Monday, July 18, 2011

the pieces of my heart

When I was in the 3rd grade, my very best friend Jessica Szymanski moved away to Michigan with her family. I was absolutely devastated. I still remember my mom taking me down to the Best Inn that they were staying in for their last night in Junction City; I can see the hallway I walked down and remember the awkward sad goodbye, before walking back to the car and crying the whole way home.

This was just my first taste of goodbye. With the years to come I would experience many more goodbyes on even deeper levels. I went to Tabor, where I met friends that I will have for the rest of my life, but after two years there God led me to Azusa Pacific University, some friends graduated and moved on, and others stayed at Tabor. The goodbyes were painful, and I often felt I was missing out on the things happening at Tabor. Yet, at APU I would make friends just as meaningful and longlasting. Graduation came and people dispersed and with it more goodbyes.

I lingered in the area and savored some of the friendships. I started dating Lee a few months later, but November 1st came and I boarded a plane for Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was only for a season, but the goodbyes were wrenching. And really, those goodbyes marked the end of a season in my life. When I came back from Argentina, many of those relationships would never be the same again--some for the better, some not.

Though I longed for home (and for Lee) while in Argentina, I made three dear girl friends there, who I would have to say goodbye to, as well.

Throughout my time at APU, while far from my family, and in Buenos Aires, far from everyone I loved, I finally put to words what I had been feeling for so long: pieces of my heart are scattered far and wide across the United States and even some over-seas. No matter where I go all of those pieces will never be in the same place.

This phenomenon only gets worse the more years that I live, because despite the results I continue to love deeply and live openly everywhere I go. No matter how painful the goodbyes may be, I am thankful to be this way. My husband--he's the same way--and I love that about him. (Though occasionally he may be a little too open about some things ;) We are relational people and we deeply enjoy building meaninful relationships quickly wherever we may be for any given time. We are also similar in that we carry the burden of how others may be feeling or what they may be experiencing.

So as we prepare to move to Kansas, our hearts are torn.

And as is my nature, I am going to be very open in this blog.

Lee's family currently lives about 90 minutes from us. All of whom we love very much and will miss very deeply. As one can imagine, they are very sad about this new calling in our lives. And no matter how affirmed we feel as God continues to shine light on the path ahead, we are still burdened by the reality of moving so far away from them. I am very sorry for how our decision to move has affected and will continue to affect all of them.

Our hearts are also burdened for the leaders of the church. I mentioned previously all of the big changes happening at the church and how Lee played a big role in those transitions happening smoothly. I don't understand God's timing. I don't understand God's plan. Yet, at the end of the day, I want to obey Him. I want to follow His leading. I know not everyone can understand this, and I don't expect everyone to. For some people, 'God's callling' to do something is a vague, even unrealistic, thing. For us, however, it is alive and real and we feel its weight as the very most important thing in both of our lives, as individuals and as a couple and as a family. Even as I write this, it doesn't change how us leaving has made things extremely hard on people we care very deeply for. I don't understand it, and in moments I feel upset with God. If this is where He wanted us then why didn't he reveal that months ago? And if this wasn't what we were supposed to do why does it seem He continues to affirm it?

The church was asking us to give a verbal committment months ago, and we did that. We expressed our desire and commitement to another year in Reedley. We stopped looking other places. Stopped applying, stopped seeking it out. We were very open with people in the church that we didn't know when God would open doors elsewhere, but that we would not look for them ourselves or try to open them. Then just as everything is about to wrap up with the church and move forward with the new stuff we get a call with what seems very much like a huge door blowing open. But even in the midst of what seems like God working, pieces of our heart feel broken by the weight of what sometimes feels a lot like guilt. My heart is heavy when I think of the people this hurts and the lives that it burdens. The awkwardness it brings in relationships makes me sad. And the fact that many will not ever truly know our hearts in this as we wrestled and wrestled with this decision makes me sad, too. It wasn't about money. It wasn't about a better deal (no, we are not making more money by going to Tabor instead of staying with the church--we wouldn't make a decision based on that). It wasn't just about Kansas. It wasn't about not being satisfied at the church. It was about what God wanted from us and what was best for our family. But the truth is I just don't even want to think about it anymore to even write about it. Man my heart feels heavy.

Back to the topic of family. . .which doesn't really move away from the heavy feelings.

I have joked lately about a younger couple whose families are from opposite sides of the United States. 'I don't recommend marrying out-of-state' I say, 'It'd be a whole lot easier to keep it local!'
I tease in good fun, but there is a lot of truth to this. I understand that when you get married individuals 'leave their fathers and mothers' and become one with their spouse, as Scripture explains. Nonetheless, when you get married to someone whose family and roots are 1800 miles away from your own, it leaves a big gap to be filled when joining those families. Geographically, it simply cannot be done. Unless you live literally half way in between and give neither side the satisfaction of being lived close to, then one side is always missing out to the same extent. But how miserable would that be?

There is no right answer to any of this. There is no protocol, example, guideline, or sufficient advice on this subject matter. Lee and I didn't have to get married. We each could have married someone from our own respective 'homes'. Maybe this would have been 'easier' on families or easier on us when deciding what jobs to accept or where to live, but this is the realization I have come to:

If being married to Lee were dependent upon me living in California for the rest of my life, I would do it. I would still date him. I would still say yes when he asked me to marry him. I would still have walked down the isle. I would still choose Lee. Even if it meant living away from my family forever, as difficult as that would be, I would still choose him.

And I take comfort in knowing that we both feel the same way about this... that is why our wedding vows said "Where you are, will be my home."

Critics could say it is easy for me to say this all now that I am getting to move to Kansas. I hear a lot about how I am 'finally getting what I want.' It would be a lie to say that I am not ecstatic to live 55 minutes from a good portion of my family. I am thrilled. It has been five years since I have lived in Kansas and I am very excited to be there again. I am not ashamed of how happy I will be to live near my mom and sisters. Still, my excitement does not mean I am not sad to leavel Lee's family. Of course I am.


That is how I feel right now, like I could go round-and-round on this and never make a final point, never make an understandable conclusion.

So I close this blog without a conclusion, and instead leave it as an open-ended expression of our hearts at the current moment. I hope it makes sense, because I am not going to re-read it or edit it.

I am happy. I am joyful. I am extremely grateful. But I am, and always have been, a deep 'feeler'... and occasionally a word-vomitter, too. :)

The next blog will be a very joyful one, because Lydia Jane will be one on Wednesday!!


  1. Oh, Sara Jo, I think I can say that I understand. My dad was a preacher and even though Kirk & I aren't in the ministry, God has led us almost from coast to coast. Leaving was always very hard and yet every place we've moved has seemed better than the last. You just HAVE to go where God leads. It's always good. Hard sometimes, but always good! My family lives in Minnesota, Illinois & the Dominican Republic while Kirk's family lives here in Reedley. The distance makes me crazy sometimes, especially since so many people here have their families within 20 min. It's hard not to be jealous. But I have to remember that we have eternity to be together and ultimately it just doesn't matter. You keep doing what God is calling you to do. We will miss you but pray God's blessings on your family as you follow Him.

  2. Following God's will is something that some people will not understand, ever. I know that you and Lee wrestled with this decision as it was not an easy decision to make. We, I, will miss you guys. I saw in the two of you a bright future at RMBC. I know that your future will be just as bright at Tabor. Blessings to you as you move to where God is leading. Leave without guilt as God has a plan for RMBC, we just don't see it yet but I know that He will make it known in His perfect timing.