You’re not going to believe where I’ve been these last few weeks!
Actually, I can’t believe where I’ve been.
Some major changes have taken place in the Olson household this month.
Changes that were known, planned for, and anticipated.
Changes rocked my world in profound ways…and, yet, my joy knows no bounds.
So pull up a chair, grab a beverage, and settle in as I tell you a story. And through this story is longer than usual, with many more pictures, I think you’ll enjoy it. Especially if you’ve been reading about my latest wilderness season, as this this story gives you another perspective of my world during that time.
Late July 2019
Camron’s girlfriend Ana came to live with us when she was not in school at Iowa State. This was a tumultuous time in her life and though her reasons for coming here would break your heart, knowing what Jesus did in and through her over these last 3 years would make you sing for joy! What the Enemy meant for evil, Jesus meant for good.
As a first-generation Believer, Ana is a warrior for Christ who fights on her knees and finds her strength in the Scriptures. In spite of the cost of following Jesus, she’s faithful to her Lord and chases after Him more than anything or anyone else—including my son. Her enthusiasm, vigor, and joy are as endless as her capacity to love.
So, when Ana first came, I considered her one of my “adoptees:” Young men and women whom I’ve had the privilege to mentor, disciple, and love as my own over the last 20+ years.
But she quickly became so much more.
She became more than someone I mentored and discipled, more than an integral part of our family, and even more than my spiritual daughter. Ana became one of my dearest friends. Having her in my home provided God the opportunity to not only connect our hearts through Him, but allowed us to grow together in our faith.
As I discipled her, I challenged her in ways no one else has. In return, she offered prayer support, listened as I wrestled verbally with things God revealed in Scripture, and was a sounding board for my thoughts and ideas regarding ministry. And as I walked with her through her pain, uncertainty, and confusion, she loved and encouraged me while God led me through the wilderness.
So, imagine my overwhelming joy when, during Christmas break 2019, she and Camron revealed they wanted to get married in the Summer of 2022!
Back then, it seemed so far away, but then again, it didn’t.
Then the world came to a halt. A virus no one could see shattered our normal and changed our lives forever. Workers moved from their corporate buildings to their homes. Student went from the classroom to the screen. And weddings were either virtual, being canceled, or were postponed.
Naturally, I thought of Camron and Ana’s plans for a June 2022 wedding.
Like you, I watched many 2020 weddings moving to 2021. And I could foresee this pushing several 2021 weddings into 2022. I mean let’s face it, there are only so many venues, caterers, florists, bakeries, DJs, etc. to fill the need—even when you add Thursday and Monday options into the mix.
So, in early-May, I strongly suggested they book all the major components of their wedding—even though they weren’t “officially” engaged. All the other details could be figured out later, but things like the venue and the other vendors needed to be reserved now if their dream wedding was going to become a reality.
At first, they thought I was crazy. But after a bit they understood my logic and got after it. And to their delight they not only got what they wanted—sometimes days ahead of another couple—but they were able to secure those contracts at the much lower 2020 prices!
Fast forward to May 2021.
Camron is looking at rings.
Watching my first-born feel all the feels that go into picking out the perfect ring for his beloved and planning the proposal caused ALL KINDS of feels to erupt inside this mama’s heart.
As we talked and his excitement grew, I couldn’t help but smile—and remember.
I remembered my pregnancy with him.
I remembered the wonder of watching my abdomen expand and round as the honor of being entrusted to care for this new life settled on me.
I remembered the thrill of feeling his little flutters and sensing his response to my touch and voice long before anyone else could feel him wiggle.
I remembered how, weeks before his birth, his tiny hands and feet would push against my skin as he stretched out. And though it took my breath away, literally, I loved tracing their shape as I counted every finger and toe.
I remembered rubbing his back through my skin and feeling him press into my hands and relax.
I remembered the day he was born and his life as he grew—the transition from child to teen and from teen to man. His first steps. First words. First day of school. His first sleepover. First time behind the wheel. First date.
I remembered the ups and downs. The challenges and joys. The long, late night talks.
I remembered when he fell in love with Jesus and surrendered his life to Him.
I remembered the questions about what he was learning from the Scriptures. And praying together.
I remembered the day Thad and I took him to Iowa State, knowing he would never be my baby again—that he would never only be mine again. Knowing it was time to share and let go.
