the art of goodbyes


Hi: today I am planning to link in to the online community
of women over at Velvet Ashes.movingday
It is a unique and great community of women serving God with their lives overseas.
Each week there is a Word prompt and we can share words, art, photos based on that prompt at The Grove.
This week’s word prompt was Goodbye.
Last night Hoosband was out from after dinner, until it became early the next day… South East Asia has a rich community night life (its cooler at night!) And I took the chance to sit down and ponder goodbye. I looked at this picture of my brother (on the day of our first ever international goodbye), bravely being happy for sad nieces and nephews, generously letting them say goodbye with grumpy faces and fake apathy.
I looked at this photo and thought that goodbye was too hard to express. It seemed like too  big a topic & decided that  I couldn’t give voice to it all. I began to think about what it looked like instead
….

**********

Goodbye has settled on me.
Goodbye, that was a giant and has now become a familiar shadow.
Goodbye, that seemed such a huge leap and has now become an even step.
Goodbye, that is getting easier, getting harder, is just the same.
Goodbye is blue.

If I was an artist and I could build a goodbye with my hands; then I would make it blue.
I would use clay because it’s fun and only 1 step up from play dough (at which I am proficient) … and I would make myself a simple clay torso. Not too fancy or pretty or even very detailed. Just slightly, obviously me.
I would start with me because I am goodbyes.
I am the mother of goodbyes.
I am the wife of goodbyes. The daughter, the sister and the friend.
I am the neighbour of goodbyes, the aunty and granddaughter.
I am the fellow worker; we all seem so full of goodbyes.

I have been goodbye well and I have been so with difficulty. I have hugged with desperate longing and I have waved with enthusiasm. I have read many best wishes and I have promised life-long remembering.
I have carefully, deliberately selected portions of my heart and gifted them to people across the world. I belong everywhere I have said goodbye to. I have arrived at future goodbyes and chosen to belong there anyway.
Because I am somewhat experienced now, at being a goodbye.

As I sculpt myself a goodbye. I would first make for myself, a heart.
I would take a small cross and wrap it with thread. A little wooden cross, which is all of me. Which some see but don’t understand and don’t have their heart wrapped around… But my heart is. (& this difference makes those goodbyes harder)
And so, my heart starts there. With a cross and a knot that binds me forever to his wonder.
That compels me to live in serving love – which so often means to live in goodbyes.
I would wrap that cross in blue thread.
I would wrap it and wrap it until it is full. Until it is a heart made whole. (And anatomically correct because imaginary artist-me is just that good)
But the thread is not empty. It is not limited. It has no end.
It is like a river. A river of blue thread which comes pouring out from the cracks in the clay torso. Out willingly through an opening in my torso, where I am left wide open deliberately and unreservedly.
There is my heart, which goes out in my humanity.
Because I was born and held. Because I giggled and danced with others. I have been loved, because I have cried in someone’s kitchen and been given gifts by another.
Because I walked with you in one city but left a brother in the last one.
Because you shared my burdens in this country but God chose me for another.
Because I have smile lines from our laughter on that continent but suntan lines from my life on this one. Because for every hello there has been a goodbye… and I have not always chosen them all.
Luckily the heart has plenty of thread.
It comes out from me all over, and unravels itself in every direction.

The statue of me, stands in a 3D display made of tiny photos. Hundreds and hundreds of tiny black and white photos encircle me. The photos of people, of places and dreams. A pattern, a story and a portrait. Like intricate lace, the photo create a tapestry of my life so far and it has been rich.
Portions of thread reach to photos of my family, to my parents and brothers and uncles.
It spreads easily out to best friends and beloved sisters in Christ. To mentors and grandparents.
To the place my children were born and the house I dreamed of growing old in.
The blue thread unravels itself, spreading further and never runs out.
It never retracts and it is never severed.

Once I have unraveled, your photo is part of the story. The thread of our attachment is secured.
This thread of heart, which is so often goodbye.
I would knot trinkets into the thread. Things I was given and have left behind. The dress I wore when Husband promised to love me forever. The blankets my mother knitted for her grandchildren, the cat I told secrets to. My favourite spot on that sofa, where I read great books, spilled popcorn as we watched movies and where I nursed all my babies or rocked them in the night-time.
I would tie in a little pendant for each of my children. For aunties and uncles who have loved them well and have hugged us at more than one airport terminal. For others who helped with culture shock and took place of distant loved ones. For friends that came as a gift of God in seasons of loneliness. That special adopted Auntie that I have loved to watch them grow to love and cried to see them leave.
 My goodbyes become the goodbyes of my children.
Their goodbyes seem to unravel me too.

my kids in the doorway
I don’t know why, but I would definitely make goodbye as blue.
The colour of constant ocean waves. The colour of tears. The colour of the sky that we all still share. The colour of Skype, and I think, the colour of calm. A colour of emotion, of sadness but it is also rich and beautiful. A colour with depth.
I would make goodbye as a thread.
A blue thread that flows out of me like a river. Strong and binding, but fragile and able to unravel. To travel many places and tie me to many wonderful moments.
A river of blue thread, like a river of life – flowing out of me.
A river of living water that I love to outpour. That I am blessed to carry into dry places.
A river of love.
I am compelled by love, to love, to give love and live love and walk love into places I would not go by myself.
A river of goodbyes… for as long as I know life, for as long as I am loved, I may keeping walking and wandering, unravelling.
Outpouring.
I will be someone’s goodbye. I will live and relive my own goodbyes.

