Wednesday, August 16, 2017


Today is the one I have been dreading for months. In a few short hours, we will load the last of my firstborn son's belongings into his car and head out to begin his next great adventure: college.

In many ways, the preparations for this day have reminded me of the nesting I did before Carson's arrival. As my pregnancy progressed, I carefully chose nursery bedding, filled drawers with gently laundered baby clothes, and looked for ways to make our cottage safe and welcoming for a little one. Over the last few months, we have gathered dorm-room essentials, washed sheets and towels, purchased new tires, and offered prayers and counsel to ensure that our now-grown son will continue to be safe and confident in this next phase of development. In the back of my mind, though, has been the knowledge that these steps are leading to his departure.

So the tears have come, often and flowing easily -- always hovering near the surface and ready to spill over at the slightest provocation. Although we shared many unforgettable, joyful and triumphant moments along the way, I wept often during his senior year. In fact, when we visited the university that Carson will attend and I was happy and upbeat throughout the weekend, younger brother Christian teasingly asked if I was too dehydrated to cry. Emotion has increased steadily as this day has loomed closer, and last week when I stopped in for groceries and realized that our time as a family of six living under one roof would expire before the milk in the refrigerator, I crossed a threshold from tender nostalgia to near despair.

As I did when I was an expectant mother, during this time of transition, I have observed the wonderful women around me. Sharing my grief has brought great comfort, as more experienced mothers have offered wisdom and encouragement. There will be joy ahead, they assure me, as I watch Carson grow and spread his wings. What pride Joe and I will feel to watch him fly, knowing that he is a good man who strives to serve God and make a difference in the world. How special our times together will be in the future, knowing that each text, each conversation, and each visit will represent a choice on his part to connect. The most trying years of parenting complete, we will soon enjoy our son as a friend and equal.

Becoming a mother is like accepting that your heart will forever walk outside of your body, I heard before I gave birth. So these past few months, my deepest mama heart has wondered, How do you continue living, feeling like your heart has been stretched to a university that is several states and many hours away? Beyond this, how will I survive in the years ahead as each one of my precious children leaves the nest in pursuit of the plans the Lord has prepared for them?

In the midst of my mourning, though, I have realized something profound.

A stretched heart is one that has grown bigger.

Truly, the years ahead will not diminish my role as a mother. On the contrary, they will give me more opportunities to nurture, serve and love. A stretched heart allows more room for bringing people under its shelter. Rather than contracting, our family will expand in the coming days to include roommates, friends, future spouses, grandchildren. A full heart spills over to offer grace and kindness to those who need it most -- some who have desperately needed a mother's influence to show them their value.

Second Corinthians 9:8 encourages, "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed." Carson gave me my most treasured title: Mommy. And over the last eighteen years that I have spent raising him, he has also been refining me.

So these next few days, I will probably be a mess of tears and anguish, trying my hardest to move Carson into his new home with any degree of composure. Fully appreciating that this chapter of his life will be exciting and special, I want to celebrate this milestone with him and savor the privilege of being by his side as he embarks on this new journey. But, truth be told, if I can handle this task without dissolving into great, heaving sobs, we will all count that as a success.

I have wished so often that my heart was not so tender, in hopes that I could make it through this change in our family dynamic without feeling so overwrought. But in my deepest heart, I know that it is this tenderness that will serve me best in the years ahead. Looking at the world around me -- so full of hatred, chaos and pain -- I realize that my work as a mother is only beginning.

A heart stretched is one that has grown larger. And a heart that is open and overflowing with love is one that can transform the world.

Photo by Maria Morris. Used with permission.
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