Finding Focus

This afternoon, I’m at Panera with my son Adam. Our Sunday afternoon “Panera dates” have become a tradition this year as we work through Adam’s college application process. Despite my fear of sounding like a commercial for Panera, I must say that the combination of plentiful electrical outlets, free caffeine refills, wifi and an out of the way “nook” of booths has combined to make our local bakery the perfect place for both of us to get stuff done.

And there’s a lot of stuff to get done these days.

For Adam, he’s at the crossroads of his future. My job as his mom is to help him to explore his options for education, to act as a consultant towards making a major decision, and to keep him focused on the tasks at hand.

When I was a senior in college, I filled out exactly two applications: one for my dream school, the University of Notre Dame, and one for my “safety school” (which shall — as a courtesy — remain nameless). College apps involved filling out a form that was about four pages long and busting out the IBM Selectric to churn out my two required essays.

I wish I still had those essays — I’d love to know what my 17 year old self thought was significant enough to philosophize about back in those days. Reading Adam’s answers to his essay prompts gives me an interesting peek into his mind and his world view. In “proofreading”, I have to avoid a mother’s temptation to have him tell things “my way” and stick to ensuring no prepositions are dangled. (And that’s a job better left to the capable eyes of my editor, Eileen!) On more than one occasion, I’ve bitten my tongue and said, “That’s great honey,” when my gut instinct was to encourage my son to see the world from my perspective. There is grace in this process for both of us.

While Adam does his utmost to put his best foot forward, his mom has the benefit of this period of time to see him as he sees himself. And perhaps this is part of the letting go process that I’m finding to be such a challenge. After eighteen years of being “Adam’s mom”, it’s time to see myself in new and evolving ways just as Adam’s doing in his own life. In the end, his decisions may or may not line up perfectly with the script I’d write for his life. I think my parents would like have said the same about me when I was his age.

This moment in time is about helping him to find his focus, to optimize his potential for his dreams, and to leave a great deal of the detail in God’s capable hands. And trusting that — the thing I say so often to others in my writing and speaking — is a stretch for me.

Perhaps you’re tempted, as I am, to engineer every aspect of everything. We may give lip service to “relying on God’s mercy and judgement”, yet all too often we want to give God our marching orders. And yet doesn’t John exhort us in the first verse of his fourteenth chapter, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me”?

So the Panera dates will continue, the tiny details of apps and letters of recommendation and test scores will continue, and the work of discernment will continue as well. And that work of “finding focus” and trusting… that will continue too!

A question for you to ponder: What helps you find focus in your life? Are you trusting of God’s plan for your life and your future? 

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About Lisa M. Hendey

Lisa Hendey is the founder and webmaster of CatholicMom.com and the author of The Grace of YesA Book of Saints for Catholic Moms and The Handbook for Catholic Moms. Lisa writes for several online and print publications, enjoys speaking around the country and is a frequent television and radio guest and host. Visit her at LisaHendey.com and connect with her at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.


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