george hancockstefanThis week, our last (fourth) daughter will leave us for college.  Three have already graduated from college and the last one is quasi-ready to leave.  I am saying quasi, because I am neither sure that she is ready to leave yet, nor do I think that we as her parents are ready.

In October 1983, my wife Ginny and I started our married life in Carol Stream, Illinois.  We moved into a small apartment and we joined a church that had lots of newly married couples.  Because I was the only working full-time, my wife prepared lunches for me every day which became the envy of the office.  Because she had a lot of time on her hands, she catalogued every book that I had in my library, which by this time was approaching 2,000 books. Having more time on her hands, she decided to return to school and get another degree. She received an Associate’s Degree in Medical Assisting and began work in a nearby clinic.  Because this was B.K. (Before Kids) we took a 4 week cross country trip, because we were young, free, and a tad crazy (which always helps).

By our fourth year of married life, we bought our first house and the first of our four kids arrived.  We joke in our family that our children’s individuality was immediately declared because each one of them was born in a different hospital.  Each daughter is unique, each one of them is a great blessing, and each one of them enriches our lives beyond our imagination.  Our lives have been stretched as we became a family of six. We decided to spend lots of time with them and to create a home where they and their friends always felt welcomed.  Before our second daughter was born, we decided to move from Illinois, so that we could be close to one set of grandparents (since the other set of grandparents was in California).  Our house was next door to the church, so I did not have to travel a lot in order to get to my work. Later, when I started to teach at the seminary level, I would often take them with me so that they would see what I do.  Ginny chose to homeschool which provided us the opportunity to grow even closer as a family.  Each daughter made a faith commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and was baptized here at Central Baptist Church

As our daughters grew up before our eyes, we had so many firsts – joys, tears, aches, and accomplishments.   Traveling with my youngest last week, she reminded me of all the Harry Potter movie premieres that the two of us saw at midnight and all the children’s movies that I took them to (and of the ones where I have fallen asleep!).

While I am a firm believer that when our children finish college they can come home, and one has taken us up on this invitation, the last child going to college seems to declare a time of great transition.  Our children have grown and we hope that we have given them the wings to fly around the world, but a place that they will always call home, where they can always return.