My youngest daughter had just left to go back to college after a long holiday weekend. I was alone in the house and I walked by her bedroom as I did every day. This day was different. I stopped and walked in and sat on her bed. A sudden sadness came over me. I realized that life was changing once again. She finally would be moving into a house with her roommates and she would need to move all her furniture out of our house. Soon I would be passing by an empty room. I glanced around and my eyes rested upon little trinkets that triggered a multitude of memories. My eyes began to tear up.
The first set of items warmed my heart – her Lemony Snicket books A Series of Unfortunate Events. She was pretty ambivalent towards reading when she started that series. As a teacher, I wanted her to “catch” my love of reading. Finally in 4th grade she began reading this series and she was hooked. As she saw herself nearing the end of one book, she would remind me that we needed to go to the store the next day to pick up the next one. (She knew that was the rule – no new book until you finished the one you were reading!) One Christmas I purchased Book #6 The Ersatz Elevator and she was so excited to see it. However, I could tell she looked somewhat disappointed. She didn’t want to hurt my feelings, but she really wanted the hard-back edition for her collection. As you can see from the photo, I never got around to picking up that one. As I sat there on her bed, I felt a little tinge of guilt and made a mental note that I needed to surprise her and find one to complete her collection.
Just the day before, my daughter excitedly shared all her decorating ideas. She was thrilled to finally be able to take her bedroom furniture back to college. She even commented that she wanted to pick up a bookshelf to take her books with her. I guess I won’t be seeing Lemony Snicket any more! Sitting there on her bed I realized that the room would be empty in a few short weeks.
Next my eyes landed on her high school diploma and her yellow ducky. No, “Ducky” is not from her childhood – it was from her first Spirit Splash in 2012 at The University of Central Florida. It’s an annual Homecoming Event. See this video: http://vimeo.com/54804500 I remember her coming home so excited that she was able to find a “ducky” with the massive crowd! Looking at those two mementoes, I realized how much she had changed in the two months between graduating high school and attending her first college homecoming game. That was probably the biggest transformation I had seen in her in such a short period of time. My eyes welled up.
Then my eyes darted to the other side of the room, and I began to weep. There on a little shelf was her porcelain baby shoe with her birthdate and time of birth and a cross. Thinking of that little wooden cross, I began to sob. One summer, I was blessed to be a last-minute fill-in chaperone for my daughter’s middle school church camp in northern Florida. Camping “ain’t” my thing! (Sorry, couldn’t resist the ain’t.) We had a little roach-infested “chalet” filled with eight girls. God blessed me that summer with time to pour into young girls’ lives and to strengthen my own faith. This was early in my Christian walk and those young girls really impressed me with their child-like faith and love for God. The highlight of that camp was being able to see my daughter worship the Lord whole-heartedly during an evening service and truly accepting Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. I was able to see her walk up during an alter-call in that beautiful wood-beamed ceiling chapel and pick up her cross representing that special day!
Looking in her closet, I saw a representation of many of her other life events as well – her bridesmaid dress from her sister’s wedding, some of her “work clothes” from her first office job, homecoming dresses, prom gowns, and her graduation cap and gown. None of those life events made me more proud than her receiving her little wooden cross that summer!
So how do I find joy in an empty room? I look to God to fill those empty places in my heart. I search His word for comfort.
Psalm 22:6 says: “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (KJV)
(This is comforting, knowing that one day my children will not depart from the ways they have been trained. I am standing on that promise.)
Philippians 4:6-7 reminds us: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)
(That empty room sometimes makes me very anxious – especially not knowing where she is at all times. I know that my requests to God to protect her are heard and I must rest in that peace and not be anxious. For God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)
SO HOW DO YOU FIND JOY WHEN YOUR CHILDREN MOVE ON?