By Alyssa Swanson
*The following was written by Alyssa, through the eyes of her father.
Watching your child grow up and prepare to leave home makes you think about all the precious memories made over the years. The years that feel like they just flew by in the blink of an eye. When I look at her, I still see that sweet little girl squealing “Daddy!” when I get home from work. But now, she has grown into a young woman whom I know fears the Lord. Knowing that makes letting her go easier, but only a little.
This year has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride for Alyssa, her mom, and myself. Last August when Alyssa came back from Honduras and told us that she felt God telling her that college wasn’t what He had in mind for her, I was unsure of how to respond. One part of me was thrilled that she was listening to God’s voice. But the other part of me wanted to freak out. If she didn’t go to college, what would she do? Would she get a full-time job? How would she get a good paying job later in life? Of course, I couldn’t tell these things to her because I could tell she wasn’t too sure about what she was going to do either. So the process began of us discussing different options of what to do and really pressing into what God’s plan was. As time went on, all of her plans began to fail one right after the other. It was hard to see her go through all of that, but I was moved by how much she trusted God to provide her with what He had planned for her. Watching her come to a point in September of no longer fighting God on giving her the answer she wanted, right when she wanted it. And honestly, from that moment forward it was almost as if the question of what to do next no longer existed. The only thing that mattered to Alyssa was simply to do the things that God had already placed in her path and to do them well. By simply doing life, Alyssa eventually got the answers she was looking for.
A lot of what my daughter does, I am uninvolved in personally. But having her come home, sit down with me on our couch, and tell me about everything makes me feel like I am right there with her. It is in those times that we have shared, the hurts that divided us were mended and our relationship was reconciled in a way that is only possible through God. So when she began to talk about CLDI and volunteering on Friday mornings with Kaylee, I was able to be there for her from the beginning. Having those moments is something I am forever going to treasure. It was also through those moments that God confirmed to me that she was supposed to do the eleven-month CLDI internship. Once she applied, it felt like a year passed between her interview and her finding out she would be an intern in the fall. I know that during that time, the enemy poured countless lies into her mind about her qualifications, talents, and fears regarding this next stage of her life. But on May 1st, all of our prayers were confirmed when she was offered the position. From the beginning, God had prepared the way for her to be a part of CLDI and Youth Works, and now prayers were becoming a reality for her.
As time grew closer for Alyssa to be moving out, the mixture of sadness and joy became harder to deal with. The first few days of her packing up her stuff, all she could do was cry. And seeing your daughter cry over the letters you sent her fifteen years ago in Iraq is something you will never forget. That little girl’s smile melts me down like butter and soon we both began to cry. I knew I was not losing her completely, but I would no longer see her smiley face every day and get to hear her laugh about the smallest of things. Deep down, we both were afraid of the changes happening but knew that it would all be for good in the end. So little by little, her stuff was eventually packed and ready to move. When she found out someone would be sharing a room, she had to admit that she was slightly less than thrilled but was putting on her brave face well. So that subsequently added to her list of fears about moving. Leaving family, her home of eighteen years, all the people she had seen every day, and really facing the unknown head-on were just a few things on her list. None of us really knew what to expect from this internship either, so we really tried to not allow any preconceived set of expectations grow. So when the time finally came and we got to see the house she would be living in and the neighborhood, we were pleasantly surprised. I often think the worst whenever the South Side is brought up, something that Alyssa has not been shy to point out as wrong to me. But through that and humbling myself to see the good things in the South Side, I was less nervous about her leaving home and moving into this next chapter of her life and all it would hold.
It is taking some time getting used to Alyssa no longer being at the house every day, but it has been a blessing to have her stop by at home every once in awhile. All of her fears about the internship have gone away. Turns out, having a bunkmate has been super good for Alyssa because it has forced her to keep her room clean and she always has someone to talk with. The unknowns of scheduling are working out great because now she gets to take her brother to school every Tuesday morning and still come home to visit whenever we are missing her. Her fears of her qualifications for the job have all gone away and she is loving getting to hang out with kids every day and simply be a goofball. And already, God has grown her mightily and I am confident He will continue to throughout the year. So with all of that said, God has simply been so good to Alyssa this past year and we are so incredibly thankful.