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Defeating the fear, one day at a time.

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I can remember as I was raising my four children the conflict of emotions I had about how to pray for their future. I prayed like most Christian mothers that God would keep them in the center of His will. That nothing would distract them from the path that God has chosen for them. Yet I harbored a fear of where that path might lead them. The thought that God might plant their roots far away from home made my heart tremble. And the most troubling thought of all was, “What if God called them to a foreign land?”

I think that I’m not alone in confessing such a fear. But who wants to be this transparent? People might criticize us for not having enough faith. So I hid this fear deep within my heart. I remained quiet during conversations about children venturing on paths that led them away from home base .

For some of us releasing our children to move distances away is like ripping out our hearts. I heard a father use just those words to describe his emotional battle of sending his daughter off to a foreign country as a missionary. My own aching heart went out to him.

Words like, “You must be so proud of your child,” almost made me angry. Of course, I was proud of my child. But do you think that proclamation alone would be the cure all for my heart’s traumat? Not for me it wasn’t!!!!

So allow me to share how I traversed the challenging path on which God led me. A journey that resulted in two of my 3 daughters living in far away states and an only son living the missionary life in a foreign country. It happened one day at a time. God comforted me with the assignment to make the most of the years He would be giving me in raising my children. Not to allow my fears to influence me to hold back in training them to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

God put my heart at ease. I continued praying for my children to choose God’s will for their lives. In this case, I kept my focus on cherishing the present and trusting God to handle their future .Therefore, as my trust grew, my fear subsided. So much so that by the time it came to release my children, my fear had been defeated. Without the distraction of fear, I was free to take advantage of the comfort I sorely needed to successfully release my children to follow the path God had planned for them.

Things I have learned (and continue to learn) along the way?

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When our children stand perched on the edge of our nest, ready to take flight towards their adult future, it’s a breath holding moment for parents. For you see, we have made that journey. And the memories (good and bad) still linger coloring our perspective of what our beloved children might encounter. We question ourselves. Did we do all that we could to prepare them to be successful in their new independence?

And then, coupled with the ominous effort of the ‘letting go’ process, we may question, if we will ever breathe normally again. It takes a mountain of strength to send our fledglings off and then again to let them go. Honestly, I don’t posses that measure of strength in and of myself.

Various phases such as graduating from high school, then college, then marriage, then grandchildren, or moving to far away states and even countries demands strength and wisdom beyond me. So, as a survivor of a quartet of various phases on both the sending off and the letting go; I have a few tips to pass along.

Here’s a sampling of those tips:

Acknowledging that the hill of my personal strength and wisdom were no match for the mountain of challenges I was facing.

Turning to God at every phase of my children’s journeys, gathering the tools that He would supply to meet these challenges. Praying for them, being foremost.

Asking for God’s wisdom in discarding the familiar garment of parenting for the unfamiliar garment of counselor. Thanking God for the grace of time. Time to allow God to school me in adjusting to my new garments.

Visualizing them walking towards God’s future for them; not walking away from me.

Learning to focus on what I have gained; not on what I have lost. And keeping my thoughts planted there. I was overwhelmed at times of how God enriched my life experiences via the path He called my children too.

Learning how to lend my full support even if their journey leads them further and further away from home. Tempering my prayers with “God’s will to be done, even over my will.”

Focusing on the incredible blessing of the technology God has provided, allowing my children and I to maintain a sense of connection no matter how far apart we may be.

Trusting God for not only the details of their future; but mine as well.

Painful? Oftentimes; Doable? Most certainly

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When our firstborn left home to attend college, I remember thinking, “Our lives now will become a series of comings and goings.” I had no idea at that moment, the impact of that statement. I couldn’t have been more contented with the life we lived prior to this earthquake of a transition. Our lives were tightly knit together under one roof. Always aware where each other was. Sharing life together. Then one by one the threads of each child’s life were loosened. And eventually each formed their own tightly knit togetherness under their own roofs.

Releasing our children to follow God’s will for their lives is always challenging. However, for those of us the challenge is intensified when God’s plan leads them to distant places. Out of four children, only one lives nearby. And for a time, our son’s stateside has brought him and his family closer.

