An Open Letter to the Places I’m Leaving Behind
May 16, 2017
This week feels like a line in a song. I’m saying my goodbyes as doors that have remained open suddenly close. These are weeks are transition and at the end of it all, everything changes. It’s the part in the song where the soft music builds up all at once as the instruments come in to meet the voice. At the top of it, we bellow out, “Been talking ‘bout the way. Things. Chaaaange!”
I can’t say that I didn’t know this was coming. In fact, I’ve been doing a lot of countdowns the last few months. They’ve been the best of days and the worst of days, and I’ve been so eager to get to the part where everything changes—
Get me closer to saying my vows to Travis. Get me closer to working for a full-time paycheck. Get me closer to reading, journaling, painting, and blogging again. Get me closer to the friends in my corner. Get me closer to the places I’ve been led to so that these wonderful plans can finally come to fruition. Get me to the part where all these dreams come to life.
Finally, those days have come, and honestly: I didn’t know it would feel like this. Somewhere in the midst of all my eager planning, I forgot that I would say goodbye. Like, somehow I failed to realize what those prayers would look like once they were answers.
There would be last times. There would be final moments with people who have walked alongside me for years, and the final moments with those I’ve only known for a short time would be just as difficult. The season of change would come to change my world just like it did when it arrived.
I’ve grown these last four years. And it’s because of the uncountable ways that God has revealed Himself to me through these unique people, places, and moments. I stand in awe at the plots He’s woven.
These are the letters addressed to those places that sat at root of my prayers and countdowns. They each hold a deeper significance in my heart than I could ever pen, but they made goodbye both beautiful and difficult. And aren’t those the best goodbyes?
:: :: ::
I landed in your path and drove the other direction. Literally, I came to meet you and then turned around because of the number of people who I saw also standing in your path. I was so scared and listed every reason why I wasn’t good enough to be in that number too. But, the Lord beckoned me to come back. It took me a few days, but I did come back. The Lord was relentless— goodness, He wouldn’t let me forget it— and I’m so glad for that now. I summoned what little courage I had at the time, and came back to you.
That was 3 years and 9 months ago.
Since then, you have led me to a small group that spoke life into me every week. You led me to rooms of strangers, teaching me to call them sisters and brothers. You led me to early morning ice skating lessons, spontaneous coffee dates, dance parties in the gym. You led me to love the middle schoolers at FRA. You led me to have the courage to show up for them. No matter how tired or worried I was, you were always there to remind me: the fight is worth it.
You’ve pushed me out of my comfort zone. I was a timid, fearful person before I met you. But, you built my confidence so that I could make friends like Jesus did. Every early morning and late night was worth it because of the moments when you taught me what it looks like to live a life of abandon for the sake of others.
You taught me that God doesn’t make junk. In a time when I believed I was “too quiet,” “too awkward,” or “not enough” for this life of ministry, you whispered the truth in my ear: you are who you are because God made it so. He ordained it, and because of you, I have the confidence to rise when He calls.
Thank you for making the Bible come to life. Somewhere along the way, during the long, long time with you, I realized that this life of loving others isn’t meant to be left on the pages. It’s meant to be lived out with sacrifice, grace, trust, and passion to be like Jesus and tell others about Him too. This story is a moving, living, breathing, feeling one, and because of you, I know that now.
No one with a willing heart is too awkward, quiet, or inadequate for the plans of God. And, Wyldlife, you have proven that me and saved me a lifetime of feeling guilty for falling short. Thank you for proving to me my humanity, and walking with me every step of the way. You’ve shown me what it means to show up for someone despite the fear lurking in my heart, and I’ll always remember you as the one who changed me first.
:: :: ::
To World Relief Nashville:
You were not in my plans, but I’m so glad you bravely stepped in anyway. I remember when I heard your name for the first time 3 years ago, but it didn’t work out and my heart wasn’t in it. Honestly, I just didn’t get you and I don’t think I had the compassion to care then either.
This year though, my heart was in a better place to understand. I was opened in so many ways to you, and I’m grateful for that. You taught me to always lean on God’s timing— both in the mundane, everyday routine and in the big-picture dreams.
You worked me to the bone many days. My 5 hour shifts often turned into 7, 8, or 11 hours. But, I stayed faithful to the race because you showed me there was a need to be met and a fruit in the work. I’ve lived in the same 25 mile radius for most of my life, and I never knew how many international communities are represented in sweet Nashville. And how could I have known that many of these people come from war? They’ve spent their lives running and fleeing, and most of them only know what it means to live life by merely trying to survive. You opened my eyes to this: the world is bigger than just me and that begins in this city.
