The Hardest Thing
I lower the long, wooden spoon into the pot and stir the spaghetti sauce. Bubbles erupt through the thick, red liquid like explosions in the hot lava of a volcano. Steam rises and with it, the warm aroma of spices. I waft the scent toward my face and breath deeply. It’s going to be the perfect meal to feed a crowd.
My extended family will descend upon Joplin to celebrate my sister’s graduation from college this weekend. I think about how she has spent years in this town, studying late into the night, forming friendships that will last her whole life, growing bonds with a place that was once strange and new, but now feels like home. However, all that will change once she moves her tassel to the other side. Life will have changed. She must break her ties to college life and move on. And I think that’s one of the hardest things to do. To say goodbye to one thing and to start something else.
I haven’t made this spaghetti sauce in two years. Not since I lived in Texas. I remember those first two years in Texas. I was in over my head with new responsibilities, hosting the youth group several times a week, working a part-time job, helping on committees at church. Wanda, the long-time pastor’s wife, came over one night and gave me something to fix all my problems. It was a recipe. A recipe for spaghetti sauce.
The recipe is a culinary marvel. It only contains six ingredients. It’s cheap. It’s delicious. It can feed an army. Suddenly, I was whipping up this sauce every week, and the ease with which I could do it let all the anxiety and exhaustion slip off my back. The spaghetti became famous to all those teenagers with open mouths. No matter how many times I told them it was Wanda’s recipe, they called it Aanna’s Spaghetti, and they loved it. Our house filled with kids and we loved it.
But then Logan and I received what can only be described as a call from God. We felt compelled to move to Joplin, Missouri, and help a town just decimated by a tornado. We felt compelled to leave the kids we loved, the families that felt like family, to pack up my pots and my ladles and move 400 miles away. I didn’t understand why God would ask this of me. I’ve never cried so hard and so often. We’d spent many but not enough years in that place. I had thought it was to be my home.
But we knew that God’s way is always best.
So we did it. We said goodbye to Texas and we started something new in Joplin.
Logan built a team of volunteers to minister to kids at The Bridge. He designed new programs, started an after school program, ran a summer camp, took kids out to Sonic and built relationships. I grew a baby inside me and gave birth to her and cared for her. We spent time and money trying to sell our old house in Lewisville. We spent time and money purchasing a new one in Joplin. We worked hard and good things happened.
But this Saturday, The Bridge will have its last all-nighter. A promising new ministry will take its place, but The Bridge will officially close. Logan is looking for a new job. The very next step is barely visible.
Despite the fogginess, the true things are still true. God provides for his children. He will give us a place to serve him. He will remain our source of stability, joy and fulfillment. But I’m sad. Last week it really hit me. Just how hard it is to say goodbye to something and to start something new.
As I watch the spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove, a low rumble coming from under the lid, I realize that it once again took me two years to start making spaghetti sauce. Two years to get settled, find my bearings, and start feeding others. To find joy and peace in the midst of service. And even though it’s about to start all over, I will find this again.
God always provides.