Box castles, lovingly decorated by Jackson, my eight-year-old son, and Adelaide, my three-year old daughter, are taking over my living room, basement and garage. Sundays are filled with tears and questions from our corps members.
On a Friday morning a few weeks ago, we received a phone call that would change our lives. The voice on the other end told us that we would be moving to British Columbia to be divisional youth secretaries. Jackson stayed home from school that day to answer the phone with us. When he heard the news, he smiled, but the tears were there, straining his voice. He told us he was happy and sad.
We were, too. Happy and sad. These are the words that have stuck. These are the words that best describe our feelings as we pack and reflect. The coming change pulls at the edges of each day.
We love Niagara Falls, Ont. We love our church family. We have been deeply blessed by this community that loves God and loves people. In only four short years, we have been so well loved that it’s hard to leave.
It’s hard to leave the people who have spent Christmas with us. The little babies we have dedicated to God. The teenagers who have cared for our children and taught us so much about the gospel. The families who have shown us what it means to welcome the other with hospitality and love. The people who have prayed with us and for us. It’s sad—but that makes us happy.
Soon, the box castles will be piled onto a truck. Soon, we will all pile into our car—although Jackson keeps threatening to pack his baby sister into a box, and Adelaide is always up for adventure—and back out of the driveway where the kids rode their bikes and chalked their names.
We will wave goodbye to the home where Jackson started school; where we brought Adelaide home from the hospital, hours old; where we wrestled with thoughts about ministry and people until the late hours of the evening. The home where we learned what it means to be married and in ministry.
We will wave goodbye, and the happy and sad feelings will wash over me. I will smile at the amazing memories that a building can hold, but tears will fall.
We know God is calling us to this new chapter; working with children and youth is our passion. It’s what lights the embers of our heart. We know God is in this, because although there will be sad goodbyes, there have already been warm welcomes. Our new church family has sent us secret treehouse pictures for Jackson and Adelaide, offered to make us dinner and help us find childcare, and taken us on a FaceTime tour of the camp that will be home this summer. We are already deeply and richly blessed.
We are happy and sad. And it’s OK to feel this way, as we have reassured Jackson over and over again. We have come to learn that it’s a blessing, that it might just be the best place to be. To be happy and sad is to lean into the love of God and his plans for us.
Right now, happy and sad looks like a castle made out of decorated moving boxes, filled with memories, a castle that stirs their imagination and holds their hopes—and worries—for the future. And sometimes, I climb inside the castle and sit awhile, too, imagining what’s to come and feeling happy, and sad.
Lieutenant Kristen Jackson-Dockeray is the corps officer at Niagara Orchard Community Church, Ont. She will take up a new appointment as divisional youth secretary in the British Columbia Division as of July 1.