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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!

 

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. 

roscoe and shep

   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. 

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)

Lessons from the past!

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Bobby on the AT

Somewhere on the AT, Autumn of 2004

The Lanes Machu Pichu

Visiting with our son at Machu Picchu 2008

   

The night before my son was to set out to hike the Appalachian Trail, he informed me that in one year’s time he would be leaving for a two-year mission trip to South America. Admittedly, that was quite a jolt! For it had not been easy to process the fact that he was about to solo hike this 2,000 plus mile trek! Now, this 2 year mission trip????!!!! I was beginning to feel a bit (nope, I was a lot)overwhelmed,

until God gave me the following council:

   I am really big on making positive memories (hey, even when you are having problems you can handle it in a way that will make the memory a positive one) . I have been deliberate about it as I raised my children.  Therefore, when the time came to say goodbye to my son, I knew that I DID NOT want to look back over that year only to recall a downcast mother, sighing over being separated from her one and only son. God reminded me that if I would only but cooperate with Him, He would see to it that every moment I had remaining with my son would be memorable. I decided the smart thing to do was to cooperate with God so I would be able to look back on that time with joy as I recalled those memorable moments we shared. That would be the best remedy for the inevitable sadness that would come AFTER my son’s departure. 

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   Now I realized I was to put that lesson learned 12  years prior, into practice in a way I had never expected. For here I am again, facing a situation all too familiar. My son, daughter in law, and two small grandsons are home for a short while (having returned from 4 1/2 years in a foreign country. The aftermath of that experience found its expression in this missionary’s mom blog). In about a month from now they will be leaving for my son to study abroad.

   Therefore, I don’t have a lot of time to make memories. So remembering the lesson from when my son was to leave for his first mission trip,  I realized I must not  waste a moment feeling sad over having to be separated from him yet again (only this time a daughter in law, and 2 grandsons are added to the mix). Experience has taught me the best remedy for the inevitable sadness that is sure to come once I have said good-bye is to have a store of joyous memories upon which to focus. 

Lessons learned from the past, continue to serve me well in the present.

 

CELEBRATING TOGETHER ACROSS THE MILES!

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I can see his face, I can hear his voice. I can be content with this!

I can see his face, I can hear his voice. I can be content with this!

   Thanks to current technology, our Christmas visit with our son was the highlight of our celebration! Living so far apart would lend itself to a severe disconnect if it wasn’t for the technology God has inspired and provided. Words fail me when attempting to express my gratefulness to God for this. But I bet you can imagine it!

Our son and his dad have always enjoyed a good talk. Something they still get to do.

Our son and his dad have always enjoyed a good talk. Something they still get to do.

   I have always loved to listen while these two guys are chatting with each other. It does my heart good to hear them discuss and share the events that are occurring in their lives. Their conversations are always spiced with laughter which helps to lift the burden that accompanies separation.

Together and sharing; a treasured moment. Brought a few tears.

Together and sharing; a treasured moment.–brought a few tears.

   Yes, he cried when he first started talking to his sisters and, of course, they followed suite. They finally were able to get to a lighter moment and the smiles and laughter ensued. Moments like these, my children making memories and enjoying being siblings, are the highlight of my days. 

 

Brother in laws have a lot in common; makes for the best of support.

Brother in laws have a lot in common; makes for the best of support.

   The guys got to have a rare together time. Even though it is rare and all to brief, the fact that they are eager to communicate whenever they can always makes for a celebration.

Shortly after this we got the phone call. They whipped around and went to yelling out hello's.

Shortly after this we got the phone call. They whipped around and went to yelling out hello’s.

 

   These young ones are learning a lot about praying as they faithfully pray for God’s ‘impenetrable protection’ (yep, that’s the words they use) around their uncle, aunt, and cousins. 

BACK TO THE BUSH: Last day!

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It is March 14, 2013 and I have spent my last days at bush camp. I had a lot of mixed emotions about leaving.

I searched my photos but no pics of the shower after the doors were installed by Simon and Cameron. That was such a vast improvement.

Outdoor shower!

   I confess mostly I was glad to be returning to a less rustic way of living. Carrying a 40 lb Jerry can of water down hill to an outdoor shower stall so I could pour cold water into a large bucket to wash off with, to stepping into an indoor shower stall and turning on the warm water; well, let’s just say it was kinda hard to teach this 64 year old grandmother a new way of doing things.

