Last week I dropped these two blonde-haired, blue-eyed girls off for their first trip to Europe.

They were going on a mission trip over spring break with our church and one was heading to Hungary and one was heading to Germany and they were so excited the car was literally bursting at the seams with pillows and blankets and shampoo and presents for their host homes and jackets and mittens….

….and words.

Words were that everywhere.

Dancing off the walls of the car.

Spilling out between laughter and giggles and exclamation points.

Breathless, excited words that were full of the promise of an adventure.

And then?

There were all the words that were left unsaid.  All the words that I wanted to say.

Sad words.

Scared words.

Lonely and frightened and worried and overwhelming words.

Words like “don’t go” and “I’ll miss you” and “I’m not ready for you to go 14 countries and a continent away.”

We gathered up their bags and walked through the doors and got their name tags and their itinerary and found their group.

I asked them all the last-minute questions that a mom is supposed to ask.  Like did they have their passports?  And did they have toothpaste?  And what about gum for the plane and two sets of jackets for the winter weather and a book to read and a neck pillow for the trip so they could make sure to sleep before they arrived in London?

All the questions.

All the last-minute details.

All the focusing on trees to avoid the forest up ahead.

I grabbed their hands and looked into their faces and we prayed and I told them that I loved them and that they were wonderfully and fearfully made and tried to imprint those blue eyes so full of wonder onto my heart.

And then it was time to go.

And still?

I held onto those hands.

I held them like I would never let them go.  I held them like they were a lifeline.  I wasn’t ready.  I couldn’t do this.  If I held on just a little longer maybe they wouldn’t leave.

They rolled their eyes and gave me one last hug and took their blue eyes and their hands…

…and walked away.

I stood there with tears in my eyes and a heart so heavy that it thought it might burst and watched them walk.

And thought of all the other days I had let their hands go.

The day they took their first step.

The day they walked into kindergarten.

The day they learned how to roller skate.

The day they left to spend the week with their grandparents.

The day they walked into high school.

All the days that had gone before.

And all the hand-letting-go days to come.

The day they graduate from high school.

The day they leave the nest.

The day they go to college.

They day they get married.

I’m not sure I’m ready.

I’m not sure I can do this.

I’m not sure I can let go of those hands and find the words to say to let them go.

Misty words.

Bittersweet words.

Happiness and sadness mixed together words.

Words like “you got this” and “you will be amazing” and “I’m proud of you.”

I know the hand letting go days are just around the corner.

But for now.  But for today.  But for this minute and this hour, I’m holding hands and holding on.

Just a little longer.

And when that day comes I’ll find the words I want to say most of all….

….”my hands will always be here—ready to hold.”

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  1. Image for Cindy Cindy

    Awww,you made me cry... and I have done these words as my kids are 40 and 38. The older being deathly ill 2x in his life. Oh it’s hard yet joyful being a mother! Hugs and all the stories they will have on their return!

  2. Image for Cynthia H Solomon Cynthia H Solomon

    Love this sweet post!! Being a momma is so hard...we have to trust in the Almighty God that loves our sweet ones more than we do (so hard to imagine, but so true). Be strong, be happy and always be their momma!!

  3. Image for Carrie Carrie

    “Take your wings and fly and never forget your roots” and “make good choices”. These are the words I’ve said to my kids....a lot! Sometimes, when they are busy having wonderful adventures, it is the most painful part of being a parent, isn’t it? Hugs to you, and an extra one, too. Can’t wait to hear the stories when you’re all holding hands again!

  4. Image for Cindy J Vojanec Cindy J Vojanec

    Motherhood is hard, isn't it? BUT, you have to have faith in your girls and you have taught them well. Prayers for a safe trip and return!

  5. Image for Paula Paula

    This brought tears to my eyes! This Mom thing is hard! You've done a wonderful job and what a wonderful opportunity for your girls! Hang in there! :)

  6. Image for Anne-Marie Anne-Marie

    As a mother, I understand you SO well ! The only thing we can do is to accept time flying by and pray that nothing will happen to our eternal "babies" no matter how much it hurts.

  7. Image for Brenda Brenda

    It's hard to let go, but if we don't let go we can't see them fly! My oldest " baby" has two of her own. I. Miss. Her. Every. Day! But I'm so proud of the woman she's become. She's also one of my best friends. Enjoy their journey and cheer for them as you never have before. They are being the women you've raised them to be! Rejoice! Now my youngest child......well, I'm probably going to have to push him out of the nest! ;) Have a great day! And take that twinkly eyed man out for dinner!