I know why I turned away from you 3 years ago: I wouldn’t have stayed. If you had told me then that I would be walking into the homes of strangers, showing them how to buy groceries in Walmart, attempting to communicate through translators, spending all morning just driving people to and from the doctor’s office… I would have backed away then.
But, you showed me grace in every hard situation. I’ll never forget the way my supervisor ended every text message with, “God bless you, my sister”— even on the days I was late to work or didn’t understand an assignment. Even when I had numerous questions and sometimes took a little longer on an assignment than planned, you still invited me to continue walking alongside you. Those moments spoke life into my heart because you exemplified the meaning of grace on this earth, which is something I’ve struggled with for years.
You broke my heart in the best ways. As I watched the hurt of others and the struggle to learn how to make a life in America out of nothing, my compassion grew. You taught me truth in the midst of innumerable lies, as if you took my hand gently and explained all the things I was wrong about. In hindsight, I’m so glad I was wrong.
And as I watched you close your doors forever, my heart broke more. The news came in February— I had only been with you for a little over a month— that your ministry was nearing its final days. That day, we cried in the office. Every day after that, we prayed together. At first I was mad, but it dissolved as I watched your response. You acted with such grace as you trusted the plans of God first and foremost. I heard you pray for your enemies to be changed and for the friends that you were already missing. I listened closely as you continued to work relentlessly with every last moment offered to you. The desks and cubicles were cleared and by the time I said my goodbye, there were only a handful left. Your trust, maturity, kindness, grace, and leaning on the Lord was awe-inspiring and moving.
You taught me to accept change. You taught me to extend grace in every situation. You taught me to run a race faithfully to the finish. You taught me to lean into the plans of God, not sparing a single
It was never easy but it was always worth. Thank you, WRN, for proving to me the fight is always worth it and that the plans of God are so much more wild than my I could pen on my own.
:: :: ::
To the Brontës:
You loved me from the beginning of this college journey. As soon as I came to Welch, you saw me and pursued me. And even after I chose to join your number, you continued to love me. That spoke louder to me than you’ll ever know.
You included me when I needed community and invited me when I felt inadequate. I have loved watching your personality shift and shape during our time at Welch. Truly, you have grown into a group of girls that serves eagerly, loves fiercely, and walks alongside each other passionately. You have been an anchor for me during my time at our small Bible college, and a safe place I can go to without fail.
You gave me three incredible gifts. First, you showed me that everything can be done with excellence to the glory of God. Even though our group is a mandatory presence on campus, you showed me how to do that with eager, genuine passion. I have seen that innumerable times— especially this year— and it fills me with pride to see such an active faith lived out in you. We might be a small number, but we have done a mighty work together simply because you chose to show up. Thank you for showing me how to do things with zeal and not just to mark it off the list. Life on campus has been more fun with you.
Second, thank you for trusting me to lead you this year. I couldn’t believe it when you nominated me to be your face and voice last year, but in hindsight, I’m so thankful I chose to believe you as much as you were believing in me. Every good idea I had this year came to life because of you. You took what I gave you with grace and kindness, and you crafted it all into something so much more than I could have done with my own hands. It has been an honor to be your president. My pride and joy for you is unreal— I can’t help but brag on you everywhere I go.
Thirdly, you have taught me that good leaders care about the future of their people. Truthfully, I care more about you all today than I did when I arrived. And that is a testament to the beautiful, beautiful friendship we have created in our sisterhood. I’m so sad to leave you during such a great time during our history, but I have complete confidence in the work that is coming ahead. The best days are just ahead and I am so proud to have stood among your ranks. I truly believe with all my heart that these days coming will be the mountaintops for our society.
From dressing like tacky tourists for a trunk-or-treat. To going camping in my backyard for a night. To passing out popsicles to every person at lunch on our emphasis day during Rush Week. To showing up to serve at a church on Saturday morning— you have been so faithful, and I can only say this: this year couldn’t have happened without you.
Thank you for being the fighters. The adventurers. The peace-keepers. The supporters. The athletes. The encouragers. The joy-givers. The gentle warriors. The angels. The motivators. The sass factors. The ones who love and show up as faithfully as a mother.
You are all the things I aspire to be, and I commend you for living them so well. You are worthy of all the recognition I can offer, and I will always speak of you with grace and love because that is what you have spoken to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
:: :: ::
To the Second Floor in the Girls Dorm:
You are precious. And my only regret from this experience is that I didn’t get to be with you longer. You’ll never know how many nights I came to my room after I checked yours just to snuggle up to my pig stuffed animal and thank God for you.
Because here’s the thing: you made this RA job worth it. Like, this wasn’t just about getting a paycheck or forcing myself to live on campus longer than I actually needed to. This was all about the ways I wanted to love and serve you. Even though there were so many nights that I just wanted to go to sleep before 11:30, you made the job worth it.
