my favourite easy-to-say-but-difficult-to-cling-to-when-I’m-in-the-pit verse “Oh yes, Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I will admit, in times when I felt like my life was falling apart, hope and a happy future, or any future at all even, did not even enter my mind.

Have I got all of this figured out and do I walk around in a big blissful bubble of abounding joy? That’s a resounding no. We’re walking together and in all seriousness, no-one ever has it all figured out. But we love the Jesus who writes the most glorious stories if we give Him the pen and that’s the essence of faith.

I’m about to embark, with my family, on a huge move from South Africa to the USA – I’ll fill you in on the process. Matt won the green card lottery. We didn’t go applying for jobs, we weren’t active in trying our best to escape this place at all, as most people would think. We randomly entered the green card lottery, literally as a tongue in cheek kinda thing, and Matt won. From 15 million people who entered worldwide, narrowed down to 85 000 in the second round and finally 50 000 worldwide who get their final interviews – we made it. Fast forward to 18 months later, I cannot even begin to tell you the miracles that have happened in order for us to get on the plane in 34 days time. Police clearance certificate we needed in 5 weeks, when the police department told us a minimum of 6 weeks, processed in two weeks. Passport applications for our kids – minimum processing time was 6 weeks at our nearest home affairs. We pitched up there with 6 weeks to go, only to find that their scanners were down, and we had to race to the next home affairs office to be told we’d have them in 2 weeks. Hand of God? I think so. There are loads more, but honestly, being on this journey and processing our immigration, has been just like journeying with Jesus through every step. Does that mean it’s been peaches and cream this entire time? No. We’ve had to have our lives on hold for this entire journey- 18 months and still counting – we couldn’t be present where we were because we knew there was a chance we could be leaving. THAT, my friends, is seriously difficult and strenuous on a family.

Are we running from South Africa? No, we’re not. America has its own problems – it isn’t going to be heaven on the other side, we are under no illusions about that at all. We love this place, we love so many people here, most of our family is here and this is the safe option, in terms of having life figured out. Our kids are so happy in their school, which is a huge blessing to me as their mom. Our kids have all 4 of their grandparents and their godparents around them constantly which is just an immense blessing. Matt has his dream job. We have amazing church families – people who’ve walked with us through so much. We live comfortably here. Why would God make His path so clear, a path that leads us from here?

All in all, I believe He wants to take us out of our comfort zone – it’s an exercise in faith. I believe He has work for us to do on the other side. Do we know what that is yet? Not really but that’s the faith part. Holding onto the fact that because we believe He’s brought us there, there’s got to be a reason why. A reason that will bring Him glory, impact the world for His name and grow us as a family. We can’t see God working when we’re comfortable. We can’t become world changers for Jesus by staying in our comfort zones. When we’re willing to step off the edge, not knowing if there’s solid ground under our feet when we land, that’s when, my friends, God displays so vividly, the love and grace He has for us and His willingness to be intimately involved in our lives.

Are we scared? AMEN AND YES. Do we have everything figured out on the other side? No, we definitely don’t. But we are sure of one thing: God wants us there so we’re believing in the promise that He is faithful to sustain us, guard and guide us through whatever happens when that plane lands on 12 December in the US of A.

On 3 August 2014, my brother preached a sermon at his church on having faith. At the end of that sermon, he broke down a little talking about us in South Africa, while he lives thousands of miles away in the USA – our uncle had just been the victim of a violent robbery, it was a tough time for our family as a whole and he had mentioned that as part of his sermon. Here’s how he ended it:

“But I have faith – I’m not walking by sight. What I see is devastating, but what I know, and I believe, is that I can trust Him with them. All I have to do, my responsibility is, to continue to obey.”

As us four Fouries stand in the airport, headed off on an adventure we believe to be in obedience to what He wants for us as a family and trying to serve Him as best we can, with all that we own in the entire world packed in four suitcases, pray for us as we go. Pray that we go with hope in our hearts for what God has to do in and through our family. Pray that we honour Him and believe in His will and purpose for our lives when we ache for the people and places we left behind; that when the days get dark, we hold onto the trust we have in His provision for us. But most of all, pray that we walk not by sight, but by faith in the One whose plans for us are more than we can comprehend, who loves us more than we can ever imagine and whose fingerprint on human lives is most prevalent, and whose name is most greatly glorified when we are willing to step off the edge and make ourselves uncomfortable.

Oh by the way – to all of you who we say goodbye to in this beautiful country we will always consider a home, remember:

You can trust Him with us.