Graduation–a bittersweet mix of springtime, caps and gowns, home videos and tears. One short ceremony marks the end of a long era. The graduates are filled with excitement; most parents feel a growing void. The graduates look forward and dream; the parents look back and remember.
Its funny how all the last-time things stand out over a senior year: freezing at the last football game, chairing the last PTA fundraiser, helping with the last late night project. One of my distinct memories is the day I packed the last two lunches for my twin seniors. They were the last I would ever pack for school, after 18 years of packing.
In a way it was a relief, no more rushing around trying to wrap custom-order sandwiches and getting bar–b-q Pringles in the right brown bag. And even though it was a morning like any other—racing toward school to beat the bell and spilling coffee at the speed bump—I knew it was different. It was a graduation of my own from a school that I had not realized I attended.
Being a mother of three, I dreaded my kids’ graduation for years. I teared up every time I heard Pomp and Circumstance, thinking “one year this will be us.” Graduation signals the end of a season and the beginning of a new one. I was anxious about the new because I could not imagine being happy without having my kids at home.
When my last two graduated, I knew I couldn’t delay facing it any longer. I had to reinvent my life and stop defining myself by my children. I had to surrender one role in order to take on another. I had to graduate and move on, too.
Sometimes, that’s when life gets interesting—when we surrender to change instead of fighting it.
Because being an at-home Mom was very meaningful to me, I started on a quest to fill my time doing meaningful things. That took some soul searching. And some trial and error. I made a list of things I enjoyed that could also serve others. I used to look at that list and wonder “now what?”
I decided to take one small step toward that list.
I attended my first writing seminar in Birmingham three years ago. I thought they might laugh me out of the room, because I hadn’t written very much. Instead, I found a wonderful teacher, Denise George, who has become a friend and mentor. Yes, it’s weird and nerdy, but I love writing classes, reading books about writing and writing articles and books. I discovered this love by taking a small step forward and then working on what I learned.
Now I write for several magazines and blog. I’ve traveled to Chicago and San Jose for writer’s conferences. I published a Bible study (A Time to Seek) and I teach it at different churches. I’m working now on its companion book. Writing has become more than just a hobby. It is my personal calling and ministry.
One of the greatest rewards God has given me for pursuing my calling is to learn that my story of the thief on the cross was read to 100 orphans in Kenya on Good Friday. Wow. Something I wrote on my small laptop in Alabama, traveled over an ocean to bless people I will never know. Here is the link if you missed it: Good Friday Through the Eyes of a Thief
I really have a long way to go and a few more books to write, but all that I’ve done so far stemmed from one small step.
Graduation day changed life as I knew it, but it marked a beginning to a whole new season of life calling and service.
Many of you are facing your children’s graduation this spring. I’m sure it will bring some tears and cause some big changes for you. I hope my experience will inspire you to surrender old roles and embrace new ones. It’s not easy, but it is worthwhile.
Remember meaningful life is not over—it’s just changing. This summer it might encourage you to:
- Do some soul searching. What do you like to do? What is most important to you?
- Choose to do something entirely new to you.
- Make a list of what you enjoy and how these things could be used to bless others.
- Pray for God’s guidance to find that plan He has for you.
- Take one small step toward your list.
Someone out there needs what only you can give. Find that person and bless them.
“…Don’t think about the past. I am creating something new. There it is! Do you see it? I have put roads in deserts, streams in thirsty lands.” (Is. 43:18-19)
My paraphrase: hang in there parents, I have a lot more for you! Love, God
For further reading on finding your calling and using it, I recommend The Art of Work by Jeff Goins. It’s an easy read filled practical ideas.