Big goodbyes rarely come all in one fell swoop.
Graciously (painfully?) they are often comprised of stepping stones.
Last week I stepped on one of my final stones to this chapter in life. Isabel and I have been teammates since 2001, when she was around six and I was, not around six. She had the opportunity to come to Colorado and attend a conference for high schoolers who are transitioning either to college or high school in the US. And, added bonus, visit ME!
Knowing we’d see each other softened the goodbye blow in Beijing. Soften, but still the blow came and the last piece of life from Beijing that I had to anticipate is in the rear view mirror. There are no more stones to step on. The goodbye is complete.
Our girl heads off to college next week and I’m going to miss her like crazy. In showing her love (and tenacity), she worked out for me to speak at both her her high school commencements — one in Thailand when our organization gathered and one in Beijing, when she truly graduated.
With only two graduating in Thailand, I made personalized speeches for them both.
Isabel, as you leave for college next week, hear again my prayer for you. Love, TMF aka Amy
Isabel, in our early years I learned two truths about you.
We first met in Cal Poly – you a precocious four-year-old, me a woman who had recently had surgery on her behind and needed to soak in a bath. The dorm I was staying in didn’t have a bathtub and so twice a day I’d trek to your dorm and soak my behind in the public women’s bathroom that had no shower curtain on the bathtub. Almost every time you’d ask if you could take a bath with me – as I sat there grading graduate papers :) — you were wonderfully oblivious to the awkwardness of it or that it might not be fun.
That is truth number one about you – you are a joiner and are eager to go where the fun is. You don’t wait for adventure to come and find you. You go find it!
Second truth – jump forward several years to when you and your family moved to Beijing and to the same building I lived in. This was before Tommy was born and your folks had finally gotten a baby sitter who was watching you, Gabe, Nate and Emily S.
Let’s just say … you were all monsters. The Holy Spirit prompted me to go check and then my phone rang. Your baby sitter’s mother was on the line asking me to pop in.
I did – wow.
When we finally got all of you in bed – you were in the top bunk and Gabe in the bottom. I remember looking you right in the face and laying down the law. If you get out of this bed, I will spank you.
You glared at me and said that only your parents could spank you.
I was up for the challenge, because these are not consequences to idly say, and informed you that, contrary to your opinion, I DID have permission to spank you and had been granted it several months before. I could point to the very place in apartment 23 where your parents had told me that they trusted me and if I ever needed to spank you, they trusted my judgment. I reiterated that if you got out of that bed, I would not hesitate in using the authority granted to me.
It was a standoff between strong females.
Thankfully, you stayed in bed and I was established as alpha dog in our relationship.
A few weeks later we had another interaction where I needed to gently remind you that “I am the adult in this relationship, we are not equals.”
I will never forget your response. You hung your head and in the sweetest little girl voice you said, “Amy, I know, I just keep forgetting.”
Isabel, truer words were never spoken. You had been given the sword of leadership but had no idea how to wield it for good. You flung that thing around bringing mayhem and destruction in your path. You just kept forgetting your place … but were open to being reminded.
Watching you mature over the years and grow into your power has been one of the highlights of these years together.
As we come to this benediction of your childhood, the blessing and challenge I have for you is from 1 Corinthians 13.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a woman, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Isabel, I see you putting away your childish use of the gifts God has given you. You advocate for people, not merely for yourself. You see the ways that things can be better and you don’t wait to find out what others are doing, you start the ball rolling.
I foresee a conversation in the future where you are going to need to lovingly set me down and say, “Amy, I am also an adult in this relationship and we are now equal.”
When that day comes, I’ll hang my head and in my best Math Fairy Voice say, “I know Isabel, I just keep forgetting.” And you’ll hug me and we’ll go forward because you will have embodied the love that Paul spoke of when he said, “But the greatest t of these is love.”
As you go forth and grow into the woman God is making you, may love be the heartbeat of your power.
- The other address given that day
- The commencement speech given in May — part one, part two, part three (looking at women in the bible, how God uses our stories, and the voices we’ll hear)
What final stepping stones have you experienced in a goodbye?