Last week we made the incredibly hard decision to leave our church. This week we had the conversations and the goodbyes with those who matter most. We are still trying to figure out how to tell the girls. Needless to say, these past days have kinda sucked.
I could sit here and write pages of reasons. Explain years of trying to fit our round pegs into square holes, about attempting to own and be content in our “misfit” statuses. I could write about tries at small groups and hours of tough conversations. Talk about the decision one year ago to switch service times, step into new leadership roles, and give it one more year. Sift through the months of hoping upon hope that what I feared lay ahead wasn’t what was actually there.
Maybe someday I’ll write all that. But today is not that day.
Today is the day to sit in the grief and the loss. To write about the day I was prayed over with words that I want to always carry with me. To feel the ache and shed some tears. To trust that my time there wasn’t for naught, and the time ahead in the unknown will not be wasted either.
If we could arrive on to church on a Sunday evening, smile at the greeters, take our children to class and our places in the pew, it could have been enough.
If we could take our monthly turn in the children’s wing, and the regular worship-band appearances, it might have been enough.
If I could lead a team of creative artists with a goal of infusing beauty and truth in unique and creative ways, bringing artists opportunities to share Christ’s love with the rest of us…oh that should have been enough.
And yet, God placed this even bigger dream in my heart. This dream of serving, and singing, and leading, and teaching.
It has taken me years of banging on heaven’s door asking God what He wanted for me, to realize this dormant dream. This calling to hold a microphone and a Bible and share with people stories that can change lives. Share of this incredible man Jesus and this incredible gift we have been given to join Him in His grand Kingdom work.
Honestly, it was only a few months ago that I began to take ownership of this. I remember the day I was scrolling through my facebook feed and saw a picture an acquaintance of mine had been tagged in. She was standing on a platform with a microphone around her ear and a Bible in her hands. Behind her was another pastor (likely team-teaching with her that Sunday morning) with a confident and comfortable smile on his face. A caption read something about how she was “born to preach” and talked of how well she had presented God’s truth that day.
I showed the picture to Darin and confessed my envious feelings.
Turns out, while envy isn’t always healthy, it can be a really telling emotion. And Darin called me out on it right then and there.
“This is it,” he told me. “This is what you’re supposed to do.”
And I knew he was right.
But this thing I’m called to do, it turns out that the thing our church is called to do and the thing I’m called to do don’t quite mesh. I thought they would, I hoped they would, but they don’t. For a few specific reasons (you’d probably be surprised at them) it became apparent these past weeks that our church wasn’t the place I was going to explore and pursue this calling, this dream.
And so it was time to say goodbye.
On Monday we met with the man who had walked this journey alongside us for months, if not years. Who was ringside to our fight to belong, to fit. Whose listening ear and thoughtfully honest responses were received with more gratitude then we knew how to represent.
We told him our decision, shared a bunch of junk, determined how best to share with others of our departure, and then…
With rare tears welling in his eyes, Darin spoke such incredible words of encouragement right to his pastor heart. There wasn’t a dry eye.
And in turn, he shared how our story had forever impacted him and challenged him. There wasn’t a dry eye.
Goodbye is not goodbye our friend.
Next up was a woman I loved working for and serving alongside and knowing better than most how hard her job is, I hung my head in shame as I apologized for leaving. For knowing I left a hole to be filled. For not wanting to make her job any harder than it already is.
But as she accepted my apology, she would not accept my shame. She understood, she knew. This was tough, but this was not an ending.
Only a new beginning.
We have never left a church before under these circumstances. Once we left because we had tried for two years to make connections and just couldn’t break through; but that meant there was no one to say goodbye to. We’ve left two dear church communities because of moves, because God was calling us to a new job in a new place. Those moves were articulated well and blessed. There was a time to call us up front and lay hands, give a gift and bless our going.
This one feels so different. To choose to go to pursue a calling that has no meat to it yet. There is no place we are going “to”, it just feels like a place we are needing to leave.
So when I sat in a final team meeting on Thursday, alongside another member of the team who was leaving to pursue amazing things God was putting in his path, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know how to explain. I didn’t know what to say.
It turns out I was not the one who needed to do the talking. Instead, I was the one to receive.
One dear friend looked at me across the table and as the tears welled told me that I would be missed, but that I was blessed and released. She had no idea that those were the words I had been longing for, but didn’t think I was in a place to get. Blessed. Released.
I felt loved. I felt treasured. I felt validated. I felt encouraged.
The people in the room lifted the burden of fighting, they told me to let it go. They lifted the mantle of fear, and told me to trust. They lifted the loneliness and carried me with their prayers.
They laid hands on me and prayed for God’s blessing for our family. For our girls to understand. To find a place that would feel like home. For blessings in opportunities to speak. As another friend prayed and her words of “Lord, I know you have people out there who need to hear the message Deanna brings and the stories in her heart…” oh I just weep anew with their beauty and hope.
The words, the prayers, the support, the encouragement…it was all a gift I intend to carry with me tucked into the recesses of my heart. Always. I will look to that afternoon as confirmation of the path we are on.
And the lightness I feel. Oh it is glorious to lay down the gloves and walk away from the fight.
And now comes a time of uncertainty.
I am doing my best to lay my fears at the feet of the one who is in front. I am fearful we won’t find the right fit, the place that feels like home, the place I can pursue this dream.
I am fearful of the days, weeks, months we might spend in trying to find that place.
I already miss the people. There are a few who will forever be written on the story of our family, and I hope and pray we are not done with each other.
As a mama, I am forever blessed by those in particular who love and adore my children and this church happens to be full of this sort. People that play games with my goofballs, make plans with them, share truth with them, listen to them, laugh with them, bend down to receive hugs from them. Oh, my heart just aches knowing we’re leaving this behind.
So in the days and weeks and months to come I am living in a prayer of trust. That God will bring us home. That He will bring us people. That He will bring me opportunities.
That, as a friend told me, this is not a leaving behind.
This is a stepping into.