  8. Image for PC PC

    This is when you know you have done a great job with your children -they were prepared to take the giant step into life. We raise them to be independent and capable and it is scary to watch them enlarge their world. It's a rite of passage for parents. And there is not a day I don't wish for 3 little girls to be at the kitchen table for supper. I can't make mashed potatoes for 2 people.

  9. Image for Teresa G Teresa G

    Wonderful wonderful words! Can't say more, I can't see through the tears! Will say a prayer for their safe return..

  10. Image for Toni Toni

    It goes full circle because one day they won't want to let go of your hand either. Beautiful.....definitely a "Kleenex" piece.

  11. Image for Rachel Going Rachel Going

    Oh KariAnne, bless your sweet and amazing precious momma heart! I'm in this same phase of life and I relate to every bittersweet word you wrote. I keep telling myself that a bazillion other mommas in the world have walked this very road, including my own darling mother, and I guess I will survive also. Goodness gracious, I'm sure you have a quiet house this week.

  12. Image for Leslie from Fairview Leslie from Fairview

    Beautifully written. You echo the sentiments of many moms. Thanks for expressing so well for us what we feel so deeply.

  13. Image for Madonnna Madonnna

    So sweet are the photos. . . .esp. the two of them together. Absolutely. . . .adorable times two. Twin sisters must double the sister joy. They look so grown up, time does fly.

  14. Image for Paula Paula

    Beautiful sentiments spoken direct-from-the-heart. Your heart has such a way of expressing itself through your's a God-gift, and one that I don't have, but I appreciate it in others, Thank you for sharing, and as a mother, I know just how you're feeling.

  15. Image for SUSAN SUSAN

    My son did this at 16. He went with our church to the Ukraine. They will be fine. You will be fine. But you’ll be praying harder than you ever have. 🙏😆

  16. Image for Yvette Yvette

    Letting go is always so hard, especially when it’s our babies. We have to though. It never gets easier. I guess it’s just part of the “Mom” thing. We never let go in our hearts. Thank you for putting into words what all of us Moms feel. ♥️

  17. Image for NormaJean NormaJean

    Since I am way ahead of you in this Momma game, I wish I had mighty words of wisdom to share with you, but sadly, I don't. God has you and your girls in the palm of His hand, and friend, knowing got this!. Think of the many, many friends of Thistlewood who are praying for them and you, during these 14 long days.

  18. Image for Winni Winni

    I know how you feel Kari Ann! I have two daughters, all grown-up. I remember, and at times still feel, I prayed they would grow up to be independent, smart, educated and kind women. When they did, I no longer wanted it to happen! My youngest moved far away. Selfishly, I wanted them back with me, not their husband/ significant other. I miss them.

  19. Image for Terri Terri

    Oh my goodness............. I'm sitting here boo hoooing!!!! Brought back so many wonderful.. but teary eyed memories of my daughter going to Honduras on a Church Youth missions trip at the age of 16... WHAT WAS I THINKING??? But... little did I know... she is now grown.. teaches school and has two children of her own... and what does she still love??? Yes ...missions trips !!! Thank you for sharing .... much prayers .. as they too pursue their passion !!!

  20. Image for Trudy Trudy

    What a beautiful life experience you are giving to your 2 beautiful girls. What I love about you most is how soft you can be but also how strong you can be. Tender love. It's so you and though I haven't personally met you "YET", some how you always feel so close and personal through your stories. Thanks for letting me in to see a bit of your wonderful life and the wonderful you. Oh the dreams and memories you are giving to your girls.

  21. Image for Jolyn Jolyn

    Oh MY!!! These words are truly hitting home as my blue eyed baby boy gets married in 23 days... I feel your pain, mama.

  22. Image for Cheryl Cheryl

    All of the growing up is thousands of letting go - until they are grown up and they live states and time zones exciting for them, so hard for the hearts of mamas everywhere. But I will tell you - the empty nest is a whole lotta fun that you never imagined :)

  23. Image for Karen Karen

    You brought tears to my eyes. It isn’t easy,, but knowing you have instilled Christian values in your children. We will be praying for both girls and their mission group. Praying for you too! Thanks for sharing. God Bless you and your family!!

  24. Image for Julie Miller Julie Miller

    Oh Karianne!!! We went through the SAME THING last Saturday....sending 16yo son off to first mission trip to Trinidad!! I said, thought, and cried the SAME THINGS as you!! Mother's hearts! <3 And...he was supposed to fly home (DFW) after midnight Saturday night on two of the Boeing Max planes that were just grounded! Hello.... Now we wait to see if the flight times have changed due to American having to find different planes to fly them to Miami, then home here...LOL I was actually in McKinney taking a granddaughter home to her mama (a daughter who already flew out of our nest many years ago!) and had lunch at Layered Coffee Bakery on the square...SO GOOD! Ya'll have the most beautiful square! I loved it! Have a blessed day and we'll both be hugging our precious ones again this weekend!! YAY!!!

