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I don’t want to go.

Her mom looked up, uncertain what to expect. They’d had this conversation before… churning with female emotion.

I’m gonna miss you. And I’m gonna miss… She listed a few names.

And I—I want to stay.

Her eyes glistened. The same eyes that rarely cry in public, the chocolate browns of a baby girl turned young woman.

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Only minutes before, she came through the front door, famished. Disappeared to her room; then stood with the refrigerator door wide open, hunger pangs complaining, insisting, after a long day.

Now she sat on the stool beside the mom, baring her soul. All teenage bravado dropped, in this moment of revealing, admitting why her mood turned foul. She begged her to show her what to do with fears and doubts opposing the knowing of responsibility, of following through, of staying true to the course set before her.

On the way home from a youth conference in the spring, she called home with news.

Guess what! I’m going to college! I know it’s crazy, but I know it’s of God. I’ll tell you more when I get home.

Both had known, with every alteration of girlhood dreams these years past, His plan would win out.

Two hours later they stood in the kitchen. She continued her story about the trip. It had been too long since she had seemed at peace and so excited.

But you’ll need to remind me, because I’ll forget.

Her mom gave assurance—nodding, knowing.

By mid-summer her goals had changed. With a list of reasons—every one logical—she tried convincing anyone who’d listen, it was a bad idea.

Finally she asked her mom to pray.

For the next two weeks, for direction? I don’t want to make a mistake.

Of course, I will. I have been, and will keep praying.

It only took a few days before she knew.

I need to go.

Yes. And God will show you why when you get there.

Summer exited their lives the same way it entered—in a whirl. Three short months of camping and counseling, working, swimming, hangin’ out with her friends.

Now summer’s gone and the future is here, facing her. Within a week nothing will be the same.

The young woman turns little girl. Her hugs squeeze tighter, her looks linger.

Her world rests on shaky ground, she told me while shopping for shoes.

It’s so surreal…

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…forever leaving little girl shoes and big girl shoes behind… leaving home to step toward new adventures, learning to walk closer to her God.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Have I ever told you, our baby girl came home in a Christmas stocking? On a blustery late-December day almost two decades ago.

After tucking my Book of Baby Names deep in a drawer—my two favorite names tucked away as well. Highlighted. Unused. Various spellings scribbled along the margins.

After banishing hope to the category of unfulfilled dreams.

Did I mention we had given up on ever having a daughter?

I am blessed to have one child. Some couples have none. And with all those little frilly dresses hanging on the racks, if I had a girl, I’d be in debt for sure!

In the mall parking lot my nine-year-old yelled, No, Mom! Not Penney’s!

Poor tortured soul.

He beamed when we told him he would be a big brother soon after Christmas.

A few months later he asked, Mom, if you have a boy, you’re not gonna make him wear pink, are you? Already protective.

I assured him I wouldn’t.

Before the end of the year, baby made four. And big brother had a sister.

She wanted to be close to me, and I kept her close—in my arms, on my chest, wherever I was. Washing dishes, she rested in one arm, dish in hand. I washed with the other.

And then she turned four.

My career in day care ended. No more babies to watch. Except mine. But she was a baby no longer.

On mornings after we gathered on the couch to read a book, just she and I. And she sat, her body touching mine as closely as she could. It had been too long since the house was quiet and time for cuddling—anytime of day and just because we wanted to—was all ours.

IMG_6307-003Too soon baby shoes were discarded for toddler shoes… then little girl shoes and big girl shoes… in recent years we traded shoes.

But now her shoes sit in a distant closest, slipped on and off, worn to follow new paths ahead.

In leaving here, by walking away, even with apprehension or occasional stumbles, as insecurity fades, as acceptance and enthusiasm and confidence increase, life’s changes provide maturity, success and unimaginable opportunities.

Home and family, faith, values, love, are not discarded as shoes outgrown, but are carried with her, embedded within each of our children now on their own.

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