On Letting Go of Our Children

by | Jul 7, 2014 | Identity


Gravity pulls sweat dripping off the end of my nose into the cardboard box holding a collection of toy cars, airplanes and motorcycles. Hunching over, hands pushed into my thighs, I stare into what represents a decade of my son’s childhood, frozen by a question circling my thoughts. How do you begin to determine the value of a memory?

How will I remember each era of their lives if I discard the items that awaken what time forgot?

The sweat of my brow turns into salty tears and instead of the fortitude of a soldier on mission; I am a mother remembering her children. Standing in the midst of a victorious battlefield of memories I grasp for remnants of His faithfulness.

Trust is painfully beautiful like a mother watching her children journey into adulthood. This is what God is teaching me as I prepare to move to England.

“Hey Mom,” she calls to me from a crack in the door bringing a gust of cool air with her into the concrete cavern. “I was wondering if you might want to go shopping with me. I know you are in the middle of all this, so we can go tomorrow if that works better.”

My brave beautiful girl who rarely asks anything of me throws out a simple request in the midst of my silent questioning, in the middle of my mess, in a moment of longing. I respond in the way any mother might envision while on the cusp of letting go of her only daughter to the sacred passage of maturity.

“Sure honey, I would love to go with you.”

Isn’t shopping the answer to exactly one million things asking for your attention? Because, of course.

And when sweat drips down my collarbone and pools over my heart, collecting in the middle place where her dimpled hands once clutched my chest, I hear these words push their way passed stress and speak truth into my self-doubt.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3)

I am a soldier cleaning up a beautiful battlefield strewn with markers of God’s faithfulness. Of spiritual wars fought on behalf of my children who were entrusted to my leadership for such a time as this. The heavenlies will be my attic; the mind of Christ, the divine holding place for memories. Eternal significance cannot be contained or measured, only discovered in glimpses through the sacrament of presence.

“What time do you want to plan on leaving,” I inquire as I wash my hands over the kitchen sink.

“Whenever it’s good for you Mom,” she answers from her bedroom.

“I’ll be ready in about an hour.”

 As we sort, pack, consign, discard and entertain potential buyers for our cars and house, I’ll be posting less frequently here this month. Did I mention a writing deadline for my book? However, I will continue communicating through my weekly epistle to the Sabbath Society community, which has turned into a beautiful conversation, a co-mingling of faith, life and resting in His goodness. Sign up here if you are interested, you are always welcome.

Celeste is the winner of last week’s giveaway of Atlas Girl by Emily Wierenga. Congrats!!

In community with Laura, Holley, Kelli, Jennifer and Emily.

Subscribe for Shelly’s stories and free resources here: https://shellymillerwriter.com/free-resources/


  1. Clark

    I spent today also going through Alex’s room. She filled the floor and hall with piles of items she wants to get rid of. “Clutter” she calls it. To me they are memories. She asked me to go through everything so she can throw away or donate the unwanted clothes, books, souveneers from the last 18 years. Your words hit me square in the face. What will remind me of the past if all these things are gone. What will she share with her children when she is grown. I’m still searching and learning much from my daughter. Thank you for yor post.

    • Shelly Miller

      We’re in the same place Clark. This is some hard stuff huh? At least Alex is going through her stuff and getting rid of clutter. Our girls are good mentors, yes?

      • Clark

        She teaches me something new every day. I’m going to miss he terribly.

  2. Sharon O

    I can’t imagine the chore of going through and discarding ‘old memories’. You are brave and also following what you know for now is the right direction. Oh and I am SO proud of you for stopping, and going with your daughter. That meant more to her than you will ever imagine… building relationships are way more important than doing tasks. good job mom.

    • Shelly Miller

      We had a great time focusing on the future instead of getting stuck in the past. Thanks for your encouragement Sharon.

  3. Diane Bailey

    I can’t imagine sifting through everything I own, giving it a value of thumbs up or thumbs down. You are a good mother, Shelly. In the end, memories of time with your daughter are your most valuable possessions.

    • Shelly Miller

      It’s been a daunting task Diane, but good heart work. I’m learning a lot about myself and I’m hearing God’s conviction in it. That’s the redemption.

  4. Natalie

    I am a mother remembering her children…I am a soldier cleaning up a beautiful battlefield strewn with markers of God’s faithfulness…children who were entrusted to my leadership. Oh, thank you for sharing these beautiful words today. My heart needed them. All of them.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thankful for timely words Natalie, it’s good to have kindreds in the comments.

  5. Celeste

    Thanks for that. I have been away, navigating through an early summer. Teachers here chose to strike and I had to quickly come up with some activities.
    I read the title of this latest writing and thought, oh I must read this one slowly. Speaking to my heart as usual during a busy time.
    Bek asked me tonight if Jesus gave hugs. I’m counting on it I said.
    Praying for you Shelly.