  25. Image for Jillian Jillian

    When my son was 14 he went away to language camp in Minnesota, his first flight alone. When he boarded I was sure I would not make it. A whole month. Who else has walked through the airport sobbing? Many, I would guess. After that he took many journeys. Without me. Letting go is hard when they are the light of your life. I am so grateful for the joy of our children.

  26. Image for Jessica Jessica

    I feel you! They don't know what we as moms go through. But, how wonderful they went on a mission's trip! May God protect them and make them highly effective for the kingdom!

  27. Image for Teresa L Gonzales Teresa L Gonzales

    The sweet sorrow of being a exciting they get to see new sites and experience the world!!!!!!! You are amazing for giving them this opportunity!!!!!!! They will be back soon for more time with their amazing mom!!!!!

  28. Image for SANDI SANDI

    K-anne, I went through this IN REVERSE a few yrs. ago when I sent both daughters to the US to go to university. They were born & raised in Europe!! Neither of them wanted to come to America. It was a difficult time in my life since they are truly European (even w/a US passport). It was a difficult time in their lives as well. The clash of cultures almost unhinged us at times. The knew Europe---esp. eastern Europe well, and identified w/that part of their experience. Letting go is like Henri Nowan talks about what we do spiritually---like a trapeze artist who has to totally let go in order to be caught by the counterpart. If there is any resistance the catcher would break the wrist of the one being caught. We simply fly through the air w/the confidence (not in ourselves) in the catcher. It takes practice, and every such event that you mention prepares for the harder step that is waiting in the wings. We grow into our roles by exercising practice---and prayer. All the best from one slightly ahead of your journey!

  29. Image for Jean Jean

    What a wonderful story. I wasn't able to be a Mother but I know how my Mother worried about me alllll the time!!!!! They will see, learn, meet new friends maybe for a lifetime, and share their wonderful life which includes their wonderful Mother that has taught them all about life and how to enjoy life but be responsible. I will be thinking of you and saying a prayer for the girls and you as well. Time will fly by and they will be home before you know it with memories for a lifetime!!!! Your friend, jean

  30. Image for Peg Peg

    My 29 year old, married, baby girl moved to the left coast, and I miss her every single day. God speed to the miniThistles. xoxo

  31. Image for Denise V Cox Denise V Cox

    Oh KariAnne!! How ABSOLUTELY lovely!!! They have their Mama's DNA and so they are Amazing and will BE and DO well!! So commendable in the way they are giving back!!! I will keep them... and you... in my thoughts!! Thank - you for sharing this lovely and personal story!! 😘

  32. Image for Shelia P. Shelia P.

    Bless your heart Karianne! No matter their age, you never stop worrying about them. My son is married, grown with a child of his own and I Still worry about him! Now add a grandson to that list of worries, lol. It just comes with being a mother. Looks like you’ve done a great job with those girls, that look just like you by the way, so just know in your heart that they’ll be just fine. They’ll have tons of stories to tell you when they get home! Not to mention, this trip is going to make them such strong young women! Hang in there sweet lady, they’ll be home before you know it! Have a bunch of date nights while they’re gone! Have a great day! 😊

  33. Image for Sonya Sonya

    Absolutely beautiful words that brought me to tears. I am experiencing all those same feeling just thinking of the time that my daughter takes a trip like this in a few months and then off to college. I am definitely not ready.

  34. Image for JC at the uncommon pearl JC at the uncommon pearl

    Oh, I feel your pain! I have a blonde, blue eyed beauty that we walked down the aisle almost two years ago...was I (we) a pile of emotions! But, then we gained an amazing son! Different seasons bring different challenges to a Mama's heart, but you will ALWAYS be their Mama. no matter where they are, or what they are doing. I'll pray for their safe travels, for them to have awesome God moments, and for your heart to entrust them just a little bit more. From one Mama to another...hugs


    KariAnne, once again, thanks for sharing your heart with us! I stopped and prayed for a "hedge of protection" around your girls. The Lord will bless their hearts as they are over doing mission work. You have done good with your children and I know that you are very proud of them. This love -- and your love for the Lord -- just shines through your many posts! This is the first time that they have gone so far away and I know this comes with a few worries. May you be blessed in a very special way while your girls are away! You are such a special lady and loved so much! Praying for you all at this time! Blessings!

  36. Image for Laura Harrie Laura Harrie

    KariAnne, you are an amazing Momma, and have raised 4 amazing children! You and your husband are blessed because of the way to have parented them!

