I can't sit still. Over the past two years, I've flown between Minnesota and Colorado a bunch, but the trip never loses its excitement. My eyes gaze toward the west, my thoughts are of home, and my arms can't wait to hug my parents.
I'll never forget the day they brought me to college. In our last moment together before they left for Colorado and I stayed in Minnesota, our emotions were mixed. I was anxious for the new experiences ahead. They reminisced about their baby girl of the past. When we hugged, they clung a little longer while I was quick to say goodbye and begin the college chapter of my life. I certainly didn't appreciate the strength, love and comfort behind those hugs until I couldn't experience them everyday.
Now, as those hugs are few and far between, I realize how precious they are. But I also realize that love doesn't diminish from lack of daily contact. Because I can't always experience the physical expression of their support, my parents have gotten creative; they've substituted my daily hug with "virtual hugs."
I'm often surprised when these little reminders of their love show up. When I was sick, they sent a package with a big bowl, spoon and chicken-noodle soup. When I failed my first college test, they called me unexpectedly, "just to chat," knowing that instead of chatting, I really needed a long-distance shoulder to cry on.
I receive hugs in good times, too. My parents sometimes send e-cards. I got one from my dad inviting me out for coffee the next time I came home. After I was chosen to lead a freshman Bible study, my mom sent me an e-movie with clips of mountains and Bible verses praising God for all he has done.
My parents have even begun "hugging" my new friends, embracing them as my family away from home. They offer to drive other Colorado kids to the airport for their trip back to college. They send packages to my roommate. Recently, they cooked, did laundry and even threw a party for three of my friends as we visited Colorado. By loving my friendsmy second familythey show their love for me.
The best virtual hugs, though, are my parents' prayers and words of encouragement. A simple "I'm praying for you" e-mail will pop up, and my day will immediately brighten. An occasional letter with nothing but "God is love1 John 4:16" will show up in my mailbox. I'll put the verse on my mirror to remind me of God's love, and my parents' love, every morning.
My parents are amazing. Not only have they raised me to value education, assert my independence by attending a school far away and maintain a solid faith in a different setting, but they have also raised me to know the love of the Lord.
When I fly home, I can't wait for a real hug, a reminder of the way their love continues even when we're apart.
Heather Scheiwe is a junior at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.