Read Leaving Online

Authors: Karen Kingsbury

Leaving

N
EW
Y
ORK
T
IMES
B
ESTSELLING
A
UTHOR

K
AREN

K
INGSBURY

Leaving

B
AILEY
F
LANIGAN
S
ERIES

BOOK ONE

D
EDICATION
To Donald, my Prince Charming …

I love that for now we can still see spring as the end of a school year. Summer lies ahead of us, and everything wonderful about the changing seasons is upon us. You and the boys are ready for the off-season, ready to work hard at football camp and dream about the fall ahead. The kids are itching for summer vacation, but here’s the thing: We only have so many school years left, only so many years when summer vacation actually applies to our family. And how can that be, when just yesterday we were bringing Kelsey home? I remember the nurse asking if we knew how to buckle her seat belt into the backseat, and you and I looked at each other. It was sort of a “Yikes! Here we go!” look, because where was the manual? The Bible … that was the only manual then, and it’s the only one now. God walked us through the baby stage and the walking stage, He walked us through the off-to-school stage and now, somehow, He’ll walk us through the years of letting go. The quiet days lie ahead, but for now, my love, hold my hand and let’s run the journey together. You and our boys, making memories together. Isn’t this what we always dreamed of? I love sitting back this time and letting you and God figure it out. Hard to believe that, as you read this, our twenty-third anniversary is almost upon us. I look at you and still see the blond, blue-eyed guy who would ride his bike to my house and read the Bible with me before a movie date. You stuck with me back then and you stand by me now—when I need you more than ever. I love you, my husband, my best friend, my Prince Charming. Stay with me, by my side, and let’s watch our children take wing. Always
and always … the ride is breathtakingly beautiful. I pray it lasts far into our twilight years. Until then I’ll enjoy not always knowing where I end and you begin. I love you always and forever.

To Kelsey, my precious daughter …

How is it possible that you are twenty-one, my precious little girl? I still see you dancing in circles around your daddy, and carefully applying lipstick from a purse you got for Christmas when you were four. I remember listening to songs about letting kids grow up and watching them leave home and thinking, “Dear God, I’ll never make it …” But there was some comfort back then, because your childhood spread before us like one long endless summer of laughter and loving and days that seemed like they’d last forever. But this fall every line of every leaving song will come rushing back as we take you to college in Southern California. Sometimes when I think about the season ahead I struggle to draw a full breath. These times will redefine for me what missing someone really means. But you, sweet girl, were created to perform for Jesus. All through your childhood you would find a stage and hold your chin high, and you’d sing to whoever was listening. Well, sweetheart, more people are listening now. I’m so proud of you and all you’ve become … all you stand for. Every prayer we prayed for you, God has answered. You have stood firm, holding tight to God’s truth and His promises, and I know the answers will become more clear with each passing year. Remember that God walks every step of this life with us, and for those who love Him, the best is always yet to be. This fall we will watch you take wing, having worked hard to reach this point in your education. We believe in you, sweetheart, and we will be cheering for you every day. No matter where this year takes you, you’ll never really leave our family. You’ll always be our little girl, Kelsey. And you’ll always be part of this family. Forever and ever. I’m so proud of the
strength you’ve found. You are beautiful inside and out, and I am more convinced than ever that God has great, wonderful plans for you. Take your talents and go find your platform for Him! In the meantime you’ll be in my heart every moment. And we’ll leave the porch light on. I love you, sweetheart.

To Tyler, my lasting song …

My heart skips a beat when I think about you being a senior this year. I have thought about this time even as far back as you’ve been a part of our lives, and always it seemed so far away. Even last year, I couldn’t really imagine you as a senior. But here we are, right? Graduation is just ten weeks away. This is where the Ferris wheel slows down; this is where you get off and make your way down the path, following God to the next season in your life. But here’s the amazing part: We will always have a front-row seat! You have a single on the radio now. “Just Beyond the Clouds” is a favorite for many people, and there will be more to come. God is working, Ty, and the dreams you’ve had for the past couple years are coming true. I know God has a future in music for you, because I’ve seen your passion in singing and writing for Him. I love how the music is in you, Ty, and how you seem complete when you are caught up in the process of creating. I sometimes think about your Papa, and how proud he would be to watch the young man you’ve become. I still see him there in his favorite chair, the one by the fireplace, closest to the piano. He couldn’t listen to you play and sing without getting tears in his eyes, and I can’t either. So even though I’m sad your senior year is almost over, I’m excited too. Because this is the time of your life you’ve been waiting for. The world is your stage, Ty! Go stop the world for Jesus, and let your very bright light touch the lives of everyone who needs it. Thank you for the hours of joy you bring our family, and as you head into a year of lasts, I promise to stop and
listen a little longer when I hear you singing. Your dad and I are proud of you, Ty. We’re proud of your talent and your compassion for people and your place in our family. However your dreams unfold, we’ll be in the front row to watch them happen. Hold on to Jesus, son. I love you.