  37. Image for Rebecca Platt Rebecca Platt

    It is SO hard to let them go. I will never forget the summer each of my children moved 12 hours away in different directions. I was sitting in my garden crying and feeling sorry for myself when two little birds perched on my garden fence. They played and cavorted but kept coming back to the fence right near my shoulder. They didn't fly away when I moved. I would get up and walk around and come back and they would fly over and perch once again. I felt the presence of God speaking to me through these little birds and reminding me that He cares and it's OK to cry and be sad but just like those birds my children are born to fly away but they'll always come back. That was years ago and we are as close today as were then. Life IS bittersweet and each new bittersweet phase is just another time for God to prove himself faithful. And He is.

  38. Image for Bonnie Root Bonnie Root

    I think that it is times like this in our lives that saying," I love you, and I am praying for you", seem so inadequate somehow. but they can't be because they are the only words that need to be uttered. Having raised three children to adult hood, whispered see you in heaven to a baby grand daughter and proud Grandma to 7 earthbound angels there have been so many" wanting desperately to hold on longer moments"! My heart is so full now reading your words and feeling those emotions roll over me in waves yet knowing that no matter my angst or tearful moments God has already been there and prepared the way which is why the Bible whispers " Do not fear, Beloved! " 365 times! Praying that God comforts your heart as your little blue-eyed chicks test their wings and return safely to fill your nest with their excited chirps soon!

  39. Image for susan susan

    Oh wow, they have grown to such beauties! My youngest daughter is getting married next month, my heart is full but sad at the same time. I know that her fiance is a wonderful man and we love him dearly. I know that in my heart I taught her to be kind, patient and true to herself so I know that she will be okay!! I'm sure that your daughters will be just fine !

  40. Image for Lorri Lorri

    Your girls are so lucky to go on a trip like this.😍 I know it is hard to let them fly away (literally) but for them to have such great experinces is a wonderful thing. I have been following you for 2 yrs and it looks like you and your husband have done a wonderful job raising your 4 children. Watch your Hallmark movies with some kleenex and popcorn and know that your girls are being Rocks Stars!!!!

  41. Image for Lynn Mosher Lynn Mosher

    Oh, so sweet. Oh, such touching words from a loving momma's heart. I think it's harder to let go of girls than it is boys. I had to let go of our two boys when they were in their 20s (now 50 and 47) and they wanted adventure, so they moved from KY, not just visited, but moved to St. John's Island. That was scary but I let go. Like your girls on their trips. Only it was quite some time before the boys gave up and moved back. Much harder to let go of my baby girl. Praying for your precious heart and your sweet girls. ❤

  42. Image for Mary S Mary S

    You have such beautiful girls / young women.... They'll be fine and have the time of their young lives. And will be home b4 you know it!!

  43. Image for Sherry Sherry

    Dear Karianne, Your writting invariably brings me to tears, but you are such a great writer I can’t resist. I hope your girls have the best trip. I drug my children all over the world and they became accepting and enlightened adults . People I want to hang out with. Your girls have a wonderful travel companion, being twins. They will come home so much wiser and so enriched. You will never stop worrying, but that is our lot in life when we bring our fabulous children into the world. Good luck to you, as they are having a wonderful time and may think of you twice. Hugs, Sherry

  44. Image for Sherry Sanders Sherry Sanders

    How exciting for them to go to Europe to minister. They are having a ball for sure. I remember when our daughter went to Russia, Ukraine and Germany on her first mission trip and there was no internet or phone service for her to call us and guess what, the news announced the Berlin was wall coming down and soldiers and guns and our daughter was there at the time and we did not know if she was safe. Oh my did we pray, and when she came home, in a typical teen age way she was all excited telling us about the soldiers with machine guns and how she and her team were right in the middle of the whole thing and she even brought some pieces of the wall home and tons of pictures. I thought I would die. . Only a kid could enjoy that kind of adventure. So I said all that to say that I am praying for you and your girls and cannot wait to hear all about their trip. Hang in there sis.

  45. Image for Cindy Lou Cindy Lou

    God has them in his care! always has ! My daughter is gone to heaven so enjoy your journey with these 2 beautiful souls .

  46. Image for Kris Kris

    Your daughters are so beautiful. That was so heartwarming. It made me cry because I remember having to let go of my two children's hands so many times. It never gets easier. My two now live in two different states and each time I am with them I cherish the time with them, but the saying good-byes for now still put an ache in my heart. I love your blog. You have such a wonderful way of saying things . You are a breath of fresh air.

