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It’s Not About Us; Lighten the load

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The 6 of us

He’s on his way!

“Mom, I have some news for you and it may not be easy for you to take. I feel God is calling me (and my wife, or and my wife and children) to the mission field.” 

     For many parents that’s a bombshell of a newsflash. Depending upon the family status of our child, it may throw us into a chaos of emotions. 

     Perhaps, having undergone such an experience myself, I could offer some advice on what to avoid.

   As parents (and family members), thoughts begin to flood our minds of all that we will have to sacrifice. Yet as soon as the initial storm has subsided (and that time varies for everyone), we must come to terms with its effect.

     Even though their news strikes us at the core, we must be sensitive to the agony our children are experiencing. Remember, this is a calling God has placed upon their lives. Before coming to us with their announcement, our children have spent much time pondering and praying over their decision. 

    For the sake of our children, we must be willing to scrutinize our reaction to their news. Were we more concerned over how this will affect us? Of the sacrifices and the pain that will now color our future? On behalf of our children, we must not be afraid to ask ourselves the following question:

     Have we made this all about us?

     We must not forget that as our children serve on the mission field, they will face difficult days and situations. The difficulty of saying goodbye to their families is only the beginning. If we are in despair over their leaving, we must understand that only adds to the burdens they are already carrying.  

     Yes, we are hurting! There’s no need to pretend we are not. But our children need to know that we are depending upon God (not our child) to carry this burden.

The end result of our resolve will serve to lighten their load.

Because we have chosen NOT to make it all about us.

Responsibilities of a missionary’s mom

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Stay in contact with whatever means possible

   Thanks to that beautiful satellite that circles the earth, we don’t have to feel so disconnected from our children when they leave to parts unknown. And thankfully communicating via the internet, doesn’t cost us anything! Back in the day, when people traveled across the ocean to answer a call from God, their parents didn’t know if they would ever see them again. In our day, we have been spared that burden. We have much to be grateful for, don’t we.

Pray and share with our children how we are praying

  Praying constantly for our children across the seas, is a given. We don’t have to be told to do this, do we! I suggest finding bible verses that address their particular needs. This would be helpful and encouraging to them.

Stay informed as to  our children’s prayer requests

   We should also ask our children for their prayer requests. And when appropriate, recruit others to pray for those needs. The more people that are praying for our children, the better. But remember:

Keep confidences

   Security levels vary depending on where our children are serving. Seek their permission before sharing their prayer requests. Become informed as to how it should be worded, if it is to be shared. It is not necessary or wise to give too much detail.

 

As a general rule, be vague about using personal and place names

   Many of our children are on Facebook, so check out how they present information there. Follow their lead when you share anything online. Personally, I limit myself when giving out details concerning personal and place names. My children’s service area doesn’t require this, but I prefer to play it safe when I am writing my blogs. And with all that’s going on with Facebook these days, we should be careful about any information we place there. 

Keep them informed of what’s going on back home (the good and the not so good)

   Being so far away, our children loose touch with the daily goings on. Even though they may miss being with family and friends back home, they still want to stay connected. So, keep them informed of the major events and be sensitive about the details you choose to share. Some things are best not to share. Depend on God’s leading in this. 

Make sure our children have no doubt of our support

   Our children have made some radical changes in their lifestyles to follow God’s call upon their lives. They need to know that their families back home not only are praying for them but support them wholeheartedly. They have enough to deal with. We only add to their load if their family back home, for whatever reason, can’t release them to their calling. Let’s keep our focus on what is best for them. We have God’s grace to give us the strength we need to let them go. 

 

Just Keep THAT Door Closed!

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Just keep THAT door closed!

 

     Recently, I received a word from God about something I could do that would guard my heart from the destructive temptation to surrender to the pain of being separated from my son, daughter in law, and grandchildren. 

Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself, but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded. Proverbs 13:13

    When I think of my grandson who is almost 2, who hardly knows me, and of my grandchild due in March, who will be about 5 months old when I get to hold him/her for the very first time, or when I think of how much of my son’s life and accomplishments I am missing out on because of the vast distance between us, or being denied the pleasure of watching my daughter in law’s expanding frame as my grandchild develops within her. . . Well, honestly it’s a bit overwhelming and it becomes a gigantic struggle to squelch the emotion I feel rising within me.

