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Not Without God!

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   I grew up on a farm, with three other siblings. The cultural way of things was to grow up, earn a living, get married, and raise a family all within the confines of our place of origin. And that’s pretty much the way it played out, until I came along!

   In my early 20’s, God dramatically changed the course of my life. Leaving behind everything that was familiar to me, and stepping out in faith, I moved to a different city and enrolled in college. 

  Then surprisingly about 30 years ago, God lead my husband to pastor a beautiful local church near my parent’s home. During that time our girls headed off to the college my husband and I had attended. My son was preparing to farm (for we now lived on the farm where I had grown up) when he graduated from high school.

   One by one my daughters married and moved away from home. Although, I  released each of my children to serve God wherever He called them to, the release, nevertheless,proved to be painful. Then, as in my life as a young adult, God dramatically changed the course of my son’s life, eventually, leading him to Africa. 

   My spiritual background equipped me to do what my cultural background could not. I knew what it was like to leave the familiar behind to follow God’s call. As I released each of my 4 children, I drew upon those lessons learned in my young adult years. Did those lessons serve to make it easier on me to release my children? Nope, not at all! But the Truth’s of God’s word made it doable.

God gave me permission to hurt and cry out to Him in my pain.

His grace was poured out upon me and I received His peace.

Day by day He carried me until I could, with His strength, stand on my own.

I learned that no matter how hard it was, God would be there giving me strength.

   No matter how proud we may be of our children’s achievements, letting go of them is super hard. Therefore, we need to call upon something other than our own strength and will. I couldn’t have done it without God. I suspect you can’t either!

Great Faith Through Sacrifice!

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   As I was reading a devotional book this morning, I was reminded that great faith doesn’t come easy. I’m sure that when you think of people you know who have great faith, missionaries come to mind rather quickly. After all, the sacrifices they make wouldn’t be possible without a great faith!

  Their willingness to make such sacrifices never fails to inspire! Yet, there is another group of people whose willingness to sacrifice for the cause of Christ also reveals a great faith albeit from a different perspective. That would be the families who had to give up their loved ones to serve God on the mission field.

   In some ways, their sacrifice might be the hardest. They are the ones left behind. Birthdays, special events, holidays all must be celebrated without their missionary family members. Births are especially hard! Not being able to be physically present to welcome that precious new life and watch him/her grow up requires strength only God can give.

   But God is always faithful and for every sacrifice there is an abundant return! Recently, I heard from a missionary’s mom whose only child was called to the foreign mission field along with her daughter in law and grandchildren.  Because of her great faith, the pain of letting go did not overwhelm her. Though without faith, it would have. She was able to move forward, and by God’s grace did much better than she thought she ever could. Hers is a great faith!

   A great faith isn’t for the casual Christian. But then neither is the extraordinary opportunities to experiences blessings beyond what anyone could imagine. Just ask any parent of a missionary! 

 

It’s a matter of obedience!

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Me & my boy! It's a mom thing!

Me & my boy! It’s a mom thing!

     I don’t know if you have noticed or not  that while my blog never plays down the struggles of living so-o-o-o far apart from my child, I always make it clear that God’s love, grace, and mercy champions me in those struggles.  Since releasing my son to the call of missions on his life, joy and peace have been my constant companions and have made what would have been an impossibility in my own strength a glorious possibility in His. (I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13)

     I write this blog to encourage other parents who find themselves on a journey such as mine. I want to assure you that releasing your child to missions or whatever God has called them to is not something to fear. (Remember, the safest place on earth is in the center of God’s will!)

     Recently, a grandmother of a brand-new missionary shared with me that she had expressed to  her grandchild her heartfelt wish that she wasn’t going so far away. Her missionary grandchild responded with, “Granma, would you want me to disobey God so I could be near you?”  That grandmother began to understand with greater clarity the priority of obedience. 

     My dear parent, releasing your child to do the work God has called them to is hard, I know! But the pain of releasing your child should not be your focus. Instead, the obedience to release your child should be.  As you obediently release your child, God’s grace, peace, and mercy will wash over you as a soothing balm. Your heart will be comforted; joy and peace will be your constant companions as you make this journey. It’s a blessed life and you will be just as grateful as I am to be living it!

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

It’s a process, so hang in there!

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The Original Six

The Original Six

     The above picture was taken only a few hours before our son and his sweet wife left to head toward a new land and a new life far, far away from us and all that was familiar to them.  You can’t tell by the smiles on our faces that our (especially mine) hearts were breaking. 
     Just a few months later, we welcomed a baby girl into our family as our youngest daughter was pregnant when her brother left. Oh the blessed distraction this little girl was during those struggling days. That was three years ago and since then a new grandchild has been born. But this time we didn’t get to jump into our car and travel to a nearby hospital. Instead, my husband and I jumped aboard a big ole’ jet and flew hours and hours to where our baby grandson, who was a little over a month, lived to hold him and rejoice with his mom and dad. That was a little over a year ago! 
     I compare my life of emails, phone calls, sparse video chats, and a singular visit with my son and his family now, to my life when my son and his wife left to live so very far away. You know, those first days (weeks, no months) there were times when I thought I just can’t do this–it’s just way too hard and it just hurts too bad. But here I am today, 3 years later and my heart has slowly grown stronger. Oh, it’s still painful. I see my little grandson growing up and knowing he has no idea of who I am or that I exist, yes that’s hard but God has equipped me to deal with that so that it doesn’t overwhelm me. 
     The peace that is constant and has been ever since my son first told me he was leaving is with me today, was with me then.  I think of dear young people I know who are heading off to distant lands to serve God and of the families that are having to release them.  Let me remind you, dear people, you can’t do this alone. You MUST hold on to God every minute because without His grace & mercy, the pain will overwhelm you.  Remember, the safest place on earth is in the center of God’s will, and that’s where you and your children must be firmly set. As you and they abide with God in the center of His will, you will be supplied with ALL that you need to see you through the initial goodbye’s and life to be lived apart.
     It’s a process but I speak from experience, it is worth every moment! If you are fresh to this process, I recommend that you go back and read my first blogs after my son left. I hope it will encourage you and give you hope, that your pain won’t always be so constant and will become more manageable. Camp down on the following verse:

Philippians 4:6-7New International Version (NIV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Isolation and Togetherness; both are beneficial!

