Only my daughter Laura has the power to get me to eat a raw quail egg.
We did so at our favorite sushi restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she lives. I'd come from my home in Florida to speak at a conference and had only a few short hours to spend with her.
It's been five years since she moved away from home, and I think I've finally, finally, finally (maybe) stopped thinking of her as some feral child who needs me hovering over her, guiding her every move, breath, decision, and thought.
She's 25 now, capable, making more money than I am, going to school, and dating a guy who treats her well.
One thing I noticed on this trip: The older she gets, the better we seem to get along. Maybe it's because I no longer fret over whether or not she's paid her bills or cleaned her bathroom. Maybe it's because she sees my wrinkles and graying hair and takes pity on her dear old mom.
Maybe it's a little of both, or maybe it's something altogether different. I don't want to analyze it to death, but rather enjoy the too few times we're together.
Laura is my prodigal. Of my two daughters, she's caused me to shed the most tears. Although I love them both and couldn't choose one child over the other, my heart has always been the tenderest toward Laura.
I think crying and pleading with God over a wayward child either makes your heart hardened from self-protection or tenderized, like a piece of steak that's been whacked repeatedly with a mallet.
The hardest thing my husband and I ever had to do was tell Laura she had to leave our home. She was about 18 and out of control, and she moved in with people who turned out to be drug addicts and thieves. They stole her clothes, her camera, and her money. She slept in fear in a strange bed as I slept at home, in grief and worry, missing my child, afraid to let God do the work he had to do in both of our lives.
But God was faithful.
Near the entrance to the apartment complex where she lived, a giant billboard shouted the message: JESUS IS REAL. Months later, Laura told me that every day when she saw that sign she'd think, I don't know how she does it, but I know my mom's behind that somehow.I wasn't, but God was.
Another time, while visiting a friend out of state she went to a rock concert to hear a group whose song lyrics she knew were beyond blasphemous.
When I picked her up from the airport, she told me about the concert and that her eyes were opened to evil, that it's both compelling and repulsive. She felt pulled, she said.
Then she told me about a guy who stood near her the whole time, not saying anything, wearing a bright yellow T-shirt with JESUS written across the front.
"Who goes to a concert wearing a bright yellow Jesus shirt?" she asked.
I didn't tell her what I knew to be true, that God had sent someone to remind my daughter that Jesus is real, that she's his and he won't let her go.
He's done that over and over and over.
Sometimes she tells me of these "God things" and sometimes I find out other ways. Mostly, I imagine, I don't know half of it. But I know enough to know that I truly can trust him with her, which sounds simple, but it's not easy.
That night as Laura and I ate sushi, we chit-chatted about nothing special. While I might have liked to dispense my mom-nags (as my unsolicited advice is called) between bites, it wasn't the time or place.
Besides, for the first time since she's been gone, I realized I didn't have to. She's not the kid who left home five years ago, and even if she doesn't recognize or welcome it at this point, Jesus is real in her life and he's way more capable than I am to take care of her—and I can trust him. Plane ticket to Charlotte: $398. Sushi with Laura: $47.
Being reminded of God's faithfulness and eating a raw quail egg: priceless.
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