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. 

Today, I am weary!

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I got a phone call from my son while I was in Sunday School this morning and while his voice sounded upbeat (I suspect being infused with anticipation of their upcoming month long break) the pressures of life there are still ongoing.  My grandson is recovering yet again from a bout of illness.  This time a virus with all the trimmings; you know, throwing up, fever, etc.  I wonder if their thoughts are ever plagued with, “Will it never end?”

My son shared with me that he had lately had a dream.  It was a comforting dream, fill with scenes of singing and playing his bluegrass instruments in our church and taking a drive through the rural countryside around home.  His dream was a blessing and I believe a gift from God.  Yet I wonder if the dream was a reflection of his need for relief from the stress and strain of life in this new land?

When I hung up the phone, a wave of weariness washed over me.  I am tired for them. I am tired of the circumstances characteristic of their life style–armed guards surrounding them 24/7, sweltering heat pounding them constantly (their solar panels are having to be replaced for the present ones are insufficient to support air conditioning units; and that’s a sweat and wait scenario), a child whose little body has had to work overtime in conditioning itself to this environment into which he has been born with lots of bumps along the way in the process; not to mention the regular stresses of learning a new language, a new culture, a challenging and hot climate.  Living without access to medical facilities and having to handle most emergencies on their own–yes, my son stitched up his team mate a few days ago when he cut a big gash in his back—is a sobering reality where they live.   I think my son and daughter in law do better than most in adapting to living in a foreign 3rd world country; but honestly, I wonder just how much more they can take!

So today, I am weary and my praying reflects my weariness; so does my writing! I thank God they have this month long break to which they can look forward.  Knowing they have that keeps me from going under for them.

All of you who read my blog, would you just intensify your prayers for my son, daughter in law, and grandson? Pray for peace in the land to which they have been called and that the challenges they must face will ease up some for them.  Mainly, just to keep their focus on Jesus and not the storm!

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