Saturday, August 20, 2005

It was only yesterday. "Yesterday" in that 15 years ago kind of way. She was 9. He was 7. The youngest he was 5. I stood in the hallway right outside their bedroom doors. I could not see any of them from my vantage point. Yet I could feel the presence of all of them. They were asleep. I had just checked to see. The clock chimed 1AM. I leaned against the wall and whispered these words. "Thank you, Father. They are all safe. I understand that these days will not last long. Those who have been there say they will be gone before I know it. I think they are probably right. But thank you that tonight they are all at home. Safe. Help me to remember this moment. Amen."

She lives in west St. Louis county now. She is a school teacher and the wife of a wonderful man. Together they make nearly the perfect couple. I could not be more proud of her. These days she is not just my daughter, she is my friend. I call her when I need to hear one of my children say something clear-headed and logical. She certainly is all of that and more.

The oldest he sleeps in the room next to mine. Oh, he has come and gone over the years. A ski trip here. A Chicago trip there. He has jetted off to the west coast. So far he has always managed to find his way back to his roots. That is a very good thing but it cannot, and should not, last. Now he is making rustling noises about moving to the northwest side of Chicago. His reason's are nothing less than spectacular. He wants to serve an internship at, in my opinion, one of the best churches on the planet. I will do whatever I can do to help make it happen.

And today I drove away and left the youngest he in his new temporary home on the edge of Council Bluffs, Iowa. I have buried two parents, walked a daughter down the aisle, and ministered over more tragedies than I can begin to count. But this "driving away" was, by far, the hardest thing I have ever done. Oh, I left him exactly where he is supposed to be. God has left fingerprints in his heart and pointed him to Council Bluffs to serve as a semester missionary at a wonderful little Baptist church. While there he will work with youth, children, and anyone else that the pastor directs him to. He might even change a light bulb or two. I've done it myself while serving on more than one church staff. There is nothing at all humiliating about it. The call to serve leads us in many directions. And tonight he is preparing to serve. He, his mother, and I all had tears in our eyes as we got in one last "family hug" and prayed together.

That is when a "God thing" happened. Christopher's new pastor, Dan, pulled up at that moment. I walked to him and shook his hand as he got out of his pick-up. I told him that his timing was perfect as we were just leaving. He could easily see the emotion that had built up in all of us. He assured me that he would "take good care of my boy." Then I walked back to Chris and told him that his dad had to leave but his mentor was there. We hugged. I kissed his cheek. We drove away. I watched him stare after us in my rear view mirror. I should not have done that. I will never forget that sight.

So tonight they are not all home. Actually, at his moment none of them are. The oldest he will drag in eventually from an evening out with a very special young woman. You know what this oldest one did while I delivered his brother to Iowa? He power-washed the house. He trimmed all of the shrubs and cleaned their mulched landscaping. And I had not asked him to do a bit of it. He could have slept in. He could have watched tv or played X-Box. But he power-washed the house.

Don't ever tell me that praying for your kids does not make a difference. Do not suggest to me that making every effort to live a godly life out before them does not matter. It is not because I am great because I am not. There mother IS great but that is not the reason either. She and I have "gone 3 for 3" with our kids. And it is because God is good. And He loves them. And they decided to love Him back. They still screw-up sometimes. But they get that from their "dad" and not from their "Father."

Three for three. It's worth standing in the hallways late nights praying for.