My daughter moves into her apartment today to start her college career. I live in Hungary. She is in New York City. This was definitely not what I envisioned, but somehow, by the grace of God, I am okay with this. My husband is there to help her settle in. I brought the other children back from our summer furlough to start school, while he, who is more knowledgeable of the Big Apple, gets her settled. What a surreal day.
I cannot believe it is really time. My first baby is starting college! Eighteen years ago, I would never have dreamed that I would be okay with her leaving home, much less leaving home to be SO far from us. It is a bittersweet time. I am SO excited for this adventure God has her on and the new chapter of the story He is writing in her life, but I can already see how our family is forever changed. (Baseball and sports have taken a much more predominant spot in the living room with our two teenage boys being the rulers of the roost.) All of those emotions and changes are normal for a family whether their child is two or twenty hours from home.
As I ponder what it means for her to be so far, I have a number of things I am thankful for. First is technology. I am so thankful for Skype, Facebook, Twitter … all those things that let me “see” into her life. I get to hear her voice, see her expressions, and reciprocate both verbal and nonverbal communication. (oh, but I will miss rubbing her back for her and the smell of her freshly washed hair!) I am thankful for the fact that previously we have tried and tested and succeeded in this long distance lifestyle . She has spent a few months of high school in the U.S. with her grandparents and on mission trips in other countries. I know that she is an intentional, excellent communicator and values our input in her life. That has been so helpful in making this transition. Most of all, she loves Jesus. With this child and at this time I can rest knowing that she is allowing Him to be at work in the deepest parts of her life and that she will lean into Him when it gets tough. I pray, by the grace of God, that I can say that when the other three depart.
The questions I don’t know the answers to are: Where will she spend Thanksgiving? What American culture things are going to blindside her that we didn’t prepare her for? When she struggles, how much harder will it hit her because we are somewhat physically inaccessible? Will she be bold in finding mentors and surrogate families that can be that touch and that hug and that presence that we can’t give her? Does she know how to use that pepper spray we got her?
The thing I do know is that the Father who loves and cares for her does a much better job than her earthly parents. I also know that this is the beginning of a different story for her and for us… an exciting story where mom and dad’s influence decreases and God becomes so much bigger. I am so excited about that and so very hopeful, but more dedicated to praying for her than ever before.
Valerie Seely has a B.S. from Texas A&M University in Secondary Education with Math and Theater Arts Specialties. After teaching high school math for 3 years, she and her husband joined Campus Crusade for Christ. Seventeen years ago they started their staff life together with FamilyLife. Since then they have served at the World Headquarters in Orlando, and are in there eighth year at the Headquarters of Eastern European and Russia, in Hungary. Valerie serves on the Area Leadership Development Team, coaches and mentors national staff women in various countries, and is passionate about helping women develop their God -given strengths.