936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting
Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!
She watched him out of the corner of her eye as she inched her way toward the gate. I was surprised she could make any forward progress considering the backpack attached to her looked to be twice the weight of her slight frame. The corner of her mouth rose to smile as he neared for one last hug before she boarded; before she disappeared into the sky, the clouds to separate them.
She fidgeted in her aisle seat. I watched as she attempted to mask the fear within and play the part of an adult. She rose to retrieve two items from her bag in the overhead compartment. First was a library book proving itself the culprit behind the burdensome weight of her backpack.
The second item was a small, delicate felt box, evergreen in color. She held it tenderly, observing it for a moment before lifting off the lid. I could picture her father, standing at that gate, everything within him dreading this goodbye as he slipped the soft box into her hands. Now on her own, she gingerly pulled out a small silver chain strung between her fingers.
With adoration reflecting in her deep brown eyes she examined the small charm dangling from the chain. It was a look I myself had bestowed once upon a time when I was her age. I, too, was about to be carried above the clouds for the very first time. I, too, was alone amongst strangers. And I, too, was clasping treasure in my hands.
My treasure took the form of a small journal with a map printed onto its cover. The map outlined a country I was wholly unfamiliar with, yet altogether captivated by. Within that cover laid a page for everyday of the two months I would be away from all I knew. Each page was home to words of encouragement from friends and family; messages compiled by my parents in the weeks before I boarded that plane—and all without my knowing. My mother had slipped the journal into my hands as she and my dad prayed over me before I left them behind, a world away.
Just two months before they handed me that journal, they had been handed a world of bad news. We sat crowded together in a cold, sterile room. My pale, thin legs dangled beneath me on the examining table, white butcher paper crinkling under my bottom with every move I made.
The doctor had just finished explaining in detail the message he’d begun delivering to us days prior on our answering machine. On an ordinary day and in an ordinary habit, we’d returned home and pressed play on the blinking telephone receiver. Only this time it held a message that was anything but ordinary. “Yes, she does have Addison’s disease.”
Now we sat before him, trying to make sense of the new terms and phrases being doled out— information that would be pertinent to my survival. I didn’t know if I should be scared. How serious could it be if he left the diagnosis hovering within the wires of our answering machine? It would take years for me to recognize just how serious it was. But my parents knew, which made their first question to my doctor a surprising one: “Can she still travel to Africa this summer?”
They knew it meant the world to me.
Two months later, with my doctor’s consent, a pill bottle attached to my belt loop, and an emergency injection kit in my carry-on, I was gazing out the airplane window at Mount Kilamanjaro while wisps of white clouds carried me to that unfamiliar world pictured on the cover of my journal.
Only now, over a decade later and with three babies of my own, can I grasp the faith my parents displayed as they handed me that journal and bid me off to chase my dreams in the red dirt roads of the African bush. At any point they could have changed their minds. My diagnosis provided the perfect opportunity for them to do just that and keep me near, where they had more control over my safety.
But they understood that to do so would be a disservice to the God who called them to raise me for venturing. For learning. For serving. For discovering Him in the far reaches of His creation. For going.
This morning I held my firstborn near as I whispered a prayer into his ear. His hair smelled of sweat and bug spray. I memorized the feel of his embrace before kissing him once more and loading him into the car with my sister.
After a week of visiting with us, my sister and her two kids were loading up their things to venture off to the next stop on their voyage—Grandma and Grandpa’s house. My boy was near tears at the thought of not going along. And so after a phone call to my parents, I found myself throwing his toothbrush, trucks, and any clean pair of Lightning McQueen undies I could find into a small suitcase.
Within fifteen minutes he went from morning time snuggles on my lap, to waving goodbye to me through the window as my sister backed her rental car down the driveway.
Had I had a few days to anticipate this goodbye, I might have found myself excited at the prospect of some peace and quite. Of course it will be a wonderful gift to spend a few days pouring into my two younger boys, and having some time to write and read.
But the truth is this: that curly-headed boy-turning-man that I waved goodbye to this morning—I love being around him. He’s one of my best friends. And that spontaneous goodbye this morning was brutally difficult.
But his grin spanning from one ear to the other when we told him he could go on his adventure—that smile confirmed in me all I needed to know. He needed to go.
Three times while I was rushing to pack his things did I almost call it off, say Never Mind, and keep him home where I feed myself the lie that I can keep him safe by having him near. I managed to silence the “what if’s” long enough to get him packed and send him on his way, to give him a gift that my parents once gave me.
A decade ago I was forever changed by the Baoboa trees and chocolate brown faces of Malawi, Africa. And I know that in just a few days when my boy returns to my arms, he’ll be full to the brim with stories about his adventures in the Ozarks.
This is one lesson of motherhood that I am guessing will never get easier, but it is one that I am most certainly not willing to let go unlearned. Because sometimes in order for our children to learn, grow, venture, and discover—they must also go. And that is when we must stifle the “what ifs”, whisper a prayer in their ear, and kiss them off to their adventures.
Raising kids stirs something deep in our souls — an innate knowing that our time is finite. Taking my kids outside in creation, I’m discovering how to stretch our time and pack it to the brim with meaning. God’s creativity provides the riches of resources for teaching the next generation who He is and how He loves us. Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!