When my phone chimed instead of whistling I knew I needed to check my messages.  It was probably just football news but when you know the sound is a teenager you double check.  After all, that’s why you assign them their own ringtone.  You never know when it could be an emergency.

When the message started with “Mom you won’t believe it…,” my heart sank.  I took a deep breath.  This probably wasn’t an update on his beleaguered Eagles football team.  I prepared myself for whatever shocker he had.

“My teacher handed back our essays for English Lit and I got a “B”.  Can you believe that?”

No.  I re-read the message because it was shocking.  Writing is not Luke’s strong suit by any means. An above average grade on a college level paper was like winning a Pulitzer Prize for him.  I texted back right away to say congratulations.

Now this young man of few words had more to say.

“I was so nervous Mom when she handed the papers back.  I was just hoping to get at least a “C” so I never thought I’d get a “B”. Never in a million years.  You know how hard it is for me.”

Now I was teary.  I wanted to call him but I suspected he was actually sneaking his texts to me from the back of class.  Instead I sent another message.

“Way to go bud—now you know you can do it.  You’ll have so much more confidence the next time around.”

Then the message that rung like a chime in my heart came back—“I couldn’t have done it without you Mom.  All those years you pushed me paid off.  Thank you.  I owe this one to you.”

Every painful memory of working with him through grueling writing assignments washed away in an instant.  My red editing pencil rolled over dead in its box.  The writer I’ve always believed was hiding inside a tennis player had emerged.   And if that win wasn’t big enough Luke topped it by thanking me.

His message felt like a hug.  Working with him on his writing was one of my most vexing challenges as a parent.  Pulling words from him was like pulling teeth.  It was painful but I held firm.  I insisted with him that even if his chosen career field didn’t require writing, life does.  Words are tools I argued and how you put them together matters.

He resented this so to have him turn around and thank me, felt like I’d finally earned a good grade with him.  Every parent wants to hear a thank you for something meaningful they’ve tried to do.  Accomplishments are fun but gratitude is priceless.

I circled the house savoring the moment.  When I finally sat down at my desk to work on my own writing and saw the penny I’d found that morning it occurred to me there might be areas in my life where I haven’t thanked God for pushing me.  Traits that don’t come naturally that He’s pushed me to develop.  For example, I’m terrible at being still and resting.  Patience is not my greatest virtue and when provoked it’s a huge challenge for me not to flame-up.

Yet rest, patience, and restraint are all essential skills that need to be learned.  If you weren’t born naturally blessed with them they have to be nurtured and certainly God has tried to do that in my life.  He’s allowed test after test of these skills not to fail me but to stretch me.  Like I pushed Luke He’s pushed me and what I hate to admit is that I’m the better for it.

Reflecting on this reframed many struggles I’ve had over the years.  To picture God sending me back to re-write over and over some of the various scripts in my life until I got it right felt far more loving.  To recognize that He must have seen enough potential in me to keep pushing felt even better.  But, to acknowledge how much I grumbled was humbling.

Luke’s thank you was such a gift to me—a true blessing.  One he will only be able to appreciate if he has little ones to shepherd someday.  But with the benefit of experience on my side it’s a gift I know I should give my Father in Heaven far more often.  Because to praise Him for pushing me gives Him the high marks He deserves—and acknowledges the above average life He believes I can create.  For that I should always give thanks!


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