If you know me, you know I’m a crier. My soft heart sends tears to my eyes often. Worship music? Tears of gratitude. Hallmark movie? Tears, even with the awareness of predictable, corny ending within the first five minutes. Seeing anyone else crying? I’ll join them. Nobody likes to cry alone! A moving commercial? Yep, they move me to tears. Great news? Always produces tears of joy. My emotions pour out of my eyes. It’s just the way the God made me; tender and teary.
You can imagine my trepidation when we dropped our first-born off at military boarding school earlier this week. I had visions of me sobbing hysterically, embarrassing him to death, before getting into the car and requiring my husband to resuscitate my broken heart. Our son is only thirteen years old, and although this is exactly what the military-loving boy wanted (and begged for!), it’s not what I had planned, and it fast-forwarded my launch-my-eighteen-year-old plan five years too soon. I dreaded the very thought of it, never mind actually doing it!
Well, the day has come and gone now, and you know what? Not only are we all surviving, but I have to confess…I didn’t even cry. WHAT?!?!?! I know, it’s surprising to me too. It shocks me, actually, because I know I can’t handle this on my own.
Truthfully, it feels like a miracle; like a soft (yet strong) blanket of protection over my heart, put there by the only One who could give me such sweet protection like this. It’s the only thing that makes sense to me, because I’m not capable of this strength, let me assure you!
I’ve been reflecting and wondering how and why this has been my experience. Before I share more, I just want to you to know that I’m sharing only in the case that my experience might be helpful (or hopeful) to you with whatever difficult life circumstance you might be going through. I’m not a pastor, nor a parenting expert, nor a grief specialist. I’m just a woman who has experienced extraordinary grace, and I share, because I believe it’s there for you too.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
As I ponder my current state of peace and calm, I have to go back to what went into the decision, weeks prior. It wasn’t an easy choice, nor did we make it lightly. We considered our son’s needs and wants, his strengths, challenges and the benefits of this academy. Even more importantly, we prayed, begging for discernment and direction from the Lord. We dug into scripture, trying to better understand what God says about parenting, discipline and training our children in the way to go. We looked for any conflict in scripture, and we asked our close friends to call us out on any discrepancies or wrong motives. We fasted, prayed, consulted experts and wise counsel all before making this leap…so we have felt confident about this decision from the beginning. In fact, the photo that adorns the top of this blog post was taken the night prior to letting our son go. We were joyful, at peace and hopeful for his future (I didn’t even cry while packing him up that day!) All of the considerations that preceded our decision brought us comfort in the direction we should go.
But, it’s still hard to say goodbye.
My son has a big personality, and our house is noticeably quieter. It’s also much neater! HA! My refrigerator isn’t as full with the foods he likes (and 13-year-old boys eat a lot!) The Texas Rangers and Dallas Cowboys don’t have as many spectators on our family room couch, and the fan noise-level is at an all new low. Most of all, I am missing his sense of humor, his sweet affection and those tender moments that moms and sons share in the quiet of the evening before bed time. That’s when we sat, shoulder-to-shoulder, talking about what was going on in his world, his day, his life. I’m so thankful he’s always been a talker, and these evening chats were just the best.
So, even though I am at peace with our decision, I still have to cope with the loss.
What’s a mom to do?
Three things have been helping me tremendously.
#1 – Run to Truth
Emotions are a funny thing. While they can be felt deeply, they aren’t always truthful or accurate. I can sometimes feel guilt, blame or self-consciousness where there’s no place for it in reality. Scripture tells us the heart can be deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) and we must guard it, for everything we do comes from it (Proverbs 4:23.) The heart can lead us astray. It can believe lies, and it can steer us down destructive paths, so we must train our hearts to seek truth above emotion.
I’ve been fixing my thoughts on the good of this situation — who God made my son to be and what positive growth and new experiences he’ll gain from this untraditional path he is traveling.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
There is so much to get excited about, versus getting stuck in the loss! My son is following his passion, and he sees that his parents are willing to take big risks and invest in him, while trusting the Lord with what we don’t know today. Because of the military structure, our son is learning the value of leadership, discipline and service to others. As well, he is benefitting from diversity there that he wouldn’t experience at home. His roommate is from China and speaks English as a second language. His closest friend and the only other person he knows is another boy who went to the same summer camp and who also begged his parents to attend school there. He is black, and with the current state of our country and the lack of cross-cultural love, I couldn’t be happier that his new BFF has different skin tones than he does. He is going to learn things that I couldn’t give him at home.
I could go on and on about the academics, small class sizes and solid structure that are so helpful and comforting to a kid that has ADD. I am confident the hours of daily physical activity will not only build his strength, but also his confidence and ability to focus. I am thrilled that his faith will continue to be supported and that there is a clear “brotherhood” that is evident in the culture of the school. He will be surrounded, supported and skilled in new and exciting ways. And the Lord will be with him for all of it. These are TRUTHS.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
#2 – Ask for help!
Not only am I in constant prayer for my son, his transition and success, I am also in prayer for myself and family…and I’ve asked an ARMY of friends and family to join us in prayer too. There is NO sense in trying to go through life alone when support is available!
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
God loves us and wants us to experience life to the fullest extent (John 10:10.) I see how He’s comforting me in this situation and also how He’s working through many others. My phone has literally been exploding this week with calls, texts and messages of support, comfort, scripture and solidarity. We are NOT alone, and people who love us are making sure we know it. (THANK YOU!!!!)
We were created for community, and it’s especially evident in challenging times. God said in the very beginning, “it’s not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) We need each other. We need to be known and loved. It’s part of the human condition, and when we embrace and invite community in, we are strengthened in numbers, prayers and the practicality of a warm, loving hug. It matters. People matter. Together matters. It makes a huge difference when I don’t feel I have the strength on my own. I know I will be carried, because I have asked for help, and the beautiful truth is that love does.
#3 – Trust (and be on the lookout for “God Winks”)
If there’s one thing I have learned in life, it’s that people (even people who claim to love you) will fail you in life, because they are human…and humans fail. But, God is God; NOT human and NOT fallible. He is perfect, and He is trustworthy.
As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 18:30)
Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal. (Isaiah 26:4)
This point goes back to the beginning; the process that we went through to make the difficult decision that we did. We are BELIEVING fully that the Lord paved the way for our son to go to school away from us. We don’t even have to fully understand why. There is a reason, and we are trusting that the Lord will do a great work in and through our son during this time.
We remain in prayer, put our hope in Him and we also look for affirmations along the way…because God is extremely sweet like that! He often gives us little signs (some people call these “God Winks”) to bring us comfort and to assure us of His presence. Remember that verse I referenced first in this post? (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) He is the Father of compassion. Oh, how He loves us!
Already in this short time, we have seen several “God Winks.” We’ve had people who know this school well reach out and share wonderful stories and experiences. The academy itself shared a photo on social media, and our son was front-and-center on the running track. We got a precious glimpse!
Most exciting, we have already received a short email from our son, and he confirmed that he is loving his experience so far. That’s more than a wink and much more like a huge, ecstatic embrace for this mom!
We’re so thankful for the many prayers, enthusiastic encouragement and for all those sweetly walking this journey with us. I’m sure I’ll have moments, maybe even days ahead, where the loss will feel extra heavy, and it will likely bring me to tears. That said, I plan to stay focused on the bright future ahead and the pathway being lit, step-by-step, by a Father who loves us more than I am even capable of loving my son. That means everything, and it’s what I hang my hope on in the days ahead as my son’s purpose and calling are slowly being realized.
Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path. (Psalm 119:105)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:4-5)