Two weeks ago I experienced the joy of watching my niece take her first official steps onto her new college campus. Circumstances and love allowed me to travel with my brother and deliver her to the next chapter in life (a big thank you to my sister-in-law!).

Wow! So many firsts…

First home away from home.

First time away from family.

First experiences completely on her own.

First steps as an official adult.

First. First. First.

So many changes in so little time. I am thankful my niece is able to experience a four-year college. I’m thrilled for her to spread her wings and fly into what will be maturation at warp speed. I am over the moon for her.

But I also wanted to hug her so tight that she couldn’t let me go.

I wanted her to wring every last bit of wisdom and advice from my words. It felt like I had just a few hours to pour the sum of my life-knowledge into her and I stressed over not forgetting one syllable.

I bet that was SO irritating for her.

She is not only my niece but also like a daughter, friend, and little sister all rolled into one. I felt a ginormous sense of responsibility to guide her as she took her first steps down this road.

Now that I’ve had some time and reflection, I understand that she must make her own way. My head knew this and now my heart is somewhat aligned. :). She will raise her arms in victory. She will pump her fist with celebration. She must stub her toe once in a while. She will stumble. She might even turn down difficult paths now and then. Her journey awaits and I cannot protect her from challenges – our experiences last far longer in our hearts and minds than good advice.

As she blossoms and explores I will wait with arms open wide, ears ready to listen, words of love and encouragement, and a prayerful heart.

So, two weeks later I try to worry less and pray more. To fully embrace the anticipation and thrill of her stepping out into life.

(How have you handled change similar to this in your life? Have you taken someone you love to college? How did you cope? I’d love to hear your wisdom and advice.)