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Picture late July in hot and muggy Knoxville, 2015.
The weekend was designated for moving our son Nolan out of apartment “A” to a holding spot until he could move to apartment “B”, in order to finish up his time at UT.
When he left us two years ago at age 22, he was ready to go figure out his life. He had attended two different colleges and had three years of schooling under his belt. He then took a respite and worked for a year, during which time through a divine orchestration of events and people placed strategically in his life, he came to the conclusion that he was to move forward with what he was born to do (and what we’d been telling him for years):
…major in music. (Like his mama. I’m not one bit proud.)
I began poring over the internet for rental units. For two weeks I searched, until one day I came upon a little affordable nugget. I showed Nolan, he looked it up on google maps and showed me the street version and how he could walk to college. I jumped on it because I knew it would not last long.
It took an entire day and numerous phone calls to the apartment office, but I got that sucker rented in one day, sight unseen (save two pictures of the inside – and that was a model).
His dad and uncle moved him that summer. I wasn’t able to go, and therefore did not see the actual place of his abode until about 6 months later.
And when I did, I was horrified.
My son was living in the slums! Imagine a college campus with lots of old renovated houses and several dingy
apartment buildings with dirty, sticky, cobwebbed cornered steps. I walked into his tiny one room unit with the even tinier kitchen stuck in one corner, a couch abutting the refrigerator, the blow up bed taking up most of the space, and a makeshift desk.
I wanted to cry.
Fast forward one year later. I get a text from number one son.
“I was just involved in a crime scene.”
Can you say, “panic attack”?
Apparently, there had been a huge fight between a couple who lived above him and a visitor demanding payment for drugs. The visitor decided to shoot his gun all the way down the steps as he exited the premises, hitting walls and windows of the building.
My son’s window was one of them.
“I was sitting on my couch eating pizza and heard a bunch of yelling and then shooting so I got up and thought maybe I’d better walk to the back of my apartment (where there was a little bathroom). As I got to the hallway, I heard something hit my window and saw the shade move. The police came and interviewed me and some other people and searched for the bullet but never found it. They are replacing my window tomorrow.”
You can imagine why I am so happy he moved.
Nolan is a unique person in that he doesn’t share himself with just anyone. It takes a while to earn his trust. But those who do know Nolan know he’s a crazy guy with a comical side to him.
He visited several churches in the area but none were ever quite a good fit. This mama’s heart was getting discouraged because I knew it was important for him to find a church body who would encourage him in his walk with the Lord.
And then one day in December, he attended Ignition church with a friend. The warm, excited, and friendly atmosphere drew him immediately. These people had a heart for reaching Knoxville with the gospel of Christ in this church plant of only two years existence.
They asked Nolan to consider tryouts for the band. He gave it some thought and prayer, and the more he attended, the more certain he was that this was his new church home.
Back to the hot, muggy month of July and the move out of the slummy apartment.
Our plan was to visit Nolan’s church, which meets downtown in the conference center of the World’s Fair Park. Since they worship in a different room almost every Sunday, Nolan arrived early to help set up and practice for the service. We were to come later and he would already be on stage with the band.
The minute we walked onto that park, we were greeted by friendly, enthusiastic young people. From the parking lot, to the door greeter directing us to the worship area, to the foyer, we were welcomed and made to feel at home.
The band began to play as we entered the room. There was a lighted stage, a drummer, keyboardist, bass player, acoustic guitarist/worship leader, and my son, the electric guitarist.
I wanted to cry. (This time for joy).
There was a whole lotta praisin’ goin’ on that morning, and not just from this joyful mama. Those people really know how to worship! And my son has caught the vision.
One song we sang that morning especially anchored the whole weekend for me. “I will look up” has a lot of featured electric guitar parts and I’m not gonna lie, that was originally what drew me. I watched my son who since age eight has practiced his heart out, had his own recording studio, and a passion for perfection in his playing. The musical boy who became a musical man was not only playing, but leading in worship.
My heart overflowed.
“All the worries of this world
I will lay them at Your feet
Surrender every anxious thought
For perfect peace, Your perfect peace
All the loved ones I hold dear
All my hopes and dreams and all my fears
I will choose to trust Your name
In everything, with everything
I will look up for there is none above You
I will bow down to tell You that I need You
Jesus Lord of all, Jesus Lord of all
I will take You at Your word
For Jesus You have taken hold of me
All my life is in Your hands
You are my strength, You are my strength
I will look back and see that You are faithful
I look ahead believing You are able
Jesus Lord of all, Jesus Lord of all
Prince of Peace, Perfect Healer
All my life, all my cares on You
King of Kings, Mighty Savior
All my life, all my cares on You”
*Copyright Elevation Worship
Mamas, did you see that? Did you see that line in italics?
“All the loved ones I hold dear“.
Are you an empty nester still trying to grasp the reality that
you are an empty nester?
That you no longer have control?
That you never really had control, but you felt better
…when they were all under your roof?
Me too, girl. Me too.
And so, the very concept I have been grappling with for over two years since my two middles left for college in two different states where I cannot hold on to them or see them or talk to them every day and know that they’re ok…
…and I wonder if someone will call me if something happens to them
…and when I don’t hear from them for days my mind starts to panic…
I’m there with you, mama. Oh, am I there.
“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant (read: expectant waiting) condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”
God is good, and He is working every detail in not only our lives but the lives of our kids into something good.
Did you ever consider that He is growing us up as much as he is them? This maturing thing – even from the outset of rearing – is growing us. Sometimes we wonder what in the world God is doing. But we must trust in His goodness.
And on that note, I leave this thought with you by A.W. Tozer:
“He takes no pleasure in human tears. He came and wept that He might stop up forever the fountain of human tears. He came and bereaved His mother that He might heal all bereavement. He came and lost everything that He might heal the wounds that we have from losing things. And He wants us to take pleasure in Him. Let us put away our doubts and trust Him.”
(And here is the song, if you’d like to check it out. I promise it’s worth the listen!)