Thursday, May 11, 2017

Class of 2017

Graduation invitations delivered.
Party hosted last weekend to celebrate.
Slide show done.
Growing-up pictures spread throughout the house.
Senior check-out complete.
Senior track night over.
Grades in.
Graduation cap and gown hanging up trying to unwrinkle without having to be ironed.  
All that's left on my Graduation To-Do list is a big fat circle highlighting Friday.

Two days until graduation.  How is that even possible? 
I think every mom must say that as graduation did we get here?   
There might be something uniquely tender about walking toward graduation with the firstborn.  No matter how many babies you have left at home, the firstborn graduating marks a defining moment when the boundaries of the family unit expand outside the walls of our home. No longer will all my people be sleeping under the same roof at night.  There's something about that thought that gives my heart a little squeeze.  The floodgates of change seem to be opening.        
I admit I dreaded the thought of this...
Anxiously anticipated walking toward this closing...
Prayed that I would enjoy this whole process, but assumed I would just cry continually...
Asked other mamas who loved being mamas as much as I do HOW DO YOU SURVIVE SENIOR YEAR????
Purposed to focus on each moment and drag it out as long as possible...
Boastfully promised to NOT MISS A THING...

I've been surprised...
At what I've missed...
At what I've witnessed...
Amazed at how much joy there can be walking this last year of high school... 
Unprepared for some of the struggles that I never foresaw coming...

I missed him walking off the football field for the last time.  I had literally been waiting an entire year to watch my senior son walk off the football field for the last time. A YEAR. The game ended...we had lost in the state quarterfinals...our season was over...and my son was just gone. Gone.  Maybe I was bending down picking up toys from the bleachers...maybe I was texting my brother the final score...maybe I was hugging a fellow football mama...I don't know what I was doing but I completely missed it...the ONE memory I wanted for myself this year and it slipped by unnoticed...

The reality is that some memories of this senior year just weren't mine to share...moments my son had with his dances...discussions I've only heard about it in passing...private jokes between the brothers...conversations held late at night in the basement out of eavesdropping range...emotions of losing a friend to cancer that could only be understood by fellow classmates. Sometimes I missed a moment that could have been mine looking at my phone...or taking care of a toddler...or being lost in my own thoughts. I haven't made every senior event...I haven't seen every "last"...I was late taking pictures of his final courtwarming...I missed a football recruiting trip with him...the "misses" are endless in my mind...

BUT...I've also been surprised at what I've been allowed to witness...I happened to be there last year on the final day of school when my oldest walked out of the front door officially as a senior.   I got to see the head held high and the confident strut as he and a friend laughed with the easy laughter of a senior. They were walking toward final year bigger, bolder, prouder than ever before.  Oh my heart, I hadn't expected it to be so thrilling to see that moment.   The moment my junior became a could something I kinda dreaded be so shockingly exciting?

I witnessed my son processing through a hard college decision, whether to play football in college or not, and ultimately making a choice that he knew would surely make his mama cry.
"Go where you think the Lord is leading" we told him. 
But I didn't really mean it.  Stay close.  Come home for weekends.  Wouldn't that be best?  Think of your siblings...
Years ago someone wisely told me, "Your children following God's plan for their lives will probably cost you something."  No kidding.
We were driving to Texas for a soccer tournament when he said the decision was made.
I willed him not to say what I knew was coming.  Don't say it.  Don't say it.  Don't say it.
He said it.
I'm going to Cedarville, Mom.
All I heard after he said the name was 10 hours away...10 hours away...10 hours away... 
Thank goodness for sunglasses. I quickly blinked back instant tears; took several deep breaths; let my heart finish exploding; bit my tongue to hold back the torrential flood of words ready to overflow and waited until I could speak positive.
It's an amazing school. I can see why you want to go there. 
There. I said it. His decision made. Our blessing given.  All these months of pros and cons, all of the concerns we've asked him to consider about every school on his list, and this school emerges as his first choice.  Not MY first choice; HIS first choice.
The first decision he really gets to make that begins to plot the trajectory of his adult life.
And as I cried myself to sleep that night in a hotel room in Texas, I felt the first glimpses of joy emerge as I thought of this next adventure for him.  I lay there surprised that grief and exhilaration could intermingle in such a powerful way.
Goodness, I'll miss this kid, BUT OH HOW AMAZINGLY EXCITING for him.

I witnessed my son walking in for his last day of school.  An unanticipated gift.  The sophomore had taken their shared car to school early and so my senior needed me to drive him later for his last final.  "Can I take your picture?"  He turned and smiled.  Not even an eye roll (that I could see anyway.)  An unexpected moment given for me to capture. 

A friend who has done this whole senior year thing before told me that by the time your child gets to senior year, he will be so busy with a job, school activities, friendships, that you get an opportunity to practice living without him before you really have to.  That's been true for us.  Our senior didn't even get to go on our family trip last summer to Colorado because he was on his senior mission trip the one week we had off.  We had to vacation without him and practice moving through life minus one an entire year before I had anticipated. We survived...and lo and behold we even had some fun.  We missed him...talked about him...and then kept on living life.  It was a little foreshadowing of God's faithfulness in walking through the changes that are to come.     

This whole year as I've held on a little too tightly to our little three-year-old Hope, I've continually thought "Yesterday...just yesterday...Zach was this age..."  He was the toddler bawling his eyes out because I dared to leave him in church nursery for an hour...the one clinging tightly at a park because he was so afraid of playing with other kids...the lone four-year-old standing beside his dad on the t-ball field because no way was he going to stay out there without a parent.    But that four-year-old angel-faced, blonde-haired little boy is not the one going to college.  God did not ask me to send that kid away. He wouldn't have been ready.  It's the 18-year-old young man that's leaving.  The one who for year after year has been growing, stumbling, excelling, failing, persevering, making wise choices, making foolish choices, maturing, demonstrating immaturity, holding his head high in confidence, hanging his head low in defeat, leaning on the Lord for strength, struggling to believe there's strength through sorrow...all of these 18 years worth of tiny moments that have grown him into the young man he is today. That's the kid going away to school. While I still see glimpses of the little guy who thought that I was the greatest person in the whole entire world, I now see someone who is ready to begin a new phase of life with the support of his family, but no longer fully leaning on them to make his big decisions. It's a little terrifying to turn the disciplining of your child completely over to the hands of the Living God. All the training we missed, the lessons we didn't teach, the rules we didn't enforce, the attitudes we didn't catch...Lord, we offer this imperfectly trained young man up to you believing that YOU WHO BEGAN A GOOD WORK IN HIM WILL CARRY IT ON TO COMPLETION.   You have been faithful to us. You will be faithful to our son.

Hidden amongst the final football pictures of the season, I recently found another gift. One of our faithful photographers had captured the moment my son left the field for the final time and he uploaded them to our team website. While I didn't get to witness this moment in person, the Lord saw fit to let me see my senior walking off the field for the last time....even if just in picture form. 

Our hearts are full of excitement for this graduating class. 
Lord, thank you for the blessing of giving us this child...choosing this one to live under our roof for these precious years..
Our souls overflow with joy at the privilege we've had in raising him...
Lord, grateful and thankful we humbly offer this one to you from the Class of 2017.
Be glorified. 



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