I remembered the day he and his brothers were baptized together.
I remembered when I sensed he’d met someone special and asked him about it.
I remembered the resulting conversation and praying with him as to whether or not to begin the relationship.
I remembered the first time I saw him look at Ana…and knew she had him.
I remembered watching her watch him and knew he had her.
I remembered the pang in my heart as I recognized a major transition was taking place.
I remembered the melancholy over something ending, while at the same time being overwhelming joyful over something beginning.
And now here he is. A man. No long that precious little bundle sleeping on my chest. Or the little boy holding my hand “to help my Mama cross the street.” He’s all grown up. Bearded, tall, strong, competent, and confident. His love and passion for Jesus is the only thing stronger than his love and passion for his girl. And the pride I felt in that moment, for who my baby had become, took my breath away. There’s no way I could have picked a better woman to be Camron’s wife—or my daughter! And I couldn’t wait for the day it would happen.
And yet I could.
Though I wanted him to be hers and her to be his, it was hard to share my son…to let go. Conflict raged inside. Part of me was pleading “SLOW DOWN, IT’S ALL TOO FAST!*” while a bigger part was screaming “Go get it, son! Take a hold of all the blessings God has for you. Soar! Fly! Thrill in the journey!”
At the same time this was happening, my other three boys were/are going up. Way. Too. Fast.
Tyler was trying on his cap and gown for his high school graduation just days away. Seeing him in his high school’s red brought another mix of emotions—fear being the most prominent.
Despite countless sleepless nights interceding before God, he was still not walking with Him. Don’t get me wrong, Tyler believed in Jesus, but he refused to surrender to Him. Instead, he was his own god. He was arrogant. Prideful. Selfish. Entitled. And self-serving. In his own words—a prick. And after doing an extensive study on what it means to be a True Disciple of Christ, I knew my boy didn’t qualify. Which means, if the rapture happened, he would be left behind.
And that’s what kept me up at night.
Yet, here he was graduating and preparing to head off to college—reluctantly.
Tyler was convinced college wasn’t for him. He believed it’s a waste of time and money. So, consequently, he resented Thad and I for steering him in that direction. We knew he could be right, but we also knew him. We knew he needed the college experience away from home. So we told him, “The college experience is about 20% education, and the rest is about learning how to be an adult—while still having the comfort of the nest to come back to. You’ll build a life separate from your family, while still being connected to us.” However, my stubborn son still wasn’t convinced. So, we told him to give it a solid effort for one year: “If, after a year, you decide it’s not for you, you can do something else. But you won’t KNOW unless you try.”
See, all through his growing up years, Tyler and I have been at odds. Of all my boys, he’s the most like me. Which means, he knows how and when to push my buttons. To make it more interesting, he would rather be wrong than for me to be right—in anything. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still love between us and our relationship was good, but it wasn’t great, thriving, or close. And that’s what my heart yearned for.
Zach was heading into his senior year of high school. This should be an exciting time; a time of nostalgia, togetherness, and celebration—but not for Zach.
Several months before, he chose to leave his friend group—a group he’d been connected to since middle school. There were many reasons for his decision, but the overriding factor was they were heading in a different direction than he wanted to go. And though I agreed with his decision, that didn’t stop my heart from aching for him.
Then around time of Homecoming, I realized depression was settling in the space that once was occupied by his friends. He was alone and lonely. However, much to my chagrin, I didn’t understand he wasn’t ready to build or invest in new relationships yet. He needed time to process. To heal. And no amount of my pushing or prodding was going to change that or accelerate the process. It wasn’t until this spring when I began writing about my latest wilderness season that I realized he needed to grieve the loss of his friends—even if the loss was his choice.
And then I finally understood my role was to be there for him as he healed. Period. It was critical for me to love and encourage him; to pray for him, his healing, and for God to prepare a friend group or two for when he’s ready for them.
And then, I was to step back and let God be God. This was not my pain to heal. It was His.
Drew was stepping out of 6th grade and into 7th—the heart of the middle school years.
I could stop right there and you would have no trouble filling in the blanks.
