Posted by: karanoel | December 3, 2020

“Give”

“Leave it” is the command we use for things Sunny should not have in her mouth; one she responds to readily (well, most of the time) because it is always followed by a treat. “Give” is a command we use when asking her to release something that she has a right to have in her mouth, like a toy. The reward is that she gets the toy thrown again, something she loves. But despite our solid history of throwing her toys over and over again, she isn’t always too keen on letting go of something she considers hers. 

Her favorite toy of all (and the best purchase we’ve yet made) is a rope attached to a long handle, a giant cat toy for dogs, if you will. This ingenious contraption allows me to lead her on a fast-paced chase through the yard, bringing her a joyful thrill and taxing her vast reserves of energy. To elicit a release after she’s caught it, we have had to tempt her with the rope from Chase’s swing, which often works but sometimes ends with her tenaciously gripping two ropes with no plans to release either one.

But something shifted recently. She has been – of her own volition – dropping the rope. Not like she does with other toys when she drops them out of my reach and then quickly grabs them before I can. But letting go of it completely and then waiting expectantly. I’ve done nothing different so my guess is that she’s finally understanding that I’m a giver of fun, not a taker of toys, and that her maximum enjoyment will only continue once she lets go. Armed with this newfound understanding, she is finally (if only in this context) readily responding to the command, “give.”

This relates, I think, to something that’s been stirring around in my heart and mind. If you don’t mind indulging me, here is a post I wrote in May of 2018:

I wanted to share a story that might help illustrate my last post about learning to let God lead. My son, Cole, had been in South Carolina attending the Navy’s Nuclear Power School for two years and we missed him like mad. After graduating, he was fortunate enough to get a month off around Christmas before heading to his submarine job in Virginia. It made sense to me that most or, heck, all of his time off should be spent with me, his adoring mother. And the rest of our family, of course. There were other things to do during that time, he explained, but he agreed to meet up with us in Florida for a week where we would be spending Christmas with John’s side of the family. Sure I’d like more, but I was grateful for whatever I could get.

The time came to see him and my heart leaped a thousand times. I quickly adjusted to his sleeved arms (sooo many tattoos) and soaked up every minute of his quirky nature and dry humor. Seeing all three of my kids together in all their sweetness and laughter made my heart melt on an hourly basis. It had been a long time.

With our Florida trip coming to an end, I asked (okay, maybe begged) if he could come home with us to California to see my side of the family and extend my happiness… just a wee bit longer. Unfortunately, no, that wasn’t going to work. So I revised my plan in order to suck more life out of our time together. The rest of the family would head back to California while Cole and I lingered a few more days in Florida. Cole agreed. I was happy. It was set… until it wasn’t.

That night, I felt a tug on the reigns. God was speaking and it was clear. I was supposed to go home. It would mean saying goodbye to Cole earlier than absolutely necessary; a very sad reality, especially in light of the fact that we knew he would not have any time off for an entire year – at least. But I’d experienced God enough to know that His plans are good, even when I don’t understand. So I let Cole know of the change in plans. And that was that.

The following day, Cole had a change of heart. The things that had felt so pressing suddenly looked to him like they could wait. And he could indeed accompany us out to California. The week (or two?) that followed can only be described as pure magic. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun with my boy as I did during his visit home. There was so much lightness and laughter. He was able to see my family (who helped raise him and loooove him), as well as some very dear friends. He also got to visit his great grandmother, a last opportunity since she passed away after his return to the Navy. He was even willing to override his extreme aversion to having his picture taken to allow us to take millions of pictures to capture the joy of the visit.

This unexpected and utterly divine experience didn’t come from my attempts to make it happen (all of which all fell flat on their face), but from following the leading of God, who wanted to give me so much more than the couple extra isolated days with Cole I was willing to settle for. As it turns out, he hasn’t gotten leave for well over a year and I’ve only heard his voice once or twice since then, so that time together has been a sustaining gift. Not just for me, but him too, I think, to tuck away for the long journey he’s embarked on.

While following God’s lead doesn’t always provide such immediate delight and gratification, it does always make space for the very best… giving us so much more than the “good” we would have settled for. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9

As it turned out, that magical visit was the last time we would see Cole on this earth. A year and a half later, before he had a chance to take leave again, he took his life. You guys, I had no idea what was on the line when the Lord asked me to “give” that time in Florida and head back to California, but I do know it felt significant even then. I am so grateful that I’d gained enough understanding through my history with the Lord to know that He is a giver of joy, not a taker of dreams and that He could be trusted if I let go. What strikes me most is how much more He wanted to give than I was holding onto, not just for me but for others who love Cole just as much as I do and were able to be co-recipients of the forever gift of time with him.

I find myself here again, with a tug on my heart to “give.” It feels different on this side. Not harder necessarily, but vulnerable. My heart is still tender from the last time I surrendered Cole, which resulted in a story I hoped I’d never have to live or tell, but also more grace than I’ve ever experienced. As a mom who has lost a son, I have every right to hold onto my pain, disappointment, regrets or thoughts of what could have been. No one would blame me. But in my heart of hearts, I know that there can be no forward movement until I let go. Not just beyond God’s reach so I can quickly grab it again. But to lay down all the love and hope wrapped up in Cole’s life – willingly and freely – and wait expectantly before the Lord to lead on. 

It is not an easy or light undertaking, but I believe God has something even better for me than the short time here with Cole I would have taken for myself. I may not be able to see it clearly yet, but I suspect it has to do with the lens of eternity and with others also getting to be co-recipients of heaven’s amazing forever gifts. I have this mental picture of myself standing before Jesus one day and laughing with joy at how beautifully He orchestrated things and proved once again how much higher, sweeter and better His ways are than mine. Until then, somewhat like the anguished father in Mark 9 who says, “I believe. Help my unbelief!,” I am praying “I choose to give him to you. Help me let go!”

Is there something you are holding onto? Maybe something you have every right to keep in your grip, but that is keeping you from forward motion? I know it is hard, but I pray you join me in this journey of trust as we choose to release our grip and open our hands to receive all that He has for us. So much love to you, Kara


Responses

  1. You keep hitting home runs, Kara! Way to go. God has certainly gifted you to tell dramatic and powerful stories. May He continue to comfort your mother heart in the loss of your dear son.

    • I’m sorry for the late reply but thank you for your kind words and immense encouragement!


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