     That’s when God had me make a mental picture like the one above and imagine that all those emotions reside behind that door. When thoughts enter my mind that would tempt me to open that door, He whispers something like:

“If you open that door and surrender to those emotions just know they will destroy you and create burdens for your son that you would not want him to have to bear. It will be healthier for you to keep that door closed. I had to give up my son, too, so I know of the intense pain you are suffering. Allow my understanding to be your comfort, for my grace will always be enough and sufficient.”

     Just think about it.

     What would be the end result if I allowed those emotions to have sway in my life? I would become a miserable person and likely I would begin to move away from God. Eventually, I might even harbor a growing resentment toward God for taking my son away from me. 

Nope, that’s not for me.

     In Jeremiah 29:11 God reassures me that He has good plans for my life. It is my full intention to revere God’s word and to cooperate with Him as He works out those good plans. I desire to walk this path successfully He has chosen and prepared for me. Proving to all who have reason to notice, that living life according to God’s plan is the very best kind of life to live!

 

    

Safe from Fear!

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     In light of the horrors inflicted upon innocent Christians, Jews, and now US citizens in hotspots across our globe, it seems safe havens are in high demand. Those in dangerous areas are seeking places of safety and security, uprooting their families and enduring hardships beyond imagination to find it. Yes, the temptation for me to fear for the safety of my loved ones and friends living in these foreign lands weighs heavily upon me.

 

A dear lady came to me yesterday in church and asked me, “Wouldn’t you rather they just come home?” 

Whoa! good question but consider the following?

 

     God began teaching me how to deal with fear as my first born daughter  (9 years of age at the time) was home recovering after being hit by a car. I became afraid to let any of my 4 children leave my sight. Fear debilitated me until God got through to me with the realization that I simply couldn’t live in a state of fear! He reminded me, He had a better plan. (Jeremiah 29:11) 

     Then again, as my son through-hiked the Appalachian Trail, He gave me fresh insight on how to trust my child’s well being to Him and built again upon the lessons that released me from the suffocating grip of fear. (Isaiah 41:10)

     Now, God has added new instruction on how to resist the debilitating force of fear. First, He helped me to RECOGNIZE that fear is a fiery dart, a weapon of the evil one to undermine my faith. Second, He empowered me to RESIST it. Third, He supplied me with a Truth thought to REPLACE the thoughts of fear seeking to manipulate me.

 

The Truth Thought that extinguishes the fiery dart of fear?

 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.2 Timothy 1:7

 

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     It is a scary thing at times to place your children in the center of God’s will!  The fiery dart of fear will attempt to convince you to do otherwise. But I have learned repeatedly throughout my parenting life that being in the center of God’s will is the safest place on earth for them. I have tried God in this and He has proven over and over that He’s got their well being foremost in His plans. 

     Yes, I am tempted to fear and plead with God to bring my son and his family safely home, but knowing they would have to step outside of God’s will to do that would be asking God to remove His protective hand.

No, I am not willing to ask God to do such a thing. 

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.

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!

Handling the Distance!

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Let me just say, in response to the above statement:

IT’S NOT EASY!

This is without a doubt the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.  Nothing about this is easy – NOTHING!

 Every time I turn on the tv, my computer, or my phone, there’s some scary news event that just adds to my concerns for the well being of my long distance family.  

And let’s add to this the ever present dilemma of a humongous ocean separating me from my only son, daughter-in-law, and now my new grandson!  

And to make matters worse, there is no high-speed internet in my son’s home, so how often do you think I’m going to be able to video chat with them, or without it will they be alert to what’s going on in the world?

I could go on and on.  Any of you missionary parents out there or any parent who is separated in distance and time from their children are feeling my pain right now–right?  So, how do we handle the distance? (Without going crazy, I ask you!)  

HERE’S WHAT I WOULD RECOMMEND!

First Step:  ACCEPT REALITY!  No matter how much I might wish my son & his family lived here in the U.S.–the simple, truthful, undeniable reality is THEY DON’T!  No amount of wishing on my part is going to change that!  This is what God has called them (and I might add, me) to. THIS IS THE WAY IT IS!

