Playdates with God: Brave





On Teddy’s last day at home I start a new journal. My friend Ann, who has walked this road already, suggested that I write down a few “key images and a few key moments” as we get him ready to go. “You will have lots and lots of emotions when you send that boy off … [and] you won’t feel like that forever,” she said.

So I opened a new journal, with crisp, lined pages, and I prayed the story would be as tidy. I don’t want to forget this time, no matter how shattering. I want to remember every fleeting thought, every gasping breath, all the sudden moments of realization.

It was Jeffrey’s first day of school, so when he was ready to leave, I stood in the driveway in my pajamas and snapped pictures of my boy with his backpack. Then I returned to the house, Teddy still sleeping upstairs, and noticed there were crumbs on the floor at the bottom of the stairs. How do crumbs come to be there at the bottom of the stairs? The thought came that in a couple years there will be few crumbs spilled in this house. And I let them be.

The dining room has been our staging ground for college and before the night fell we finished packing the minivan with Rubbermaid containers and suitcases and under-the-bed boxes. The tomatoes I picked from the garden watched us come and go, growing soft from neglect on the counter.

Later, we ate pizza from his favorite Italian eatery, played a family game of Yahtzee, and watched an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. His grandparents stopped by to hug him one last time and I saw how he moves around inside of our love, breathing deep of home.


In the morning, our little valley is thick with fog. When I walk outside with Bonnie, I feel I might disappear. Part of me is slipping away—I am a mamma of a grown boy who is leaving. Every nook and cranny of my life is haunted. We pull out of the driveway in the mist—invisible, ghosting across the morning.

When we get off the interstate to turn onto route 35, the light is broken—stuck on red—and it feels like the longest goodbye. A flock of geese appear out of the white, honking. They rise over the intersection in a flying V, taking my heart up, up, up. Fat birds huddle on the power lines, hunched against the dew that clings to the heavy air. Along route 35 there is corn, and soybeans, and Queen Anne’s Lace. A crow flies parallel us, muted. There are shadow barns rising up out of the fog, memories from another day. Everywhere I look, I am haunted.

Two miles from Pt. Pleasant, the sun finally wins her battle with the heavy fog. We cross the Ohio on the Silver Memorial Bridge with the sun as witness, those still waters shining like glass.

It is a long drive, on winding roads but we arrive in excitement and anxiety. As we move Teddy into the dorm, my path crosses a man sitting with his head in his hands. “My daughter,” he says. “I’m not handling it very well.” I want to hug him, but his face is already pinched, so I just nod my understanding and rest my hand on his shoulder a moment. He helps us carry boxes down the stairs.

The first day is hard, made harder by that special kind of anxiety that is part of our son. Walking away feels a little like a slow death, even though I know this is the best thing.

The next day is Sunday. We all slept fitfully and are emotionally exhausted. But I take communion on the lawn with the college community, and I am fortified. When I look at my son’s face, he already seems older to me. I cannot keep from touching him. There is a formal convocation, where the faculty wears full academic regalia and the new students promenade in to music played by a brass band. We squirm in our seats but when I listen to the words of the speakers, they name us.

The Vice President for Student Affairs, Meredith Harper Bonham, quotes the writer Ann Patchett. “Sometimes the circumstances at hand force us to be braver than we actually are. And so we knock on doors and ask for assistance. Sometimes not having any idea where we are going works out better than we possible could have imagined.”

And the college president, Sean Decatur, draws from the laws of thermodynamics and catalysis/reaction dynamics to illustrate to the students,

Catalysts do not make the molecules on which they act comfortable … it raises the energy of the molecule to be transformed. It’s the thermodynamic equivalent of applying stress and strain on a system, making a molecule uncomfortable, forcing it out of its resting state. This is the power of a Liberal Arts education: the power of ideas to challenge us, to provoke us, to force us out of our resting states; to make us uncomfortable. The transformations we undergo … are deeply embedded with this notion of challenge, rigor, and being prodded towards discomfort. So to embrace the power of Kenyon as a catalyst, you should embrace this notion of discomfort. You will encounter ideas and concepts in your classes, in your readings, in your discussions on campus … that will make you feel uncomfortable. This discomfort is not something to be avoided, nor is the source of this discomfort something to be passively accepted; rather, you should confront these head-on; you should struggle with these; you should tangle with these over the course of your education. For these challenges will propel both you and the world around you to advance and move forward.”

When the service is over, I see in his face that Teddy heard and felt named too. We hug him goodbye amidst the bustle of his classmates and their families. We walk away from him with repeated furtive glances back. But this haunting? This emptiness that I now know will I will always carry with me when he is far away? This is the discomfort I will embrace.

I’m being braver than I actually am. I have no idea where we are going. But I think it might work out better than I possibly could have imagined.