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I use these two words of contrast within the context of experiences known to a parent who has just bid farewell to their missionary child. It has been my reality that both isolation and togetherness have worked in tandem to bring me to a quiet state of acceptance and peace of mind with the departure of my only son and his family to the foreign mission field.

Of course, this work wasn’t accomplished overnight but overtime!

After all, it’s put pretty well in Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV),

There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.

My time of isolation!

My time of isolation began during the early days after my son’s departure. I poured everything out to God. I spent ALL the grief I felt over loosing the companionship of my son (And I can’t tell you how important this is). I had suffered a genuine loss and not only did I need to acknowledge that, I needed to mourn that loss.

God let me cry for as long as I needed.  He allowed me to say whatever came to mind, for He knew those thoughts and words had to be released and He was the only one I could trust to hear those words. With my Bible in hand and the Holy Spirit’s tender guidance, over time (and the length of that time will vary for each person) God lovingly led me to a time of peace and quiet resolve to accept His will. 

In time, I was able to rejoin the land of the living!

Gradually, I was able to answer questions from those who were concerned about how things were going with me and my son and daughter-in-law (for at that time my grandson was still a precious dream) without my eyes spilling forth with unbidden tears. That, my dear readers, was no small miracle.  

Then came my time of togetherness!

Recently, my husband and I were privileged to join a group of parents who’s children were serving as missionaries within the same mission organization as our son.  As we gathered together, we shared our struggles and experiences, finding understanding companions on every level.  We shared photos and identified with each others stories of our visits (of places most people only dream of) to where our children served. With these parents, I knew the freedom of honest feelings. With them I didn’t have to pretend I had it all together. They knew that as hard as it was to make this sacrifice, when it was all said and done, it was a willing sacrifice.  And being with these missionary parents, I realized a level of joy and happiness unique to that sweet fellowship.  I felt stronger (and happier) and possessed a greater resolve to focus on the abundance of positives I knew as a missionary’s mom. 

* * * *

So you see, we need both isolation and togetherness in times of struggle.  We gain strength to endure by spending appropriate time in both. Don’t stay too long in isolation and by all means don’t go there without God.  From that blessed time of healing, you will find the strength to join together with like-minded parents in coming alongside your missionary child in proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel.  We learn how to focus less on our loss and focus more on what we and our children have gained; not to mention the people they have been called to serve. And my dear readers, that makes all we have gone through entirely worth it! 

Babies are made for holding!

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Well, at least that’s what my mother use to tell me when my babies were small.  And believe me, now that my brand new grandson has been born, I’m thinking truer words were never spoken.  Another thing, I might add, is that these grandmother’s arms are aching to hold her brand-new grandson.

As I write this blog, my daughter-in-laws parents and grandmother are in route back to their homes.  I imagine my daughter-in-law might be struggling emotionally right about now so I pray God will comfort and strengthen her.  It seems that having a baby plays havoc with the emotions of the mom.  Once those particular hormones get stirred up during the whole pregnancy/birth thing, a woman is never the same.

Actually, she’s in a better state, in my opinion.  For now she is sensitive to understanding her relationship to God in a way that up until that baby arrived, she was pretty much clueless about.  I regret to say that I didn’t quite get that whole parent/child relationship as to how it was inter-connected with the relationship I had with my heavenly Father until my children were college age.  And while I deeply regret it, my fiery dart’s training inspires me to move my thoughts to focus on the fact that I did finally get it and my love for my children and my heavenly Father has been the richer for it ever since.

There is so much that having children can reveal to you about your relationship with God.  For I wonder, if after God created Adam & Eve, he might have asked Himself this question, “Now what can I create for this couple that would help them get a truer understanding of how I feel about them?  I know, I will give them children.”

Yep, as any of you parents know, loving your children teaches you volumes about loving sacrificially.  Loving those precious ones like you do puts you in touch with God’s kind of love.  Father’s and Mother’s alike love from a vastly different perspective once that baby arrives.  Now your heart lives outside your body and you will lovingly spend the rest of your life guarding and protecting your heart.  No child ever outgrows that.

It’s unfathomable how my heart has expanded over the years to include 4 children and 9 grandchildren while my  capacity to love each and every one never diminished.  Isn’t it a wonder how the capability to love only increases with each child we are blessed to parent?  It is a mystery from the heart of God that defies explanation!  And yet, it does not require an explanation to understand it; for to experience it is to understand it.

As my son and daughter-in-law experience for the first time this sweetest of mysteries from God, my prayer is that early on they will make the connection between understanding the love God has for them as they love their own precious infant son.  From this point on, may they always be open to hearing the tender parental voice of God as He reveals nuances of His love for them that has been fashioned out of the love a parent has for His child. 

A Loving Mother!

A Loving Father!

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