2008 is going to be a big year of transitions for our family.  Our oldest daughter will finish middle school in a couple of weeks and begin high school in the fall.  Our baby girl will finish 7 years of elementary school and move up to the middle school at the same time.  Big changes, exciting transitions!

I had to go by the elementary school this morning to drop something off and I ran into our favorite teacher.  Our family was lucky enough to have Ms. Brown 3 years in a row.  She “looped” with my oldest, who had her for 4th and 5th grades.  She then decided to go back to her beloved Virginia History in 4th grade the following year, just in time for second born daughter to get her special year with Ms. Brown.

As I was walking into the school, I saw her standing there and knew I needed to thank her for her devotion, love and care for my girls.  After all, I might never see her again after school ends in a few weeks.  As I spoke with her and we marveled at the reality of the girls starting high school and middle school next year, I was overcome with emotion.  Even as I participated this week in planning the 6th grade end of year festivities, this time for the last time, I don’t think I had really emotionally connected to the idea that our family is leaving behind the comfort and familiarity of this school we know so well.  It was all I could do to hold back my tears until I got back to the car.

Both girls, praise God, are in a good place right now.  Big kids of the school, the oldest ones who know all there is to know about how to manage the everyday challenges of that particular school.  The experts….just ask them!  It is a good place to be….to feel in control, to know what to expect.  They feel confident, competent and in charge.  I am happy for them and we are extremely proud of their hard work that has brought them to this place.

So, why can’t they just stay there?  It was hard work to get to this place, why do they have to start all over again?  Next year, they will probably leave for school on that first day with some degree of fear and worry.  Will they get lost?  Will they be able to get their locker open?  What if there is more homework than they can handle?  What if they picked the wrong electives?  What if their friends aren’t in their classes or in their lunch period?  What if the teachers are mean?  What if the kids are cruel?  What is one of those 18 year old men they have in high schools makes a move on my precious daughter….ok, that one might be more our issue! 🙂

Clearly, in this example, it is easy to see why they have to leave the comfortable, safe and familiar and take the next step into the unknown. It would be ludicrous to keep them in elementary/middle school just because they are doing well there now.  They are outgrowing the place where they are today.  They have learned all the lessons that particular place has for them.  They don’t fit there anymore…it wouldn’t be good for them or anyone else in the school for them to stay.  In order to keep growing and learning, they have to take the next step….they have to move on.  They can’t achieve all the potential that God put within them if they stay where they are.

How often do we face the same challenge in our faith journey?  How often do we….perhaps I should say I…stay too long in a place of familiarity?  A place of safety and comfort where we know what to expect and how to get along.  This is working for us just fine, thank you very much, so why does God seem to be pushing us to try something new or expand the way we think or open our eyes to another possibility?  I finally get this figured out and now I have to learn something new?

Perhaps it is for the same reason that my girls need to change schools next year.  Sometimes we outgrow the places we have been.  It was exactly the right place for us to be for that season…it was a good place…a healthy place, but now we have learned all the lessons that particular place has to offer.  In order to keep growing, sometimes it becomes necessary to take the next step, to venture into the unknown, to take that leap of faith. And that can be almost as scary as going to middle school! 🙂

Even though I have significantly more gray hair than I did when my girls started elementary school, the passage of time has given me some wonderful gifts.  The more I see of God’s goodness and faithfulness, the more I trust Him and the less I fight Him (mostly!) when He says it is time to move on.  I know that whatever He is bringing about for me next is exactly the right place for me to be.  There are new lessons to learn and more of Him to discover….more blessings to receive and more ways to be used by Him to be a blessing.  In the end, we can’t ever forget that He has saved us…set us free…poured Himself out for us so that we can, in turn, pour ourselves out and be a blessing in His Kingdom.  Really, in all honesty, do I dare sit back in comfort and safety and refuse to participate in all that He has planned for me just because it is a little scary?  What might I miss if I do?

I feel a song coming on….