Second Step:  PRAY! Pour your heart out to God.  Probably you should go find some secluded spot for this.  I’m serious!  Get by yourself and hold nothing back.  Unpack every dark and painful thought that lurks in your mind.  God won’t be surprised at anything you unpack. He knew it was there before you did.  

Third Step: GET OUT YOUR BIBLE! Now this is the part where God replaces what you unpacked with the thoughts He wants to pack.  The more you are in God’s Word the more you are going to be helped and guided by it.  For instances, with the attacks on American embassies and Americans that has been saturating the news recently, the fiery darts of fear have bombarded me.  Therefore, I’m camping down on any verse God gives me that has to do with His power to protect.  Psalm 91 is a powerhouse of a psalm to go to when you are concerned about a loved one’s safety.  I especially found helpful the prayer I found with this psalm at the address below: (I have modified the wording to fit my personal need)

http://www.missionariesofprayer.org/2010/11/psalm-91-prayer-hedge-protection/

Heavenly Father, I ask You to place a hedge of protection around them, and hide them  from the enemy, familiar spirits, any and all demon spirits, making it difficult, if not impossible for them to effectively track or trace them in the realm of the spirit. There shall be no perforations or penetrations to these hedges of protection according to your word in Psalm 91. I know that You will answer this prayer because I love You and I trust in Your name only.  I pray that Your blood Lord Jesus will cover them and all that You have given them.  That the enemy will not have access to what has been given to them. Thank you for your divine protection in Jesus Name, Amen.

Therefore, take every disturbing thought, every fear to God in prayer, then wait for Him to direct you to a verse that will address that particular issue.  And remember, don’t allow the enemy to steal what God has given you.  Unbelief, doubt, etc. are all tools the enemy uses (I call them fiery darts).  But God’s Words overpowers each and every dart–never forget that.

Let me wrap this up by saying:

Don’t expect life to be easy.  Know that it’s going to be hard.  (Betcha, already figured that out!)

Sending your children off to unknown parts of the earth, as far as I know, hasn’t got any easy ingredient in it anywhere!  So don’t be surprised when  you find it’s a bit overwhelming!

BUT KNOW THIS!

God’s plan is to equip you to handle what He calls you (and yours) to!

And with obedience comes lots and lots of joy and lots and lots of blessings! (Try focusing on that why don’t you!)

So wanna know how you can handle the distance that now exists since your child left for the mission field?

Philippians 4:6-7, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Abundant Life Indeed – Even though miles apart!

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As God would have it, I am adjusting to being a long-distance grandmother.  Not saying I like it, just learning how to deal with it.  After the initial punch in the gut that my new grand baby is going to be born in a land far away, God has had mercy on me and is providing me with the grace I desperately need to accept this.

Sending my son off to this far away land is especially hard for me and now adding to an already hard situation is the fact that his sweet wife is expecting their first child.  Why is this so hard?  Well, several reasons. My son and I are close and over recent years, we have shared many memories and many heart-to-hearts.  He is my only son and came along at a time when I had given up on having a boy.  My husband and I had been abundantly blessed with 3 wonderful (in every way) daughters.  So when I realized that my cup was full to overflowing, I was able to release my desire for a son to God and peace reigned in my heart. Shortly, thereafter, we found out a 4th baby was on its way!  Honestly, I thought I was going to have another girl for I felt that was why God had conditioned me to release my desire to have a son!  Sometimes, God’s ways are past finding out! (Romans 11:33)

Raising Bobby has always been an adventure; not just for me, but for his dad and his sisters as well.  An adventure that has been downright challenging but a whole lot of fun at the same time!  When my son was 10 years of age, we moved to the family farm.  So during some very formative years, he had the privilege of growing up in an environment that reinforced a lot of what we were teaching him in our home.

And as wonderful as it was to raise my children on a farm, it sort of had an adverse affect on me eventually.  For you see, Bobby, for years, felt God was preparing him to become a farmer and that made perfect sense to me.  It gave me such peace in my heart to think that I would not have to worry about him moving off someday, but would have the joy and comfort of him being always nearby.  But that was not to be.  For when Bobby was a senior in high school, about to take up the responsibilities of farming, it was made clear to me that he was not to have that opportunity.  I had to break the news to him and he took it in stride.  His acceptance to this turn of events was my model to trust God to keep Bobby in the center of His will; even though events weren’t working out as we had expected.

