I just finished walking our daughter to the corner bus stop–about twenty feet behind her. (It’d be way too mortifying if I walked with her!) At 6:45 am. To save  time, she weaves her way through our backyard and up our neighbor’s side steps. Which didn’t bother me about a month ago, when the sun was emerging in the sky. But now that it’s staying dark later and later, my Momma-bear’s starting to come out. There’s a wooded area in our yard, which is absolutely lovely during the day but rather ominous at night or in the wee morning hours. Then there’s all the phone calls I’ve received this year from her school alerting parents to stranger danger. My first response is always to protect–in an over-bearing, paranoid sort of way. But I know she’ll never bloom if I hover over her. As she grows older, I’m having to let go more and more. And to be honest, it terrifies me. Somehow the dangers she faced at two were so much more manageable. Stay out of the street, stay away from the stove, don’t put peas in your ears. Or your nose. And if she didn’t comply, all I had to do was scoop her up. Remove and distract, it was that easy.

I can’t do that any more. This year has been a big stretch. It’s her first year in public school. Ah, so many of you are cringing now, aren’t you? Thinking I’ve thrown her to the devil? Hardly. I’ve surrendered her to her Father’s hands.

Public school was her idea in the first place, and it was one she mentioned frequently. Again and again, she told Steve and I she felt God calling her into public school.

My husband said absolutely not! Every rational thought in our parental brains screamed no! We don’t live in a small, country farm town. We live in a city where cops camp out on street corners and stake out our local schools. (Seriously, there’s a cop on duty at her school.) We really didn’t know anyone going to this school. (We’ve only lived here for about a year and a half, and besides our handful of neighbors–most of whom go to private school–the majority of our associations are from church and her old school. Which is a problem. It’s hard to fulfill the great commission when you’re surrounded by Christians!)

But God ordained this detour, and He wouldn’t let up. Day after day, He worked on our hearts, assuring us of His care for our daughter.

I think I half listened. The other half of my brain kept screaming, “But what if…”

Could our G-rated little girl handle living in an R-rated environment, which in many ways is what junior high in the public school system is like. In order for her to survive, I’d need to have those “conversations” I’d continually put off. Did I really want her to learn the ways of the world at this age? How would such knowledge change her? Would her precious heart be corrupted?

I searched for a loop-hole, hoping our daughter’s desires were fleeting, or at least selfishly motivated so that I could combat them. (Although I knew that was unlikely. Our shy, resistant to change, daughter was telling us God was calling her to leave all of her friends in a very close-knit school to go to an 800 student public middle school. In my heart of hearts, I knew this desire didn’t come from her. But still I hoped. And prayed. A lot.)

The first day of school, I thought I was going to hurl. And cry, and lock her in a nice, safe little closet.

“Are you sure you want to do this? It’s not too late to change your mind.”

Tears rolled down her wide, frightened eyes as she slowly shook her head. “I don’t know why, but I feel like God wants me to do this.”

There’s not much you can say when your thirteen year old expresses a desire to follow her faith. So, reluctantly, I let her go.

(I know, you veteran parents find me pathetic. But I’m new at this whole mom thing. Cut me some slack!)

That day, I prayed, and prayed, and prayed. And paced, and paced, and paced. When she got home, I practically jumped on her, questions popping off my tongue so fast the poor girl could hardly catch a breath. When my rather neurotic inquisition was done, her face exploded ina smile and she shared her day with me.

God showed up. He walked into that school with her and surrounded her in His love. He placed a few kind Christians in her path to help her stand strong. And as time rolled on, God’s continued to surround her with strong friendships. She and one friend in particular have partnered together. A few weeks ago, they both shared Life Books with their friends, and they encourage one another to stay centered on Christ.

God’s also protected her from negative influences and given her the strength to resist the downward spiral of peer pressure.

But the greatest blessing? Through this experience, I’ve seen a part of her I never knew existed–the loving, evangelistic side. But I had to loosen the reigns before it could blossom.

Day after day, she honors that call she tearfully shared with us. It hasn’t been easy. To be honest, it’s required a bit more work on our part. Devotions are much more important, open discussions vital, one-on-on time more important than ever. But with each step all of us take towards her increased independence, God is there, guiding, strengthening, growing.

I’ve often wondered what I’d do if God called her into the mission field. Would I encourage her to follow her faith with reckless abandon or would I be another “rational” road block standing in her way?