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Compensations of sacrifice

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   A call from God can present some difficult challenges. So God always equips those He calls. God called my son and my daughter in law to the mission field.  Therefore, they have been and continue to be equipped by God to be able to deal with the challenges of such a life. But just as my son received God’s call to go, I received God’s call as well–to let him go.  

  Since their departure, God has given me opportunities I could never have imagined.   I’ve traveled to Peru where I have walked the ancient stone paths of Machu Picchu. In Africa I experienced the excitement of a safari, floated down the Nile River of Moses fame, and lived in a thatched roof mud hut in the savannah bush. A lifelong dream to go to Scotland was fulfilled not once but 3 times while my son studied for his masters at the University of Edinburgh.

   All of these adventures went a long way in compensating me for the sacrifice God had called upon me to make. But these adventures alone couldn’t have made up for the heartache my son’s exodus brought about.

But the following  has

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

My pain forced me to rely on God

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

In God I found comfort

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and delivers them from all their troubles.  The LORD is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:17

I learned to focus on God, not my pain

  You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on You. Isaiah 26:33
  It was good for me to be affected so that I could learn Your statues. Instructions from Your lips is better for me than thousands of gold and silver pieces. Psalm 119:71

I learned that my pain would not overwhelm me

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

I have drawn again and again upon the lessons I’ve learned from my experience as a missionary’s mom. And that is compensation far beyond any sacrifice I could have made.

 

What’s hard about the holidays?

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   Thanksgiving is just around the corner and Christmas is only a few weeks away. People and stores (Who begin way too early. Ooo, don’t get me started) everywhere are gearing up for the celebration. Ever since my son and his precious family left for the mission field, spending holidays without them continues to present challenges. For I don’t get to see the enchantment of Christmas sparkling in the eyes of my 5 year old and 2 year old grandsons. The physical distance between us prohibits the gathering of family around the traditional Thanksgiving feast. Not to mention all the memories such an occasion inspires.

    Out of 4 children, their spouses, and their children (18 individuals in all) only 5 of them now live nearby (about a 30 min. drive away). That is, since one of my daughters and her family recently moved an 11 hour’s drive away. 

   Honestly, (just being transparent here) it doesn’t get any easier as the years and holiday’s pass by. I wish it did though! But, reality is what it is. Sure, I get more use to it. I find a routine that works and a mindset that obstructs the temptation (the fiery darts) to feel sorry for myself. And knowing those 5 individuals are close by reminds me that I still have much to look forward to.  But that is only part of my defense against such self-focus.

   Recently, I’ve been prompted to include in my prayer time a time of thanksgiving. So, I made a list of things in my prayer notebook that I was thankful for. After opening my prayer time with praise and before I begin my requests, I

Now spend a few moments thanking God that

my problems will not overwhelm me

He brings beauty from the ashes of my life

my problems can become my testimonies

my problems can work together for my good

I have His words to guide me

He is always with me and I can never loose Him

Next I thank God for

Jesus’s sacrifice and the sure hope of heaven

the life Jesus lived and the example He gave

the Holy Spirit’s constant companionship and the guidance, instruction, and encouragement He gives

   Being a missionary’s mom presents challenges that could be overwhelming. Yet I know God equips me with the necessary tools to prevent that from happening. Focusing on what I have to be thankful for is a powerful weapon against the fiery darts fed by self-focus. It corrects my focus and puts it where it needs to be (off myself and onto God). And I find a peace there that sustains me in this ongoing separation from  my beloved’s.

Rejoicing though far apart on Thanksgiving!

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   Any missionary family deals with this all too familiar fact of life. While other families gather round to celebrate Thanksgiving with the classic turkey and dressing, pumpkin pie, green bean casserole, banana spice cake (a family tradition for 3 generations in my family), sweet potato casserole, or whatever unique recipes are considered traditional, families of our missionaries celebrate Thanksgiving defined more by the country of their residence than tradition.

   Because our missionary children are likely living in a country that doesn’t mark the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving, our missionary children will often have to modify the dishes of their celebration and the manner in which they celebrate. What is available or not available in the country where they live will determine the menu of the day and setting aside a non-holiday day as a holiday may not be so convenient. 

   The circumstances of their country of residence will also determine the guest list. Expatriates like themselves or fellow missionary families will likely gather together to make their own and unique Thanksgiving celebration.

   But then again, they may find themselves enjoying a cozy Thanksgiving dinner with just their own small family. That is the situation this year with my son and his family. My daughter in law, who by the way is a fantastic cook, is planning a traditional feast using fresh pumpkin for her pumpkin pie. Bless her!