Aside from the physiological and psychological changes everyone experiences during puberty and middle school, Drew is a BIG kid. At this time he was a bit shy of six-feet tall, barrel-chested, and just over 200 pounds—and GROWING! So, it’s no surprise he’s significantly larger and heavier than his friends, peers, and teammates; not to mention most of his teachers and coaches. And though his size makes him a force to be reckoned with on the football field and wrestling mat, it’s a challenge in his day-to-day-life.
For example: The normal middle-school behaviors we find “so endearing” aren’t only magnified and more noticeable by someone of Drew’s stature, they’re also somehow more unacceptable, repugnant, and commented on…out loud.
That’s a lot to take in for someone as tenderhearted as Drew. Of all my boys, he has the kindest heart and gentlest spirit. He’s sensitive and generous. Gracious and accepting. He rejoices in other’s victories and does his best to lift them up in their defeats. His capacity to love is staggering. But many don’t see him for who he is.
Most adults expect Drew to behave and compete like the high school junior or senior he looks like, not like the kid who turned 12 at the end of April. They assume he’ll have the coordination, drive, cognitive development, maturity, and sense of responsibility of a 17 or 18-year-old—but he doesn’t. And sadly, I’m sometimes among those adults.
Now combine all this with the natural shifting of friends that happens in middle school, and you’ll understand why this was a difficult time for my boy.
See, Drew had to learn what a real friend is. The HARD way. Guys he thought were his buddies, weren’t. He discovered he wasn’t only excluded from hangouts but was also the subject of much of their gossip and slander—and it gutted him.
I don’t know about you, but teaching my child the difference between a real friend and a teammate, classmates, or peer is PAINFUL, yet so important! And teaching these lessons while relearning them myself made the pain that much more acute.
She Said YES!
The engagement was “official” and we could FINALLY share our joy with others!
As I watched my son kneel before his love at the end of our dock (one of their favorite places), I couldn’t stop the emotions. Between the memories and the tears my heart whispered, “Slow Down.”
Did I feel honored to witness this moment from our deck? Privileged? Overjoyed? Absolutely!
But I was also stricken.
One more cord was severed. And though it’s supposed to be severed, though their engagement was SO SO GOOD, I couldn’t ignore the sharpness of the cut. The transition of my son no longer being mine but belonging to someone else. Therefore, I let my heart grieve for a few moments so it could fully embrace the ensuing joy.
For I could see something others couldn’t. I could see the other tethers that would be severed between this mama and her boys over the next 14 months. I could see my world of the last 21 years being turned up-side-down. And it was ALL GOOD! BUT, no matter what anyone says, knowing it’s all good and supposed to be this way doesn’t stop the loss, the pain, the tears. Or the joy.
Won’t you stay here a minute more
I know you want to walk through the door
But it’s all too fast
Let’s make it last a little while
I pointed to the sky and now you wanna fly
I am your biggest fan
I hope you know I am
But do you think you can somehow
Late August 2021
Thad and I helped Tyler pack the truck with all he would need to live in his dorm over the next nine months. And my heart was a wreck.
Externally, I was doing okay. I exerted a lot of energy to hold it together as we unloaded, took everything up to his room, and said goodbye. But the moment we drove away the tears came and didn’t stop all the way home. Thad wanted to chat as we drove, but I couldn’t. All I could do was stand in the gap for my son and pray with a single-minded fervency. I knew the Enemy wanted Tyler, but as long as I had breath, I refused to let him have him.
When we got home I raced up to my office, fell to my knees before God, and let it all out. And I do mean ALL! I ugly cried through a box of tissues as I prayed. Nothing I said was new, but the urgency was. Tyler was now on his own and away from our influence. I had no idea which way he would go, and anxiety gripped my soul, refusing to let go.
But God was faithful.
To my delight, Tyler reached out to campus ministries (Navigators and Cru) to find his community. And Jesus reached out to him…and my son—RAN INTO HIS ARMS IN COMPLETE SURRENDER!
When he came home for Labor Day the change in him was so profound it was visible! He wasn’t the same man I dropped off less than 10 days before. My son was now my Brother! And to that I say, LET THE LORD BE PRAISED!
I was astonished when Tyler invited me to mentor and help disciple him, giving me a FRONT ROW SEAT to his transformation. This was a blessing I prayed for but didn’t expect. But the day he invited me to be his friend is one I will always treasure because it was on that day the quality of our relationship changed forever.
