Years ago, when we were in the process of adopting our daughter, we struggled to understand that what we were working for was real. We had this goal to meet but because it took so long, we would easily find ourselves checking tasks off the list, as though those details were the goal.
In a house full of boys, I could hardly imagine that one day, a little girl would complete our crew. Surrounded by denim overalls and wooden train cars, there was no hint of femininity save my own possessions.
I wanted to find a way to make the reality that would be Elizabeth real to all of us. I wanted to feel like we were working for something, for someONE. Because the piles of paperwork became a pretty depressing reason to keep on…
One day, while I was organizing things that in the space that would be her room, I came upon a dress that I had bought on sale. It was white and summery and so darn cute and I wanted to keep it close. I carried it downstairs and hung it on the front of the bookshelf in our family room.
That whole day, as I walked around and took care of tasks, my eyes fell upon that dress. That evening, as we spent time with our boys and read books together, a splash of white was in the corner of my eye.
And all of a sudden, she was real.
All of a sudden, I knew that what we were doing was not a task, it was just necessary busy-work that would result in us being able to bring home the child that God had always intended for us to love.
That dress reminded us that soon a child would come. She would wear that dress and live in our home and she would be our girl.
We were comforted by this simple thing because that symbol made the truth real. It was a glimpse into the future for us while we waited. It helped us to focus and to prepare and to wrap our heads and hearts around what was soon to come.
I have thought about that dress a lot lately. It came to me again and again as I walked through my house and faced the fact that change would come again. It all came rushing back to me because my living room looked like this:
It started with a small fridge (see the blue box). And then, as things came home or were found needful, they were added. And the pile grew and grew.
Normally, I am bothered by something so big just sitting in my space for weeks. But not this time. This time, I was reminded of that little white dress. I was reminded that seeing these items left misplaced told me something about my child.
The dress told me a child was coming.
It told me the time had come.
The time had come for one of my children to leave.
I have to be honest and admit that this is not a reality I wanted to embrace. But we aren’t given choices about all of this. And, my desire to keep this boy close was not based on what might be best for him. It was a selfish desire of my own to keep the one I love so dearly. And as a momma I know that this cannot motivate my parenting choices. I wish it could.
Besides, this dearly loved boy had already spent a precious senior year doing all that he needed to do. He said good-byes, competed well, took final bows and walked away slowly taking it all in stride. All of it was DONE and done so well. And when you wrap things up and drink them dry, then what else is there to do beside make a pile and plan ahead and pack your things and go off to college on your own?
He was ready for something new. And apparently, it was ready for him. Scholarships lined up, opportunities presented themselves, connections were made and preparations were done.
It was time.
Yet sometime in the middle of the summer, I found myself knee deep in details and losing sight of what would actually occur. And I wanted to be ready so that when the day actually came to take this boy to school, I would be ready to celebrate with him.
So, we left that fridge right smack dab in the middle of it all. When I walked in from a summer outing, there it was. When we walked out to the door to church on a Sunday, there it was. And just the sight of that silly thing made it possible for me to focus on what truly mattered most.
Because it might have been easy to miss that we need to number our days. It might have be easy to overlook the fact that, ready or not, a count-down had begun. Our days of counting four children safe in our care were dwindling and all of life would be different soon.
About two weeks ago, we moved my boy to school. And I miss him. We all do. He leaves behind him an absence that is bigger than his stuff. He may have been a man of few words, but we miss every one.
And of course, I know we will all be fine. I know we will adjust (even if the very thought of that feels wrong to me today) and we will all figure out what life looks like with Noah off at school. He will grow in new ways as he leans into his independence and we will learn to fill this empty space with something that will never fit quite right. And it will be okay. All of this is a part of it, too. And I know it is good even if it is hard because these things can live, side by side, in the families we create.
And it will sound silly to say it but I find myself thankful for that fridge. It is not the thing itself that fosters my gratitude. It is, instead, the message it relayed.
Like that little white dress, it reminded us of the big picture. It made real a thing that we could not even squint and see. And that reminder helped us to focus on what we were doing, even when the day was ordinary. Even when the day was long. Because we live in that place. Don’t we, friends? Trying to remember that there is purpose and beauty in these long and ordinary days?
So now we walk forward from this place. But when I look at these three children, still at home here and close by, I want to keep what I learned from those items we left misplaced.
I want to remember that there is a big picture.
I want to number our days.
There is a preciousness here that is far too easy to miss.
Lord, help me remember well.
Blessings on your day.