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Sweetness in the sacrifices

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   I have 10 grandchildren. Eight of them live here in the States. Two of them live out of country. Recently, I was able to gather, from 3 different states, my stateside grandchildren (ages 6 to 13)  for what we have come to call “Nammy Camp.” It’s a time of good old fashioned fun; like swimming in Nammy’s above ground pool, gathering the extended family for a cook out, eating meals outside on Nammy’s picnic table, riding Great Grandma’s Kawasaki Mule vehicle, exploring the woods, taking walks, having a water balloon fight, cooking delicious cakes and brownies, playing chess, rising early to see the sunrise, chasing fireflies at twilight. Basically, spending a lot of fun time using the ole imagination! Missing my two youngest grandchildren the whole time. 

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   But it’s important to keep it all in perspective. We knew when my son and daughter in law left for Africa life would change. Our son and his family left their stateside family to share the good news about Jesus to people who hadn’t been reached before. In order for them to do that, sacrifices had to be made. 

   Sacrifices like making memories without all the grandchildren present. I won’t sugar coat it and say, “Oh, it’s not so bad!” But honestly, it is. But I’m wise to the fiery darts of negative thinking that would have me focus on my losses. God’s grace and mercy enable me to direct my focus on what I am gaining. Like the blessings of grandchildren no matter where they are. The benefits enjoyed by those who get to hear about Jesus because we all were willing to make the sacrifices. Filling up my mind with these beautiful thoughts, leave little room for negativity. 

   It’s a discipline that I have to practice consistently. But when I do, life is sweeter for the effort. 

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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.

Just ask God!

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Our first send off!

   Getting use to (all over again) staying in contact via electronic media with my son and his family. With all that got thrown at me over the summer, I am beyond grateful that this was not the first send off for my son & his crew. I imagine it would have been overload for me.(But I’m pretty sure God knew that!)

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Our unwelcomed visitor made a fatal decision the day it decided to crawl around the ceiling of our school room!

   At present they are caught up in a big training. However, it’s not taking place in the bush (remember those posts of my time in the bush during one of those trainings????? See above picture!) this time. This time the training is taking place in the village where the team’s basecamp is located. Not nearly as rustic and creature comfort deprived. 

Home Sweet Home!

   I share this because as I hear about their training, I can visualize them in their surroundings. I visited there in 2013 and became familiar with the surrounding physical features and quite a few of the locals. Especially the people they worked and lived with.

  God has been faithful to make it possible for me to make visits to where my children are. Years ago I prayed a prayer of release for my children to serve Him wherever He called them. I asked God to make it possible for me to visit them, if that led them far away. And He has done just that! 

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   Financially, it would have been impossible for me to have come up with the finances for these many trips I’ve been able to make to be with my children. (Just returned from a visit with my daughter in San Antonio). Yet God made it happen!

   If your children wind up living quite a distance from you, I hope you will pray about visiting them. The memories made will sustain you when you are apart. For some of you, this will be a matter of traveling for a few hours here in the good ole USA; for others it will require an expensive airline ticket. Either way, it can present  a crisis of faith. The fiery darts of doubt attack and undermine our faith at times like these. But remember,  you have made a great sacrifice in releasing your children to God. Be assured He desires to bless you abundantly for your obedience. 

 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

So, just ask God and (oh yeah, make sure you have a passport ready if your travel demands)

Here we go again!

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   My son and his family have been here with us since the last of July. On August 31st they will be returning to Africa. During his stay with us, he finished his dissertation! Writing the word ‘finished’ took seconds and in no way reflected the intense scope of the work involved. 

   I will write more about all of this later, for this blog will focus on a surprising bend in the path God has me on at the moment. My youngest daughter along with her husband and two daughters, moved to San Antonio recently. (Aug. 18, as a matter of fact). My son in law is the new Next Gen pastor (abbreviation for Generation) in a church in that city.

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 My daughter first mentioned the possibility of this move way back in April. Emotionally, I was devastated. For 8 years I have savored every moment I had with them. Their firstborn daughter was about 19 months when they moved here from Kentucky. While here, their 2nd born daughter arrived. Those two set about filling my life with joy and laughter. Now all this was coming to a screeching and painful halt!

   Two of my daughters gave birth to girls about 4 months apart. Those little girls formed a friendship from the get go. With a full heart, I have watched their ‘bff’ friendship blossom over the years. I could only imagine how hard this separation would be on them. I hurt for my precious granddaughters as much as I hurt for myself. 

  In an attempt to seek solace, I pulled out the hard copy of my first blog post of Jan. 4, 2012. I spent some time reading over the posts of when I first released my son and daughter in law to the mission field. I was reminded that obedience can be painful but God would not allow it to overwhelm me. 

