Blood and Promises

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Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her! (Luke 1:45)

I pulled up to the curb in front of my daughter’s intermediate school.  I tried to line up her door so she didn’t have to walk through the plowed snow in her tennis shoes.  It was gym day.  I handed her the lunch she almost left behind.  I told her to have a good day and that I would see her after school. Then I told her I loved her. I wanted to hug her but I knew that wouldn’t go over so well, you know, right there in front of the school.  She grabbed her lunch, slipped out of the car, then uttered a quick “Love you” as she shut the door and walked away.  Gone.  I watched her from my rear view mirror as I left the drop off circle and drove away.   When I got to the stop sign, I stole a moment to watch the adult-sized version of that baby girl I brought home from the hospital 12 years ago disappear into the doorway.

Oh, my heart…there it went.

Into that school building… and away from me.

In that building, she was learning.  She brought home binders and folders and assignments.  I asked her about her homework every night.  She usually finished it at school.  When she had homework, I asked her if she needed help.  She rarely did. After dinner, she grabbed her backpack and she went to her room.  I remembered those days when I came home from a long day at work, dreading that time at the kitchen counter, working through common core math and making up silly sentences to make those practice spelling tests a little less boring. 

Now, I find myself wishing that she would need my help … with something … anything.

In that building, she was meeting new people.  She talked to friends whom I had never met.  She mentioned names from her classes and I didn’t have a face to go with them.  She asked to go to social events and to visit friends at their homes and became frustrated with me when I needed to speak to a parent before I gave permission.  I remembered those play dates and outings that used to include me.  I remembered those afternoons at the park that involved Moms socializing and children playing.  I remembered her asking to go to the pottery place or for ice cream — and she wanted to go with me. 

Now I had to wait for her to come home to tell me all about it … that is, if she felt like it.  Sometimes, my curiosity was considered invasive … or annoying.

In that building, she was dealing with stuff.  Lot of stuff.  Grown up stuff.  She knew things I didn’t know she knew.  She heard things I didn’t know she heard.  She experienced things I thought were years away….or maybe that was what I hoped.  She asked me questions about things like drugs, suicide, and self-harm.  She mentioned peers going through difficult times.  She witnessed things I never wanted her to see … at least, not yet.  I remembered those days when her questions were simple, like how to mix paint into the perfect shade of purple or why school buses were always yellow. 

Now, I often wasn’t sure how to answer her questions.

In that building, she was learning about the outside world. She was learning about current events, discussing topics that at one time were irrelevant to her, and she was learning what to do in an active shooter situation. Oh, my heart. I remembered when our television was constantly on Nick Jr., when we only watched the news after the kids went to bed.  

Now, she came home and talked about those same stories we used to keep from her.

In that building, she was on her own.  I couldn’t protect her. Disapproving looks, sideways glances, hurtful words and insults.  Navigating relationships with friends who didn’t have the same intentions or the same heart.  Spending time with people who may or may not be looking out for her best interests. Adjusting to teachers who had different teaching styles, different temperaments, and different depths of compassion.  Facing the pressures of growing up, the same ones we all faced; however, she lived in a world that forced her to grow up much faster than we did. I remembered when she lived in a bubble, totally protected inside these four walls or under the careful watch of Mommy and Daddy. 

Now, she walked through those doors, a soft target.

In that building, she was subjected to scrutiny, to criticism, and to comparison. Questioning herself, worrying about how she looked, what size she wore, how long her hair was, and in what activities she should participate, not always just because she enjoyed them.  I remembered the days when she wore whatever I put on her, let me fix her hair however I wanted, and was happy to do just about anything, as long as we were together.  I remembered the days that she didn’t care that her hair needed brushed, her t-shirt had a ketchup stain on it, or she had chocolate around her mouth.  I remembered when she would say what she wanted to say and do what she wanted to do without a care in the world. I remembered when she had that bold confidence and believed she could do and be anything.

Now, that same confidence was slowly being stripped away.

In that building …

and in this world. 

I thought about the way that things used to be.  She used to talk all the time.  She started talking when I started dinner, kept talking through dinner, and was still talking when I cleaned up after dinner.  She couldn’t wait to tell me everything.  She never wanted me to leave either, to go anywhere.  She always wanted to go with me.  Now, she would rather hang out in her room; she answers my questions with one word; and she has turned down invitations to go places with me, whether to run an errand or to go to the mall.  I had to drop her at the door, no hugs and kisses permitted, and I couldn’t dare say or do anything that might be considered embarrassing … which was just about everything. My sweet girl who had the best giggle ever, was often grumpy and short with me.  My energetic daughter who used to want to run around all day, would sleep until noon if I let her. My Mommy’s Girl who used to never let me out of her sight was more often than not, hibernating in her room.

My heart screamed to make time stop.

When I delivered my daughter, I had a long labor that ended with a C-section.  Behind that curtain, I never saw them cut the cord. I never felt that sadness that other women did after the birth, the sadness that came with no longer carrying her inside of me. That feeling never came over me and it never bothered me back then. In fact, I couldn’t wait for her to be born, to be on the outside. I couldn’t wait to hold her.

I couldn’t wait to watch her grow …

but then it happened.

