Friday, October 21, 2016

I'm Right Here

Dear Allison,

True confession: I have been writing this letter in my heart for the past month. Yes, it was a month ago today that we moved you into your dorm. I didn’t really think about that until just now, but somehow it seems appropriate that today is the day I feel ready to move these words from my heart to paper. I wanted to wait for awhile – I wanted to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were both doing okay before I emoted about the process of letting go.

You are thriving – your texts and posts exude joy and life and scream, “I am where I am supposed to be!” This does not surprise me. We knew from the first day we visited that Seattle Pacific University had a special connection to your dreams and goals. What does surprise me, a little bit, is that I am doing okay, too. I’m not ready to say I’m thriving yet – at least not to the amazing degree that you are – but I am finding the courage and curiosity to ask myself what this next stage of my life is going to be about. You see, my definition of thriving for the past 18 years has kind of revolved around being your Mom. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. And then, it changes. That’s the way it’s supposed to be too. The thing is, nobody quite prepares for you that change. But here we are, a month later, and I am asking myself what thriving will look like for me in this next season. And I am still breathing and I am really, surprisingly, okay. Your Dad and I (and Buster!) are finding a new rhythm to life as the season changes. We think of you every minute but it is with joy and anticipation and excitement, knowing that things are exactly as they are supposed to be.

Another true confession: the last few nights before you moved in to your dorm, I did not sleep well at all. I woke up in the very early hours and laid there, listening to you breathe. I know that might sound creepy, but Moms do this all the time. Any Mom out there will back me on this one. I thought about how fast the time had gone. I even prayed for a few fleeting moments that God would actually slow time down for our last few days together. I know better than to pray this --- I contemplated praying it before, at the beginning of your senior year, when I realized how many “lasts” were ahead of us. I knew, however, that God seldom answers this kind of prayer. I also knew that any prayer I prayed to this effect ("Please make the clock move slower") would be immediately counteracted by the prayers you were praying for that same period of time to go by quickly. So instead of praying that time would go slowly, I asked God to help me savor those “last” moments. He did that throughout your senior year, and He was faithful to do it again on our trip.

You will never know how much those days meant to me on the way up to Seattle: the meaningful conversations, the reminiscing, the comfortable silences. I love that we went to the zoo and the giant bookstore, that we got to see a few of your friends at their colleges, and that I was there when you discovered Dutch Bros. coffee. And I love that God gave me a few snapshots along the way to keep forever in my mind and heart . . .

The first specific snapshot was Monday morning, our day in Portland. Driving around in the city was so crazy and so I dropped you off in a random spot while I went to park the car. (By the way, I still stand by my statement that I prefer places where each destination has its OWN parking lot.) It took a few minutes for me to find a parking garage and then to get to the downtown area.  I spotted you from behind, a half of a block ahead of me, just as my phone rang and you asked, “Mom, where are you?”
“Look behind you. I’m right here.”
A seemingly random moment. We went on about our sightseeing.

A few days later, we are at the new student convocation. You moved in to your dorm the day before. This evening is when we will say our goodbyes. We are listening to the president of the university talk about what amazing adventures lie ahead of you. At the same time, he reassures parents about the loving community of faculty and staff that waits to envelop our children into their care. You reach over and take my hand. It is the most precious, meaningful moment of my entire life. I know in a few short minutes they are going to ask you to come forward and be received into their community. I will be asked to let go of your hand and somehow find a way to be okay. I know you will be okay. But will I?

My mind swirls with memories of other times I have held your hand and then had to let go. The day you confidently sauntered off to Kindergarten, barely looking back at me. The evening when I dropped you off at a huge church event – you were eight or nine years old and you didn’t know a soul there. I asked if you wanted me to stay with you for a little bit, and you dropped my hand and skipped off, looking over your shoulder as you reassured me, “Don’t worry, Mom. I’ll find a friend.”  And you did.

Now we’re here in this gymnasium amidst students and families and professors in academic garb. You are ready to venture off in to your new life. And God is asking me to let go of your hand one more time and entrust you into this community, these people who are promising to do so much more than educate you. As hard as it is, I know that it is right. So right. And every little letting-go that led to this moment has prepared both of us. (For the record, I'm pretty dang proud of myself for not clinging to your hand with all of my might while sobbing "Don't go!" I did it! I let go and I didn't even ugly-cry!)