   I write another blog about the attack of fiery darts or negative thinking. During this summer of extreme highs and lows, I have fought off a barrage of negative thoughts. Past experience kept me grounded in the truth that these attacks would not overwhelm me. Yet, I am battle worn and my strength has been depleted.

However,God in His ever so tender concern (also referred to as grace) has given me the following encouragement.

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

That is my anchor these days! 

  For once again, God understands that this is a painful process. He knows that in spite of the pride I feel for my son and daughter and their spouses for their willingness to go where God leads them, this separation from them (and my grandchildren) is a hard thing.

The face of courageous excitement!

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   Recently, my husband and I were honored to open our home to a family who were soon to become the newest members of the Echelon team. (The team which our son and daughter in law serve with) A young couple with 3 young children. 

   There was a time when I would simply not be able to fathom why a young family such as they would be willing to give up all the comforts of life in the US to go live in a seemingly God forsaken place as a 3rd world country. Why break those tender ties with family and friends and sell most of your worldly possessions? Why break their parent’s hearts by taking their grandchildren away for years at a time? There was a time when I thought, “This is just too hard!”

However, not any more. 

Now I get it! Now I understand!

  In 2008, I released my son (my only son) to serve God in Peru in the Amazon jungle. It was what he felt God called him to do. I couldn’t argue with that. I had to let him go. There was no talking him out of it! 

   Then my son got married two years later and two years after that he and my daughter in law left for Africa! Knowing that their children would likely be born there, I summoned up all the strength God gave me and released them. (Sure enough, they now have two boys)

   Not one thing about being the mom of a missionary is easy. I’m not going to sugar coat it for you. It’s a hurt like nothing else! But the wonder of it is that it’s doable!

   When God calls us to missions, either to go or to release, then He equips us to fulfill that calling. He gives us what we need to carry out our mission. He didn’t take away the pain, He lovingly helped me manage it. It did not overwhelm me! God was so faithful!

   I’ve learned that it’s not about what we have to give up or the sacrifices we must make to be obedient to God’s will. No! As I looked into the faces of this new missionary family, I saw courageous excitement for the journey ahead. I see this in the faces of my son and daughter in law. I have seen this in the faces of the many missionary families I have met since my son joined the Echelon team. 

   Our God doesn’t call us to something that is going to make us, and all concerned, miserable. No indeed! Although, the fiery darts (negative thoughts) may tempt us into thinking so. A life lived in obedience to whatever it is that God has called us to may take courage but never doubt, it will be exciting!

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. 

A Poem dedicated to retiring missionaries!

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In an open letter to Southern Baptist on 9/4/2015, David Platt, IMB President, made the following statement:

By now many of you may have heard that last week, IMB announced a plan to reduce the total number of our personnel (both here and overseas) by 600-800 people over the next six months…

   Some of the missionaries I have been honored to meet and now think of as friends during my travels to work in a bush camp with my son, have been directly affected by this drastic plan mentioned in the above letter.

   But I do not hear or read words of despair from these who have chosen early retirement. On the contrary, their words are awash with hope and trust in the God they have faithfully served through the years. I look forward to watching how Jeremiah 29:11 unfolds for them.

   My son wrote a poem that encapsulates the essence of what these unexpected retiring missionaries must be feeling about now. As you pray for them, for although their hope and trust will be their most formidable weapon against the fiery darts Satan will select for them, we need to dig deep into our pockets and hearts for ways that we can increase our support for them so that the Good News lacks no voice to proclaim it.

 

a Vintage Faith and Worn Out Clothes

 

Like young bulls eager to be in the throes,

they did not care, and they didn’t know

where they would live or where they would go.

Only a lamp unto their feet the path to show.

So, they took a vocation not a vacation,

to make disciples of every nation.

Bones burning with one proclamation

One vision, one Man–this Christ sensation!

And thus they left fools to the professors,

as they confused all their confessors;

Some were discouragers and others were blessers,

Sent out and away to cry forgiveness to transgressors!

Knowing The Way’s a hard road to travel

with smells of death, dying, and battle,

still they stayed for decades!

Hundreds of visas through Gospel blockades,

over years, weeks, thousands of days.

Now, youth to age and in the gray,

they ask should we go or should we stay?

Where should we, this grace debt pay?

My God come quickly, your children are turning

to the TV while America’s burning.

A melting flesh pot long since churning,

the wages of sin many years earning.

Then I raised my eyes unto the hills,

and into the wound the God that heals

His own bride from the world He steals,

from selfish pride and mortgage bills.

With a vintage faith and worn out clothes,

passion, and sacrifice their life does show,

our 6 to 800 go back into the throes.

These older and stronger mission heroes

for what is coming, you may not know.

They preach like warriors and pray like poets

We never even asked permission,

but now America has become the IMB’s number one field of mission!

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