By Pastor Paula Burchill
Last Sunday and the next are tough. We are losing four wonderful families—three are moving to new duty stations with the Navy and the fourth is moving closer to family. I love that we have such a strong military presence in our congregation, but sometimes I also really hate it.
I grew up in the same town my whole life. I was baptized, confirmed, married and ordained at the same church. So suffice it to say, I’m not a fan of change. I wish that these wonderful families could stay around and continue to be active at SLC. I will miss seeing their kids grow. It hurts to see them leave, as it always does when someone moves.
But at the same time, I think that living with this flux of folks has taught me some really important lessons. The first is that loving well is worth the cost. It wouldn’t be as hard to say good bye to someone if s/he had not taken the time to get invested in the ministry of SLC. If we hadn’t shared laughter and tears and working side by side to help others, it would be easy to just bid someone well. Instead, it can be gut-wrenching. But I cling to the fact that it is worth it. That if those people had not thrown themselves into the community, we would be less for it. And those who don’t love well, don’t live well.
Several years ago, when my husband left the Navy, we wondered if we should move closer to family. I just never thought I would be someone who would raise my kids 1000 miles from any grandparents. As it turned out, jobs were here and we stayed. We have been in the Northwest almost 18 years. I remember feeling like I always had a foot in both places. I love the beauty of living here, but I miss good old Midwest values and my family.
But then a wise woman reminded me of how it isn’t helpful to keep living in the “what if,” and she suggested I start blooming where I am planted. So I decided, this is where I live and I’m going to really throw myself into having a community here, into making a life here. And it helped—a lot.
I am so thankful for the witnesses I have had in many Navy families in particular, but certainly not only the Navy. I’m thankful for those who have shown me that it is worth the risk to jump into community with both feet. It means the hurt will be worse when you leave, but I also think it means you can be even more hopeful that the next place you go will be a wonderful community as well. After all, none of us knows the future. We may end up staying somewhere longer than we ever would have imagined.
Blooming where you’re planted is really is an exercise in trusting God. It is a daily bread way of living, a manna way of living. It is living with the knowledge that God will give us what we need each day, no matter where we live or who we live around. It is trusting that God asks us to love our neighbors as ourselves because life is better that way. Even if it hurts—loving well is worth it.
So I say thank you for your witness and pray in certainty that wherever you go next, God has wonderful things in store.