Thursday, October 23, 2008


I wanted to savor every moment, every train trip, every sip of cappuccino, every conversation, every new city we explored, every smile with my daughter.
We had two weeks and one day.
Sometimes just thinking about leaving her made me cry.
Sometimes I just sobbed.
But, I would not let her know this. Not yet. It would be too hard.
On her. And on me.
She chose to go to Germany
for her first year away to college and I was thrilled. This is the country of my birth.
My mother in law had asked me at one point: “Why are you encouraging Rachel to go to Germany. So far away.”
What I encouraged my daughter -- what I encourage all of my children to do – is seek after God’s will in their lives. To find their purpose. Their calling. To risk. To take adventures. To live. To laugh. To question. To live outside the box once in a while. To dream. To journey. To dream.
And for Rachel, going to Germany this first year out of high school was her dream.
The reality of it though for me hit about half way through our two weeks of travelling before I was to drop her off.
We had had our first few days of seeing London, Buckingham Palace, the Grosvenor Hotel, London Bridge, lunches out, Dusseldorf, family gatherings, Koln.
It was amazing, but at times, it felt a bit hectic, and she said something to me: “We haven’t sat down and had torte—German for cake—and coffee,” and I realized as I thought about what matters to Rachel is not seeing every cathedral or church there is in every town.
No, what Rachel remembers—and talked about the most from her visit to Europe a year ago—was times sipping cappuccinos at sidewalk cafes and walking places and bicycle riding around town. That is what meant something to her.
And here, our first few days, though really great, were filled with a bit too much rushing around. Seeing everything there is to see. And, sometimes we didn’t stop for meals or not until really late at night. Or we’d skip lunch. And I could tell Rachel did not like this. Sometimes it was not my fault as we were with relatives, but other times I did have control.
I desperately wanted the memories that Rachel would take from this trip -- from our two weeks together before I dropped her off for Bible college, -- to be wonderful. Sweet. Happy.
So, I changed directions in my mind. I decided that it was not so much about the finding but it was about the hunt. It was the journey. The very thing I talk about in my life a lot. The journey. The adventure.
As we continued on our two weeks, I made sure that at the first hint of being tired or hungry that we found a place to sit and eat. Or have Italian ice. Or watch the sunset.
We did not see everything in the Dresden area there is to see. We did not see every building or street in Prague that there is so see. Nor in Berlin. Just to be there was of course amazing, but I allowed myself to not be on such an agenda-setting course, where you forget to smell the proverbial roses.
The two weeks were not without a few small glitches –yes, my daughter and I actually had a short moment of impatience between us, which I regret having. Simply put, she was in a bad mood and just tired as there was a certain city – Weimar-that I really wanted to see because my mom told me to- and there was a certain Fortress I really wanted to stop at- Wartburg—again, cause my mom suggested it, but Rachel was tired, and I had really worked so much around my daughter and felt she could give a little as well. We worked through it and said we were sorry to one another and we moved on.
Frankly, I think God may have allowed that short not as pleasant moment between to make it easier to say goodbye.
The long goodbye was not easy.
As we got closer to the time I would have to say goodbye, just thinking about it made me sob. Weep. I wrote a poem about it –the goodbye-
To my daughter SunshineGirl
Sunshine fleeting, captured in the reflection of the sea, but only for a moment -
Then it disappears into the canvas of the sunset.
Sunshine will rise again. It will paint itself in the sunrise
Erasing the dark.
Sunshine will brighten my day, warm my heart. But it is only here for the day. Then night comes.
It appears with the rain in the rainbow, but only for a moment. When you look for it. When it surprises you.
You cannot capture a rainbow. It does not belong to you. It can never be yours. It belongs to God. It was created by the maker of heaven and earth. It lives. It breathes. It brings warmth and life into others.
Sunshine and rainbows fill the earth with tenderness and warmth and love but can never be owned. For a moment, a fleeting moment, sunshine’s rays are captured in a smile, in a look, in a snapshot, and then they go away, but they stay with you. You are never ever the same again.
The warmth. Lingers in your heart and though it is dark, the light stays with you. And you wait to see it again. You wait as long as you need to wait.
And you long for the morning.

- - -
The day came; two weeks and one day into our traveling days, when I had leave Rachel. To say Goodbye.

Bodenseehof in Friedrichshafen. I was able to see her room which had an amazing view of the Bodensee (Lake Constance) and I met the nice people at the school, and we had such a neat time at the lake and then we walked back, and I asked if I should go back into the hall with her and she politely said, “That’s okay Mom,” which was my sign to go out gracefully.

I turned to give her a hug and say a prayer with her and I could feel the tears welling up in me but I did not want to cry in front of her. Not that I cannot show emotion to my daughter but it was time for me to let go. To say good-bye.

I had prepared her 18 and a half years for this and she was ready. Was I?

I needed to be. I said a short prayer and turned around to my waiting cousins who had driven us here.

The Long Good-bye.

In the train I felt like someone was missing. I thought of Amy Grant’s song “Missing you” The words go like this:
“Missing you is just a part of living. Missing you feels like a way of life.”

Monday, October 13, 2008


Today I am on a plane to Germany to take my daughter to herfirst year of college.

(I wrote about it for my 9-11-08 Real-Life Mom column published monthly in the SW Weekly section of The Oregonian newspaper, also found online

It is bittersweet. Germany is one of my favorite places, and not just because I was born there. I love the German lifestyle of walking and riding bicyclesto places, and I am especially happy that Rachel chose Bible college forher first year away.

That is the sweet part.

But I find myself a bit lost as my first child leaves the nest,even if that is not permanent — yet. Part of the reason may be that she is my firstborn and part mayhave to do with her being my only daughter, in a family with four sons.

And perhaps part of the reason has to do with my identity as a mother. Ihave been a mom for almost two decades. I have been needed — and by mydaughter’s side — for almost half my life. My daughter and I are very close. I have coached her sportsteams and volunteered in her classrooms and led her high school Biblestudy and summer church camps. We’ve gone on mission trips and summerroad trips together.

Now she won’t need me as much. I know that is not entirely true, as she will still need me in different ways, but that is how I will feel on that long flight home, which I will not think about right now.

I have begun to realize — though it is hard to admit — that I have a tendency to become emotionally dependent upon my children,especially my daughter. I have found myself somewhat insecure at times unless my kidsare with me — again, especially my daughter. I am not talking about emotional dependency in the clinical sense, in which people hold others back in order to be needed.

And I am not talking about emotional dependency in the “living through mychild” kind of way, though that is an issue with some parents. I am talking about my basic emotional attachment to my children.

I suppose part of it is that I find fulfillment and enjoyment inbeing a mom. But you begin realizing as your children grow that they donot need you as much. And moving our kids toward independence is what we strive for from the day they leave the womb.

We celebrate every step towardindependence: The first day without diapers. The first time riding abicycle without training wheels. The first day of school. (It is wild tothink that my firstborn starts college as my lastborn startskindergarten. How’s that for coming full circle?) So, bittersweet is where I’m at. But is that not whatparenting is all about? The good with the tough; the blessings with thechallenges; the years together, the times to say goodbye.

Yes, it will be hard leaving my daughter, but sweet coming home tofour sons who still need me.


Hidden Lake


Cousins bicycling at Champeog Park

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