Goodbye, Hello

by Pastor Heath Howe, Family Ministries

In my family, May is a month of transitions, and I find it is by far the busiest month of the year.  No kidding.  Busier than December even.  For us, May is a transition month when we say goodbye to the school year and life as our family has known it for the past 9 or so months.  During this month the end of dance lessons for Sophie will arrive.  An end to the school semester with tests and projects is a guarantee.  Graduations for some of our family members and friends happen this month.  The program year at church will end, which means no regular Sunday school or youth group gatherings come June.  All Things Bright and Beautiful ends its school year during this month so the energy and activities at work are coming to a close.  The halls will be quiet and there will be no more chapel talk with my three and four-year-old colleagues.  So sad.  Finally, during the month of May, Eli shakes the winter rust off his cleats and pulls his baseball bat out of his bag. 

This month our family has to accept the fact that any possible chance of gathering around our dining table for a meal and sharing the events our day are over for quite awhile now.  Instead of living on Hinman in Evanston we will take up residence in my Jeep and travel like gypsies from ball field to ball field in hopes of a win.  Quick dinners on the go or a homemade picnic if we are lucky.  Either way, we are sitting on the bleachers praying for no rain!  To be honest, there are times during the month of May when I want take a deep breath and simply duck and cover.  

However, it is also the month Sophie was born.  Her birth marks the beginning of my life as a mother, and from that moment on, sixteen years ago now, I have never been the same.  With her birth my heart opened in a place I had not known it had.  I felt love in a way I did not know existed.  I saw the world through a new lens.  I began to think about God and God's love in a new way as well.  As a result, the month of May, with all its busy transitions, is a month that reminds me that life is not events or tasks we march through anxiously with our heads down and eyes closed.  Instead, May reminds me that life is a gift and we must stay curious and allow our hearts and imaginations to guide us as we follow Christ.

Therefore, I invite you to join me this month in a new way of saying goodbye to the program year and hello to the summer.  First, take time to really notice what is ending at this time.  For some the end may call for a significant ritual, such as a graduation dinner.  Other ends may not have such a need but pause anyway, at least for a moment, and acknowledge them.  This is the last piano lesson of the year.  Well done.  I think that being mindful is always a significant way to be spiritually healthy and fit.  It keeps us present, present to what God is up to in the world.

Second, take a moment to see what you and your family will say hello to come summer.  The changing rhythms of summer can be delightful.  They wake us up!  We come out of hibernation and go on trips.  We visit family.  We go to camp.  We eat dinner outside and stay up late at night.  We play on the beach.  We have block parties where the adults visit on porches while the children play kick-the-can.  We take our dogs to the dog beach.  The rhythms of summer encourage us to notice the variety of ways we can be in community with God, one another and all of creation.

My favorite example of this is our outdoor Sunday morning services.  I always feel the love of God on Sunday mornings at Holy Comforter, but in the summer when we are outside in the cloister, where the flowers are growing and the sun is shining, I feel it in a different way.  Some Sundays that different way brings me back to my childhood summers when I would worship God outside at our diocesan camp.  When those Sundays take me back there I remember the people who taught be about the love of God and suddenly all the company of heaven is present in our gathering at day.  Other Sundays this different way of feeling God's love is brand new.  My heart is opened anew, much as it was at Sophie's birth, and I realize God is not finished with me yet, or any of us.  I look forward to saying hello to those precious summer gatherings with all of you.

The month of May holds two truths.  A life in Christ is a life of goodbyes and a life of hellos.  It is a month of transitions.  Transitions and ends of schedules as we have known them?  Sure.  The end of growing as children of God?  Never.