When we stopped and talked for over an hour during room checks, whenever you came to my room looking for answers and trusting me to have them, when you texted me just to encourage me in my position— you made the job worth it.
You might have noticed by now, but I am not always eager to go out of my way to approach others. But, you gave me a reason to break out of that mold. Because of your place in God’s plans, my desire to talk to people I wouldn’t normally cross paths with grew. That is a lesson I’ve wanted to learn for years, and you gave me the tools to do it.
Honestly, you all probably taught me far more than I ever could have taught you. Sometimes I still think the school is crazy for allowing me to lead in such a precious position, but I’m immensely grateful it happened. Although I undeniably am eager to get out of dorm life, I am often reminded that these days have been so significant because it means I have gotten to live under the same roof as some of the best girls in the world.
Thank you for teaching me about serving even when it’s uncomfortable. And as you continue to share this roof with some of the best girls in the world, I hope you’ll remember: it won’t always be like this, so make the most of every late night conversation and room check you can get. The Lord bless you and keep you, my friends. Thank you for being my home away from home and a place of refuge.
P.S. thank you for being good sports when I took the trashcan away.
:: :: ::
To the College Lifestyle:
Bye. Bye, bye, bye.
There is no doubt: you came to me at a time when I needed to prove to myself that I could do this. You know— that I could live on my own, find my way around, feed myself, make decisions constantly. I needed to know that I could do those things.
I think my heart for you changed when I realized I could. All the things that once felt impossible became possible because of you.
You were not easy though. It has been a journey of mountains and valleys as I have worked my fingers to the bone to do the things you asked of me. Work, class, ministry, internship, writing— there was never a dull moment with you. Sometimes I hated you. Sometimes I already missed you before you left. But every day, you were creating a person out of me that I wouldn’t have had the courage to be 4 years ago.
All these letters and sentiments have been made possible because of you, and my heart is broken at the weight of the fullness of that realization of that tonight. You have given me an experience that I know the vast majority of the world will never see. I am privileged and gifted beyond measure, and you are only one facet of it. I’ve read wonderful poetry, I’ve studied the Truth of the Bible, and I’ve learned how to be faithful to the hustle because of you.
Every hard day was worth it because of the bigger picture you had in mind. Thank you for giving me a spark to stay, even when it got hard.
:: :: ::
May 18, 2017
I started The Office during the spring of my freshman year. And wouldn’t you know, it’s graduation week and I’ve only made it halfway through season 5. It’s the only show I’ve gotten into during college, and the one thing I never quite learned how to be faithful to during the last 4 years. What a shame.
I just watched the episode where Michael leaves Dundler Mifflin to create Michael Scott Paper Company. After Dwight turns his back on Michael, the pair begin to prank each other and outsmart one another. The thing is, Dwight is just upset that Michael is stealing all his clients and Dundler Mifflin is just upset that Michael’s company is actually succeeding.
Honestly, it made me proud of the guy. Bless him.
The thing gets so out of hand that Dundler Mifflin makes an offer to Michael for his paper company. They make a low offer first, and Michael’s going to take it, and then…. he doesn’t. He declines. And then, Dundler Mifflin comes back with a much nicer counteroffer. It makes his jaw drop, but again, he declines. He tells them, “What we need are jobs to sustain us. We need insurance, benefits, a place to work. Not this money.”
Seriously, bless Michael Scott. As crazy as he is, it works.
At the close of the show, Michael tells the camera: “There are certain defining moments in a person’s life. The day he’s born, the day he grows hair, the day he starts a business, and the day he sells that business back to Dundler Mifflin. What have I learned from all this? It is far too early to tell. All I know is I am flying high and I don’t even want to think about it. I just want to enjoy it.”
I paused when he said it. I replayed it a couple times, and then I wrote it down so I could share it with you too. Because I think he’s on to something—
there’s something really significant about being in the middle of a huge life moment. It’s a moment that you’ve only heard about or read about, and when you’re finally there you just want to experience it for yourself. So when you finally do get there, you just want to soak it in like a sponge.
In just over 24 hours, I’ll say my final remarks to the Welch community. I’ll slide on that black gown and hang that tassel from my cap. They’ll call my name as I walk across that stage and receive the diploma I have worked for these last 4 years. And after that, everything will change.
Everything will change, and praise God for a bittersweet goodbye as it tumbles off my lips. It’s a blessing to know when it’s time to say goodbye, and when that goodbye is difficult because of the fullness of the moments that made it so.
Don’t overanalyze it. Don’t over plan it. Don’t worry about it so much that you forget to just pause and be present. All the learnings and lessons will fall into place when it’s time, and will likely continue doing so in more ways than you can count.
Don’t miss it— be here. Be present. Enjoy it. And praise God for every good, good goodbye.