The call came at about on Monday at 4:17 pm. It lasted less than a minute but echoed around my suddenly empty heart the rest of the night. Her words were simple, yet for me they were life changing … “Dad, they called and they want me to come for an orientation tomorrow morning. I need to move out and get down to Carmel tonight.” Her mother and I knew the day would come. I knew it wouldn’t be long before the clock would strike midnight and Cinderella would be gone, but it still caught me by surprise. It caught Ashlin by surprise as well. She received the job orientation invite while she was at the water park enjoying the day with her two littlest sisters. She hadn’t planned on leaving home on Monday, but we all know that life can turn on a dime.
So, Ashlin came home from the water park and packed her car. We went over driving directions to her Aunt Decina and Uncle Brian’s house where she will be staying while she works her summer job as a children’s camp counselor with the Carmel Clay Parks and Recreation. It’s a route we have driven hundreds of times but a drive she would be making by herself for the very first time.
The weight of the moment caught up to us all as tears began to roll down Ashlin’s cheeks. We moved from the kitchen to the driveway where I was to offer a prayer of blessing and safety. As we circled for prayer, I wondered if I had the words. Thankfully, Evalin’s ride home from soccer tryouts pulled up at that very moment. We broke formation to greet her and thank her ride. I was glad for another minute to think about my prayer and honestly, for another minute with my baby girl. No one knew how much I was treasuring the delay.
Evalin’s ride backed away and she joined us as we reformed our prayer circle. I offered my prayer of safety and blessing. Hugged and kissed her on the forehead and said goodbye with an I Love You attached. I pulled out my phone to take a picture of her, just as we have done for all of her “firsts” in the past. As I snapped the picture I realized that I won’t be there for most of her “firsts” anymore. The kinds of “firsts” she needs to experience from here on won’t and shouldn’t be with me if she is to grow and become all she is meant to be. I just hope she’ll take some photos and share the stories of those “firsts” with me eventually.
So, at 7:55 our oldest daughter Ashlin Grace, backed out of the driveway and left home for Carmel. From there she will move on to Ball State. I know she’ll come home again but I also know things will never be the same. For so many hears we’ve been counting up and now we are beginning to count down as each one will take their turn driving away into the future God is calling them to.
‘The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him”