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Keeping Christmas Wonderful!

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Christmas is a wonderful time of the year!

  That wonderfulness could be somewhat diminished this year, however, since my son and his family won’t be able to come home, yet again. They are on stateside and we all thought, “Oh boy, we get to celebrate together this year!” And initially it seemed possible, even though they would have to fly home from abroad where my son is studying for his master’s. However, after relocating and getting established in their new life there, expenses proved to be greater than originally thought. Sadly, the much anticipated Christmas visit had to be cancelled. 

 

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  This is the part of missionary life that proves to be quite a challenge. Especially when I hung each family member’s stocking on the mantel. I know that when we (our daughter’s and their families) take down their stockings full of Christmas surprises, it will just plain hurt to see 4 stockings hanging empty and undisturbed on the mantle.

Yet that’s our reality!

   But there’s another reality that demands my focus. While my son and his family were home during their stateside over the spring and summer, we stored up an abundance of memories of time spent and enjoyed together. The memories we made as a family and with many friends grow all the sweeter as we ponder them over Christmas. 

   And next summer we will come together for one more visit before my son and his family return to their mission assignment. Many more memories will be made and added to the store we built up while they were stateside. 

But there’s the main focus!

   What we focus on will determine whether or not we have a wonderful Christmas. So, I’ll focus on the gift of time we were given and that will bring much comfort. But there’s another focus that is paramount to all others.  Focusing on the extraordinary event of the birth of the Christ child and the fact that we as a family acknowledge and celebrate that whether we are together or not is the necessary focus to making Christmas wonderful!

 

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TOGETHERNESS!

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   Next year, my son and his family will be returning home for a few months prior to heading out of country again in order for my son to take graduate courses. But during this year and in about 3 1/2 months my husband and I will be joining up with them for a couple of weeks vacation in that same country. The first few days will be spent taking care of details having to do with registration, etc. The days after that will be all about making memories! 

 

HOW WILL I SPEND MY TIME?

 

   Holding and cuddling my 5 month old grandson for the very first time. Singing songs to him and playing games with him like I did with his daddy. Lending a hand in his care and feeding; allowing him moments to become accustomed to my face and the sound of my voice. 

   Playing with my 2 year old grandson. Reading books to him! Showing him pictures and telling him about his daddy’s family (his cousins, etc) back in the States. Doing as much running around and chasing after him as these grandmother’s physical limitations will allow. Singing him songs I use to sing to his daddy and teaching him some of the words. Learning some of the new songs and games he might want to teach me.

   Taking long leisurely walks with my son; talking about whatever comes to mind. He has ventured out in new directions since I saw him last. I am curious about his take on all of that. 

   Sitting on the side lines and listening to the thoughts and ideas my husband and son will share with each other. (One of my favorite past times when we are all together)

  Enjoying the interaction that transpires between my son, his wife, and their boys. Watching them being a family; filing those moments into my memory banks to keep them close to me after we have to part. 

   Having precious moments to focus on my daughter in law; exchanging thoughts and ideas, sharing the sights and sounds together. Her life’s experiences have expanded as well. I long to hear all about those. 

  Doing some real honest to goodness babysitting, while our son and daughter in law venture out to explore and experience the fascinations of the land we will be visiting. 

  Spending quiet moments absorbing God’s spectacular handiwork; recording in word and pictures all that I’m able so that I can share with those back home. 

  Seeing places with my own eyes, that until then had only been experienced in my dreams.

And all of this in the context of togetherness!

 

 

Isolation and Togetherness; both are beneficial!

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I use these two words of contrast within the context of experiences known to a parent who has just bid farewell to their missionary child. It has been my reality that both isolation and togetherness have worked in tandem to bring me to a quiet state of acceptance and peace of mind with the departure of my only son and his family to the foreign mission field.

Of course, this work wasn’t accomplished overnight but overtime!

After all, it’s put pretty well in Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV),

There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.

My time of isolation!

My time of isolation began during the early days after my son’s departure. I poured everything out to God. I spent ALL the grief I felt over loosing the companionship of my son (And I can’t tell you how important this is). I had suffered a genuine loss and not only did I need to acknowledge that, I needed to mourn that loss.

God let me cry for as long as I needed.  He allowed me to say whatever came to mind, for He knew those thoughts and words had to be released and He was the only one I could trust to hear those words. With my Bible in hand and the Holy Spirit’s tender guidance, over time (and the length of that time will vary for each person) God lovingly led me to a time of peace and quiet resolve to accept His will. 

In time, I was able to rejoin the land of the living!

Gradually, I was able to answer questions from those who were concerned about how things were going with me and my son and daughter-in-law (for at that time my grandson was still a precious dream) without my eyes spilling forth with unbidden tears. That, my dear readers, was no small miracle.  

Then came my time of togetherness!

Recently, my husband and I were privileged to join a group of parents who’s children were serving as missionaries within the same mission organization as our son.  As we gathered together, we shared our struggles and experiences, finding understanding companions on every level.  We shared photos and identified with each others stories of our visits (of places most people only dream of) to where our children served. With these parents, I knew the freedom of honest feelings. With them I didn’t have to pretend I had it all together. They knew that as hard as it was to make this sacrifice, when it was all said and done, it was a willing sacrifice.  And being with these missionary parents, I realized a level of joy and happiness unique to that sweet fellowship.  I felt stronger (and happier) and possessed a greater resolve to focus on the abundance of positives I knew as a missionary’s mom. 

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So you see, we need both isolation and togetherness in times of struggle.  We gain strength to endure by spending appropriate time in both. Don’t stay too long in isolation and by all means don’t go there without God.  From that blessed time of healing, you will find the strength to join together with like-minded parents in coming alongside your missionary child in proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel.  We learn how to focus less on our loss and focus more on what we and our children have gained; not to mention the people they have been called to serve. And my dear readers, that makes all we have gone through entirely worth it! 

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