However, the one thing we did NOT talk about was the fact that our family is leaving. We did NOT talk about the fact that this would be our last birthday dinner together. We did NOT talk about the end of the way things are...now.
Kristie had to leave early because one of her little ones was sick. She headed home around 9 pm to hold him while he battled a fever. :-( With seven children, she is nearly always holding one of them. :-) I love her momma's heart. (A few hours later, the rest of us were envious of her early departure due to our blubbering in the parking lot. Sigh.)
Paige, Janet and I closed down the restaurant, but once the remaining servers started clanging glasses, we knew it was time to leave.
We sauntered out to the parking lot, each of us acutely aware and dreading what was to come. Goodbye.
Paige is a "heart-guarder." She rarely becomes "emotional." She is level-headed...steady...sure. But as we were preparing to get into our cars, she broke down and started crying. (Hope you don't 'mind me sharing, Paige.) She said in broken words, "It's...o...ver... I haven't wanted to face it, but it's over. What we had is over. I don't know when I will see each of you again, and this stinks. I don't like this."
Paige wasn't just referring to our family leaving. For her family too, has been through an abundance of change. Ends to things that were precious to her heart. Uncertainty ahead in other areas. Mourning for her children because of their own loss.
Life as we have known it, really is over. O-v-e-r.
Honestly, I resented her stating the truth. I've wanted to hold on. I've wanted to cling to the familiar. I've wanted to hold on to false security instead of allowing my heart to leap ahead to the unknown future. I love these women in my life and I don't want the ease of relationship to be "over."
However, I must confess, those words were on my mind the whole time we were eating dinner. This is the end. We are in the final two weeks of this chapter of our life.
Paige, Janet and I cried in the parking lot for a while. None of us really able to comfort each other. We were all hurting.
I asked, "If we weren't going, would all these other painful things be happening?"
Silence was the answer.
I began to pray aloud...asking God for help, asking him to hear our cries, begging him to keep our feet planted firmly on truth without allowing us to be shaken, thanking Him for what HE knit together, thanking Him for what He has done in our lives, professing TRUST in Him for His leading, stating that the cost of this is so high, but HE IS WORTH IT, rejoicing over the sweet sisters standing with me praying in PF Chang's parking lot! He is our God and HE is sovereign!
Each of us regained our composure enough to step into our vans. I sobbed more and more... so thankful that our Lord promises He is near to the brokenhearted.
As I started the 45 minute ride to my parent's house, I noticed the gas light was on. I pulled into a gas station to fill up. While the gas was draining into the tank, a yellow envelope in my purse purse peeked out at me. A young friend had given it to me yesterday for our family.
I felt the Lord prompt me to open the envelope.
I gasped as I pulled out this drawing.
As I examined it, I felt overwhelming peace. "This is a picture of where we are!" I thought.
We have been uprooted and are being transplanted to a new place to grow. Our roots here are being severed as God desires for us to grow deeply into lives in Africa. But pieces of our roots remain in the ground here in Knoxville. We are being dug up out of what we know to be familiar and comfortable transplanted into a new climate of change. God must be the one to provide the growth - water in gus through His Word, fertilizing us through His promises.
After my own assessment of the drawing, I read these handwritten words beside it:
"As you start to sprout in this new chapter of your all's life, may you never forget God's love is all around you, and that His hands will hold you, guide you, and protect you all."
And that is the TRUTH. He will. He has. He is.
I'm surrounded by friends who are navigating a "new normal." Friends who are walking on painful paths they never expected. Friends facing suffering and sorrow yearning for the peace of our Savior. Friends who have been slapped in the face with the reality that sometimes...life hurts. My friends are also being "uprooted" and "transplanted." God is preparing richer soil, for deeper roots in their lives. He knows best.
A friend prepared this verse on a canvas for our home in Ghana. It's true. I can't' wait to hang it up where I can see it daily! The Lord is planting each person where He wants each of us to be.
"Blessed is the man who trusts int he Lord
And whose trust is the Lord.
For He will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But it's leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit."