“Mom, can you help me find the picture of me in my pink princess dress?” I knew the exact dress Tori was speaking of. It was the one I purchased for her first Halloween over 18 years ago. She was preparing for her final week of high school.
By the time this post is published, Tori, our fourth and last child living at home will have graduated from high school. She has accomplished so much. We are celebrating with her as she begins her last summer before starting college in August.
A couple of weeks ago, I shared with my friend the anticipation I feel about leaving our only daughter at college. I am already imagining what it will be like to return home to an empty house, to learn how to flow in and out of my days in unexpected rhythms. Some moments I feel like wrapping her in my arms tightly and holding her close to my heart and home forever. And there are also sandpaper moments, the ones that happen when two adults with two perspectives rub up against each other in differing opinions and needs. These are the moments that affirm her uniqueness and independence. These are the moments that are messy.
Yes, I feel the tugs on my heartstrings, preparing me for the time when I will release and bless our sweet girl. Is she ready? Am I? What about my failures? Did I laugh with her enough? Questions in the midst of my ambivalence threaten to steal the glory of what is happening in this season. Our daughter is transforming into a stunning glory.
My daughter’s graduation has invited me to reflect on my own experiences as a young adult. Though I have a diploma and my memories are still blurry, I know that the death of my mother and the abandonment I experienced resulted in a confused faith, shattered dreams, and a deep longing for a mother’s blessing. But now I see the ways that Jesus has come for my heart and resurrected Hope in my story. There is nothing better to bury worry than by placing it under the weight of gratitude.
On the night of Tori’s graduation, she called to me once more, “Mom? Are you ready? You wouldn’t have a bigger cap around would you?” I laughed. She walked out of her room, smiling in her full length blue gown. My breath caught at the sight of her. “Look at you sweet girl! You are graduating from high school. I am SO proud of you!” What a sight she was. She attached her tassel. I stretched and straightened her cap and she placed it on her head.
It was another moment etched on my heart. My own ache had opened a space to bless my daughter with the worlds I longed to hear from my own mom. How could it be that Jesus had used the loss that once devastated my own heart to bless and nourish my daughter’s? Redemption is painful and sweet all at the same time.
My sweet girl is blossoming, and as she does, so am I.
She will have her dreams. She will have her needs. She will have her longings. And I will to. As she prepares to depart, I will feel my way through this season and take it one day at a time. I will trust that Jesus will come for her heart as He comes for mine in unexpected moments, with gentle reminders of His truth: I am with her always and I am with you always.
My friend who walked with me into the weighty anticipation of my heart was a reminder of God’s faithful presence with me. Over chicken salad and potato chips, I dipped my toe in the water of hope. “I don’t know how I will be after I leave her at college. I imagine it will be hard and my heart will need care.”
“Well,” she stated. “You can’t go straight home after you leave her, you know. On your way back, you can drive to my house and I will prepare something wonderful for us to drink…”
I really don’t know how she finished her sentence, because I was already thanking God for His provision through her gracious heart. If I had to guess how He would finish her sentence, it would be these words: You can come to My house and I will have something wonderful to drink with My ears to listen and My heart wide open.
Sounds like Jesus to me. I am grateful.
Ellen 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.