Filling up the Jerry cans!

Filling up the Jerry cans!

   

(By the way, the name Jerry cans originated with the Germans during WW II. They came to be called Jerrycans which was a snide name for the German soldiers.)

 

Outhouse!

And concerning that infamous latrine? When I walked away from that outhouse, I never looked back. And that’s all I am going to say on the subject!

Three parts of my heart!

              Three parts of my heart!

Of course, there were many more things I was going to miss. First and foremost was my son, grandson, and daughter in law. I was going to miss the opportunities to make memories (I’m big on that) with them. Soon, I would no longer be able to reach out and touch them physically. (Any reaching out and touching them after this would have to be accomplished electronically!)

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I was going to miss getting to know the people they ministered with and ministered to. I would not get to experience watching those relationships blossom and become more dear. I would not get to watch the effect that coming to know Christ would have on new believers there. I would not get to be present when God gloriously answered prayers that I knew were heavy on the hearts of my son and his team.  

550769_10151831157820389_1002524896_nBut as I prepared to leave bush camp remembering the high points and even the emotional, physical, and spiritual struggles I endured and being somewhat disappointed in myself because I did not rise above them more successfully, I did not know then that it would be after I got back home before the lessons contained within the whole of my missionary experience would begin to take root. 

So, off to base camp we ventured where I would pack up and begin my long journey home. But that wasn’t to be the final event of my stay there. For malaria was yet to strike again!

Just resist!

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     As some of you may know, I write another blog entitled, Fiery Darts.  This blog goes along with my book Fiery Darts: Satan’s Weapon of Choice.  It’s a book about the power of negative thinking or to put it another way, the power of fiery dart thinking.  

 

All 9 of my treasures!

All 9 of my treasures!

     Every time I see a picture of my 20 month old grandson or hear his voice when his daddy calls me, I get blasted with a huge onslaught of fiery darts such as:

-my grandson doesn’t know me  

-the memories I am making with my grandchildren here always exclude him

-he has no memory of our time together (when he was 3 & 4 months) 

-I miss out on the milestones of his development; first steps, crawling, first words, first tooth

-I can’t hug him, or hold him, or play with him, or rock him to sleep

-etc.

How on earth do I find a way to get through my days burdened with these thoughts?

The main thing I do is to RESIST these thoughts.  Yes, they are true but what good does it do to dwell on them?  I don’t particularly enjoy being miserable but if I allow these fiery dart thoughts to rule my thinking then miserable I would be.

What do I do instead?

I recognize them for the fiery darts they are.

I reject them. (I don’t allow myself to dwell on such thoughts)

I replace these thoughts with truth thoughts.

Such as:

-Thanking God for the time I got to visit him where I held him, sang to him, and lavished as much attention on him as I could.  

-Looking forward to future visits with him for he will be 2+ and might even be able to remember me some.

-Resting in the peace that God will give us a special attachment for each other.

-Being content to share in his life though packages from home, and whatever media source God provides.

-Thanking God for the relationship I have with his parents knowing they will be deliberate about making sure my grandson will know me. 

     But the main thing is to accept and be at peace with the call of God on his parent’s life, and giving them all the love and support they deserve. Philippines 4:6-7 is my stabilizing force in all of this:

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.-

THANKFULNESS!

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I am departing today from posting from my journal while visiting my missionary son on the field where he serves, to share some thoughts about Thanksgiving.

THANKFULNESS

My husband and I shared a beautiful Thanksgiving with our 3 daughters and their families. We did something quite out of the ordinary for us and traveled to a place in the Smokies to celebrate this special day. It was a Thanksgiving that exceeded my expectations and while it lasted only 4 days the happy memories we packed into that short time will last us a lifetime.

Yet as wonderful as it was to celebrate Thanksgiving together, one family group was sorely missed by all of us.  There’s always the temptation to feel sorry for ourselves when we can’t be with loved ones on Thanksgiving Day, but even more so when those loved ones are thousands of miles away. And I am just as tempted as any missionary mom would be who has to be separated from one of their children on Thanksgiving Day.

But as I opened Facebook this morning to send greetings to my son, daughter in law, and grandson, I came upon a post from a young man who serves alongside my son there in Africa. His words touched my heart and allowed me to get this Thanksgiving, apart from my son, into perspective. I would like to share it with you:

Thanksgiving thoughts from a missionary!

