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Staying the course

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…I have become like a lonely bird on a housetop

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Psalm 102:7b

   The other day, as I was reading my Bible, the verse above captured my thoughts. I thought how aptly these words represent the state of my emotions at present.

   For about a year ago two daughters, with their families, took up residence about an 11 hours drive, in opposite directions, from my home.  Add that to a son and his family living on the other side of the world, and at times loneliness stalks me like  a hungry predator.

   I’m no super Christian! I’m just a mom who dearly loves her children, children in law, and grandchildren, who longs to have them close by. (We have such a store of blessed memories of times spent together when they were.) 

   Yet, I have come to the realization that I am going to have days like these. It’s unavoidable. Knowing that one daughter and her family remain near by, sustains me. And while that is an immeasurable blessing, verses like the following are what helps me stay the course.

   Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

   And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippines 4:19

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God’s continuing faithfulness

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   Being a pastor’s family, getting to meet real live missionaries wasn’t an uncommon thing for us. I was always inspired by their testimonies and was curious about their uncommon lifestyles. But I dared not allow it to go any further.

Why?

   Because I feared what would be required of me if God called any of my children as missionaries.  So, I just lived in the moment, cherishing the time & space that I shared with my precious children, and tried not to think too much about what God might require of them (or me) in the future. 

   But eventually, the day came when God tenderly and lovingly sat me down and had me face this issue. It was a crisis moment for me. But I vividly remember laying it out before the LORD, in this manner.

prayer-on-my-knees4-2

Dear LORD, I believe with all my heart that the safest place on earth for my children is in the center of Your will. But You know that I can’t bear the thought that Your plans for them someday might be to transplant them somewhere far from me. (I was sobbing at this point in my praying) Nevertheless, I surrender each one of them to You, and I will raise them to seek to be in the center of Your will. But would you please make it possible for me to go and visit them wherever You might lead them? But if this is not to be, I will trust You to make a way for me to do what I cannot do in my own strength.

And the results of such a prayer?

   While that prayer of release drained me, at the same time it set me free. The fiery dart of fear that had held sway over my mother’s heart, no longer held me in its suffocating grip. For God kept reminding me that His love for my children was far greater than I could imagine. He had wonderful plans for them (Jeremiah 29:11) and my job was to encourage my children to seek God’s best. God’s grace empowered me to do this (Philippines 4:13) and His grace (in my weakness) has always proven sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

   Now, here I am, 3 daughters married to ministers, and a son, living with his family in a far off land as a missionary (with 2 of my grandchildren, I might add). And while it’s not easy to live life separated from my son, the fact that 2 of my daughters (and 5 of my grandchildren) now live less than an hours drive and the other daughter (and 3 of my grandchildren) live less than 5 hours drive, is my sustaining comfort.

  God has indeed been faithful in providing the way and means for me to visit each of my daughters when they lived in other states. And only God could have provided for me to fly half way across the globe to be with my son. (Philippines 4:19)

   To this very day, God’s faithfulness continues!

 

 

Wrapping up one adventure; preparing for another one!

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Grandaddy w/Shep

Grandaddy w/grandchild #9

   When our 9th grandson was born, my husband and I were blessed to be able to travel to where he was born. Then after about 2 weeks, my husband left for home and I remained in order to work with the staff children during a training session in the bush.

Sweet Togetherness!

Sweet Togetherness!

 

 

   On July 5th I wrapped up my ‘back to the bush’ posts about that great adventure entitled, ‘My final adventure-flying home!’  

 

 

The land of my dreams.

The land of my dreams.

   And just in time too. For in August, my husband and I will be meeting our son and his family in Scotland.

Why Scotland you may ask?

  Well, it just so happens that next year our son will be studying at the University of Edinburg working on his master’s in linguistics. Therefore, they will be taking care of the details involved in finding a place to live, etc. They will take some of their vacation time to accomplish this.

Now here’s where we get involved!

Our grandson (grandchild number 10) was born back in March. We were not able to travel to visit with him after he was born like we were able to do for his big brother. Therefore, we planned this trip to meet them in Scotland. Not only will we have the delight of seeing our new grandson for the very first time, but we will also get to see his 2 1/2 year old big brother, our son, and our daughter in law.  I have dreamed of traveling to Scotland for years and now thanks to my son’s need to study at the University of Edinburgh, my dream is coming true.

   Now, there’s a verse in Luke 6:38 that pretty much describes how I feel about embarking upon this new adventure:

“Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure–pressed down, shaken together, and running over.

Yep, in about 25 days my husband and mine’s blessing register will go off the scale. 

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.

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!

Focusing on the joy to come!

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Recently my husband and I got a call from Bobby to share the anticipated news that Maridith was pregnant!  Of course, we were excited!  My screams of delight weren’t that hard to read.

Yet after hanging up the phone, the realities that will accompany my 9th grandchild’s birth began to sink in, and my ecstatic joy slipped away only to be replaced with an increasing sadness .   Unlike my other 8 grandchildren, this baby would be born  thousands of miles away from me.  Though my husband and I are forming  plans  to be there after  our 9th grandchild’s birth, our visit will be comparatively short then we’ll return home and who knows when we will see him or her again.  The cold reality that I will not be able to enjoy watching my grandbaby grow up, or make memories with him or her instigated a growing sadness.  This child will not know me!  Thus the relationship I now treasure with my other 8 grandbabies will not be likely with my 9th.  How can I bear this?

The next morning Kathy called and we talked a little about Bobby’s news.  She and I talked about the sacrifices we all would be making with this baby’s birth.  She was tender and compassionate and allowed me to have my feelings and express them.  It was a very healing conversation.

Kathy expressed some thoughts that became strong incentives in handling my onset of sadness.  One, in particular, was that we would pray for God to  allow Bobby’s child and I to be close in spite of the great distance between us.  That was an encouraging thought; one that infused my heart with hope.

Kathy encouraged me to believe that though there is pain right now the day would come  when I would know great joy. (I’ve taken this journey already when Bobby & Maridith left so I know this is how it plays out.)  I shouldn’t try to imagine what the particulars might be but just focus on what I know to be true:  That joy follows pain!

It makes so much sense to remember that the by-products of focusing on what I might miss out on will  only produce more heartache and intensify my pain.  Focusing on the joy this new life will bring, ensures peace, and intensify my joy.  I choose to focus on the joy–the joy that’s already known, and the joy that is to come.  The following verses from Philippians 4:7-8 addressees the benefits of such a focus:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 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.

 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

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