I stood between the sink and dishwasher clanking the glasses and bowls and forks and pans around, separating the ones to be hand washed from the ones I could rinse and place in the dishwasher. All the while glancing across the room as a couple of kids and the husband sat on the couch talking about the upcoming missions trips the three oldest are taking in just a few short days. One to Mexico for nine days and two to Brazil for fourteen. Then they got up one at a time and left the house, and the tears glistened. I silently stood looking out the window thinking “this is all going too fast…way too fast…they are leaving me”. And as I turned, I had to make the conscious choice to make faith bigger than fear, to choose prayer over worry, to make joy larger than sorrow. Last year it was three in high school, this year it is two in high school and one in college. Even the one who chooses to graduate a year early is already talking of apartments and moving out. Life charges ahead without thought of the parents who wish it to slow. Every breath leads to another moment of letting go. Each step lunges ahead into a future unknown.
Looking at the moments ahead, the days are coming for packing clothes, shopping for dorm room towels and sheets and under the bed tubs, planning which roommate will bring the coffee pot and who will bring the TV. Those moments when I reflect back and wonder how this all came to be. These are the days I wish to tightly hold in my hands and reel in for just a few more moments of together. How I long for tighter hugs, longer talks in the kitchen making cookies together, more requests for pancakes and bacon, permission to go to a friend’s and questions of how to manage a situation. Yet I know, I really believe in my heart, this is not the end of the relationship, the strong bond of mother and child. No, this is the beginning of a new normal, and this new normal is not going to be bad. It is just going to be different. In the looking ahead, in the wonder of what the college experience will entail, I see joy, I see discovery and insight and learning and calls home to say he misses me. I see a Heavenly Father who loves the boy more than I do even when I cannot comprehend that truth. But the sorrow overwhelms this momma’s heart, the unknowns stir the emotions of wanting to protect, the knowledge of change makes me want to force the clock to halt. Excitement and sadness can truly coincide in one heart. They take a parallel path on the travelled road. The grief may overwhelm, but the knowledge that the boy who is moving away loves the Lord is great. Because the only comfort when the momma’s arms are miles away will be the safety and security of a Heavenly Father who knows and sees, who loves and calms. And that is absolutely enough.
Time may be a stealer of moments, but it cannot erase the memories. Time may refuse to stand still, but with the movement of life as it marches on to the next thing comes realization. An understanding that I have done everything I could to raise children who open doors for others, who put the napkin in the lap, who say please and thank you, who look others in the eye as they speak, who understand the value of grace and the ability to pour it into another life, who love Jesus first, who can be fun and joke and wear the grin of sarcasm but know to respect and listen. This momma is far from perfect and did the best with the skills in my pockets. I was strict and relentless with chores and schedules, probably a little too much. Time may keep moving, but I have no doubt when the door closes, when the last goodbye and kiss are given, when the car putters down the road, there will be no regrets. Wishes of having eased up or stricter with certain things, maybe. Wishes of more games and picnics and books read, sure. But did I do my very best? Did I give my all? When the college day comes, will I be satisfied with all I did to make him ready? I sure hope so. I sure hope he knows the love he leaves behind, that same love he also takes with him. I sure hope he sees the momma who is excited and scared to death all in one breath. The momma who will fake the happy to cover the tears. Will he know my tears will fall to my lap the whole way home? That I will be unable to steer the car as dad knowingly must drive the long road home? The day is coming, but it is not here yet. The moments are moving, but they are still creating one last summer before the sending awakens to make new memories and bestow life adventures not yet discovered.
The summer is here, the graduation is gone, the new adventures of missions trips and new friendships await. And all the while, the momma stays right where she needs to be – in the home, on the knees, praying for strength and protection and mercy for the littles who have grown into young adults ready to take on new challenges, deepen their faith and make their marks in a tattered, broken world in need of a Savior.
So many changes, new adventures, discovered emotions. Thankfulness settles for the littles who are yet to leave the nest, who are still growing and changing and living the known routine and predictable days. Their days will come as well. Their moments of choosing change and future adventures will come as the clock ticks to the next hour, the next day. Time marches on for us all. With it, a need for gratitude exists, begging to be noticed and thought of and cherished. Gratitude for the days gone by, for the treasured moments, for the loving of growing ones ready to test their independence. Gratitude for lives well lived and the assurance of the Lord’s protection in the unknown days to come.