Friday, October 7, 2016
It was a Sunday morning in the late summer of 2013. Just before the 10:30 service began at our new church, I took a few minutes to read through the announcements in the bulletin. One ministry in particular caught my eye. The “Moms Launching” support group listed their meeting times along with their purpose: for moms to come alongside one another as they launched a child from high school into the next season of life, whether that included college, a job, or the military. I remember wondering why in the world a mom would need a support group for that time in her life. Oh, my, was I ever naïve!
Two years later, I understood. We launched Ryan, the first of our six children, into his freshman year of college, and I immediately began to cherish those Sunday afternoon meetings with other moms who were adjusting to the inevitable changes that always come with such a life-changing event. We “newbies” arrived with our emotions spilling out all over the place, and the more experienced moms were there with Kleenex, listening ears, soft hearts, enveloping hugs, and wise words. All through August and September, we gathered and grew closer as we shared the week’s updates and prayed for one another, our kids, and our families in general. In fact, the benefits of our time together were so outstanding that our church created a Dads Launching group, too
This August brought another major change into our family as our second child, Caroline, began her freshman year at JBU as a nursing major. Based upon my journey one year earlier following my son’s departure, I expected to feel a range of emotions as I hugged Caroline good-bye and drove home. Instead, I felt a tremendous sense of peace and contentment. There was no doubt in my mind that my precious daughter was in wonderfully caring and loving hands at JBU. I thanked God for His provision for a school that was such a perfect fit for Caroline, and I went to sleep later that night feeling very confident that she was going to love her new home in every way.
Yesterday morning, as I perused upcoming dates on our calendar’s brightly colored October page, I noted that Ryan and Caroline have now completed the first six weeks of the school year. Both love their classes, their professors, and their friends. Both are working very hard. Both are discovering more about the ways in which God designed them and the ways in which He might use them in the years to come. With modern technology, we are able to not only hear their voices but also see their faces each week as we FaceTime. As parents, it is comforting to know that our children are in the places where God wants them to be. It is rewarding to hear that both of them are reaching out to those around them for assistance with class material, time management, or finding the right church. It is humbling to recognize God’s faithfulness to our children despite all of our limitations, mistakes, and areas of sin that interfere with our idealistic parenting plans!
At home, we continue to make adjustments as the weeks go by. We have two teenagers, along with a first grader and a second grader. As a home educating family, we are used to being in the house together during the morning and early afternoon hours. We can feel the difference in both space and time with the absence of Ryan and Caroline. Serena, our 17-yr old, fully admits that she loves having her own room, although we know that she also misses having her big sister around, too! Nathan, our 15-yr old, sees these months of separation from his best friend quite differently; he readily acknowledges that he looks forward to having Ryan back home for the holidays. The daily and weekly chores are now divided up differently. I keep thinking that the grocery bill will go down, but with Nathan’s basketball-infused constant appetite this does not seem likely.
Perhaps the most challenging adjustments since Caroline’s first week of school have been for our younger boys, Samuel and Noah. Samuel turned 8 in July, and Noah’s 7th birthday was on August 30th. They absolutely adore their big sister and miss her hugs and the special things that she did with them. At this point in their young lives, time still moves slowly. They know that we have plans to see her later this month, yet for them it seems as though that visit will take forever to actually happen. Both boys love sharing their latest adventures (such as losing another tooth, earning a good score on a math test, or creating another Lego marvel) with Ryan and Caroline while we FaceTime with them. These virtual visits help Samuel and Noah quite a bit as they await the occasion to see their older siblings again in the flesh.
For my husband and me, this season in life seems a bit surreal at times. How can we possibly have two children in college? How can we have two more who will launch in the next three years? We are learning the “dance” with Ryan and Caroline as we transition from parenting them at home to becoming their mentors while they are away. We constantly seek God’s direction as we walk alongside them and learn to trust His plans for them. Having children who are on the cusp of adulthood as well as younger ones who still need our constant physical presence has a way of giving us the opportunity to evaluate the challenges of daily life with kids from a more eternal perspective, rather than aiming to simply survive even on the roughest days. It is true that while the days and nights can sometimes seem so long, the actual years are very short.
Perhaps it is this realization that causes us to be more thankful than ever for God’s provision for Caroline to be at JBU. We feel confident that she is being challenged to work hard, yet to do this work for God’s glory. She is surrounded by adults who care not only about her as a student but also as a fellow sister in Christ. It is comforting for us as her parents to know that her classmates are also seeking to know God and to honor Him now and in the future as they fulfill His plans for them. Though we miss our daughter every day, we have no doubt that she is in a wonderful place, a bit of Heaven on earth. For us, having Caroline at JBU is truly an answer to our prayers, and we are so very thankful for the peace that we have in our hearts.