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A dear friend sat next to me at church today and told me that she’d be praying for me, because I was about to have the hardest week of my life (I’m sure she wasn’t thinking of my wandering years, in high school, my years of hating God and giving Him my choice finger).

This Thursday, we take the hardest road trip of our lives.  We drop our precious, amazing firstborn son off at college… and then we leave him there.

Everything changes.

Our family dynamic changes.  Our relationship with our son changes.  Probably our relationships with all our sons.   Our entire lives will be changed… permanently.

I’ve honestly been a little bit of a hermit for a couple of months, not intentionally, but because I’ve felt a little debilitated and a little, well, I don’t even really know what adjective to use.  My body has slowed and my mind has soaked in and observed, and I think I’m kinda ready to share, but I think I will have much more to say, after this season is completed, though I may not be able to see clearly enough to write, through the swelling of tears.

This season of life feels a little like giving birth.  It’s intense, glorious and comes with a heightened sense of awareness.  I am in transition.  That’s the stage when the baby is in the birth canal.  The thing is, I think I’m the one being born.  Or reborn.  Or at least redefined.

I’ve been a mother since I was 19 years old (18 if you count the time in utero, which I do).  Basically, I’ve been a mom ever since I was a grown up.  I met their daddy 19 years ago, on the side of the road in Salem, OR.  I’d tell you the whole story, but I don’t have enough space here.  Maybe we’ll write a book someday, and then it’d probably be a worthwhile read, because honestly, I couldn’t even make up the stories we have to tell of our first few years together, traveling the country.

Forest spent the first two years of his life traveling.  He was in 24 states before 24 months old.  He just turned 18.  Eli was born in that 1976 Dodge Motorhome that we named “Miracle” because of how we got her.  He’s about to turn 16.  Simon just heard the stories about her (But with parents as wingnutty as the ones he got, he’s had plenty of his own stories to share).

This post really isn’t about reflecting on my first years as a mom, though it would make sense why my mind would go there.  But rather about this spiritual birthing that’s taking place in me right now.

But this is a new birth.  This next season cannot exist without closure for the last.  My son never really belong to me.  God showed me that when he was 24 hours old… that he would always belong to Jesus before he belonged to me, and that He would take care of him in ways that I never could.  I feel grateful.

I feel grateful for a wise and loving husband, who has whispered in their ears and mine that they will need to fly this nest when they are 18 years old… that to be mature, they must form their own lives and maybe their own families.

In my cocoon of self-reflection and learning, I am discovering that pain accompanies joy and joy accompanies pain, and you can’t truly have one without the other.  And they both produce, in us,  a deeper noticing and feeling, an alertness of mind and soul.  Neither is bad.  Both are a blessing.  They are just different types of blessings and one is more pleasant and easier to instinctively view as a blessing.  But I also know that sometimes the greatest gifts are hidden in suffering.  Hallelujah!

I am also learning that my identity needs not be found in motherhood.  I am not only a mother.  I am also a child of the Most High.  I am loved with an indestructible love, from heaven itself, and this, my friends, is my truest identity.  He has other purposes for me.  And I must acknowledge that I can be happy and fulfilled apart from them, or any other earthly blessing for that matter.  If I have Christ (and I do!), then I can find contentment and joy, for He truly is the Source of both!  And I know this.

Perhaps, as my nest empties and my heart grows and my mothering-time lies more fallow, I will be able to spend more time encouraging younger mothers.  I know it’s a hard job to see the harvest when your hand is set to the plow of dirty diapers and snotty noses and snotty attitudes, and sometimes you just need someone who has crossed that finish line to tell you that it will all be worth it in the end.

I am grateful for those that have held me in heart, mind and prayer, who have crossed this finish line before me and told me I could do it.  I am thankful for Eve, sitting next to me this morning and telling me that this is going to be really, really hard…. and reminding me to savor it.

And I am thankful for the ever present reminder that all time is short and the only way to slow it is to savor.  Chew softly and intentionally on this meal we call “life” because whether or not we have 5 days left or 80 years, time is a phantom, our lives will soon return to dust.  And we are blessed with the breath in our lungs right now, because all we have is right now… and eternity, if we are His.

I tell my son to give thanks.  I tell him that life is a gift.  And then I swallow that myself.  Because life really is a gift, and we are blessed and honored to have the time to cherish it.

Welcome to my cocoon, my birthing.  Look to the horizon.  This fleeting vapor is precious!  Chew slowly and savor!

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