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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.

God is Sovereign and in control-even in the unexpected!

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     Never would I have expected what has transpired in my family’s life recently. All brought on as the world stage was rearranged to set up for the coronavirus. Usually, events in my son and his family’s life are unique to where ever they are located, as are ours. But this global pandemic created scenes where location became irrelevant.

     This is how it played out. My son and 2 grandsons were in one coutry and my daughter in law was finishing up dental appointments in another country. Can you imagine the dilemma of my son and my grandsons and my daughter in law when both countries closed their borders?! The only way they could be reunited was to return to the States. But that proved to be a bit complicated.

     My son and 2 grandsons had to catch an expatriate flight out of the country where they lived. My daughter in law had to do the same in the country where she was. These flights were sporadic and they had to jump through a bunch of hoops to even get on one. Eventually, they both caught a flight but at different times. 

     My son was the first to arrive in the States but the coronavirus demanded he and my young grandsons quarantine for 2 weeks. Boy, did those two weeks drag out! Then a few days later my daughter in law reached home shores, and she began her 2 week quarantine. Each in different states by the way. Then 9 weeks from their initial separation the blessed reunion became a reality. 

So what now? 

     The country where they were serving is still shut down. No idea really, when it will open up again. A few options are being considered but no definite decision has been made. They need your prayers as they wait for guidance.

     The country where they are serving is seeing a marvelous increase in people coming to know Christ. So I know their prayer concern for that country is that the growth and spread of the Gospel will continue. 

     No one could have imagined how our lives could be so upended. Yet even though we weren’t expecting this, our security is in the fact that God is Sovereign and He is in control.

Are you listening, LORD?

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19 However, God has listened;
He has paid attention to the sound of my prayer.
20 May God be praised!
He has not turned away my prayer
or turned His faithful love from me

Psalm 66:19-20  (HCSB)

     I write another blog, http://fierydarts.com, which encompasses a primary weapon Satan uses against us in spiritual warfare. So, today, my hope is to blend some of the concepts of that blog with what we as missionary’s parents are facing in this pandemic.

     Our missionary children are scattered all over the world. Prior to this pandemic, our problems and their problems were uniquely tied to location. However, now we find ourselves facing the common threat of the coronavirus. A worldwide threat that is redefining life as we know it. Should our missionary children come home, or shelter in place right where they are? Oh, it’s a complicated scenario and every family’s response can only be determined by the details of their particular situation. No one plan works for everyone. We are concerned about them and they are concerned about us!

What are we to do?

     My fiery darts blog exposes the foremost weapon Satan uses against us in times like this which is referenced in Ephesians 6:16,

 “above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” NKJV

     Here is how it applies to our present dilemma.

     Fear spawned by this Coronavirus threat is a very present reality.   Unchecked fear breeds panic, panic breeds irrational thinking, irrational thinking breeds wrong choices. It goes on and on.

     How we contend with our fears and all its relatives are the fiery darts of Eph. 6:16.  Satan’s intent in this pandemic is to steal, kill, and destroy anything God infuses us with to carry us through this crisis. 

     God, on the other hand, intends to take the fear and use it to direct us to Himself. In that response, we will be helped and God will be glorified. By responding according to God’s plan as we counsel and pray over our children, we will be instruments of God’s will in how to tackle this crisis. 

Keep in mind the following as we pray for our children, wherever they are.

1. Recognize the fear (fiery dart)

2. Reject the fear

3. Replace the fear with God’s Truth thoughts

     As I pray over my children and their families in this crisis, one of the first Truth thoughts God gave me was 2 Timothy 1:7. Every time fear approaches, I call forth this Truth.

 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind

     God’s word ASSURES us that He is watching over us and our precious ones. We can wholeheartedly trust that God is definitely paying attention to our prayers. Likewise, may we receive and become the instruments of peace of Philippines 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.

(Especially, when the fiery dart of doubt begins its assault)

And the Stockings were hung!

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stockings 2019

     As I hung our stockings, all 20 of them, memories of past Christmases spent gathered around this fireplace as our family expanded through the years flooded my mind. The house is quieter than I would like as one by one our children took off on their own. But that is the way of things. Changes happen, no matter how much we would prefer they not. God imparts the strength to make adjustments and accept those not so desirable changes. Staying focused on all that we have to be thankful for keeps life in balance. Enabling us to notice the joys that God has personally designed for each and every one of us. It will depend upon our focus!

 

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