I feel like I've been saying a lot of goodbyes since May. I left West Chester on May 31st. That time was a lot of goodbyes to friends and coworkers. Many of these friends have become family to me over the past few years. When I came to camp I was able to make so many new and awesome relationships with staff here. Old friendships were renewed and strengthened. A few weeks ago we said goodbye to our summer staff as they parted ways to go head back to their lives away from camp. This summer I got close to some of these guys. I was blessed to know guys like Jared Reed and get to spend time chatting with him. We were able to hang out one night after the staff left and had a real heart to heart. At the end of the night we said our goodbyes as he was leaving for his first year of college. Guys like Chris Gigiel were difficult to say goodbye to. He is one of the very few staff guys that was here at camp the last time I worked here. As we spent a summer reconnecting I was so often encouraged by him.
Last weekend I had dinner with some family in Reading. As I watched my little niece Olivia run around, I was hit hard with knowing how much I will miss her along with the rest of my family. As I drove to the restaurant with my cousin Amanda and her fiancé, Nick, I was encouraged by her comments. As we sat through dinner I could see how proud she was of me. As my uncle introduced me to the owner of the restaurant (he's a regular there) there was joy and pride in his voice as he announced that I was about to leave for Africa to work with street kids. Even after dinner I was encouraged by our conversation as I drove back to his house with him. Aunt Shelly and Uncle Neil had so many kind words that I hold so dear to me. As I hugged my cousin Kelly goodbye I didn't want to let go because I love being around this family so much. Saying goodbye to Olivia and Landen brought tears to my eyes. Saying goodbye to my grummom was really hard. I know that she loves me and wants what is best for me. But at the same time, she is really not happy that I'm going away for 4 months. I wish she could see Kenya and understand why I'm so passionate about being there. I pray that as I'm away we will be intentional about our communication. I pray that she knows I'm not running away from her but that I AM coming home in a few months.
This week was more of these goodbyes. I drove down to West Chester yesterday to spend some time with Liz. She is one of my very closest and safest friends. I love that we can sit and talk for hours or sometimes sit in silence and enjoy being around one another. I was so blessed by the offer of her family to allow me to spend the night in their guest room. We spent this morning and part of afternoon with each other. Saying goodbye to her was difficult. Possibly one of the most difficult goodbyes I've had. Yet, at the same time, also one of the easiest. I say that because I know that I know that I know that we will continue to grow in relationship as we are apart. We made it through 2 years that she was in CA and grew so much closer as our communication was more intentional. Still, it was a very difficult goodbye for me. A goodbye that I would rather not have to say.
I had to leave Liz this afternoon because Chris and Jay from camp wanted to take me out to an early dinner before Chris left for the poconos for the weekend. A few moments go Chris headed out. He has been a good friend for years. He was the camp program director when I first met him. Now he is the camp director. And he is the main reason that I started coming back to camp again after I left 5 years ago.
I know that this is far from everyone. The list could go on and on much longer, and more are yet to come. More family members, more friends like the Gyza's, the Reigners, the Atkins, the Roche's, so many many more.
I'm not good at goodbyes. I hate them. So I'm trying to look at this as an opportunity to grow. Just like Liz and I grew and strengthened our relationship, I now have the same opportunity with her again and with so many others. Will it be as easy as a phone call and setting up a time to go for dinner? No. No it won't. Communication will need to be very intentional and it will take some work. But I'm willing to put in the effort because it's important.
I'm not leaving. I'm just going away on an adventure for a little while.
I will be back in four months. Approximately 120 days. I will miss Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years' in the States. It's going to suck. I know that. But I'll be back right after. And this is a great opportunity. Liz made the comment to me recently that I look happy. And I am. I'm chasing after a passion and seeing where it leads. I have other passions too. And I have options for what to do when I come home. I've put some very serious thought into some serious decisions. I was given some half serious/half joking advice from a long time mentor of what I should do when I get back (Mrs. Dallmann...that's you!) that I'm taking pretty seriously. Right now, the options are limitless.
I'm excited beyond belief right now for this adventure! At the same time, I'll be honest and say that I'm also scarred of the unknown. But as Pastor Phil said a few months ago, it's not about being afraid. It's about what you do with that fear. I'm am choosing to push that fear aside and to receive the blessings that await me on this new journey. I can't wait to share these new blessings and lessons with you all when i return in January. So please, do not say a final goodbye to me. Save that for when I'm in the casket! Instead wish me well, pray with me, encourage me. But don't you dare speak negativity into me. Do not ask me to let fear hold me back. Because it won't. I refuse to allow it to.