One More Step

I’m hauling Rubbermaid bins to the van again. As we back out of the driveway, I glance over at my garden and notice the sunflowers. They’re profuse.
It’s too soon. Not even August yet.

I’m used to toting bins. For 13 years we packed them up down South every May and re-packed them up north in August.
Those Rubbermaids, they’re the evidence that our life was a revolving door.
I feel like that season is over. For now anyway.
Finally, I’m settled.
I’ve got my feet firmly planted in the sandy loam of my Michigan garden.
But it’s an illusion really, because life is always “Hello, Goodbye”.
And it’s not just our place that reminds us.
It’s our people too.
Even the littlest people, the ones that grow, attached, in our womb. It’s not comfortable separating from them the first time. We tear and we bleed.
And every moment after that, gradually, we are becoming more detached in incremental steps.

IMG_5738Today it’s my baby.
She’s been riding her bike all summer. Putting on the miles. In Training.
And she’s about to test her mettle.
She’s riding away on one of those big buses with about a hundred other adolescents, who are every bit as insecure as she feels right now.
She chalked the walk this week. Decorating the gray with all the colors of her world.

She drew lightning bugs and bicycles, rainbows and piano keys….
Then it rained last night and her masterpieces dissolved into the asphalt.
And with her absence, the color in my world goes duller too.IMG_5680
I’ve watched the other’s leave. Repeatedly.
And there are almost always tears, whether or not they leak.
I own those tears. They belong to me. They’re never meant to accuse. They’re not meant to restrain. And they’re not intended to be fixed. They’re just meant to be experienced as an expression of the paradox we mamas feel– intermingled excitement for all our children’s yet to be discovered delights and gut wrenching grief because we will eventually be left behind.
That’s just how it is.

“To be a mom is to be at the starting line but not the finish line.” (Brynn Arendt, Fancy Plastic Bags)

The teams assemble and the pastor, that wildly passionate guy on the roof,
he tells the students that the best thing they can do this week is to “Take one more step than what’s comfortable.”
And I realize, he’s telling me too because nobody ever really perfects this skill.
We’re all lifelong learners, In Training.

fullsizeoutput_72a8And so I send her off with an embrace, a long one, a prayer and a letter for every day we are apart.
When I can’t hug her, I hope my words will.
I stand in the parking lot waving as 4 buses, 2 vans, 3 trailers, a couple of campers and a semi trailer full of bicycles, they drive away. And I’m looking at the back of the bus my girl is on.
fullsizeoutput_72a6And I remember these sage words.
“This is why you are a parent. You’re a mother so you can build strong foundations of confidence that only come from challenge and risk. You’re a mother so you can have remarkable beginnings with your children. You’re a mother so you can send your voice forward into the ear of your children. You’re a mother so you can rejoice at the sight of the back of your child’s head. You’re a mother with hope of being written out of the story of your children’s lives so they can leave your story and tell their own better, stronger, different story.” (Brynn Arendt, Fancy Plastic Bags)

Like the chalk and the sunflowers, and even our children, for everything there is a season.IMG_5734
And they come and then they go so quickly. So elusively.IMG_5537
So I count my gifts as I drive back home. Alone.
One, two, three, four girls and that guy we call Daddy.
And I recount His faithfulness in each of our distinct stories.
I park in the driveway, open the driver’s door, pause to take a long, intentional breath.
I breathe in the promise of His mercies, fresh and new for this day and I exhale the courage and confidence to “Take one more step than what’s comfortable”.
And I walk over to my garden and pick a bouquet of sunflowers.

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