the beauty in risk

Monday, August 26, 2013

My sweet boy packed his brand new backpack and tried it on so I could adjust the straps. Try as I might, there isn’t a growing up moment in this little man’s life that I do not cry over. I am reminded day after day how strong he is, how far he’s come, what a beautiful story he is living right now.

He put himself to bed early out of sheer excitement. He told me he needs to get lots of rest because he goes to school on the bus tomorrow. He took his shower, brushed his teeth, kissed me goodnight, and I could barely breathe. He’s had half the time of our other children to prepare for this day. We’ve known him for only half as long as we knew our two biggest. It feels too quick, too soon, like we’re all not quite ready.

He got on the bus anyway, following his big brother and sister, snack bag securely tucked into his backpack, stuffed animal secreted in the front pocket, a small blue star clipped to the zipper. Wendell and I have matching ones on our briefcase and diaper bag, respectively. Ours bear his name written in Sharpie, his has our names per his request…in case he forgets us during the day. On the front side, it reads ‘Stand Strong’, a remnant from vacation bible school this year where we learned about how God’s love and prayer, family and friends help us to be brave, to make good choices, to never feel alone. We’ve done our very best to set him up for success.

It’s been our job for the past three years to protect him with everything we had, to help heal the brokenness his little life had to endure before he joined our family. We’ve done so fiercely. We’ve worked hard. He’s worked hard. The sheer strength it takes to be vulnerable enough to trust, to give yourself to another in abandoned love – it’s incredible. The sacrifice has been enormous for both of us. It’s paid off. He’s secure. He loves. He trusts. He’s fearful and anxious about school but eager to try. He recognizes some of his weaknesses and has asked for help to handle those big feelings and insecurities. That’s a hard-won victory, and I am intensely proud.

So through tears and with my heart in my throat, I hugged him, we prayed blessings over his sweet head, and promised to be waiting when he gets off the bus this afternoon. I told him how proud I was, how much I loved him, how much I will miss him while he’s gone, and how I will always be here for him. It’s a risk, this school thing. I won’t sugarcoat that part for him or for us. But this home, this family: we’re his safe place to come back to no matter where he goes, no matter how far he roams, no matter what decisions, successes, and failures he makes along the way. No matter what.

This morning, in the early morning haze of the late summer heat, our son got on the school bus. His little face was anxious, the stress blinking in full force, but he got on anyway, brave and pushing forward through the fear because he knows in his heart of hearts that he’s not alone. Beauty rises.

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