>Image via WikipediaIt’s a long ride from Homer, Alaska back home to Girdwood. The 3.5 hours may not be “long” by Alaskan standards, but it’s pretty long when you have 7 family members and 7 bikes in the car, along with luggage and all.
We were down in Homer for the Alaska United Methodist Conference’s Annual Conference session. Four nights away from home. The whole family in a little cabin. A whole lot of togetherness. And our little twins (the “Short Louds”) met some new friends and played hard the whole time. Last night when I was getting them ready for bed back at home, I asked what their favorite part of being in Homer was. I was thinking they would have said “the playground” or “the beach.” Bethany said, “When we got to play in that little room.” That “little room” was the childcare room at the Homer United Methodist Church. They had fun at the provided childcare…which is not something that happens at every Annual Conference gathering.
On the way we back we also stopped at Dairy Queen (always a treat when passing through the town of Soldotna) and spent a couple of hours with some old friends. Talking. Eating. Sharing life. Laughing. And, for the little ones, running around the restaurant.
Well, on the next part of the journey on our way home, after the stop for ice cream, dinner, and visiting, young Abigail, age 4, started crying in her car seat in the way back of our Suburban. This was not a “hurt” cry or a “frantic” cry. This was a “sad” cry. In between the tears she kept calling out to my wife and saying, between quiet sobs and sniffles, “Mommy, I wanna’ snuggle with you. Mommy, I wanna’ snuggle with you.”
I asked my wife if she was tired. My wife said, “She just doesn’t do transitions well.” She was going to have to wait another couple of hours until we got home for her snuggle time to reassure her that things were OK…that she’d see her new friends again, that it’s OK to miss them.
Annual Conference in the United Methodist Church is a time of transitions. Sometimes we do them well. Sometimes not so much. It’s a great time to get together with clergy and families we haven’t seen in months and share some life with each other. The singing is always dynamite. The worship is usually inspiring. And, this time in particular, the preaching from our leadership was awesome. But in the midst of all of this celebration we say goodbye to friends. This is the time when people we have loved and have served with…for me, as long as 14 years…move on to something else…a new state, a new position somewhere else, perhaps retirement. We are all travelers through this life and sometimes our journeys take us in different directions. Annual conference reminds us of this. And, it’s the time when all the rest of the clergy who are left behind are reminded that they aren’t going to stay forever in their present churches or ministries no matter how much we want it to be the case.
Transition time comes for all of us.
And, while “snuggling” may not be required, we may just need that time of Annual Conference to hold on to each other for a little while, affirm each other, celebrate all that is good and holy and right about our lives together, be challenged to be more faithful, individually and collectively, and transition ourselves into another year. I do so appreciate the time we share as a conference. While I don’t consider myself to be a very “needy” person and try to portray myself as pretty independent, I know the time we have together is deeply meaningful to me. It’s “family time” at a conference level.
I’m thankful that there is no move with my transition into this new year…my 12th here in Girdwood. However, I’ve had my share of hellos and goodbyes over those years, even if I haven’t had to move. I will count my blessings and thank God for another year of ministry in this place.
My thoughts and prayers go with my clergy friends and families who are moving on to something else, someplace else. Thank you for all that you have done for the glory of God in our time together.
May you transition well.
May you get the snuggling…or holding…or affirmation you need.
May you cast yourself on the providence of our God who is always bigger than any difficulty you face.