As I release your hand, God reminds me of that moment in Portland a few days earlier when you asked where I was and I said “I’m right behind you.” He reminds me that this is the end of a season, but not the end of being your Mom. For the rest of your life, I will be taking your hand when you need me to, and letting it go when you need me to. I will be walking beside you some of the time, and walking behind you at others, always gently reminding you, “I’m right here. Keep going.”

Driving away from Seattle was the most difficult thing I have ever done. Don’t get me wrong: I have had more difficult things HAPPEN to me, but in terms of things I have physically had to do, that southward drive home takes the cake. I had to keep literally telling myself out loud: “You can’t stay here. You can’t take her home with you. You have only one choice: keep driving.”

So I kept driving, and I kept trusting. A Danny Gokey song came on the radio (yes, I was listening to my “Jesus station”) and the lyrics said:  

“Beginning. Just let that word wash over you. It’s alright now. Love’s healing hands have pulled you through. So get back up, take step one . . . Cause your story’s far from over and your journey’s just begun.” (Tell Your Heart To Bear Again, Danny Gokey)

How faithful of God to remind me that we both have new journeys ahead of us. I have no idea what my new journey holds for me. But I do know this: no matter what else comes my way, a HUGE part of my life will always be being “right here” for you, whatever that means.

Thank you for this amazing adventure. Thank you for sharing all of your joy and excitement with me. (By the way, I know as much as you love it, it will not always be perfect, so it’s okay when you need to gripe too.) Thank you for trusting me to be okay when you went away, and thank you for understanding when it made me a little bit sad.

You are finding what it is that makes you come alive (Howard Thurman), and I am so grateful to be a part of that.

Look behind you. I’m right here. I always will be.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

 May I be the first to wish you a Happy Birthday?

I was not the first to greet you on that brilliant, magnificent day 18 years ago when you entered the world and changed my life forever. There were medical personnel (who I am eternally grateful for) who rushed you out of my tummy and off to be checked and re-checked before I even had a chance to hold you. Your Dad followed you around while they tested you and bathed you and made sure you were okay. I waited in the recovery room while the nurses brought me updates – your height and weight, your APGAR score, etc. Finally, they brought me to my own hospital room and told me you would be in shortly.

Can I just tell you that the second they put you in my arms was the most magical moment I have ever experienced? There isn’t even a close second. There are no words to describe the instant bond, the overwhelming love, and the ferocious desire to protect and nurture. You looked right into my eyes and I said audibly what my heart had been singing since the second you were born: “We’ve been waiting for you.”

Tomorrow you turn 18. You are poised at the edge of young adulthood. My mind is a whirlwind of thoughts and feelings: I am so very proud of you. I am so grateful for these wonderful, amazing years. I have regrets about the many areas where I could have been a better Mom. But all of those emotions pale in comparison to the overwhelming AWE I feel at having had a front-row seat to watch you become the person you are today.  To see how all the joys, sorrows, laughter, tears, accomplishments, disappointments, and victories have shaped you into this beautiful mixture of exactly who God created you to be.

My precious daughter, not a moment of your life has been wasted. God has used every second. You have trusted Him and leaned in to Him. He has never let go of you, and you have never let go of Him. Never lose sight of what an amazing blessing that is. Life will not always be easy (you are already well aware of this truth) but it is a little less painful when you remember that He never lets go of you.

So may I just say that it has been an absolute privilege and the joy of my life to be your Mom? You have brought joy and hope and purpose to my life. (Not to mention music, laughter, and silliness.) And with every breath, with every heartbeat, I say a prayer of gratitude that God gave me you.

18 years ago, I whispered to you: “We’ve been waiting for you.” And now, on the eve of your eighteenth birthday, I want to tell you this: “The world is waiting for you.” The world needs your strength, your passion, your love, your compassion. God has uniquely gifted you “for such a time as this.” And so with open arms and a grateful heart, I release you into this crazy, mixed-up, beautiful world of ours, knowing that I have done my best and that God is gracious enough to fill in the gaps and cover my shortcomings with His love.

I am your biggest cheerleader, your number-one fan, your soft place to land, and the place you can always come home to. Thank you for teaching me to trust wholeheartedly, to love with abandon, and to keep a song in my heart.

