A celebration was necessary, or so I thought.guitar“I am going to get my college ring.” Our son called with the news.

My breath caught and my heart was doing the happy dance for him. Words tumbled from my mouth in celebration of his achievement, filling the space with a mother’s bursting pride. A few more words and he was gone.

I quickly forged ahead and began making plans not only to attend the ceremony but for a celebration afterwards to honor his determination, hard work and perseverance. He had fought through some pretty big challenges in his young life and could have given up several times along his way.

One of those times happened when he was a Junior in high school. He was highly sought after by college agents for his athletic talent and had high hopes for a football scholarship to college.

That dream took a hit when his spleen ruptured during football practice.

I remember arriving at the trauma center and the sight of him laying on a gurney. A vivid memory of his eyes is still present with me today. I saw the despair they spoke as I leaned in close to gently hug his shoulders and whisper prayers in his ear. I felt desperate for him to know how much he was loved.

His journey took a turn that day. Mine, as his mother, did too.

My mother’s heart was torn.

I wanted to fill the painful space with my words and my presence, to pick him up just as I did when he was little, to hold him, to protect him, to call him mine, and promise him a bright tomorrow.

I wanted to be an embrace that would fix it all for him just as it did when he was little.

But he was not little anymore. The struggle to pray, watch, wait and listen was fierce. I resisted. I wrestled with God. I complained. And finally, I opened my grip and let him go.

Prayer warriors held him up, and me too. Love came for him. God’s embrace came through nurses, doctors, friends, family, and patient advocates. His body mended. God grew his faith. He grew mine too.

His dream to play college football came to an end. I watched and waited as he struggled through doubt, “Will I get into college without football?”

But God. He did not give up, nor did our determined son.

Rather than give up, he chose to work hard and run track. After the season was over, an invitation came for him to join a college team. It looked as if he was on his way to his dream. But, not long after he began college, his career as a college athlete ended with an injury to his back.

His life took another drastic turn. This time I watched and waited from afar.

Though crushed, he was not defeated. He walked his path with perseverance and hope.

It felt good to plan a celebration for him after his years of struggle, and so I created my plan.

Life has a way of taking unexpected turns, and my plan came to a screeching halt.

He called a few days before the ceremony to tell me he had made a decision. There would be no time for a ceremony nor any celebration because he had changed his plans.

“What?” A silent question loudly spoken in my heart.

“Be still. Listen Ellen.”

“I am heading to Arkansas to play my guitar in a band, and I need to leave early to get there on time. I will miss the ring ceremony, so don’t come.”

I heard his heart. It held joy. It held excitement. It held hope and adventure. My plans took a backseat as I listened to my son, a man of few words, a man of quiet determination, a man who can take a risk and change his plans with the ease of a faith grown through adversity.

I felt a silent celebration in my heart with and for him. I know him. His guitar is part of him. He has loved playing it all his life, and (though biased) I believe he is the most talented guitarist my ears have ever heard. The opportunity for him to play for a crowd larger than our family was a risk and a gift that he seized.

Our son. He is a man of faith with stealth-like strength and quiet determination. To watch him follow his good heart and live alive in his desire is more cause for celebration in my mother’s heart than any ring.

Here’s to you, D. Keep following your heart. Be embraced by Love. I am celebrating with you with a heart of gratitude for the man you are becoming.

ellen oelsen son


photo-4Ellen Oelsen lives in the Texas Hill Country with her husband of 26 years. She is a mother of 4 children and loves their 2 dogs and 1 cat. Her hobbies include cooking, nature, reading, plays, and two stepping. She delights in offering hospitality of the heart and creating spaces of care, rest, play and reflection to inspire hope. She is beginning to expose the writer within her.
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