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Saturday, April 14, 2012

world tilting

This week my world shifted.

I knew it might be coming, all year. Actually this shift threatened from the time I realized I was pregnant with Caleb almost 18 years ago. That's a longer story, but the gist is that after a lot of loss and a dangerous and rough time with Luke's gestation and delivery, the decision to remain in Africa for Caleb's was one of the most faith-stretching we've ever made. We put him on the altar where Abraham put his son not knowing the end of the story, and there he remained, the knife always stayed, the ram in the thicket an 11th hour reprieve. Through serious illness, war, evacuations, surgeries, rejections, and sorrows as well as a lot of joy and fun. When he decided to apply to the US Air Force Academy last August, we began another process of letting go, or stretching faith. He worked hard on his essays, his forms, his fitness, ticking off the boxes and sending in the letters. This year was the most competitive ever for Academy admissions as the budget cuts in congress meant a significantly reduced class size. And we come from one of the most competitive states, Virginia. So we all held this dream of flying lightly, aware that God would have to open some heavy doors. Meanwhile he also applied to some other excellent traditional schools. And we waited.

Just before the end of the school term in late March, the notices started coming in. Caleb was indeed offered an appointment to the USAFA. As well as admission to our alma mater, UVA, and Luke's current school, Yale, and his favorite after visits, Duke, and one that recruited him here, Lafayette. All good engineering programs, and good financial aid. God was so good to provide choice, a big theme of how He's worked since the Garden, though this time between good and good. And God was good to make all this happen when we were in the far reaches of rural Sudan and Caleb was visiting a former classmate in Germany (though we didn't think that was such a good idea at the time). We wrote some emails and prayed, and Caleb had the space he needed to soberly weigh his options. We're thankful for input from two former missionary-kids now Academy-grad pilots who shared their experience and perspective with him on skype, positive and negative.

On Easter we were able to call, and he told us he had decided to go to the Air Force Academy. When we picked him up at the airport Wednesday evening we could tell that the weight had been lifted, that he had struggled through his options and made peace with his commitment. For a barely-17 year old, deciding to embark upon a road to be a pilot is a commitment nearly as long as his life to date. But Caleb has the inner toughness, the mental intelligence, the physical stamina, and the spiritual depth to do it. He quietly pursues a calling to be about something bigger and more important than himself. We stand and watch and accept that God has put this desire to fly and this courage to excel in his heart. I believe in what he's chosen, but I also mourn the danger and the separation ahead.

And so in the last 48 hours we've watched our horizon shift as well. Caleb has to leave RVA a month before the normal graduation, to enter Basic Cadet Training (boot camp). Luke has a scholarship to study Swahili in Kenya this summer, Jack and Julia will still be in school, and so I find myself torn in too many directions. Scott and I had considered long ago that if he had to leave early, I would go with him this time, and Scott would stay and work here. My family and mission and colleagues have generously allowed me a real sabbatical, and kind friends in Colorado are offering a place to stay. So in June, within a one-week time period, I will leave Africa for a while, turn 50, say goodbye to Caleb, and enter a 40-day period of prayer and writing and solitude. Caleb will persevere through a harrowing process of drills and hardship, Jack and Julia will finish the school year, Scott will work hard for both of us, Luke will study Swahili, and by late August most of us will get together briefly to visit family. We've been advised that the most important weekend of the first year for the new cadets is Parents' Weekend over Labor Day, so Scott will accompany me back to Colorado then, while our friend and team-mate helps the kids here in Kenya start school.

Sounds complicated? It is. Over the last two days working with our mission travel agent we have booked 26 different flights to shuttle various Myhres between continents. The dread I have felt creeping up all year of this impending goodbye, of the larger-than-usual loss of a son choosing the military, has been tempered by the sheer exhaustion of coordinating details. And by the assurance that this is just one more chapter in a long story God has been writing for Caleb and for us since before he was born. What feels like a jarring tilt of the ground to us was not a surprise to God, who calls Himself our rock.

Tonight I'm grateful for the gift of 17 years with Caleb. For the teachers and coaches and pilots and friends who have inspired him. For the miraculous provision of opportunity. For our extended family and supporters and mission and friends who shore us up. For willing colleagues here at Kijabe who will fill in the gap. And for the Rock in a tilting world.


Eileen Lass said...

Sending so much love to all of you, and tearing up with a Mom's heart. My eldest son, Joseph, graduates in three weeks from JMU and has just accepted what he calls a "grown-up job" as the Scene Shop Supervisor at the University of Missouri Theatre. This is something he's been preparing for (and for which God has been preparing him) for eight years. Pride, trust, gladness, sadness, all rolled into one. So thankful for our Rock!
My daily prayers for you continue!

Andy Steere said...

Welcome to a fraternity of honor and character, Caleb! Sunds like there really wasn't a bad option amongst all of choices he had. And if you are concerned with having a son in the military, he's chosen the one service which should alleviate it...very family friendly, and a lower op-tempo (deployments) than the other services. There is a standing (friendly) joke in the Navy that the first thing they build on a new AF base is the golf course. Plus he's a long way from being selected for a pilot slot...and once he gets one, if it's anything like the Navy and Marine Corps, only a small percentage of successful pilot selectees get to fly fighters. Good news for concerned parents, perhaps.

Christy said...

Congrats to Caleb! I chose the Naval Academy back in 1999 and probably gave my parents more anxiety than I realize by having their daughter choose Marine Corps with a nation at war when I graduated in 2003. And honestly, they were both some of the best decisions I could have ever made. Now a stay-at-home mom of (almost) two boys, I wouldn't trade those years for anything... He'll get some amazing opportunities his peers will never experience.