No Chinese take-out meal is complete without the rustle of cellophane and distinctive snap of those almost tasteless, fold-over fortune cookies. I've often wondered if some out-of-work English major found himself struggling to keep a straight face as he got paid to write those cryptic phrases. Our family rarely waits until the end of the meal to crack our cookies open and giggle at those white slips of paper tucked inside.
In fact, I have never known anyone to take fortunes seriously. Yet, one day this past Spring, my level-headed, always grounded husband texted me a picture of two such fortunes from his lunch along with the words, "I think God's trying to tell me something."
Surely God hadn't resorted to speaking through a silly slip of paper. Even as I said these words, though, I thought of Balaam's donkey and doubted my own assurance of what God would and would not do.
A few months later, my friend mentioned in passing that a young college student from our church was looking around to see if she could rent an apartment for the summer. As soon as the words left her mouth, my mind flashed bright an image of our spare bedroom with its adjoining bathroom and then an image of those two fortune cookies I had already forgotten.
Words cannot accurately describe the almost visual connect the dots God accomplished behind my eyes. I have never experienced anything quite like it before and may never again, but it was completely clear in that instant that, yes, my husband had been right (even if he had sounded crazy). We were supposed to open our home, our lives, our hearts to someone who needed us...although in a way we had not even once before considered.
God had done what He always does--answered one of my prayers in a most unexpected way.
That was almost four months ago. Throughout May, June, July, and August, this teenage girl became a part of our family. She saw us at our Sunday best and at our Monday worst. She saw our struggles, our successes, and our failures.
We gave fully of ourselves. And, as usually happens in God's economy, the more we gave, the more we received. The more we sought to bless her, the more we were blessed in return.
Husband and I have been counting down the last few weeks, dreading the departure of her light, her lilting laughter, her joyous, youthful spontaneity that she brought with her.
As the mother of only young children, I have never quite grasped how anyone could suffer from empty nest syndrome. Now? I get it. By the time they turn eighteen, they aren't little people with little minds you must guide (sometimes unwillingly) at every turn. A college-aged child has transformed into one who can be your best friend, into a young adult who can hold interesting conversations, who can both listen and share with you...even if they do think you're crazy old at only thirty six.
This morning, the smell of scrambled eggs, oatmeal, or cinnamon rolls didn't perfume the air when I awoke. There were no extra dishes in my sink or someone else's clothes spinning inside my washer.
Down the hall, the throw pillows were lined up neatly across the perfectly-made day bed, the door to the sun room flung wide open to reveal an emptiness I never knew was there before she filled it.
Day's end is when I miss her presence the most. It's then that I text her to ask about her first day back at college.
Husband says she'll be back. I smile tight and lean into his chest, both of us breathing the heavy void left in her leaving, both of us surprised at this protective love we never expected to blossom within our hearts in so short a time as one summer.