This week’s post is from Audrey Luhmann, who serves the littlest members of our church as head of the nursery. She also coordinates our meal ministry, and we so appreciate her heart for our church family. Audrey and Andrew and their four children will be relocating this summer, and obviously, it’s hard to see them leave. Audrey shares her heart and her fears as they prepare to move west.

As a young girl, I longed for the day when my parents would allow me to cross the threshold of true womanhood: getting my ears pierced.  I daydreamed of donning sparkling (fake) diamond studs and too-big-for-me dangles.  I jealously watched many a girlfriend bounce into school, having completed the coveted rite of passage.  My 10th birthday couldn’t come quickly enough.

A funny thing happened, however, when the occasion finally arrived.  As my parents and I stood in line in front of the little mall shop, I had the opportunity to watch the procedure.  I had a deadly fear of needles; how had I not realized that this involved needles?  I turned to my dad.  “Actually, I’ve changed my mind.  Let’s go home.”  He shook his head.  “Uh-uh.  You’ve talked about this nonstop for months.  Look, she’s done, and she didn’t cry.  You’ll be fine.”  He was right, it wasn’t very painful, but I almost passed out in the chair from my fear.

Two decades later, I feel so much like the little 10-year-old that day at the mall.  For years Andrew and I have dreamed together of what life will be like for us after graduate school.  We thought we were on the cusp of that step four years ago, and then he was offered a post-doc research position here at the University of Minnesota.  We were very happy to stay here, but it meant that the dream of a home of our own – planting a tree, and joining with it to put down our own roots – must be placed on hold for an undetermined time in the future.

Now that longed-for date has been set: Andrew was offered and accepted a faculty position at New Mexico Tech, about 80 miles south of Albuquerque.  We’ll move in July.  We’ll live in a “real” house, which means I’ll kiss these 1,057 square feet goodbye, complete with the grocery and kid-hauling across a parking lot and the laundry room we share with 34 other families.  I’ve fantasized about this day.

But my heart aches as I think of saying goodbye to all of you.  The past several Sundays have found me singing, saying the prayers, and swallowing the Eucharist bread with a lump in my throat.  We – our kids included – are going to miss each of you so very much.  Never have Andrew and I felt so completely at home at a church.  Never have we felt so encouraged and supported week after week after week.  As you’ve welcomed us into your lives, we’ve felt the fullness of sharing in the “deep,” joys as well as sorrows.  The past four years Andrew and I have lived in uncertainty, not knowing if or when – or from where – the job call would come.  (The academic world is like that!)  You could have very understandably pulled back, quietly letting go and beginning the inevitable parting process.  But you didn’t.  No, you embraced us in our unknown.  You encouraged us when the hope of job prospects ended, quietly shared with us your own struggles with uncertainty.  You pressed in and pointed us to Christ.  When you could have chosen distance, you loved vulnerably.  You filled us with peace and assurance.

How do we say goodbye to a family like that?  I am again the little girl standing in line.  “Umm… maybe I’ve changed my mind…”  Will I be able to make this big step with grace?  Finding a similar body of Christ-followers on the path ahead seems a precarious hope.  Who will our next family be?  Will there be a next family?  My fear of isolation far surpasses my fear of needles.

I’ve shared honestly these worries with some of you, yet again you have washed me with truth and love.  You have reminded me that there is nowhere our little family can go that God is not present, that He promises His care over His children.  Remember, you’ve assured me, God’s Family is big.  Prepare to be surprised, and don’t be afraid to receive His good gifts.

So I will set my face forward, trusting in the promise of God’s great love for us.  I will be a teary wreck on our final Sunday here, but know that I will carry closely your words of truth and encouragement.  As you remember us, I ask you to pray that God places new people on our path, brothers and sisters who will keep our faces turned toward Him.  Pray that He will make us vessels that pour Christ’s love freely out on those in Socorro, New Mexico.

And know that we will welcome – long for – phone calls and e-mails or letters from you.  And visits… please come visit us in the Land of Enchantment!  (Don’t come to fish, though; it has ten thousand lakes, no joke.)