Ending well

End. Finish. Final. Done and Done. Life is full of beginnings but also full of endings. Beginnings are fun, exciting, chalked full of new possibilities and usually have a buzzing energy around them. Don’t get me wrong, beginnings can be hard and scary and daunting as well, but just the word beginning seems to open up into adventure, hope, newness, freshness. I think of beginnings and I think, as many do, of spring.

I think of crocus beginning to poke out of their winter bed. I think of planting vegetable seeds in peet pots with my children and watching them grow as we water them, as they soak in the sun deep in their roots. I think of pulling out my flip-flops and painting my nails with a new coat of nail polish so that as my feet are ready to walk where they may take me, they can do so in boldness and sparkles. Spring is a time for iced coffee, breathing fresh air, and getting outside. I know there are many people who don’t always love change and new things.  I also know many of my friends who don’t like change still gently anticipate the new space once they have come to peace with change and are confident with the beginning God’s placed before them. Beginnings often have life and celebration and hope to them.

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Endings, however. Endings are different. Endings are hard. They can be filled with sadness, anger, exhaustion, grief. Endings are a closing of something and usually include goodbyes and looking back on past memories, good or bad, and reflecting on the the things you are walking away from, processing the hurts and joys whether from the experiences themselves or from the people you leave behind. It is often a time for introspection, for looking inward. Endings are winter. The closure of a cycle. A solemn time. I think of the winter as a time where I seek big comfy sweaters, warm slippers, and blankets. It is a time where I want to hole-up in my house and sit under my blankets and hide a little. And for a little while it can even be refreshing.

But I also get antsy during the winter. I don’t like to stay cooped up and dwell inside for too long. Cabin Fever comes easily to me. And this is true during endings as well. It is hard to sit inside an ending without wanting spring to come quickly, without wanting to bust open the doors and let the fresh air inside. Sitting in an ending often has a feeling of death, memorial, sorrow.

imageI remember when a dear relationship of mine ended. I started dating a friend I had since second grade. He and I experienced a lot of life together, from Sunday School classes, to youth retreats, to even going to prom together my senior year. Our friendship eventually lead us to a dating relationship. However, even though it seemed like dating should have come so easily for us and logically looked like it should work great, there were just pieces missing.

So after a little while, the relationship ended. I did not just lose my boyfriend, I was loosing a life long friendship. My heart was deeply in pain and there were many tears. And as I talked to some girl friends about it, so many said, “just don’t think about it”, “try to move on”, “make yourself busy so you don’t have to think about it”. I was hearing, “force spring time so you don’t have to experience winter”, “fake happiness so you don’t think about real grief”.

But that is not the way it works. You can’t charge through winter and never deal with it. Even if you fake it through until you see spring, it will always come back around. Pretending it doesn’t exist and throwing away all your scarfs and jackets doesn’t mean winter will stop coming around. It just means it will be a lot colder when it does come. What seemed cold and hard before is nothing compared to the frostbite you experience when it comes back again.

So then what do you do instead?  You live in it, you live through it. You take deep breaths, you process, you allow yourself to feel a little stir crazy and then you sit back down again and embrace it. And you may do this over and over until spring comes.

I firmly believe that it is hard to start well if you haven’t ended well. Currently I am in a season of endings. I am in a place where I know that God is calling me out of my work role, out of something I enjoy with people I care about, and sweet, sweet memories.. My husband is also ending his role at work. He is ending his time doing something he is passionate about, caring for many people he love, and where he has some great and very hard memories. We are both experiencing endings, both grieving and processing different things. And sitting in them is hard, sometimes painful, and truly tiring. But we choose to embrace this space, no matter how hard.

We choose to try and end our roles with honor, integrity, and closure for all involved. We want to process what we have learned and heal from the wounds so that we can gain a new kind of strength and wisdom. We admit and understand it may be cold and harsh, that we may temporarily go nuts-o and need to open a window or go on a frigid walk before we can go back inside. But we also know that the ground will thaw at some point, the doors will be open again, and we want to be ready for the spring, for the new. There is a burning desire for me to hear, at the end of my life, the phrase “Well done good and faithful servant”, but I want to know that even in the little things, this can be said of me.  So I embrace the winter, try to end well, and hold on to hope for the spring.

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