What Matters Most

Megan Smillie // Tales From the Trenches


March 1  

“Is it supposed to be this hard?”

I blink back tears. 

This question came at the end of an afternoon I had spent with this college kid of mine. The kid who was probably both the hardest AND easiest of our children to raise. A fierce, loudly determined toddler gave way to a mature and thoughtful pre-teen who, in turn, developed into a hard-as-steel, yet disciplined, teenager who constantly pushed our rules and limits. This gal of ours has been a whirlwind of—(gestures wildly) *everything*. 

I received her text towards the end of a particularly hectic day of teaching. Knowing I had errands to run after school, my kiddo asked to accompany me. She needed to get off campus. She needed some Mama-time. I was happy to oblige. 

But this wasn’t just some home-sickness remedy. Our home is a blessed ten minutes away from the college. No, this was one of those moments where you look deep at your child and marvel at their strength while aching for their heart. 

My child had spent the previous night propped up by the side of the bed where a dear friend of hers was sleeping fitfully. My child had been told by her friend of a plan they had to end their life. So, she kept a silent vigil, helping the friend just make it to the morning. And when this friend had been dropped safely off at class, this bundle of strength I am proud to call my daughter, went straight to a trusted professor, who took her to the dean and coaches and the Title IX office, to repeat her story over and over again. 

I arrived on campus right after the friend had been taken to a local hospital. My child’s heart was broken right in two because, even though her conviction of doing the right thing was strong, it was still heart-wrenching to watch her dear friend be escorted off campus. 

We sat in the parking lot of a local grocery store as the roommate of this kid called my daughter, wanting to know details. Turning away, I hid my tears as my college kid explained everything. I heard the brokenness in the roommate’s voice and marveled at how quickly they laid out a plan, both agreeing to stay strong for each other and for their sick friend. 

The question, “Is it supposed to be this hard?” came at the end of our time together. I was turning onto campus when she posed it. For the second time that day, I pulled my hair out from behind my ear to hide my face and steadied my voice so as not to betray the tears forming in my eyes and the back of my throat. 

“Well . . . sometimes life is hard, honey.”

“Yeah, but at nineteen?!” came the incredulous reply. 

“No,” I quickly said, “no, not this young. Not this early in your college career.” 

I reached out and squeezed her hand as I pulled up to the dorm. She got out and grabbed her things. I told her I loved her and was so proud of her. Her, in her crop top and piercing and glorious curly hair. Her determined face and beautiful heart, all showing at once. She’s not perfect by any stretch. God is still working in her, but at least she is allowing him to—a willing instrument in his eternally capable hands. And this is what matters most.

I sat watching her go, silently thanking God for her life, for her love, and for her strength that at times had almost undone me when she was in high school. Her fierceness and convictions have defined her. And most likely saved the life of a dear friend in the process. Thank God for that. Thank God for her. 


Proclaim the Genius & Share!
  • Absolutely wonderful! As someone with more than 30 years of campus ministry experience, I know that heartbreak and I think Mom is GREAT!

    • All I know is that this Mom has had a steep learning curve, and I’m *still* not there yet. Praise God for his love and the mighty help of the Holy Spirit! 💞

  • Thank you for sharing this.
    Having adult kids myself and some in college too sometimes as mamas we wonder if we are doing the right thing with them? But they often surprise us!
    I’m a mother of 11 kids, I still have a full house of all ages, at 45 now I entrust every moment to our beloved Jesus so I can continue seeing the wonders He is doing in my children’s life.
    God bless you and thank you so much for sharing this! May God bless your girl for having so much courage and strength!

    • Thank you, Karla! Most of the time, the *only* thing we can do is pray. Luckily, it’s also the most effective! God bless you and your beautiful family!

  • A powerful story, Meg. As parents, you have instilled sensitivity, loyalty, compassion, strength, love, and fierceness in your daughter – and because of these traits, she cared for her friend with an other-centured care that was life-saving.

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