   It’s not easy celebrating Thanksgiving far apart but it’s what we have to do. And this year, yet another one of our four children (along with her family) won’t be able to join us. But this is our reality! So we will all be careful to focus on the abundant blessings we have to be grateful for this Thanksgiving, as we celebrate apart from each other. (Our enemy, Satan, would have us focus on our separation, but we are wise to his fiery dart tactics.)

Therefore, we will video chat as much as possible, enjoying the day to the fullest! Always remembering that

This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 (NKJV)

Hello and goodbye!

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The Luxury of Having Them Home!

   As I keep up with my son and his family on Facebook, I am happy to see that they are getting that physical and emotional rest they need to prepare them for their next venture. We got to see them a couple of weeks in May, which could only be described as glorious chaos! Since then they have spent time with my daughter in law’s family and are presently spending time at a place that, for them, is also home. Then a week to debrief with their mission organization. Hopefully, in a couple of weeks, I will be traveling there to get in an extra week of time with them. Then in August they will be making their way here to spend their last stateside month with us before they leave the country so my son can work on his master’s degree abroad.

   Being able to pick up a phone and call them, or communicating with them easily via FaceTime, email, etc., I now see as a luxury. For while they were out of the country, our connections weren’t always good and often their internet was down. But not so here in the good ole USA ,and I am grateful beyond words.

   I so look forward to their month long visit in August and, of course, dread the day we will have to say goodbye again. But even then God has given us a lot to look forward to  before they actually have to return to Africa. Visiting them in the country where my son will be studying is definitely something I am making plans for, and my son’s last term is a research semester where they will return home for 3 months to wrap things up. And the fact that they are planning on coming home for Christmas, cheers me up immensely!

The Reality of Saying Goodbye!

   In all this coming and going since my son and daughter in law left home 4 1/2 years ago, God has gently guided me every step of the way! He has empowered me to manage the pain of releasing them to live their lives apart from us without it overwhelming me. I recorded that lesson in a blog I wrote on 10/7/14, Just Keep THAT Door Closed. From that lesson I learned I could choose not to open the door where painful emotions resided. By refusing to open that door, I was choosing to focus on receiving all the grace and mercy God had in store for me as I obediently released my son and his precious family to God’s calling upon their lives. 

   I am discovering that while it still hurts to say goodbye, I know because I’ve experienced it, God has some exciting and extraordinary plans for those of our family who must release, as well as for those who go. And as those plans unfold, we all are blessed beyond what we could have imagined. For when God gives us hard things to do, He faithfully provides rewards along the way that makes the hard thing doable!

Finding thankfulness in separation

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   The Thanksgiving holidays typically presents a challenge for me and my family! While this year we celebrated in full by traveling to the Smokey Mountains with our 3 daughters and their families to our favorite resort that boast of an indoor (which our grandchildren stormed) waterpark, it was never far from our minds that 4 of our members were missing–our son, his wife and their two sons.

   However, my son, by the grace of God, was able to connect with all of us via a phone call, catching up with us at the restaurant where we met for breakfast after checking out of our hotel. Yet I found myself feeling guilty as I began describing what a wonderful time we were having, as if we had no right to be enjoying ourselves so much when he and his family couldn’t be there to join in.  It’s kind of a tricky emotional balance to celebrate Thanksgiving enjoying the presence of my daughters and their families while grieving the absence of their brother and his family.

   While sitting out on the balcony of our room one morning, I contemplated the blessing of celebrating Thanksgiving with my 3 daughters, 3 sons in law, and 8 grandchildren as close as an arm’s reach from me! But how could I be thankful that thousands of miles separated me from my son, daughter in law, and 2 of my grandsons.

Then God brought this to my mind.

   “Consider the love your son has for Me. It is deep and consuming. It is the kind of love that motivates and empowers him to make the sacrifices and live the life to which I have called him. Likewise, it is the kind of love for Me shared by all of you, that enables you to release him to his calling and make the sacrifices required during this particular time of the year.”  

   For sure, I wrestled on and off with the temptation (I call them fiery darts) to focus more on the reasons I had to be downcast than on the reasons I had to be thankful. Remember the account in the Bible where Peter, one of the 12 disciples, almost drowned during a storm at sea when he took his eyes off Jesus and began focusing on the storm (Matthew 14:22-33)?

   So for me it was a matter of where I placed my focus. My family’s love for God and their willingness to be sacrificially obedient to Him was the focus I needed if I was to celebrate Thanksgiving with a ‘thankful’ heart. It wasn’t a focus that ignored the sadness that I felt in being separated from my son but one that comforted and strengthened me in that sadness without diminishing the joy I felt as I celebrated Thanksgiving with those around me. 

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