At the beginning of last school year, my 12 year old baby girl went off to outdoor school… and I thought I was going to break. Why? Because this ‘raise and release‘ thing we do is emotionally overwhelming.
We raise them – teach them, comfort them, coach them, guide them, nag them, feed them, remind them, stand beside them, stand over them, love them, tuck them in, and wake them up. We pour all that we are into these little ones and then, before we know it, we are standing with them at the tip of a branch surveying the field of life and, even though we want to snuggle them close sheltered from the heartache, and fear, and discomfort, and mistakes that come with walking boldly through life, there is nothing more we can do but stand behind and watch as they fly.
Because that’s life, right? Every season of life brings new ‘work’ – a new flight into new territory… a little longer, a little farther. The work of facing fears – of taking chances, overcoming obstacles, of letting go of mama’s hand and grabbing for His instead. And, without the work, we stay stagnant, wimpy, and unusable for the greatness God calls us to.
So today, in spite of the pit in my stomach and my own deep seated fears of letting go, I did it to my girl again.The branch was a little higher, the view was a little vaster, but the process was the same: I signed her up for an adventure, walked her to the edge, stood behind her with our breaths almost as one, and I said, “Okay, girl, you can do this: fly”.
She was hesitant to jump and test the strength of her wings. We stood for some time in the church parking lot and quietly watched other campers arrive and mull around. I could tell she was nervous; she didn’t know anyone and felt totally out-of-place. The one person she recognized we approached and said hello to, but the girl and her mom quickly turned to other friends and left us to fend for ourselves in the sea of giggling girls and mamas.
(It’s hard not to feel rejected, whether you’re 12 or you’re 40. We all want to be loved. We want to be brought in to the laughs and the conversations. We want to be noticed, acknowledged, desired. We want to feel special – all of us do. And yet, there I was with my girl: face to face with real life. The lot was packed with moms and kids – yet, she and I were an island. No one spoke to us. No one noticed us. Moms and kids grouped up – hugging and chatting and laughing. My girl and I? Totally alone.)
As tears welled up in her eyes over the fear of four days away and not a friend in site, I felt her pain. I remember being 12 – awkward, unsure, out-of-place. (When I signed her up I thought for sure she’d know a girl or two, but with a church our size, I’m guess I’m not surprised she didn’t.) I cut the ice with some mama-talk: “Honey, I know exactly what you’re feeling. Here I am 40 years old and I feel a little anxiety in my stomach over not having a friend in site. But you know what? This is the kind of thing that makes us stronger! This is the type of situation God uses to pull us out of our comfort zone and grow us – and new friends are often part of that journey. I know God has something so great in store for you this weekend – and I know He has a perfect friend for you, too. You’ll see.”
“Mom, stop,” she muttered through clenched teeth as she leaned in closer to my side for protection.
All of a sudden I heard His still, small voice say: This is where the rubber meets the road, Elisha. This is where your girl needs to see how to fly by YOU flying first.
The whisper of encouragement made me stand a little taller and I decided to take command of the situation.
“Okay, let’s look for someone else who is alone and we’ll go make friends with them.”
“Seriously, honey, look around. Who looks like they could use a friend?”
Seconds passed. Minutes passed. Not a word. Finally, I heard a peep: “Fine, mom – how about her.”
I looked in the direction she was looking and about 10 feet from us I spotted fellow wanderers: a darling girl and two ladies looking just as lost as we felt. I put my arm around Selah and whispered under my breath, “Okay – don’t be so obvious, but let’s work our way over there.”
We walked towards the small group and around the backside of one of the ladies and still for about thirty seconds. (It would have embarrassed my girl way too much if I would have just walked to them looking desperate. So, I had to be cool – I had to be smooooooth.)
When I sensed a break in their conversation, I went to work.
I put my palm on the arm of the gal closest to me and she turned around. “Hi – I’m Elisha. Do you all go to church her or are you just here for the camp?” Selah was about 3 feet from me, body language screaming discomfort.
“Oh hi,” the sweet mama said. “Yes, we do attend here.”
We chatted for just a couple of minutes about the services we attend, etc, etc, and then I said, “Yeah, we were nervous when we showed up because we didn’t recognize anyone and everyone seemed paired up.”
“We thought the same thing, too,” the mama said with a lighthearted laugh.
“Well, this is my girl, Selah.”
“And this is my girl, Natalie.”
Selah and Natalie looked at each other, said little girl hellos, and I could feel it: in that instant fear has lost the fight for my baby girl’s wings. (Praise God!)
We continued to talk as the campers were rounded up. It turned out Natalie had forgotten a camp chair just like Selah, so the two girls were summoned to collect one from the church office. Off they went, chatting, smiling. Friends. They were instant friends.
Before we knew it the bus was being loaded and off the two little birds went. Side by side on the bus, and mine totally embarrassed I was trying to take pictures through the window. But you know what? She was flying! She watched me fly before and then, with confidence, she jumped off, too… and how could I not try to snap a picture of her courage?!
PRAYER: Father, thank you for opportunities like today – opportunities that let my girl test her wings where it is safe, and where You are present. I pray your protection over her and all the campers this week. May Selah and her new friend enjoy each other’s company and may they come back stronger than they left us. Finally Lord, may we mamas never forget that our girls learn more by our example than our words, and may we – Your daughters – be women that exude kindness, gentleness, goodness, and love. Should by chance we ever feel insecure, or overlooked, or rejected, which I know You understand is common for us mamas sometimes, may we be reminded You call us by name – You call us Your Beloved; and, may we stand tall and shine brightly as your Love so the women you’ve entrusted us to raise stand tall and shine brightly as well. Thank you for loving us. In Jesus Name, Amen.