This is a big week at our house. My youngest child will head out the door for his senior year of high school. I said GOODBYE to him as he backed out of the driveway and started down the street. This time of year puts me in a very nostalgic state of mind. All the many “first days of school” play like a highlight reel in my mind; one more year to go.

It has been a beautiful journey.

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My middle child, oldest son, who has been home for the summer will head out the door as well to start his junior year of college; another GOODBYE.   I wonder how much change a heart can take. I want so badly to pick up the phone and call my mom to tell her about all that is going on and how the kids are changing and adjusting. But, then I remember she’s not here anymore.

I said a final GOODBYE to her a while back.

My daughter came home from college to visit for a day and then she headed back out the door to her new home and new life. Saying GOODBYE to her should be easier by now, but I still feel an ache in my heart as she drives out of the driveway. The days don’t last long enough.

All of these GOODBYES remind me that life is full of endings; closing of chapters and farewells.

This time of year when there is so much promise, so many new beginnings, fresh starts, I am reluctant to mention it, but there’s still plenty of GOODBYES, lingering in the air like the fragrance of fall spices that are soon to come.   It’s inevitable; with exciting new beginnings come heartfelt GOODBYES.

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Life brings change.

I don’t handle change very well. I didn’t really know or understand this about myself until recently. Maybe it took me half a lifetime to figure this out because many of the changes that have come into my life until now have been positive. Getting married, having kids, chasing a career, balancing career and family, expanding my life. Although very stressful at times, it was still pretty good stuff happening; but, as I enter the “middle-aged” years, more difficult changes  have begun to present themselves . Kids are growing up and leaving for college, parents are ailing and passing away, more body aches and pains. I guess what I’m trying to say is that even though pain weaves its way through our lives from the time we can remember, it’s likely to increase as we grow older, both physically and emotionally.

I read somewhere a long time ago that good and bad run through our lives like rail road tracks; side by side, there’s rarely one without the other.  I’m pretty sure that we learn to appreciate the happy times in our lives so much more because of the lessons we’ve learned during the painful times.

The GOODBYES make the HELLOS more meaningful.

It’s remembering the life someone lived that makes their death survivable.

It’s the sight of the sunrise after a long hard night that gives us hope for a new day.

It’s repentance after wrongdoing that fills us with renewal.

It takes facing the difficult to really treasure the good.

Without pain and troubles we might not appreciate when things finally turn for the better. We are more grateful when we land that job after the long days of unemployment. We hug that child a little tighter after what felt like an eternity of a hospital stay. We linger a little longer with a loved one when we finally live close enough to visit.

Life is sweeter once you’ve tasted the bitter.

A friend of mine came by my office the other day to give me a present. I was so excited; presents are so fun, aren’t they? Anyway, I opened it to find a painting of a semi-colon on a block of wood. Curious, I read the card she had attached. I LOVE what it said and I want to share it with you.

“A semi-colon is the pause in a sentence, not the END. But, it represents a new sentence within one. Just like our life…we often have a new beginning, a new chapter, a re-do, a new start.”

It’s because of the GOOD and the BAD that we welcome new chapters and seasons, fresh starts. Thank heavens we don’t park in the bad times and stay there, we pass through, we pause and then we enter a new place.    And it’s  a good place, a new beginning. Semi colons in our lives are not always obvious, but they are always present. Look back and see if you can spot some in your own life.

And then be thankful for the pause and for better days that are yet to come.

I hugged both of my sons really tightly today as they parted and went separate ways.   It was a difficult GOODBYE. But, I am holding onto the hope of a beautiful HELLO once my senior gets home from school and my college junior comes home to visit. And next time I see my daughter, I will squeeze her too!

And, one glorious day, I will hug my mom as well.

Until then, I will hold on to the truth that life has been good, and hard, and worth it all.  Just like that semi-colon, these sometimes hard days are just pauses in what has been a beautiful story; the story of my life.

Take a minute and thank the Lord for the story he’s writing in YOUR life.

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