Don’t forget, in honor of Hannah More’s extraordinary life and the contribution she made in support of the founding of the school we left Teddy at this weekend, I’m giving away a copy of Karen Swallow Prior’s beautiful book Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More: Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist. Just leave a comment on this post for a chance to win. I’ll announce the winner next Wednesday, 8/26.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Laura Boggess


  1. says

    Oh the pounding of the mamma heartbeat that keeps us on our knees. I have not had this experience as of yet, but I understand the cadence of this song you’re playing slow and melodically. Praying for you today, for your loves to feel His embrace of hope and promise and that the promise you are holding onto becomes a lifeline of hope that your heart remembers when your mind trespasses forgetfullness.

    Blessings and Peace,

  2. says

    Seeing our children grow up, spread their wings, and make their own way in the world is a bitter-sweet experience. There is a sense of loss…knowing life will never be the same and we will never again be as major an aspect of their lives. Yet there is also a sense of joy, pride, and excitement, knowing they are becoming the people God has preordained them to be.

    Blessings to you, Laura!

  3. says

    When our children our transformed – something in us is, too! Praying for you, Laura, as you transition into this change – God will not leave empty spaces! He has beautiful plans for filling!

  4. says

    God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. When we get to the end of ourselves, He is there. Like all endings in this life, it is also a beginning, for both of you. Blessings, my friend.

    • says

      Thank you, June. Yes, I have been repeating this scripture to myself these past days. I do pray God is glorified through this time of transition in our lives. Much love to you, my friend.

  5. Jan says

    From the second a child is conceived He knows them. From the time they are placed in your arms, prayers for safety, health and growth are uttered. The first time they are entrusted to another, you worry about them. Teddy has strong roots and good mind. He is stretching his wings as he finds his own place in the world. Rest assured Momma he still will need you, call you, seek counsel from you as he navigates new horizons. As God gives you strength so will He be with Teddy. May you find comfort and peace in the days ahead as you learn together new roles and hold faithful to God’s everlasting love . Keeping you both in my prayers. Peace

  6. says

    Oh, this is making me cry, Laura, remembering when my own two girls started college. But what a wild and beautiful journey it turned out to be both times! There were definitely some extremely hard moments along the way, but in the end, so worth it. This is beautiful, friend: “I’m being braver than I actually am. I have no idea where we are going. But I think it might work out better than I possibly could have imagined.” You’re going to be just fine.

  7. says

    I don’t think we can ever imagine all the varied pains our hearts go through as moms. But every one is so worth it for the joy of having them & loving them. May you all find comfort as you navigate the transition. Blessings!

  8. says

    You are capturing many of those key images and moments right here and sharing them. Thank you for inviting us into your goodbye, into your struggle and emotions. May God grant you all peace as you move through this transition. Much, much love, from one mama’s heart to yours!

    • says

      Thank you, Ann. You have been a tremendous source of encouragement through this and I will never forget that. Thank you for listening to me even as you navigate your own transitions. Praying God shines his face upon you during this season. Much love back to you.

  9. says

    The ache shifts after a season – to a deeper place of settling and understanding. Still and yet, the mothering cord remains tight. Just a week or so ago, I wept over my first born (now 26, married, and living in another state). It was temporary, but still it was there. It wouldn’t hurt so much if we didn’t love so much. This is the gift that stretches us to our outer limits, sometimes breaks us in half. In time, yes time, you’ll see it more clearly. For now, go ahead and grieve. It’s the best way to push through. Love you and praying for you.

    • says

      Faith Elaine, your words bring comfort. You asked about my heart–it has felt tight for a few days now. But I am trying to open it wide to receive all the gifts this season offers. There is so much sweetness to be savored. I’m pushing through. Much love, sweet friend.

    • says

      Thank you, Diana. I am trusting–most moments! I can’t think of a better place for him to learn all the life lessons he will encounter. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and prayer. Much love.

  10. says

    I heard a workshop leader the other day speak us returning teachers about stepping into a classroom for the first time and the need to ‘fake confidence’ regardless of our lack of information or preparedness. There is so much we cannot know.

    May God cover you with His blanket that changes you, not ‘voila!’ but over time into a mama who can let go…. I promise you, it gets (a little easier).
    I love your brave words.
    I love you.

    • says

      Jody, yesterday my husband stepped back into the classroom and he felt ill-prepared after the busy weekend of the long goodbye. I’ll have to give him this message. There is so much we cannot know. So true. And wise. Thank you.

  11. says

    I love that you started a new journal to sort of embark on this new journey…as he is off creating his own new path. I can’t see that far ahead. So grateful you found a place that feels right for him, and Hannah More sounds fascinating. You are brave. Take courage, you know Who walks with him, with you into paths unknown. Miss this place, I have been spending less time online and am woefully behind in reading. BUT, here I am enjoying your beautiful words right now! With prayers for both of your journeys. 😉


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