Honestly, I’m not as contented with life as I was when all four of my children lived at home. But tenderly and gently, God prepared my heart to find a new way to be contented. A verse that has been a personal mainstay for me is Jeremiah 29:11:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future.

That verse reminded me that God’s will for my children’s future was not intended to make me miserable. The plans He had for me and the plans He has for them, are good plans that will bring us a hopeful future. My trust in God to guide my beloveds has been empowered as I have prayed Psalm 25:4 over them:

Show them the right path, O LORD; Point out the road for them to follow. Lead them by your truth and teach them…

By choosing God’s will over my will for my children, I have discovered a valuable truth. While the separation continues to be difficult, a daily dependence on God and His word makes it doable.

Stateside: Just follow His lead!

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The first stateside, our son and his family of four, moved in with us. While we all realized it wouldn’t be ideal, since it became our only option, we were determined to work it out. We have a unique situation in that their living quarters were upstairs. It was possible for them to have a measure of privacy. But we managed it and made some pretty wonderful memories in the process. But, concessions had to be made and while not always successful, the fact that we were reunited after a four year separation was our settling factor.

Our second stateside was unexpectedly brought on by the COVID shutdown. It found us combining our families once again but with some definite changes. The four bedrooms and one bathroom upstairs became their apartment. They made necessary changes to accommodate the four of them. It was a struggle at times, especially for me. I just didn’t transition well in seeing the upstairs as no longer my realm. I wasn’t sharing my space with them, it was theirs exclusively. But we made it work once again as it was the most practical option for all.

A few months after returning to the field, the country in which they served underwent a coup. The timing of their stateside was adjusted to move them home earlier than planned. But this time their options of where they were to live had been expanded. By God’s design my son and his family live about one and a half hours from us. They are missionary in residence at our university’s alma mater and our son teaches there. This has turned out to be the best of both worlds. They are close enough to visit back and forth. Yet, they are independently living their own lives.

Stateside can get complicated. Returning home and getting resettled in their home country raises many concerns. Nevertheless, we must trust God to show them the path our children must take. Knowing and trusting Him to lead them in the way that is best for our children. It’s not about us or asserting our will. Keeping that focus will result in all building up a store of blessed memories during their stateside.

Stateside is a time of rejuvenation, redirection, and reunions. As God guides our dear ones on the path to which He has called them. It’s a matter of trust and following His lead.

Experiencing the Seasons!

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For the last few months my missionary family has been on what is called Stateside. The amount of time they have here is determined by several factors. Mostly having to do with the amount of time they have spent on the field. That they would be able to embrace the joys and delights of autumn and winter was an event I was keen to see.

Of course, my prayers were that we would have especially beautiful seasons of autumn and winter for their pleasure. I started praying this in the summer when they arrived. I figured I should start early because while autumn can be a beautiful season, we don’t always get the color we hope for. And though we had a record breaking snow last winter, who knew if we would get any at all this year. Snow and color are sporadic here.

Whether in answer to my prayers or not, autumn dressed out in splendid array. Throughout the campus where my son and his family live, this autumn season was explosions of red, yellow, orange, and brown. And for eyes that had been deprived of such glory, I’m sure it bordered on being overwhelming for them.

I watched them take walks on the trail near our house savoring the sounds of leaves crunching under their feet. Pumpkins and scarecrows dotted all about the house and yard. Using any excuse, they roasted hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire pit. Drank coffee flavored with pumpkin spice creamer. Lingering by the fire, calming to the crackling of burning wood; quickened their senses. Senses that had been dulled from lack of stimulation. And Thanksgiving, the grand finale of the season, shared with family were moments of pure pleasure.

Then Christmas, a long anticipated reunion of our entire twenty member clan took place for the first time in eleven years. Though we exchanged gifts with all the laughter and thrills that goes with such fun, our sweetest gift was just being together in one place. We packed 20 people in our country home. Kids were sprawled throughout the house with the overflow bunking down on the front porch. Thanking God for blessing our gathering with balmy weather, making their sleeping quarters comfy. The pleasantly cool temperatures enhanced many an outdoor setting for their memory making.

