Over the years I’ve listened to parents say they cried through boxes of tissues as their children– first, second or third– head off to college for the first, second or third time. I listened with intent, waiting for the day to weep with joy as my child too, set off on the collegiate adventure. Well, that time has come. On Monday, I took my daughter, Alex, shopping for kitchen, bathroom, laundry, and bedroom supplies. The day was all about her. I did my best not to interject what I thought best reminding myself, she’s a young adult. I let her share freely without being judgmental remembering at 19 she had her own journey. The first year, despite three college scholarships, Alex chose to attend the local community college. I prayed she would change her mind. A semester later, I realized my perspective was not reality. Again wise parents spoke, “It’s better she knows that she’s not ready then for her to leave, be unhappy or return home.” I accepted those words of wisdom, not quickly or easily. So on Monday, I asked Alex if she had all girl roommates. “Yes,” she said. “Good. I prayed you wouldn’t room with boys.” Her good friend, a male, was also attending the same college, and their hope: to be roommates, not mine. “You need to stop prayer blocking.” She laughed. “It’s a all a mother can do,” I said. Prayer blocking. Good term. Ironically, my mother also prayer blocked. A few weeks ago, I told my mother I accepted the part-time position that I didn’t really want. My fall goal was to write full-time. She said, “I’m happy. I’ve been praying that you would take that position. It’s a guaranteed paycheck no matter how small.” I huffed. Yet, she was right. Saturday morning I woke up and prayed, Lord give me all the right words to encourage Alex. Then, I wrote a prayer list, in my journal, to share on our seven-hour car ride. When I write things down, I remember easily. I didn’t bring the list with me. I didn’t say everything all at once, a little at a time. You know children don’t listen to parents when they lecture or make them feel bad about their choice. I’m speaking from experience, my mother stayed with me first for three months, then left, and returned for another three months. And there were moments I tuned her out. So between dancing, singing, eating, bathroom breaks, moving in, decorating, and shopping here are my prayerful words of encouragement: (I’m sure I said so much more.)
- When you wake up in the morning, before you get out of bed ask the Lord to order your steps. And if you forget, say it while brushing your teeth.
- Prayer doesn’t simply mean your eyes are closed, you’re on your knees, our your head is bowed, prayer is just talking to God. Do that all the time.
- Go on a solo adventure. Do something exciting by yourself without friends. Just do it.
- God gave you an amazing gift. Use it. Play the piano, bow the cello, draw, draw, draw.
- When God sends you an awesome mentor to help you excel, listen, do, listen, and do more.
- In the words, of Maya Angelou at 80 years old: remember that you have already been raised. You don’t need parents. You’re a young adult coming into your own.
- If you decide not to come home, it’s okay. I will come visit. Make the best life you can with what you have.
- Have fun. Have fun. Have more fun.
- Learn to tell your parents to stay out of your business. We can be nosy parkers. (I have to admit I think she learned this one already.)
- Sometimes God will place you in the desert. You will be alone. God wants your attention. Jesus was in the desert. Moses was in the desert. They listened and obeyed. They were victorious.
- Find a place to worship, don’t become spiritually homeless.
And when we she dropped me at the train station the next morning, I looked into her eyes and said, “You are beautiful. When someone tells you, you are beautiful, smile and say thank you. Don’t act like it’s the first time you’ve heard it.” We hugged. “Mom, I love you.”