This is will be our first thanksgiving without our family! It is really at times like these that home (America) becomes very real. Especially now that we don’t have a place to call home. We sure do miss our dear families and our friends during this time. We will definitely miss a great American thanksgiving meal and fried turkey with our family. We are very thankful for the family and team mates that God has blessed us with here. We are thankful that God has placed us in this country at such a time as this. We are so very thankful for what God has and is consistently teaching us. 

We are definitely in a fierce battle here in Africa, every day is a battle and we sure are fighting back and I do believe we still have a lot more of fighting left in us. We have our families, our wonderful team mates and amazing prayer warriors and partners in the US along side us. To be honest, some days we get our butts kicked here and other days we come out victorious. We just have to take it one day and one battle at a time. As my dear friend and team member (insert by me: that would be my son)  reminded me yesterday, (on a head pounding, bumpy road) we did NOT come to this land to watch,wait or get tired of fighting, we came here to fight (for the souls of the those God has called us to serve), we can’t give up or get tried, THIS is what we signed up for, THIS is OUR divine calling. We are so ready and excited about the task that is ahead of us and so thankful for the task that God has bestowed on us.

As you contemplated what you were thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day, did you thank God for the task that He has bestowed upon you?  I confess I had not.  My thoughts of thankfulness focused more on the abundance of those things that God had given me to enjoy.  And while this abundance should be acknowledge with a grateful heart, the words of my son reminded me that my gratitude is incomplete if that’s where it ends.  

The blessings my Heavenly Father has bestowed upon me, I am reminded, are given to me for the expressed purpose of being used as instruments to fulfill the divine calling He has bestowed upon my life.  Somehow and in some way each of those blessings are designed to encourage, challenge, inspire, enable, and assist me in the task to which God has called me.

Here are a few verses to remind us of an additional perspective on thankfulness!

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

2 Corinthians 4:15 
All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

1 Chronicles 16:8 
Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.

Christmas In Africa!

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I really shouldn’t have posted that picture of the snake in the schoolhouse because it was a bit premature.  Lots of pretty cool things happened before then that I’d like to share with all of  you.  So forgive me and I promise I will get to explaining that picture soon.

 *    *    *    *    *    *

May I preface these pictures by expressing my gratefulness to God for making it possible for us to share this Christmas with our son and his family.  It’s not cheap, as you can imagine, to fly to Africa.  But thanks to God, His provision made it possible.  Our joy could not be measured.  The memories we made (which as you know is a really big deal to me) will be cherished and returned to time and time again-sustaining us in those moments when being apart becomes difficult.

Never underestimate God’s provision – esp. you missionary parents.  Just ask God to make a visit possible, then just be prepared for God to do what to you may seem impossible.

FIRST THINGS FIRST!

Shepherd's all decked out in his Christmas clothes!

Shepherd’s all decked out in his Christmas clothes!

Nammy holding Shepherd while Mom & Dad open Christmas presents.

Nammy holding Shepherd while Mom & Dad open Christmas presents.

Bet Maridith will be trying out some of these recipes!

Bet my daughter-in-law will be trying out some of these recipes!

Granma Warren's  Banana Spice Cake - all the way from the USA

Granma’s Banana Spice Cake – all the way from the USA

Shepherd's 1st Stocking - all the way from the USA

My Grandson’s 1st Stocking – fresh from Nammy’s mantel!

We celebrated Christmas just a couple of days after the fact but just as soon as we could when we got to Africa.  We traveled across the ocean with 5 lockers packed with items our son and daughter-in-law needed and along with their Christmas presents, plus their stockings (that traditionally hang on my mantel).  Of course, this was a momentous Christmas because it was my grandson’s first and Nammy was making sure he got his stocking.

This was our first Christmas with our son being in Africa.  So, it was interesting to see how it played out.  With a newborn grandson celebrating his very first Christmas, it was a given that Nammy & Grandaddy (at least) would represent the family in welcoming him.  I know my daughter’s arms were aching to hold their brandnew baby nephew.  While they didn’t get to hold him, thanks to a video chat shortly after he was born, they all did get to see him – even his Great Granma Warren and Great Granma Lane.

The next 3 weeks the Jr & the Sr Lanes romped all over this country enjoying a vacation packed with bonding moments and creating memories that we will savor all our lives.  In my next post I’ll share some of those memories with you.

In the meantime, you’ll never guess the name of the river we are cruising down!

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