  47. Image for Leslie Watkins Leslie Watkins

    Oh, sweet friend. I love that you are treasuring each moment and see farther down the road. I vividly remember those moments that caught in my throat, spilled tears, and overwhelmed my heart in that journey of letting them grow into who God designed them to be. It’s not for the faint of heart. You are walking through this with much grace, wisdom and nurturing. They are blessed that you are their Mom. Hang in there!! ❤️

  48. Image for ML ML

    Oh KariAnne, you made me cry.! Thank you for sharing such precious feelings. I love this post. Good luck to the girls, I’m sure they will enjoy their experience to the most. Love ML

  49. Image for Linda Linda

    I recall these Lyle Lovett lyrics from his tune "This Old Porch"....hearing his voice sing the lyrics, which are very uplifting, is how I focus when someone is going away. It helps me. "....And remembering the coming back And not crying about the leaving".

  50. Image for Marisa F Stewart Marisa F Stewart

    Well, I wish I could see to type -- so forgive any typos! It is so hard letting go - but it's the best we can do. Letting them know we're here for them to hold them and love them. I still panic when my adult children goe far away. You never outgrow it. Big hugs!!

  51. Image for Dee Dee

    KariAnne, this post touched me so much my friend. As a mother to only one daughter, all those firsts who are filled with a mixture of joy and buckets of tears! I would hold it all together in front of her and then the moment a door would close I would cry pools of tears! When she went off to Mexico for the 1st of a multitude of mission trips she was a freshman and I remember that feeling of holding her hand and never letting go, her daddy and I prayed for her and her friends that were going in the same group and we waved until the bus was out of sight. Her first trip to Romania for two weeks had me feeling the joys and knots in my stomach and as time is going on and more mission trips have occurred, and as she went away to University oh, I felt every single emotion you have written.. Letting go can be so hard! If it wasn't for the Lord, I'm sure I'd be silly basket case! Now she's a mama and we live 4 hours away and every time I leave her I want to hold that it just a little bit longer. Thank you for being so honest and transparent with us, thank you for sharing your heart I think you are just a spectacular woman and I'm so glad I've got to know you even in the tiniest amount. You have been impacted my life and you have given me a lot of courage I just wanted you to know that. 😘 Meanwhile, it's been a privilege to pray for your sweet girls!

  52. Image for Debbie Debbie

    Such beautiful words as your daughters leave for their trip. It made me cry thinking of the times that I had to say goodbye to my boy’s as they made their milestones in life. It’s heartbreaking as a mother to let our children fly from the nest, but it’s also very rewarding to see how high they can fly when they do.

  53. Image for Sandi Sandi

    All that letting go results in a beautiful, wonderful gorgeous grandchild. It is hard to let go but in the end we're rewarded with their mini mes! Hang in there!

  54. Image for Betty King Betty King

    Watching my oldest daughter, then 15, go on her first mission trip to Costa Rica, was a difficult moment but a God moment. I was scared for her to go but knew she must. The day she returned I wanted to see the look on her face because I knew if God had done a work in her life, her face would show it. She had a radiant look and I knew He had placed a "mission spirit" in her to go. That was in 1986 and she has gone many places to offer a helping hand;not all on foreign soil but here in America too! Letting go is letting God!

  55. Image for Lisa Hains Lisa Hains

    Hello Karianne...thank you for sharing from your heart! As I've read your words, from an empty nest already, I can surely understand the poignancy and pain of all of these letting-go moments! Though we hold our dear ones so tightly to keep them safe when they're young, our goal is to raise them in such a way that they will be ready to let go, when the time is right...when their wings are developed and strong....and when their flight path is clear. But for us as Moms...that's hard! And whether we're ready or not--we have to open our hands and let them take flight! But I couldn't help but ponder, and marvel, as I read your post, that in the spiritual sense, instead of rushing to let go, we can grow and mature to the place where we want to hold onto the hand which is reaching out for us--to the One Who is offering to hold us forever...once we realize we need Him...and that we don't want to do life without Him! When we walk with Him in love and obedience, His is the one hand we never have to let go! What a comfort and blessing! I love that! Wishing you, Karianne, many more hand-holding days of joy!

  56. Image for Sally Sally

    Yes, yes, and yes. "LETTING GO" has been the hardest part of parenting for me, for sure. Years ago, a friend who had children older than mine, told me that the teenage years prepare you for the letting go -- because teenagers drive you so crazy (that you're ready for them to leave). I'm sorry that was the case for her. It couldn't have been more "wrong" in my case. I'm so thankful for the kind of relationship with my kids that makes their leaving so hard. Okay... Now I'm weepy. 🙄 Thanks for sharing such tender thoughts. ❤

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