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Sanctuary in Departure

I was doing so well. Every day this month I had told myself, “Don’t think about Chelsey leaving. She is here today. Just enjoy today. Live in the moment.”

We had a wonderful two weeks together over the holidays with our three girls and Chelsey’s fiancé, Jamie. Stories were retold; memories were relived; hysterical laughter roared over old family home videos. All of this was amidst preparing for the future . . . all six of us and a small U-Haul driving to TN; unpacking Chelsey’s belongings in a huge rambling estate where Chelsey will live with a girlfriend until she is married in June; Christmas shopping in 60 degree weather in Knoxville, TN; listening to our youngest daughter, Taylor, playing the grand piano at New Market, TN’s local B & B; then driving all the way back to IL together for Christmas. Lots of silliness and laughter.

Old memories remembered; new memories made.

And, besides, I always knew the day would come that Chelsey would leave. Always . . . from the moment she was born, all pink and pretty and thumb-sucking. I dreaded the day.


“Do not dread what they dread or fear what the fear,” God’s Word reminds. “I will be your fear and I will be your dread, and then I will be your sanctuary.” (Isaiah 8:12-13)

But today was D day . . . my daughter was moving to TN. Christmas was over.

“Clean,” I thought as I glanced into Chelsey’s bedroom. I always wanted her room clean, and it almost never was. “It’s clean now,” I mused, and I wished it was still in shambles.

“I will be your sanctuary,” God reminds me.

Chelsey ran to the bank to close her account, and I dusted and vacuumed her room. It wasn’t too empty and lonely, really. All of her pictures were still on her walls. Her china dolls still observed from the ceiling shelf. As I vacuumed the vacant closet floor something in the corner caught my eye. I stooped down to pick it up so it wouldn’t get caught in the vacuum. It was a tiny hair clip and a ponytail holder.

Then grief ambushed . . . and I wept . . . right there on the floor of the closet.

How many times had I brushed Chelsey’s hair and put it in a ponytail ( or pigtails, or braids) with ponytail holders just like this? Tiny hairclips like the one I held in my hand had held “updos” for homecomings and proms. The floodgates were open now.

_ “I will be your sanctuary."

I carried boxes to the basement for storage. Memories haunted there among the stored items of the years. Scenes replayed in my head. Chelsey at her “kitchen” when she was two-years-old . . . cooking dinner for her doll family. American Girl dolls strewn all over the floor when she was eight. Tears flowed.

“I will be your sanctuary.”

As we said our last good-byes at the door, Chelsey said, “My Mama.” A little game we played when she was only two-years-old.

“My Chelsey,” I replied with a hug.

“My Mama,” She whispered into my ear as her arms went around my neck. She is now four inches taller than I am.

“My Chelsey,” I wiped away my tears . . . and hers.

“I am so very proud of you, Tessie. (”Only my mom can call me ;Tessie,’” Chelsey had declared as a teen-ager.)So very proud. You have been a blessing your entire life. God gave me the gift of living with you for 22 years. They were glorious years.”

I continued, “You are our arrow,” I whisper. ‘Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the one whose quiver is full of them.’ (Psalm 127). We are shooting you out, little arrow,” I tell her. “Be light in TN.”

I shut the door behind her (on the -3 degree wind) and watched out the window until the little red car drove out of sight on the way to TN (where the current temp is 38). I pondered the verses that Chelsey had painted on her bedroom walls over the years:

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”


“The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord. He is their stronghold in times of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saved them, because they refuge in him.”

“Lord of the heavens, king of all days, without you my world slips away. Redeemed by your mercy. Consumed by your grace. Now I live for you.”

_ “The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I talk to God. “Yes, you go with her wherever she goes. And you will be our sanctuary . . . forever.”

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