In the last 10 months, God’s allowed me to experience the promise Solomon recorded in Proverbs 22:6 (NLT)
Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.
Fall 2021-Spring 2022
As life does, there were may ups and downs during this period.
Drew had his best football year ever! Yes, he lit up the field with his numerous sacks and tackles, but his pivotal moment was being named one of 2 team captains. That changed something in him. For the first time, he saw how his attitudes and behaviors affect and influence others. He also started to understand the importance of responsibility in leadership and his ability to ignite the thrill of not only being part of a team but being united as a team.
Wrestling was different.
This was the first year he experienced the physical, mental, and emotional breakdown only found with wrestling. Being a big kid, he was invited to compete on the high school JV team. Not only was this more grueling and intensive, but his partners in the practice room and opponents on the mat were all older and stronger than he was. They all had testosterone-fed man-muscles and often more skill. Unlike the other middle schoolers who wrestled up on JV, Drew rarely if ever faced someone his own age. Yet, impressively, he only lost 60% of his matches!
Then, shortly before Christmas he came to me: “Mom, I’m falling apart.”
“Every way possible.”
I smiled. Having gone through this with Tyler and Zach, I was waiting for it.
“Baby, this is a good thing!”
If you couldn’t have seen the look he gave me…
“No, it is. The truth is, nothing grows until it breaks. Remember looking at the acorns sprouting in our yard last fall? Remember when I explained how the hard seed coat needed to crack so moisture could enter and activate the growth of the seed embryo? And once that embryo was ready the root initial would push against the seed coat and break it wide open so it could emerge?”
“Baby, you are that acorn. But before you can grow into a tall beautiful oak, your old-self needs to break apart and fall away, exposing your potential buried inside. It hurts now. But it will be worth it.”
“Look outside, imagine what our yard would look like without those trees. Imagine if they gave up when pushing against that seed coat. Think of what they would have missed out on. What we would have missed out on.
“Submit to God. Trust him to hold you, to protect you as you break. And trust Him to guide your new growth so you can reach your new potential. You’ll experience this every year in wrestling, maybe more than once. But remember each breaking is giving birth to a new potential. Lean into it. Grasp it. And thank God for these opportunities and His desire to help you be and do better for His glory.”
It was hard. But he listened, put in the effort, and grew. He changed.
I am so thankful for his coaches Jared, Mack, and Shane, who loved him while pushing him—HARD. They thrust him out of his comfort-zone, beyond his capacity to facilitate his growth. They see his potential and want to help him realize it. And because of their investment, he rebounded and took second in MNUSA state in folk-style, was on the podium at USA-Cedar Falls National Tournament, and took 1st in both Greco-Roman and Freestyle in then USA-Northern Plains National tournament this spring.
Zach was constantly on my mind. Like with Tyler, I spent countless sleepless nights interceding for him. And every time the worry started to overtake me, I could hear the Spirit whisper, “Trust me.”
In August he applied to and was accepted to the university of his choice. In October his housing was arranged and he was ready for his own college-experience. The problem was, he had to finish high school first, and there were still several months to go until graduation. Though he didn’t slack off, I could tell his heart wasn’t in it. He was just jumping through a hoop to a new beginning.
But in March, I finally saw him starting to emerge from his time of healing. The process was slow, but I could see the mature young man stepping from the shadows where the broken teen had entered. The differences were subtle, but profound. He is the same person but more refined. Aged somehow. And the young man who now stands before me is a good man. I am proud to call him my son and excited to see what God has next for him.
The worries I had are mostly gone, only a few remain. However, I’m confident time will eradicate those as well.
Tyler had his first relationship this fall. He dated a wonderful young lady whom I enjoyed quite a bit. However, in February it was clear she wasn’t “the one” for him and he wasn’t “the one” for her, and they amicably went separate ways.
I share this because though this was painful for them both, I’m thankful this relationship happened. It provided Tyler the opportunity to not only determine what he’s looking for in a future wife (her qualities and characteristics), but an opportunity for him to determine what kind of man and husband God wants him to be. Up until this point it hadn’t mattered, but now it does.
Tyler then focused on chasing after God’s heart, surrendering more and more of himself to Him, and making Him his everything. From being discipled by another student to engaging in a group Bible study and his own quiet time, he is intentionally walking in the footsteps of his Savior and learning what it is to be a Kingdom Man.