After that time in my son’s life, God set him on a completely different course–working for a local industry while being heavily involved in youth work at our church filled up my son’s life.  Then while taking classes at a local community college he met and became friends with a family who would prove to be major figures in his future (his future wife’s family).  This relationship introduced him to an out of state Christian camp where he eventually went to work and live.

After that initial move, life for us became a series of goings and comings.  From camp, to hiking the Appalachain Trail, to 2 years in South America, then marriage, followed by graduation from college for both of them, leading them to replant their lives in Africa. All along the way, God empowered and enabled me to release my son to His care and keeping.  No easy task, let me tell you, but a task that by God’s grace was doable.

I think that one of the reasons I have found the strength to release my son has to do with God allowing 2 of my daughters and their 5 children to live only a few minutes drive from my home.  While my other daughter lives way off in Florida, I have had the privilege to visit her several times.  Unlike my son, we are able to email and video chat often which makes up for a lot.

So when I’m asked if I find it hard to deal with my son, daughter-in-law, and now grand baby being so far away, I have to say, “Yes.”  And for all of the reasons which I have shared with you in this post.  But like my son learned several years ago, I have learned to take things like this in stride.  When God calls your child to serve Him on the foreign mission field know that is going to require sacrifice.  But also know that when God places that calling on your life then He will equip you to be able to make those sacrifices.  Oh, it won’t be easy.  In fact, my adjustment has been characterized by a flood of tears, accompanied by an ache in my heart that I have found a way to live with, but a willingness to do what God has called me to do.  My heart is full of peace and as God continues to amaze me in how He provides ways to maintain that close connection I have with my son, I find that I can praise Him for the calling He has placed on my son and daughter-in-law’s lives.  They and we,their families, have an abundant life indeed!

Keep those cards and letters coming–and packages!

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Our missionary children love getting packages in the mail, so take advantage of that.  But depending upon the mail system of the country where they serve there may be some limitations and/or restrictions. Therefore when we desire to send them things they want or need, there is way that works even better than sending packages through the mail.  My son and his wife had been on the field a little less than a month, when God presented us with such an opportunity.  A dear friend of ours was making a trip on behalf of his church to the very place where my son and daughter-in-law were located!  When I found out where our friend was going, contact was made with my son, informing him as to when and where our friend would be arriving.  After a few emails and phone calls, it was determined what our friend would be taking.  It just so happened our daughter-in-law’s birthday was coming up so items that would enhance their celebration were eagerly packed.  As far as my son was concerned, there was a particular power adapter he needed, and some of his tools he had had to leave behind were requested.  We were thrilled to be able to send these items to our missionary kids.  Though I didn’t see their expressions, I’m pretty sure they were just as thrilled to receive them.

Typically, you as parents will be informed by your missionary children as to who the mission teams are and when these teams are expected.  You will be sent a list via email, phone, etc. as to what they would like brought to them.  At that point, you will be given information as to how to contact the mission team and give them the packages you want them to take. As in our recent experience, I made a 45 min. drive to deliver the suitcase to our friend.  But, if necessary, you will be given an address so that you can mail the packages to the team.  (After communicating with them as to how much room they have, of course.)

When my son was in South America, I was able to send bags the women of my church had made for the villagers where my son was serving.  My son had me contact the mission team and we made arrangements to send the bags to them, and they delivered them to the Baptist Mission in Lima.  My son picked them up when he came into town and took the bags with him when he returned to the jungle.

I already know that a mission team is traveling to where my son and daughter-in-law will be located in July.  Unless, there is a mission team traveling a bit later, we will be sending their Christmas presents by that team.  Yes, a bit early but it’s not likely it will be feasible to mail Christmas packages.  For instance, some of the restrictions are that the value of the items mailed must be under $50.  Otherwise, my son and daughter-in-law will have to pay taxes on those packages.

Okay, that’s a practical bit of information that you as a missionary parent could benefit from knowing.  Remember, you have to be deliberate about staying in contact with your children.  Sending packages via mission teams is a great way to maintain that contact!

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