July 22, 4:45 PM.
I was caught in the middle of a blackout from the rain; attending to something at work when suddenly, one particular thought floated above sea level. I stopped what I was doing to accommodate it, but it hit me like dawn after a long night:
Today is my last official day at work.
I surprised myself. When I expected to feel the usual grief that came with goodbyes, what came was a dose of fresh excitement. I found myself smiling and thinking, “Now that was a good run.”
To say the past few weeks have been a rollercoaster for me is an understatement. I’m the type of person who absolutely hates goodbyes, transitions, change, and any of that sort. And to have this happen in the middle of this volatile environment would have been, in the past, the makings of a perfect storm.
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But, once again, I surprised myself. Rather, God surprised me by helping me come to terms with endings.
Endings are a part of life. We all know that.
The adults sat us down and told us this the time we realized we wouldn’t anymore be classmates with our preschool best friend at big school.
We told ourselves this at graduation when we hugged our friends goodbye; not knowing that it would the last time we would be seeing most of them.
But I wonder how many of us have spent a night staring at the ceiling, curious about how the people and places we’ve had to say goodbye to in the past are doing right now. I certainly have my fair share of those.
Not only that, I’ve come to realize that not all endings are alike.
There are endings we decide for ourselves because we deem them necessary for growth.
Then there are those we’ve seen from afar, clear as the writing on the wall.
Then come perhaps the most tragic ones of all—those sudden, world-stopping goodbyes that punch you in the gut and knock the wind out of you.
Did this really happen? Is this really goodbye?
The end of my season here felt a lot like the last of the three. I felt these punches in the middle of night as I sobbed into my pillow. This went on for days after I submitted my resignation letter.
Did I really just do that? Is this really the end?
Then one Sunday, tired of it all, I boldly asked God the million-dollar question that was in my heart. “Why couldn’t I move on when I obeyed what You told me to do?”
Yes, I blamed God for my misery, and yes, that was a bratty response. I get that.
I didn’t get His answer right away, so I decided to make myself productive while waiting for it. I cooked my lunch and spent the afternoon distracting myself by reading a book, while this storm of clarity was forming inside of me.
My heart wasn’t in the right place that day… and maybe even for a longer period of time before that.
Then He answered me later that night. He knew this was the best time for us to have our talk, when the day was over and I ran out of “ productive activities” to do. And His answer, full of both truth and love, came in a gentle whisper:
“You’re angry because you didn’t get the ending you wanted.”
But He was right. I didn’t plan on leaving the ministry at this time or in this way.
Perhaps a few years from now.
After we had accomplished this and that.
When this and that plan had finally took on full-effect.
Because as nice and noble as these sounded, these were all my plans. Not God’s. The veil had been lifted, and what lied behind the curtain were none of God’s purposes, but my own agendas.
And this painful truth applied not just for this particular episode, but in many stories of my life.
Oftentimes I find myself offended with God and hung up on the latest episode of my drama because what I got wasn’t the ending:
-I hoped for
-I worked super hard for
When this happens, my idols of self and control completely lose it. The rug is pulled from under my feet, and my “perfect” world comes crashing down—like a multiple-car collision along NLEX.
But could it be that, if I loved and served this Jesus who I know to be all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever-loving… could it be that this same God had other plans—better plans—for me, than I have for myself, that I can’t see or understand right now but will eventually work out in the end? And that my life wasn’t falling into pieces but falling into place?
The tears came that night as I told him how sorry I was for thinking that I was God instead of Him.
I was actually gearing up to sleep after this, knowing we’ve made peace, but moments after, I realized that He wasn’t done yet with our conversation.
They say that the last stage of grief is acceptance and hope. I knew that God, in that moment, was extending His gift of acceptance and hope to me. Fine, I thought. If this was the only way to move forward.
As usual, I had my list of contentions prepared. But Lord, wasn’t resigning my clear sign of accepting Your will? Why didn’t my obedience help me accept it sooner?
Then I stopped myself in my tracks. Wait. What is it that I have to accept, God?
Endings can be messy, but they don’t always have to be that way. And if there was one thing that I learned in my journey out of this season, it’s that the Hands behind the ending plays a pivotal part in determining what sort of ending that would be.
If I were to be given the chance to write the ending of my season here, I would’ve written it this way:
following eight to nine years of working in the ministry,
with three campus conferences and two world conferences over the course of her stay,
and after co-building a team that trains creatives for Kingdom work,
has resigned and left the building.
Maybe this ending would’ve turned out great. Or maybe, and most likely, this ending would’ve been the death of me. If only because in my five-lined script of an ending, did I not once mention God.
He completely disappeared from the page. The author of this story had left Him out.
But, instead of my own ending, I got this one instead:
following five years of working where God, against her will, had placed her in
with too many divinely orchestrated work and life transitions within that time to count,
and in the middle of a pandemic that is shaking all except for who He is,
resigned and is now not even allowed inside the building because of strict security measures.
While my ending to this season was not what I had hoped for, I could say today that it had God written all over it—not just in the ending, but on every page.
It was then when He whispered, “This is the perfect ending to your time here because I was the one who planned it. Not you.”
And with that thought, I had finally come to terms with this ending. God’s ending.
There are endings in life that we create out of our own free will because they are what mature us. Then there are endings that we’ve seen and predicted and prepared for from afar. Then come the few, like much this one, that can initially feel like the end of the world because they didn’t go our way.
But tonight, I write to say that if I were to go back and be given a chance to rewrite the last few days, weeks, months, and years of this story, I wouldn’t. Because I would rather entrust this story in the hands of a better Writer, a better Author, than myself.
He writes the best stories and with that, the best endings.
Now that was a good run.