It was apropos that on the last night of this particular vacation, as we nestled into our chairs for dinner at a fabulous restaurant on Sunset Key, the sun was beginning its descent to the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It was large, perfectly round, and blazing orange in color and, as the clouds adorning the horizon blew by, it would disappear and reappear like my two-year-old playing peek-a-boo. Sometimes the clouds would part to reveal the full circle of the sun, and other times, they would move in front of it to create wonderful shapes and colors for our pleasure. Every few minutes, a sail boat would float by, and its sails would pass right in front of the sun, creating beautiful silhouette images for us to enjoy while we dined.
In that moment, it occurred to me how unique the sunset is — every day, in every corner of the world. No two sunsets are the same, and no sunset will ever repeat itself. How blessed we were to see this particular sunset on this particular day! It was breathtaking because it was beautiful. It was also breathtaking because, for us, it symbolized much more than the sunset of “just another day.”
Since February, Kory and I have known that the sun was beginning its descent on a season of ministry that has lasted 11 years. We suspected this might be the case right after Christmas, but we received confirmation, when, on February 26, the Bishop called with the request for an appointment change. Kory was in his office at the church when he received the call, and he promptly called me at home to deliver the details. That afternoon, we met at Starbucks before picking our daughter up from dance class. And it was there where we shed our first tears about the difficult decision we had to make. On the one hand, we would have been thrilled to spend another 11 years in ministry with the church we were serving. We had built a wonderful life, and ministry was good. On the other hand, it would be dishonest if we didn’t admit that the idea of having a new opportunity for ministry was exciting. It was a mixed bag of emotions and a day we will never forget.
After 48 hours of prayer, we made the decision to accept this new opportunity with open hearts. And since that day, we have been preparing to facilitate a major transition in the life of our family and our ministry. This decision has meant more than Kory changing jobs. It has meant selling our home of 7 years, moving across town, changing schools for the kids, and leaving beloved friends and neighbors behind — in fact, with the exception of my job (which we are actually moving closer to), everything has to change. We aren’t moving out of state, but because our roots are so deeply planted where we have lived the last 11 years, it certainly feels like it in many ways. As a result — when Kory and I hit the pavement for this much-needed vacation between jobs — we were exhausted. All we have done for the last 4 months is talk. And plan. And cry. We have staged a house to sell and tried to keep it in immaculate condition with 3 children under the age of 9 so that it would sell quickly. We have researched schools and school districts to find the very best fit for our family. We have shopped real estate in a market that is extremely tight and had to move our things into storage and move ourselves in with friends. We have said goodbye to our family’s long-standing pediatrician, a dentist that is a high school friend, a school where our children have attended for 5 years, and very importantly, the local pizza joint that recognizes our phone number on caller-id! The list goes on and on, but suffice it to say, we have shed tears over people and places that have made our lives wonderfully meaningful and comfortable all these years.
And it’s been a long process. We anticipated the goodbyes for two months before they actually began. Then, they started in April with the end of my women’s Bible study, ramped up in May with end-of-school activities, and culiminated with Kory’s last sermon to our church family on June 2. Most of that time, I was preparing for a trial that settled 48 hours before jury selection began.
I know you’ve been there — a season of life that is so emotionally taxing and logistically complicated that you have no choice but to just push through it. And when you do get to the other side, it is only then that you realize how exhausted you are. And you collapse. That’s how we felt when we arrived in Key West.
So what did we do on vacation you might ask? Absolutely nothing. We are all talked out; we are all cried out; and we are all worked out. Instead of shackling ourselves to a 5-point daily itinerary (which usually looks like a military operation), we sucumbed to the need for rest. We sat by the ocean and the pool. We read. We watched interesting people. And we were quiet. And even after 5 days of doing nothing, we were still tired. But now we are also excited, and we are excited to be starting a new season of ministry.
Kory has a t-shirt that I love, which says “Change Is The Only Constant.” This concept, coined by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, has particularly rung true during this time of transition. We certainly know that, just like the sunset we watched at Sunset Key, there never has been, nor will there ever be, a season of ministry quite like the one we just bid farewell. But I beg to differ with Heraclitus…there is another constant besides change.
Psalm 113:3 says: “From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.”
How comforting it is to know that regardless of the season of ministry we are in, The Lord is with us and worthy of our praise! It WILL undoubtedly be different. It WILL certainly be challenging. There WILL inevitably be things about it we don’t like. But it WILL also bring wonderful new people into our lives. It WILL teach us many lessons. It WILL draw our family nearer to God and one another. And it WILL provide us opportunities to witness God’s transforming work in many lives. And to top it off, God’s goodness, grace, and kindness will sustain us every step of the way.
Yes, the sun has set on a season of ministry. But it is also rising on a new one. One that we know we will also call “beloved.” And from where the sun has set to where it is rising, there also is The Lord.