Now, I can feel that invisible cord that holds us together … that cord that binds mother and daughter … I can feel that invisible cord fraying like a rope being pulled too tightly from both sides.

She keeps walking … I keep holding on.

Ripping.

She takes another step … and then another… and still, I hold on, even tighter.

I can feel my arms growing weak.

Tearing.

I can feel the skin on my palms break open, like the heart in my chest.

Still, I hold on…

Hands bleeding.

Just as my heart began to fill my throat and as the tears began to spill from my eyes; I reminded myself that this is how it was supposed to be.

This is what God asked of me as her mother.

God blessed me with my daughter; but not so she could stay with me forever.

God chose me to take care of her. God chose me to raise her.

God chose me to prepare her and then He will call on me to let her go.

But I don’t know if I can do it, Lord.

Give me the strength to let go.

I wondered if she would make the right decisions even when it wasn’t easy. I wondered if she would choose good friends and be that good friend to others.  I wondered if she would work hard for what she wanted but be okay if things didn’t work out the way she planned.  I wondered if she would choose a husband who would treat her like a princess; and whom she would treat as her prince. I wondered if she would do what made her happy, but not at the expense of others. I wondered if she would always look for joy, even if she had to find it along the path less traveled.

I worried about her.

I wanted to protect her.

I didn’t ever want to let her go.

I reminded myself that though she walked away from me more each day, pulling harder on that cord; I had to trust that she would take all the things that I had taught her here, in this home, with her wherever she goes.

In this home, she has learned that she is loved. 

In this home, she has learned that she is beautiful, inside and out. 

In this home, she has learned that she must treat others with kindness.

In this home, she has learned that her worth can be found in God. 

In this home, she has learned to help others, especially those less fortunate. 

In this home, she has learned that she has responsibilities to herself and to others. 

In this home, she has learned that she is always safe here. 

I reminded myself that it is only because we loved her and cared for her, that she feels comfortable enough to take these first steps out on her own.

I reminded myself about how proud I am of her.  Even with the mood swings, the questionable things that came out of her mouth, and the lack of interest in doing anything I asked of her; I was still so very proud of her and the person she was becoming.

I saw her notice the little things, even when she expected the big things.

I heard her praise God for her blessings, even when she forgot to tell me ‘thank you’.

I watched her empathize with others, even when she seemed so self-absorbed.

I watched her be a good friend to others, even when she was mean to her brother.

I saw her becoming more responsible, even when I had to tell her to make her bed.

I saw her becoming more independent, even when she expected me to wait on her.

I reminded myself that God had made promises to me… and He kept them. He helped me through all the ups and downs of my cancer diagnosis. He had been with me every step of the way.  Shouldn’t I have the same faith that He would make those same promises to her?  Shouldn’t I know with all my heart that He loves her too with that same awesome love that He felt for me and all His children?

She would have trouble in her life, just as we all did.  She would face obstacles she would be fear she wouldn’t overcome.  She would find herself unsure of who she was and what she was supposed to do….but she would be okay.

I walked through this cancer journey knowing without a shadow of a doubt that God was going to see me through it. I prayed and prayed for God to allow me the honor of finishing my job of raising my children.  So far, He had answered that prayer. God willing, He will continue to do so.

If I could believe so strongly that God would do that for me, how could I not believe that He wanted what was best for her too? 

How could I walk this path with blind faith — and then question the path my daughter would walk in her lifetime? 

How could I have witnessed all the small miracles and that have occurred over the past 2 years as I have responded to treatments better than expected, been spared the harshest of possible side effects my treatment usually brought with it, and as I have crushed devastating statistics for the success of my treatment and my less than fair prognosis … and still not trust that God was good all the time? 

How could I have misunderstood that as my daughter was growing away from me, she was growing into who God intended her to be?

Perhaps I held on so tightly to that invisible cord, with my bleeding palms and aching arms, because I feared for my future; but, had I forgotten that God asked me not to worry about tomorrow, but to focus on today? 

I felt my heart return to my chest, my grip loosen, and my soul release.

I didn’t know what the future held.  I didn’t know if I would have to leave my children behind on earth one day far sooner than expected.  I prayed that was not the case; however, I had to let that go, just like I had to let go of that invisible cord.

Thy Will be done.

I hoped that as my daughter tried out those wings of hers, she knew that I would always be the wind beneath them, whether I was here on this earth or not.  I hoped that my daughter knew that even as she steered off her familiar path, she could always look to God to help her find her way.

I couldn’t stop her from growing up, from growing away. I couldn’t keep her in my arms, at my side, or even in this house forever. Her world was getting bigger. Her eyes were opened. I couldn’t protect her from this world that wanted so desperately to change her innocent heart.  All I could do was trust that God would see to it that this world didn’t change her, but that she did her part to change the world.

And for that to happen, I needed to do my part too.

So through the snappy comebacks and the awkward silence…through the fights about her messy room and when she had to wear a coat…through the laughter and the tears…

All I had to do was be her Mom.

And that was something that I was more than happy to do.

I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord. And he worshiped the Lord there.

(1 Samuel 1:27-28)

Author: Jennifer Lilley Collins

I'm a Mom, wife, daughter, and friend navigating life with metastatic breast cancer while finding joy in the everyday and spreading hope, love, and inspiration along the way.

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