In 49 days, I will be leaving.
Our lives are full of “leavings” aren’t they?
We leave the safety and security of our mother to be born into this world. We leave the strong, expectant hands of our loved ones as we take our first steps. We leave home to start preschool or kindergarten and leave again thirteen years later to begin college or work or whatever life after high school entails for us. We leave friendships and jobs and houses. We leave one brand of toothpaste for another, one spouse for another, one debt for another.
I’ve done a lot of leaving in my life so far, not all of them without regrets. This time around I’m trying to be intentional in leaving with no regrets.
In 49 days my husband and younger son and I will be leaving our home and community of 21 years and moving to Belize. There’s still so much to do, and yet there is much that can’t be done quite yet. (It’s a frustrating place to be!) When we leave, our older son will be staying. He will graduate from high school and 10 days later we will fly to another country without him.
This “leaving” began over two years ago. It began the night my husband lifted his head off the pillow and said, “You know our dream to run a small resort? One that will allow us to invite missionaries and people in ministry to come and rest and refresh? I think God is asking me why we are waiting to chase that dream.” It’s miraculous in and of itself that I didn’t smother him with a pillow that night – to say I was less than excited about chasing this dream right now is an understatement. So I began to pray that God would change my heart to be ready by the time it needed to be ready. I didn’t expect God to change it immediately, but I knew He would change me to be ready when He needed me to be.
That night began our journey of leaving. Before stepping foot off of American soil, we have to leave dozens of different things – our favorite restaurants, our extended family, the job that launched my career, a business, our church, our house and cars, a network of friends who have become family, our son.
I’m imagining a conversation that will take place a few years from now when my future self asks my present self a few questions about this transition. Here are the questions I may be asking, and the answers I hope to be giving:
Do you regret leaving your older son behind?
No – but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss him. I miss his presence in our everyday lives. But I don’t believe our children were meant to be an extension of ourselves or a way to remedy our mistakes or live out what we weren’t able to. My children are unique people who have been given their own lives to live. Leaving our 18-year-old to pursue his path in the Air Force set him free instead of shackling him to my insecurities.
Do you regret taking your younger son with you?
Nope. From the very first time we mentioned the idea of moving out of the country, he has been all-in. Before we moved, he talked about his future home in Belize to his friends and teachers and even his bus driver. When my husband made a trip to Placencia a few months before our move, our son asked for pictures to show his friends and lamented that he wasn’t able to go, even though the move was only a few blinks in the future. He’s been excited about doing his part in our new adventure at Placencia Beach Club and has claimed the title of the pool boy.
Do you regret leaving your home?
There are things that I miss for sure. The last few weeks leading up to our departure found us making spontaneous trips to our favorite coffee shop, picking up cinnamon rolls at IKEA, and eating at our favorite hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant. But even with the things we left behind, we have gained so, so much more. I’m making friends with people who are very different than I am. I’m more grateful for the things that I took for granted in the past. I relish the slower pace of life and have almost forgotten why we lived in the fast lane for so long. I’ve tried new foods, picked up a little bit of several new languages, and am redefining what is important to me.
Do you regret leaving your job?
Saying goodbye to my position was something I needed to do, and not just because I couldn’t take the job with me. I said goodbye over a year before our move. It wasn’t easy by any means – I had poured over ten years of my heart and soul into the people and work there. But in the process, I also tied my identity to my role. While I miss the people and the impact we made through our work, I’m learning that God can use me without a title or role or job.
Do you regret leaving your friends and family?
Our families have been 100% supportive of us while we chase our dream, and I hope they read this someday so that they can hear that their support has meant the world to us. Our friends have dreamed alongside us and encouraged us in every way possible (and hopefully all 500 of you will actually come to visit us like you say you want to!). Has it been hard not to see my friends at the local coffee shop? Yes. But we’ve gotten creative using FaceTime and enjoying coffee while we chat. Funny – almost every time they ask me to move the camera so they can see the beach that is now my front yard…
I wasn’t always good at leaving relationships in a way that kept regret out of the picture. For many years I believed that my friendships all hit a rough patch a few months before the next scheduled move, and I faulted myself for not leaning in and working to smooth them out. In reality, I discovered I was sabotaging those relationships in an attempt to grasp at control in very uncertain circumstances. If there wasn’t much of a relationship left, it was one less thing to say goodbye to when the moving truck came. But this time around I didn’t want to leave a trail of broken friendships, so I leaned in more than ever.
Yes, that’s how I hope the conversation with myself goes in a few years down the road. Now I have the opportunity to make it so, by choosing to live out these next 49 days with integrity and love. I’m sure there are things I won’t handle well, but in the end I will have no regrets.