Friday, June 10, 2016

Saying See You Later...the end of an era

This might possibly be the hardest post I have written thus far in my blogging. Harder even than my miscarriage post or my leaving CFA post. I knew those feelings. I could put them to paper. This time, however, processing itself is the hard part.

My dad has been a pastor my entire life. We've been a church staff family forever. For 28 years, whomever the Lord called at the time to be on our staff was my extended family. It is how my mom did hospitality. We lived away from family and oftentimes, our staff did too. So, we did life together. From Easter to Thanksgiving, from picnics to cookouts, these people were our people.

In ministry, there is always transition. We did it ourselves four times that I can remember. Add to that the dozens of staff members who have come and gone over the course of my lifetime and I "get it". The Lord takes our people places. Social media has made it easier to keep in touch, but the majority of the time, we trust that God has taken them to a new ministry and are thrilled for the family. It has always affected me. Each of these people is like a piece of my family spread over the state--over the country. I love them, I keep up with them, I rejoice in their happiness and mourn when they mourn.

This time, though, it's different. This current staff has become our family in such a way that it is palpable for each of us. At some point in time, too, my brother and I grew up and are having families of our own. Yet, we still get included in this camaraderie. Joe and Anna have been some of our friends literally all my life. Having them back is a special thing that rarely happens in ministry. Travis and Margaret have grown with us, transitioning church styles, learning how to be staff people, and learning how to do "adult life".
And Tyler and Andi.

When Tyler came to Calvary, we made a concerted effort to include him. He was the first hire "we" had made who was close to my and Micah's age. In fact, he was between the two of us. His first summer, we adopted him in. Tyler was officially more than staff family. He was framily (dear friend who becomes family). Moose and I were married and spent that first summer just loving life with Micah and Chelsea (engaged) and Tyler. Then, Andi came on the scene and just made our group complete. The summer they all (quite literally--Micah and Chelsea, Bryan and Shannon, and Tyler and Andi) got married was a special time. We later added others (Sam, Meg, PJ, Michael). This group was special. It really cemented our "young adult friends."
We have grown together. We have laughed; cried; been broken; and just lived life...and we've done it together. There comes a point when you realize that what you have is special. I'm so grateful we realized that before it went away. This season of friendship in our lives has been irreplaceable. Doing married life is hard. Doing married life with the majority of your dearest friends is a blessing.

As I wrote above, in ministry there is always transition. We are in a season of transition now as Tyler and Andi go back home to Tennessee to love on some sweet youth there. It is the most bittersweet time of ministry. It is the most bittersweet time of friendship. When you lose a staff member, it's hard. You pray for them, you mourn, our holidays are weird for the next few seasons. Couple that with the fact that these are our people. Saying "see you later" to Tyler and Andi is different than anything I've ever experienced. I am overjoyed that they get to follow Jesus to their home state and start a new ministry there. My heart is ripped out of my chest at the thought of two of our dearest "friend group" members not being here on game night, for Easter, for the Thanksgiving meal, for our annual (and epic) Christmas party, for the birth of my sweet Eva Kate, and let's not even start in on not being able to watch our babies grow up together. It's too much to comprehend...too hard to process all at once. So we won't. Goodbye is not an option for the Clems. They may go; but they remain ours.

Some people enter your life for a season; some people enter your life for forever. These are our forever people. While distance may span between us, they will always be a part of our hearts.
Tyler and Andi, there's always a seat at the table for you.

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