To Sean, my happy sunshine …

Some years don’t turn out like we planned, and this year that was all too true for you, sweet Sean. A blown out knee the third game of the football season, which led to surgery and a time of healing and rehab. You never let me see you down, never complained. But my heart broke at the pain you went through … and how you had to miss out on basketball season because your injury was that bad. But here’s what God has taught me through this. Sometimes His greatest gift happens in the healing — when we are quiet enough to hear Him, quiet enough to listen to His leading. I have watched you spend hours shooting free throws, hours dribbling the basketball, and playing the drums so that when the school gathers for worship every Monday, you’re keeping the beat. Who would have thought so much good could’ve come from something so painful? But then, isn’t that the lesson of the cross? Jesus loves you, Sean. Even more than we do. He promises that with Him, all things work to the good. And somewhere down the road I believe you’ll look back at this time and see it as a turning point. A time when God was very close to you, indeed. You still need to remind yourself of the truth. You can do everything through Christ who gives you strength. And you can, Sean. You proved that this year by suffering adversity and, in His strength, rising to the challenge. You remain a bright sunbeam, bringing warmth to everyone around you. And now you are an example of an all-star faith as well. I’m proud of you, Sean. I love you so much. I pray God will use your dependence on Him to always
make a difference in the lives around you. You’re a precious gift, son. Keep smiling and keep seeking God’s best for your life.

To Josh, my tenderhearted perfectionist …

You continue to amaze the opposition whatever sport you play, and for that I will always be proud of you, Josh. You train and play and lead with your whole heart. I don’t know which records will fall or how many people will one day know of your feats on the field, but I do know this: It’s so much more important that you have grown just as much in your faith. When God gives us talents, we must always remember where they come from. Who they come from. You have done this, dear son, and now you are ready to take on the world. Well, maybe not quite yet. But you’re ready to take on the off-season, and give God the glory along the way. I remember when we first got word that your birthmother in Haiti had survived the terrible earthquake, after all. You only smiled and nodded. “I know,” you said. “You do?” I was confused. None of us had known how she had fared for months after the quake. “I know she’s okay—either way. In heaven or here. Because I prayed for her.” Yes, Josh, you may laugh a lot and tease a lot, but we know your heart, and we are so proud of what we see. We have no doubt that someday we’ll see your name in headlines and that — if God allows it — you’ll play sports for a college team. You’re that good, and everyone around you says so. Now flashback to that single moment in a broken-down Haitian orphanage. There I was meeting Sean and EJ for the first time when you walked up. You reached up with your small fingers, brushed back my bangs, and said, “Hi, Mommy. I love you.” It might’ve taken six months of paperwork, but I knew as I heard those words that you belonged with us. The picture becomes clearer all the time. Keep being a leader on the field and off. One day people will say, “Hmmm. Karen Kingsbury? Isn’t she Josh’s mom?” I can’t wait.
You have an unlimited future, son, and I’ll forever be cheering on the sidelines. Keep God first in your life. I love you always.

To EJ, my chosen one …

EJ, my jokester, you are finishing your first year in high school! I can’t believe how fast time has flown for you and for us. The journey started a decade ago when we saw one little face on an internet photolisting of kids up for adoption. That face was yours, but the blessing of the journey has been ours. God has brought you so far, EJ, and now you stand on the brink of becoming everything He has planned for you to become. At our Christian school you have found friends, and a deeper faith and a fire for pursuing the talents God has given you. All the things we have prayed for you! As you start high school, you are one of our top students, and we couldn’t be more proud of you, EJ. But even beyond your grades and your natural way of leading your peers in the right path, we are blessed to have you in our family for so many reasons. You are wonderful with our pets — always the first to feed them and pet them and look out for them — and you are a willing worker when it comes to chores. Besides all that you make us laugh — oftentimes right out loud. I’ve always believed that getting through life’s little difficulties and challenges requires a lot of laughter, and I thank you for bringing that to our home. You’re a wonderful boy, son. A child with such potential. I’m amazed because you’re so talented in so many ways, but all of them pale in comparison to your desire to truly live for the Lord. I’m praying you’ll have a strong passion to use your gifts for God as you enter high school in the fall. Because, EJ, God has great plans for you, and we want to be the first to congratulate you as you work to discover those. Thanks for your giving heart, EJ. I love you so.

To Austin, my miracle boy …

Seventh grade, and already you look like a tenth grader! I remember this past year when you would walk up to me on your tiptoes and look me in the eyes. “It happened, Mom! I’m taller than you!” You’d celebrate a little only to realize that I was in bare feet and you were in tennis shoes. “Not quite,” I’d tell you. “You’re still shorter than me.” But now that is no longer true. You don’t walk up on your tiptoes anymore because you don’t have to. God has graced you with tremendous size and strength, Austin. I look at you and I see a young Timmy Tebow, a kid with an ocean of determination and leadership ability, a young man who is the first to thank his coach, the first to shake the hand of the ref, and the last one to leave the classroom because you’re so busy cleaning up and expressing your gratitude to your teacher. Sure you still struggle in a few areas, and sometimes your competitive drive can get you in trouble with your brothers. But truly, Austin, there isn’t a thing you can’t do as long as you keep God first. I believe you have the chance to go all the way with your dream of playing sports, and I’m grateful to have a front row seat. Play hard, don’t ever give up, and always remember where you came from. I know I do. I remember that hospital room when you were three weeks old and the surgeon was giving us a few minutes to say goodbye. Not every infant who goes in for emergency heart surgery comes back out again. But even then, through our tears, we were certain we’d see you somewhere — here or there. The fact that God has blessed us with the here and now is proof that He has amazing plans for you. How great that you are seizing them with everything inside you, with every breath. Keep on, precious son. We are here for you, praying for you, cheering for you. No one believes in you more than we do. I’ve said it before, and it’s true. Heaven has windows, and I’m convinced Papa’s still cheering for you, son. Especially this season. As you soar toward your teenage years,
please don’t forget that or him. You’re my youngest, my last, Austin. I’m holding on to every moment, for sure. Thanks for giving me so many wonderful reasons to treasure today. I thank God for you, for the miracle of your life. I love you, Austin.

And to God Almighty, the Author of Life, who has — for now — blessed me with these.

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