When loss is gain

Dinner is before us, and we sit down to eat with old acquaintances who are becoming new friends.  We listen to chapters of their unknown story, and we share paragraphs of ours.  The bread is broken, and I see how pieces of us are too.  But we enjoy the meal because in this moment, we are in the mess of it together.

We talk about the home we sold before moving to Nicaragua, and the memories we left behind.  My thoughts catch me by surprise, and I feel the emotion of that goodbye all over again.  I blink several times to keep my unexpected tears from falling in the stroganoff.  I know that the truth is, I don't miss that house anymore.  If I had the opportunity to move back today, I wouldn't.  But remembering the release of it touches some tender place in me.

It was a sunny day in August when we turned away for the last time.  My little girls and I walked the empty hallways, and past the marks on the walls that measured their growth for years.  We sat on the floor of their empty room while they leaned their heads on each of my shoulders and cried.  I wish I could have comforted them with the thought that their new home in Nicaragua would be a place they would grow to love.  I wanted to assure them that they would make new friends that seemed more like sisters, and the place they were going would be something they would shed tears for too.  But the reality of that moment was that I couldn't promise them anything, because I didn't know.

So many of the losses that we experienced were never about the objects we left behind.  It was what those objects represented in our lives.  We built that house from the ground up, all the while dreaming of our future there.  It was our place to be a family with each room a reminder of all of the memories from years before.  Our neighbors were people we loved and where we were known in a community of friendship.  Leaving that behind was losing a part of our identity.

It seems we've given up many parts of who we are in the past few years.  We have moved A LOT, and each time we leave some piece of ourselves behind.  One transition has only just settled when another meets us on the horizon.  It has been mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting.  But I am seeing a pattern of beauty that makes all of this loss worth it.  With every single surrender, we have been given something different, something more, something we never knew existed and we can no longer imagine living without.  Sometimes that is people, or experiences, or the way we think about the world.

Our new house is a few streets over from the one we left, and I laugh about the ridiculousness of that thought.  We took the really long way to get there.  Life in these suburbs seems a bit less romantic than the tropical setting of Nicaragua, but I realize now more than ever how I need to fully embrace the place where God plants me.  That means reaching out, growing roots, and loving the people who surround me.

It comes to mind at odd times, the things we all miss about Nicaragua; the close friendships, the wonderful community of expats at the international church, swimming at the Laguna de Apoyo, or eating fresh made gallo pinto.  I see the importance of acknowledging our losses and embracing the grief that lingers.  It's as if to say, life has given us good things, and to not miss them would be to deny their blessing.

I am thankful for what I've been given, and I am thankful for what has been taken away.  I will not say that it has been easy, but I can't deny that it has always led to something good.

I hear the voice of hope rising up and out of me as I face the horizon.  It is here that I simply ask, "What's next?"


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