Being your Mom has changed me in all of the best possible ways. And you are one of the bravest people I know. Your birthday will always be one of my greatest reasons to rejoice.

You are doing with your life what only you could do. And THAT is brave.” -- Annie Downs

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

To Allison on your graduation:

There is nothing more I want for you this week than for you to feel celebrated. YOU DID IT!! Tonight, you will have your diploma. A mere piece of paper, but oh, what it represents. . . . hard work, stress, tough decisions, lifelong friendships, wonderful teachers and mentors, so much learning, so much questioning, so much deciding about what you believe and the kind of person you want to be . . .

You have navigated these years so well. I know there have been times you wanted to give up. Times when it seemed your hard work wasn’t going to pay off. Times when you wondered if it was all worth it. I hope as you walk across that stage tonight when they call your name that you will know, in the deepest places of your heart, that, yes, it was all worth it. I hope you will hear in your heart the voices of God, His angels, your family and friends, saying “Well done, sweet girl.”

I also know there have been times when I have missed cues about how stressed you were, times when I misjudged the importance of a given moment or decision, times when I was too eager to jump in with my own opinion instead of just listening. Thank you for the forgiveness and grace you have extended to me during those times. You have been an example to me.

God has given me some incredible gifts this past year as I have done my best to get ready to set you free to soar . . .  He has confirmed your decision to attend Seattle Pacific in some amazing ways. He has assured me that He has plans for me that will fill the void while you are away. He has reminded me in so many moments to stop and take a mental picture – to record in my mind and heart the gift that it is to be your Mom. Even this morning, when you were leaving, and you said, “This is the last time I’ll be walking out the door to go to school.” I stopped and thought about how many mornings there have been, how many times I’ve said “have a good day”. What I want you to know is how very grateful I am for every single one of those days.

God has also used His Word, as He so often does, to remind me of how our lives have come full circle.

At some point, I think in the last couple of years, Micah 6:8 has become your favorite Bible verse. “The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” It was the theme verse for your Jackson mission trip. It is one of the driving forces behind what you want to do with your life. And it holds a deep, rich meaning for me.

Do you know that you memorized this verse as a very young child? It was either Cubbies or Sparkies, so you were no older than 6. I remember working on it with you. I was always grateful that when you were given memory verses, there were always activities and questions that helped you understand the verse. You would learn what words like “just” and “mercy” meant. It wasn’t just about rote memory; it was about getting to know your Father.

Sometime after memorizing that verse, we were at the park for one of our Saturday play dates. You came over to me at one point very distressed because the other kids you were playing with were being mean to another child on the playground. You told the other kids to stop being mean and they wouldn’t. The other child walked away and you did too. You didn’t want to be a part of that. At such a young age, God gave you the courage to do that.

Later that day, I told you how proud I was of you for how you handled that situation. You said, “Mom, I just kept thinking about that verse I memorized about doing what is right and loving mercy.” I was speechless and so grateful that God was faithfully helping you hide His word in your heart.

Why am I sharing this with you now? Because it is an amazing example of how God works in our lives. Years later, this verse is a driving, guiding force for you, a “mission statement” for your life. We didn’t know back then what the future held, but He did. He was developing in you a heart for the oppressed, the abused, the misunderstood. And He has used EVERY circumstance of your life to shape you into who He wants you to be, to equip you to accomplish the purposes He has for your life.

So as you complete this chapter of your life, I want you to know, at the very deepest levels, that God is always working, always active in your life. There will be times when you can’t hear Him and you wonder why He is silent. There will be times when He feels distant. There will be times when you can’t make sense of what is going on.

But you have a history. A history of knowing that He is always working, always redeeming, always loving. That’s what we cling to during the dark times.

But now – now is a time to celebrate, to be happy, and to be grateful. So, tonight when you walk across that stage and receive that diploma, when you hug your friends and take thousands of selfies and feel like the world belongs to you, may you know I am celebrating too – celebrating who you are, who you will be, and the crazy, amazing, life-changing, incredible gift it is to be your Mom. I will never stop being grateful for that.

He is singing over you today. That is true every day, but especially today, may you hear Him singing over you.

You did it! We are so proud. He is so proud. We celebrate you today!