And the icing on the cake came when my grandsons got to experience their very first snow. Their squeals of delight were deafening. Their dad, as big a kid as his sons, helped them build a ginormous snowman. Snow cream became a staple for the days they got to enjoy their winter wonderland.

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Yes, their autumn and winter fun exceeded my expectations for them. Stateside is giving them all the joys of autumn, thanksgiving, Christmas, winter fun in the snow they have been missing out on. It’s really cool how when you are willing to make sacrifices to serve the LORD, He blesses you in such an abundance, you don’t feel as if you have missed out on anything.

Releasing is Doable!

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When my two oldest daughters were in middle school and my two youngest were in elementary school, we moved to my family’s farm. It’s an idyllic setting to raise a family. Room to roam and plenty of fresh air and sunshine. Opportunities to bond and store up bountiful memories.

But over the course of time each ventured out to follow the course God had laid out for them. Mingled among the bounty of golden memories, were painful letting go memories. For me, the progression of releasing one then another was painful. Yet, as God guided and instructed my fledglings, I found Him guiding and instructing me as well.

At present I have a daughter in Texas, one in New Jersey, one a 35 minute drive from my house, and a son 1 1/2 hour’s drive away. And for the first time in 11 years we were able to celebrate Christmas all together. Worth the wait though!

Often I ponder where they will all settle. My heart’s desire is that eventually my two out of state daughters and our missionary son will, like their sister, find their journeys leading them closer to home. I talk to the LORD about this frequently. I’m grateful for His listening ear. And although He allows me to express my heart to Him concerning my children, I know it is His will that takes priority over mine.

I know that the safest place on earth for them is in the center of His will. Now I’m not naive enough to assume this means they will be free from trials and troubles. Not at all! It’s just that being in the center of God’s will ensures their spiritual safety. His resources are always accessible to them, no matter what they might be going through. There is an abundance of assurances throughout the Bible regarding the spiritual safety of being in the center of God’s will. Consider the following:

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV, For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

With a son and his family living in conflict zones, and daughters living miles and miles from us, I have known the comfort and assurance offered by God to carry me through these trying moments. And while releasing my children and grandchildren to follow His will never is easy, God always makes sure that I find it doable.

Peace in the Storms; Courage in Crises

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Having to love and support family from afar is never so difficult as when our loved ones are caught up in a time of crises. It is the intensity of such times that they and their families back home are all called upon to perform acts of courage they really did not think they were capable of.

For how does one sort through the myriad of decisions that requires a sound mind to guide one’s family safely through risky and at times even dangerous situations? And for those back home holding their breath as they wait for assurances their loved ones are safe? How do they keep from worrying themselves sick?

I mentioned previously that situations like these bring forth courage. But how does one put aside the fear, worry, and stress long enough to take on courageous? The reality is that in the face of such challenges the temptation to give into the fear, etc. is stronger than we realize.

Personally, I discovered the only way I could reject fear and worry was to tune my hearing to only one voice. When I did the peace that passes all understanding calmed my heart and ruled over my fear. That kind of peace is only accessible from God.

How, can one avoid being overcome with fear and worry during such turmoil? But if I have discovered anything in sending my children off to answer God’s call upon their lives is this. “When we answer God’s bidding to follow Him, He equips us to carry out His plan. And as God called them to go, He just as surely called me to let them go.” And though it is hard, it is doable!

So when His calling places us in difficult and even dangerous situations we have the confidence that He is in control. That He will never leave us or forsake us. That we can have peace in the midst of the storm. And for me, that the safest place on earth for my children is in the center of His will.

But this assurance isn’t just for those who are in full time service to God. It’s for any of us who have Christ as our Savior. It’s not an easy life we should pray for. We should pray for a life that knows how to turn to God and seek His purpose for the crises we find ourselves in. That is true for any Christian; not just those on the foreign field.

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In Times of Crises

A word of encouragement to all who have to love and support from afar!

Being distanced from our loved ones is always difficult but never more so in times of crises.

Recently my family got to experience first hand the power of God to deliver!

The power of God to replace fear with faith!

The power of God to take a bad situation and bring good out of it!

The power of God to teach us how to hear His voice above all the conflicting clamor!

