Sometimes we fail to say things to our children when we are thinking of them. Sometimes, it is because we don’t have the courage. Other times it is because we don’t have the time or the opportunity. Or, sometimes, we don’t know how they will respond. I thought I would occasionally post letters to my children to inspire others to share their hearts with their children, too. This first letter is to my son who is now 21 years old and who, last night, had to make a difficult choice to sacrifice a friendship he has had since first grade in order to try to save that friend’s life.
My Dear Son,
You have grown into a young man—one any mother would be proud of. You know the meaning of friendship—of true friendship. The Greek call this philia –fondness, appreciation, and loyalty to those you hold in community.
Your passion for life and those you care about drive every part of you. I admire it and at the same time I see it as a cross you bear. Your friendships have been characterized by loyalty, availability, honesty, trust, listening, nurturing, and a sense of finding a kindred spirit. But they also have been characterized by conflict, sacrifice, forgiveness, grief, and disappointment.
The depth of your friendships, the love you have for others in your life also means that you have had—and will continue to have—a sense of responsibility for those you care about. I know that you have had to choose, on occasion, doing what is right over the relationship. It has meant not just calling out your friends but also standing beside them when they desperately needed a friend they could count on. It has meant seeking help from family and friends to save the life of a friend. It has meant agonizing over the choice and ultimately choosing love and life, knowing that someday your friend might turn back to you, and may even thank you—hoping that you will have restoration.
It has also meant grieving deeply at the loss of some of your closest friends—whether the loss was because of death, or distance, or doing what was right. I have grieved for you, as I can’t imagine at your age having endured the loss that you have already endured. I know you have sought to understand loss and that, in many respects, it has eluded you. But I know that you have faith that someday you will heal, even if small scars remain. That somehow loss and grief will shape you in a way that will remind you that loving others was worth the pain of loss.
So I pray that you will continue to love deeply and value friendship above other things, for it is part of the fabric of who you are. It has been imprinted on your soul as long as I can remember. And, while it has been a burden at times, it has shaped you into a man of integrity and given you great joy. The way that you love others in community beautifully reflects Christ.
As C.S. Lewis wrote, “Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument through which God reveals to each the beauties of a thousand other men; by Friendship God opens our eyes to them.”
With love always,
I slip the covers gently off and swing my feet to the floor. I move slowly and carefully to make sure I won’t step on the dog. And then, I remember: he’s not there. We haven’t picked him up from the kennel since returning from our trip last night–taking our oldest to the East coast for college. I think, oh good, no dog to walk today. A little break.
I make my morning tea in the dark and nestle into my cozy chair with my bible. But I’m first distracted by my cell phone. I need to check for text messages. See if I’ve heard from either of the kids. I check. Nothing from either. I sit in my cozy chair, no dog curled up by my feet, no word from the kids. Husband still asleep.
I relish the time alone and feel lonely at the same time. I’ve always needed time alone. Time with God. Quiet time. Or, as a teen, time running–usually along a wooded path near our home. Time to reflect, to pray, to sing praises. But today, the loneliness sinks me deep into the chair. Tears flow slowly yet steadily down my cheeks.
I miss the kids. It has been so good to have them home for the summer. Seeing how they matured over the school year. Getting to know them again. Seeing their hearts. Their spirits. Seeing what makes them passionate. And, yes, picking up after them. Trying to figure out meals that everyone will eat, and whether everyone will even be there if I do. Juggling schedules and cars and moods and who gets to use the washing machine next.
I miss it all–the messiness of living as a family–a hopelessly imperfect family–in this broken world. And, I thank God for it all. For His hand in it. For His grace and forgiveness. For the fullness of relationships. For the pain that comes along with it sometimes.
And, I thank Him for the loneliness because it reminds me that He is present in it all. In the fullness and in the loneliness. In the joy and in the sadness. And, that as I sit here none of us are alone–even if we are lonely. He is present some 2,500 miles away with our son and some 25 miles away with our daughter. And, He is here. Now. With me.
And so, I sip my morning tea with Christ. And find comfort in it all.
In middle school my daughter made friends with a little girl who had some disabilities. One day, when I took her over to this friend’s home, the mother invited me in for tea.
She shared with me their story. Her daughter had been born with a genetic disorder, but she also had a problem with her epiglottis–the small flap of cartilage that keeps food from going down the windpipe so we don’t choke. Doctors needed to operate to correct the problem, otherwise she would die. In trying to correct the problem, the unthinkable happened: her entire epiglottis was destroyed.
I don’t remember all the details, but after over a year of lying in the hospital, tube feeding, and eating small amounts of soft food that she–hopefully–would not aspirate–this young girl’s mother had seen enough of the hospital. The doctors allowed her daughter to go home. Her mom just felt that the hospital was not the place they were supposed to be. They needed to be home. She needed to just trust God to care for her daughter.
The prognosis was not good. The little girl would likely aspirate food and die. It was just a matter of time.
Instead, a miracle happened. This tiny child “learned” how to eat, closing off the windpipe, without the epiglottis. Her body adapted. Doctors told her mother they had never seen this before. It was a medical miracle.
When this little girl joined my daughter’s class, she was 13 years old. She was frail and had other disabilities that made her quite a few years behind her peers academically. But, she was the sweetest, most loving young girl. My daughter adored this little girl’s kind and gentle spirit. She taught my daughter much about loving others and overcoming life’s obstacles.
Life hasn’t been easy for this family. But they have life. A life filled with miracles. A life that has touched the life of many others–doctors, children, families.
This sweet mother, who loved her daughter, just trusted God. She took her daughter home–scared, unsure, but confident that home was where they needed to be. And, God gave them life.
Perhaps this wasn’t the life this mother imagined for her and her daughter. But, I am grateful for this life–for this mother’s trust in God. I am grateful for the glimpse of God’s heart that it allowed my daughter and me to see.
Perhaps all we need to do is trust God. And, to just respond to what He asks of us.
Words reveal my son’s heart. They take me by surprise. Not because the words are a surprise, but because such words are held. Reserved for times of need. Reserved for the unexpected.
I understand. I once knew that posture. Rare glimpses of true self revealed–to parents. A breaking away. Becoming self. Carefully choosing what is shown.
I long to know his heart. But, I understand. And so, I wait for the glimpses and rejoice in them.
I think: God must feel this way. He must long to know us. True selves. All of us. The deeply hidden. The unmentionable. The heart and soul.
He waits. Patiently. If I will just open my eyes. My heart. Turn toward Him. Seek Him. Listen. Breathe Him in.
In my growing up, certain holidays–especially Christmas and Easter–were, dare I say, stressful. Mom had grown up in a family that was big on appearances and expectations. So, preparing for the holidays felt like, well, a time to prove to my grandmother that life was perfect at our home. Cleaning, scrubbing, cooking, shopping, wrapping, bathing.
Rather, Mother’s Day was about gratitude. Rather than hold expectations about what we should do for her on Mother’s Day, Mom gave gifts to my sister and me. A small, inexpensive but thoughtful gift–accompanied by a note:
“Thank you for allowing me to be a mom.
I love you,
She and Dad couldn’t have kids. So, we became a family by adoption.
Her gifts and notes of gratitude and love helped me see her heart. They revealed something I otherwise would have failed to see. They hinted at the pain that two little girls had extinguished. They hinted at her belief that we were God-given.
So, as I think about Mother’s Day, I remember Mom, and the lesson she taught.
Family. An answer to prayer.
Children. God-given, precious gifts–gifts God trusted me to care for.
Rejoice. Set aside expectations, preparations, and appearances, and just rejoice in the blessings.
But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.