Monday, August 9, 2010

Eight Weeks

Think back eight weeks.

Don’t remember eight weeks ago? What if I asked you to remember everything that has happened since June 14. Could you remember eight weeks ago then?

June 14 was the day Abby left for camp.

Today she returns.

In eight weeks I took a road trip to Dallas, Texas; we’ve remodeled a bathroom; I’ve travelled with my family to the U.K.; and we’ve sent a child off to college.

A lot has happened in eight weeks!

And I know better than just about any mom on the planet just how long eight weeks is because my heart has hurt just a little for every minute of the eight weeks that Abby has been gone.

Every time I’ve thought of her, my heart gave a tug. Every time I prayed for her, my throat tightened up a little bit. Every moment that she’s been away has been hard on me.

So why did we do it? Why did we allow our 16-year-old daughter to live six hours away from us for eight long weeks this summer?

It would be easy to just have told her no. To rationalize that she is too young to be away for that long. Or to say that I needed her here (my heart certainly did!). Or to demand that she get a job rather than pay all that money to scrub toilets all summer.


I’ve had several friends ask me that question, and I’ve asked myself the same thing so many times over the summer. Why let her go when the alternative would have been so much easier?

Now, really, you should all know how I feel about letting go by now. As hard as it is, it is a necessary part of every child’s growing up and every parent’s growing away. It just has to be.

But today, as her bus is about to return her to me, I keep asking myself, why did we do it? Why did we let her go?

There are several reasons.

First, she is a child who needed to be let go right now. She needed this summer of independence and, especially, of being at a place she dearly loves. Her heart needed to be there as much as my heart needed her to be here with me.

Second, this wasn’t just a summer camp of fun and games for eight weeks. She signed up for the Service Team, which means that she was working every day, five days a week, for about eight hours a day (sometimes more). As parents, we place a high priority on service, and we want to teach our children to live as servants, so what better place to learn to do that? Developing a work ethic along the way probably isn’t a bad thing either.

And finally, it came down to spiritual preparation. The camp Abby attended was a Christian camp where we knew she would be nurtured in her walk with Jesus. We knew that she would have plenty of opportunity to fellowship with other believers, but also to spend precious time alone with the Lord. All of this, we felt, was so important for her spiritual development.

Today I turned to Philippians chapter 1 where Paul expresses his deep love for the Philippian people. He talks about how he prays for them with joy because of their partnership in his work.

And then Paul speaks of his confidence that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” A few verses later Paul tells them that he prays that their love would grow as they gain knowledge and insight and that they would “be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.”

This is what we want for our daughters: Growth. Good work. Love. Knowledge. Insight. Discernment.

And we felt that for this summer, Abby could best gain those things while serving and learning and growing closer to Jesus at camp. Away from us and all the baggage we bring into her life. In a place she loves.

Could she grow here at home? Absolutely. Does this mean every one of our kids has to spend eight weeks at camp? No way. Not every one of our girls is cut out for that kind of work. Not every one of them would even want to put herself into that kind of position. But we have to take each girl into consideration—her personality, her unique needs—and we felt that for Abby, being who she is right now, this was what was best for her.

And we intentionally chose to let her spend the summer away from us, serving at camp.

Intentionality. It stinks sometimes. It means that we have to give up time with a girl we love deeply in order to help her grow. But we trust in the One who gave her to us to complete the good work that He has already begun in her.

And we’re really looking forward to having her back with us again tonight!



  1. Shelly, thanks for, well, thinking this through and taking the time to articulate it. We're already having these discussions at our house . . . would we? Could we? Should we? Would he want to? Should he want to? Your thinking will help is down the road!

    I'll tell you, when I listen to Rob Ribbe each year, in the midst of my happy, inspired tears, I think I'd just like to hand off all my parenting to him. My kids would probably turn out better : ). Kidding, of course, but that's how much I love that place.

  2. I know what you mean, Jennifer! He's pretty intentional about what he does, isn't he?!

  3. I know you are so very glad to have her home!

  4. It's so interesting for me to read about this phase of your life with your daughters. Because I'm halfway between you. I remember being 16 so clearly, and it blows me away that you let her go! Because my mom NEVER would have let me go. She most definitely would have made me stay because SHE needed me there. With her. But on the other hand, I can't imagine letting Annalyn go - as much as I respect, admire and appreciate all your reasons!

    I guess what I'm saying (again) is that I'm so thankful to learn from you, Shelly. My mom is awesome, but I want to do a lot of things differently. And I'm glad to have your example.

    Enjoy having that girl home!!!

  5. Kudos to you for doing the hard work of parenting. I hope you've enjoyed your homecoming celebration tonight!

    I got the note cards Saturday and they are lovely. The neat thing about the timing of it all is that I had just rented the movie "The Young Victoria" to watch that night. So I had some tea, watched Victoria grow up and marry Albert, and received a little gift from them as well. Isn't that nifty!?

    Thanks for sending them to me. I will enjoy using them and each time I do I will remember my friend in Illinois whom I've never met in person but I've linked hearts with through cyberspace.

  6. Mary, your comment brings tears to my eyes. I am thankful, too, for moms who have gone before me to pave the way. I follow their examples too. Is that what taking a village is all about??

    Kay, thanks for your sweet comment, too. What a fabulous evening you must have had! Glad to have been a part of it! :)

  7. It's great to read the reasonings behind your letting her go. I'm not at that stage yet - my kindergartener has lots of growing to do. But, I was that daughter. My many long summers up there (DTP, AC, 2 staff summers) were some of my most challenging of my life and most growth filled. I crave the opportunity to spend more time there so I can be filled and grow and be part of amazing community. I hope you have some wonderful chunks of time to hear about her 8 weeks.

  8. I can tell I will learn a lot from you...I'm thankful to have a dear friend who is a little further along the parenting journey than I am.

    Thanks for your wisdom and insight.


  9. Wow, Shelly, eight weeks is a long time. I am praying with you for a safe return, a smooth transition and lots and lots of time to hear her stories of all she did and all God taught her.


  10. You are teaching beautiful lessons through your writing. This makes me think of that saying about holding a butterfly in your hand. If you try to keep it from taking flight, it's wings become injured.
    I know how you feel. How can you hurt and rejoice at the same time. It's a mom thing.

  11. I think Abby really enjoyed Service Team. I know I enjoyed seeing her there! and I can't wait to see you guys again! :)