The power of God to draw great numbers of people together in prayer to witness His faithfulness!

In times of crises when we can’t do anything for our children but pray, we have done more than enough! We must not allow the enemy to convince us otherwise. Planting ourselves firmly in God’s word will stabilize us. The weapons Satan will attack us with will fail. God will be glorified and we will be made strong. We will have something valuable to offer others during their times of crises.

We serve a mighty God!

Seasons of life: some easier to enjoy than others

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     Come August, my son and his family will be beginning their stateside assignment. This go around, they are preparing to enter a brand new phase of their lives. My son will be teaching at Union Univ. only 1 1/2 hours from our home while serving as their missionary in residence. The anticipation of this is surreal. Union University holds a special place in our hearts. With my son serving there for this year long stateside assignment, that completes the connection all of us now have with Union. Our three daughters graduated from Union, and two of them met their husbands there. My husband also graduated from Union and I attended two years there. Hoping for a grand reunion as we walk the hallowed halls of this blessed institution.

    Having this to look forward to later this summer supplies the energy to keep my head up and move forward. Why, would I make such a statement? Beginning March 2020, I have more or less been secluded in my home. Partly, because of the COVID pandemic. In addition, providing the watch care of my elderly (98 years) mother, I have found it necessary to forgo trips, like visiting my daughters, obviously my son, or fun trips (remember those? I think they are called vacations.)

Why do I share this?

     Being separated from your children and their families is hard enough when God’s calling deems a separation. But COVID has placed an extra strain, keeping those who are close enough to visit from visiting. Now for over a year, I have been in forced isolation. There are days when it gets almost overwhelming. I do get to visit with a couple of friends on a regular basis because we are in a discipleship study. They are often my life line.

     It is my heart’s desire to do what pleases God. The strength of that desire empowers me to look beyond my desire to be with my children and grandchildren. And were it not for that overpowering desire, I would be most miserable. I’m no super Christian, far from it!

     Years ago, when my babes were home with me, and each day was filled with their laughter and pranks, arguing and issues to which I had to intervene and try and settle was a beautiful season of life. And it was in that season, I released my children to God. As hard as it was, I knew that God’s calling on their lives held the potential of them living separated from me.

     It wasn’t until recent years that COVID and caring for my mom began to curb visiting my children or taking trips. Prior to that, though He moved them away, God still allowed me to make some beautiful memories. But now, it’s a lean times for memories. To be honest, I don’t care too much for the season of life, I’m finding myself in.

   

So, it comes down to this for me

     It’s about pleasing God, not myself. Obedience to God, while painful at times, is ALWAYS rewarding. When I ponder my children and their families, and the lives they are living, I can almost hear God saying, “See, I told you you could trust your children with me. All those beautiful memories you made for so many years are sustaining you in this less than desirable season. But keep in mind that you and I have more time together than ever before.”

That thought puts a lot of things right for me!

 

Hope Remains…

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     Everyone, and I mean everyone, has a phenomenal tale to tell in describing the invasion of COVID 2020. In my previous post I described our family’s story. Therefore, I would like to bring you up to date on the end results of our crazy journey.

     My son, daughter in law, and two grandsons, after some necessary quarantining, moved into our upstairs for the unknown duration of their stay. It was like living in limbo! Exit times came and went. Uncertainty clouded their days. 

     During their stay, it was like an emotional roller coaster ride. My daughter in law’s father came down with covid! But after several tense days, he began to recover. 

     During their stay, my son kept a busy schedule traveling to area churches sharing about life in the city where they lived. Hearts were stirred and encouraged as my son narrated the miraculous testimony of a fellow believer there.  His suffering for Christ continues to inspire and increase the church.

     As frustrating as it was to deal with uncertainty on a daily basis, the faith that God always brings good things out of bad situations was sustaining for all. For while speaking at a nearby university our son was offered a Missionary in Residence opportunity when they arrive next August on their stateside assignment. An opportunity that would not have been realized but for the unexpected turn of events due to covid.

     While the pandemic continues to rage, hope also continues to sustain. There’s a profoundly hopeful verse that has carried my family through these trying days.

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