So if I was to make goodbye. I would make it blue thread.
Beginning with a cross, becoming an endless source of heart. An endless ream of love that spreads out over my entire world.
It is tangled with trinkets of things I loved and left, knotted with pendants for people I have chosen goodbyes for, or whose last goodbyes I missed out on.
And I would cry as I made it.
As I selected photos to use and remembered the moments that earned such strong attachments.
I would pull that thread tight to show the longing, the stretching.
Oh I would probably cry a lot.
It would be so good.
It would make me smile to remember my goodbyes.
Remember the love which attached us forever.
The cross at my core, which makes it worth each one.
Which keeps the blue thread of heart -from ever running out.
My blue thread of many goodbyes.

1question, 2answers, 4bowls of ice cream


There are 2 couples who love the Lord dearly.
They drop a couple of kids into the mix and an interest in the mission field.
Then a question is raised one evening, over ice cream.
Though we all finish our ice cream… the question is unanswered.
To the blog, I say, all hail the blog.

So – both parents agree totally that children are a gift from God.  We agree that they belong to God and that we as parents as just guardians over them, entrusting to raise them in Christ and to the glory of God.
No arguments there.
But what is responsible stewardship?
This question divided opinion & caused a night-long debate involving many bowls of ice cream, hot chocolate and the agreement to disagree.
The question was placed in this context –
Is it responsibility to move to an area or country that is considered persecuted or dangerous – deliberately at the risk of your children -to witness for Christ?

One answer was no.
It is not responsible Christian parenting.
God has entrusted us, as parents, to keep our children as healthy and safe as is in our power. We are to commit to raising them in truth and right Christian living, to witness to the world around us. But our responsibility as parents cannot allow us to endanger our children.
Why would God bless us with children if he planned a life of danger and persecution for us? If that was God’s intention for our lives – then we would (as the Apostle Paul did) remain single. To be free from the responsibilities of parenthood – to take the gospel to these places.
Yes – it would be wrong and disobedient to NOT go somewhere God commands you – but God would not command a parent to physically endanger their child. He would not give a gift of responsibility such as children – to then demand its misuse.
God would not command, or approve of parents who take their children to war zones, closed countries, tribal situations or any other physically precarious countries and situations – not even in attempt of His service.
That answer was a ‘no’

The other answer to that question is (obviously) yes.
God would command – and does command parents to follow Him, even into certain danger & persecution. In the bible, in the book of Matthew – Jesus says that if we love our families or our children more than him, then we are not worthy. If the welfare of our children is more important to us as parents, than the Glory of God and the proclamation of the gospel – then we are not worthy.
The bible says that it is God who gives, and God who takes away. It is God who knows every hair on our head and the number of days appointed to us – and to our kids. It is God who is sovereign over the countries of the West, of tribal countries, militant nations, impoverished nations and closed Islamic countries.
It is in God that we should put our hope and align our path. It is His commands that we should follow… and He commanded us to take the gospel to every tribe, to every tounge. He didn’t give free pass to Christians who are scared, to Christians who are married, to Christians who are reluctant or to parents who want to shield their children. He said that we should take up our cross… and follow.

Now, I know which side of this debate I was on.
I love, love LOVE my children and I want with all of my heart from them to be safe, for them to be happy and to grow in age, maturity and faith until they are old ladies and men. But more than I desire their happiness, I must obey my God. More than I desire their protection, I must proclaim Jesus Christ. More than I want them to grow old, I want them to grow in faith.
My beautiful children do not belong to me – they are Gods. He would have them live in persecution and danger for the sake of His name. I cannot deny God what does not belong to me.
I cannot – though I am so, so tempted.

Now, I am not saying that the only faithful parents are those living in ‘dangerous’ places. And I am not saying that we should all let our kids play out the front of our homes on the road – I am saying that I, as a mum, believe that God is king over my family. I believe that he has the lives of my precious ones in His hand and were they to be safe or were they to be killed – it is all in His control.
I believe ‘responsible parenting’ is to walk with my children & my God – though a minefield rather than to endeavour to keep them safe by my attempts – here in Australia.
All the eletrical plug protectors, seatbelts, helmet, rules and supervision in the world is no match for the sovereign providence of God in the midst of gunfire.

That is why I answer yes.