    • Shelly Miller

      Send me an email with your mailing address Celeste. I think Emily’s book will be a blessing. We need to catch up soon friend.;)

  6. Pam

    wow… you are moving to England? I’ve not had time to read here much lately, so maybe you have already mentioned this…but what a surprise to read this tonight. So much beauty there in that land you love, but a lot to leave behind here too, I know. Praying for you and the trip and settling in ahead, Shelly. – Pam, apples of gold

    • Shelly Miller

      We are Pam! Can you believe it? I wrote about it earlier, a post called Why We are Moving to England for more information if you’re interested. Lovely to hear from you. It’s been awhile. Hope all is well with you lovely lady.

  7. Jillie

    Oh Shelly…My heart goes out to you. So many things to do, so many things to decide. What to keep, what to discard, what to take with you, what to leave behind. In the midst of it all, you chose “the better thing”: to spend precious time with Murielle. Today is the best day to concentrate on, and that is what you did. And I am so glad you did. More memories with your beautiful girl.
    You are in my prayers, my friend.

    • Shelly Miller

      So.many.thing. Yes. Thankful for your prayers and kind encouragement, always Jillie. We’ll be stopping over at the cottage before we hop over the pond though. Can’t wait.

  8. dukeslee

    So beautiful, my friend. xo Praying for you as you pack, prepare, plan and take the next step in the journey.

    • Shelly Miller

      Covet your prayers and friendship Jennifer. I was just reading my journal over the weekend and I noted how God used you with a scripture verse and some discernment during those early days of God leading us. I’m so thankful for you.

  9. Glenda Childers

    I have been here … both as the daughter being “left behind” and as the mom whose daughter was moving overseas. It is so beautifully hard. Praying for you, friend, as you go through these days.

    ps. Skype will be your new best friend.


    • Shelly Miller

      Thankful for an empathetic heart in you Glenda. I know you get this. Any wisdom you want to send my way regarding being the one left behind would be welcome. You have my email. And yes, I’m already Skyping like mad with my British friends. It’s so great. And now we have Voxer too!

  10. Beth Hess

    The heart collects things in such beautiful ways. You can trust they will always remain there, even when the “stuff” is gone. Blessings on your journey. Thank you for linking at Unforced Rhythms.

    • Shelly Miller

      Yes, the heart remembers. Good words Beth. Thank you for stopping by.

  11. Paula

    Beautiful, Shelly. Just getting caught up after returning from CO. Am thinking about you every day and catching up on your blog as you share all of your journey. Your expressions of faith astound me. I passed on your blog while in Colorado
    to a young pastor who is married to Jim’s second cousin.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m thinking of you as I sort and pack Paula, we seem to be following each other when it comes to our moving journey. You just went through this, I now know how arduous the task.

  12. Lisa notes...

    Oh, yes, when our older kids ask for our attention, I hope we’ll all be wise enough to give it. 🙂 I’m praying your packing and preparing is going well!

    • Shelly Miller

      I keep thinking that our days are numbered before we won’t experience all of us at home like this. It’s surreal and mostly I just don’t like thinking about it too much if I’m honest.

  13. Crystal

    Our journeys are very much the same, and this was such an encouragement to me as I too sift through the memories and moments of raising my daughter and gracefully releasing her to her own life. I tear up just thinking about it, but it is also a sweet time as I am reminded by your sharing. And yes, shopping is the answer to exactly one million things demanding our attention, especially when it is with our daughter! Prayer go with you in this huge transition, for these grace moments to swell and fill your heart with joy! Thank you so much for this! Dropping in from #TellHisStory

    • Shelly Miller

      Crystal, I’m so glad you dropped by from Jennifer’s link up. It’s always a comfort to hear from an empathetic heart. I know, when I think about releasing her, I get teary too. It’s just bittersweet isn’t it?

  14. Nancy Ruegg

    What an adventure you and H are undertaking! As you set aside the familiar, new opportunities for living, loving, and serving will undoubtedly abound. Even so, thank God for the gift of memories, through which we can still see, hear, and feel the sweet moments of the past. I pray you’re able to rest in the peace and security of God’s presence as you work toward the culmination of this transition.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thank you Nancy. I think Sabbath is saving me right now. I know, despite exhausting days of packing and thinking through a mound of details, rest is coming. I’m thankful.

  15. JViola79

    Beautiful post! So grateful our hearts & minds can store up our memories & emotions to be retrieved as we need to remember. May God continue to be with you as you pack & transition. Blessings!

    • Shelly Miller

      Yes, God is faithful that way, isn’t he? I’m realizing how much of life we can’t take with us. I want to spend most of my time where there is eternal significance. Time is precious. And so are the memories.

  16. Laura Boggess

    Oh, this one tugs at my heart, Shelly–especially that picture. We have a basket full of furry friends like that somewhere in our house. I’ve been keeping you in prayer, beautiful friend! So many big transitions coming up. Your faithfulness to follow His leading inspires me and I have been listening more closely because of your friendship. XOXO.

    • Shelly Miller

      I have more than a basket Laura, like a truck load. I’m grieved about how much money we’ve spent on things that now have no worth. It’s been a good lesson, all this sorting through our possessions. It sheds some good light where I’ve been blind and didn’t know it. We need a catch up about Haiti. I’m enjoying your posts!

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