To begin you must end

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Generally, I don't like ending things. 

The end of a good movie is satisfying, but I am no longer anticipating a surprising, beautiful conclusion.

The end of a job or contract takes a load off your mind, but then you wonder what in the world you will do next.

The end of the adoption of a baby that was promised to you strikes a discordant note, leaving the musician hanging in mid-air, the composition and music unfinished.

But what if all these endings—and your endings, too—are beginnings in disguise? (Notice I didn't whisk them away by calling them "blessings in disguise." Yes, thank goodness for that.)

When an end comes, it forces movement. Somehow, I must begin again.

And so, I do.

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A few months ago, I posted on my friend Cara Meredith's blog on my ritual of saying no:

Saying no is one of the most important rituals I can practice if I am to start again with joy: a moving on, an open door, a new chapter. My mind clears, empty of the weight of less-than-best commitments, and I wonder, like a small child peeking around the corner, “What’s next?”

My eyes peeled, my heart opening, I am nearly ready for the “yes.”

At the time I wrote the piece, doors seemed to be closing EVERYWHERE. I was closing some of them myself, when I realized activities and prospects weren't leading to life anymore, but were keeping me from the best.

But to be completely honest, as I said no, over and over again, I wasn't yet sure what I was saying yes to. I was stripping down my life, as the clear inner voice of the Holy Spirit seemed to say "no more." Even one of my best friends said she wished she could fix the situation, the big adoption loss leading to something good, something better in our lives. But she said she couldn't. She said she felt I was being called to wait. This time of saying "no," "not now," and "that's not my focus anymore" was excruciating. 

I was the chrysalis struggling against the weight of the cocoon, yearning to break free and fly. To say yes to something. I was journaling, praying, listening. Repeat. In all honesty, I was asking God time and again if he loved us, something I had believed wholeheartedly for awhile now. My feelings betrayed my lack of trust. Oh, Jesus, am I Your Beloved? The one you love? The one you delight in? Still?

He is still loving me back to wholeness each day. There is plenty of time.

Meanwhile, all those endings, those blank spaces, those empty hours, led to some big yeses. Some of them wouldn't have happened had I not said "no" first:

  • I got an interview with an amazing woman and wrote a feature article that will soon tell her story, after trying to reach her for a year and a half. In a matter of weeks, everything slid into place after all my "trying-very-hard" efforts.
  • I started volunteering 10 hours a week at our beautiful church, Three Rivers Wesleyan, as the Pastor of Discipleship. This ushers in love, hope, a moving into my giftedness, and a place for all the weary ones. A blessing, indeed.
  • Perhaps the biggest yes of all came just a week or two before the adoption had been scheduled. A last-minute email about a slot for a foreign exchange student prompted me to ask my husband this question: Would bringing an exchange student into our home this year bring you joy? I was expecting a no, but I received a "yes." Two weeks later, a 16-year-old French teenager began to fill our home with love, laughter, and more fun than I could have imagined. The "planned nursery" became a bedroom that seemed like it was waiting for him all along. 

I still don't pretend to understand all of this. But I am learning to say no gladly. I am asking Jesus to show me how to do the next best thing, and then I am holding God's feet to the fire, so to speak. He promises to somehow work things for good. Somehow, somehow. Meanwhile, I am leaning forward, arms having broken through the chrysalis, flying into Yes!

Join me?

Your turn: What are you being called to say no to that you might make way for a yes? 

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church

Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece; great for fall studies! Order here.