But a critical moment for Tyler was this past fall when Camron, after seeing his transformation for himself, asked him to stand by his side as his best man. Tyler was shocked, overwhelmed by the honor. It meant more to him than he could put into words, and it’s a responsibility he took seriously.
Camron graduated from Iowa State with honors in December while Ana still had one more semester to go until her graduation in May. Though they were long-distance and counting the days until their wedding, they were both exceptionally busy.
Camron was working full-time while looking for his first job to launch his career. But God didn’t give it to him right away. He made him wait for several months while He tested his faith. Cam applied to dozens and dozens of jobs all across the country with his focus on Minnesota, and was rejected from most of them.
Encouraging him and mentoring him through this time was precious but hard. I could feel his stress, anxiety, and fear. I just hoped I wasn’t reflecting mine back at him. We spent so many hours in prayer over these months of searching. And as the wedding drew closer, we could feel the pressure increase.
But finally, in late April with a May start date, God blessed him with the perfect position at a small company where he’s not only able to use his gifts and talents as an engineer and artist, but he’s able to wear many different hats to help him learn and grow.
A few weeks later, God blessed them with their first home, a rental townhouse. This gives them at least a year to determine if they would like to relocate or stay put.
Then it came time for Ana’s graduation. Camron, Thad and I went down to celebrate with her and move her stuff out of her apartment. And what a beautiful time of celebration that was! But we all knew, once back home the reaming wedding preparations would go into hyper-speed.
Now you are all caught up!
On Saturday, June 4, we were thrilled to celebrate Zach and his high school graduation. Seeing him dressing his high school’s red with an honors cord around his neck made me proud, yes. But it also was a powerful visual, confirming just how ready he is to extend his wings and learn how to fly. And sharing his excitement over having this moment finally come brought so much joy to my heart—even if had to get past the lump in my throat.
Though this year was challenging and sometimes painful, it was also exceptionally formative. Zach now carries himself with confidence and the knowledge of who he is. He has a solid idea of his direction, but is also flexible if that changes. He knows his priorities and isn’t afraid to dream and tackle his goals for his future.
My prayer is that he’ll have a fantastic college experience like his brothers have had and are having. I’m praying he too will find his community in the campus ministries and that his faith will ignite and grow, that he will fall in love with Jesus, and that He would become his everything.
A few days after Zach’s graduation, the bridesmaids and wedding guests started to arrive. It wasn’t long until our house was full of activity, fun, laughter, anticipation, and people.
And how I loved having all those ladies in my home! Amazingly, despite all the last minute things, errands, projects, and appointments that were divided and conquered, we had a lot of quality time to be together. Our conversations were rich and memorable. Our prayer time was deep and powerful. And our time together was energetic and joyful.
Then the night of the rehearsal and groom’s dinner came. As Hope Glen Farm had a wedding on Friday, we hosted this part of the celebration in our home and yard.
Before I went down to participate in the rehearsal, I stood on the deck and looked at the wedding party struggling to get organized be serious. I was intending to use that moment to take it all in, to sear these memories into my brain. But instead, something more special happened.
I realized, those were all of my kids! Young men and women I have loved and poured into for the last four (or more) years. And here they were, loving and supporting my son and his soon-bride-to-be, my daughter, and making this an event to remember. My deep love and gratitude for them took my breath away and filled my soul with joy. God is so so so GOOD!!
The next morning we were up early downing cups of coffee while loading cars with everything we would need for the wedding and to decorate the venue. All the prep was done. Two years of planning, complete. The men’s shirts were steamed, shoes were polished, dresses were ready. And the excitement and anticipation were HIGH!
Today is the day!!
After everyone else left, Thad and I stood alone in our house and held each other listening to the silence. That’s when the first tears of the day fell. It was like feeling an earth tremor after an earthquake. A shift was taking place. And things would never be the same again. Though I knew this and accepted it, it was time to acknowledge it—and move on. It was time for my baby to get hitched!
I will let the pictures tell the rest of this story. Suffice it to say, it was a perfect day. God answered every prayer! From the weather, to the smoothness of the day, to the absolute blast everyone had.
*Slow Down lyrics by Nichole Nordeman
Now you know where I’ve been.
And understand why my heart needed time to recover and be still.
Until next time~