Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I miss you both so terribly sometimes

About ten months after my husband and I arrived in Africa, we got this e-mail from our son, Matt, in southern California:

I hope and pray that the civil unrest in Africa stays far from you there in Kenya. Things sound uneasy over there.… I know the Lord has you in the palm of His hand and there is no place safer.

I sure do wish, though, that His hand were not quite so big so we would not have to be so far apart although still in the safe palm of the same hand.

I miss you both so terribly sometimes, but then the feeling usually passes and I survive. Having e-mail and getting Dad’s vividly detailed journals really seems to help.

Jill and the baby are doing great. We are fixing up the kid’s room and I can’t wait for the little guy/gal to get here so that we can play! Jill sends her love too. I think the kid just kicked “I love you Grandma and Grandpa Thomas.” Yes, that was it all right.…

I hope that someday soon the whole family can be together so that my baby will know how wonderful his/her family really is. Now that would be a good day!

“I miss you both so terribly sometimes….”

Matt’s words ripped at my heart.

He was only 24! Leaving him and our daughter, Karen, hurt more than anything I’d ever experienced.

Our kids never tried to stop us from moving to Africa. They acknowledged they’d miss us, but they never attempted to influence our decision.

Karen and Matt, and Jill, too, knew full well that when God pointed my husband and me to Africa, they would pay a high cost, and were willing to do so.

For months on end, we did OK—Dave and I in Africa, Matt and Jill in California, Karen in Washington.

Every once in a while, though, the pain of our separation flared up—times Matt wrote about with his brief, understated words:

“I miss you both so terribly sometimes….”

He was not trying to manipulate us or make us feel guilty. Matt is not that kind of guy. He was just sharing honestly from his heart.

When I read and re-read those words, my heart whirled.

Suddenly I doubted: What was I thinking—moving half a world away?

I questioned: Why, God, did You have to send me so far from home?

Misgivings, regrets.

My resolve wobbled.

But then, an hour or so later, with a tight throat and hammering heart, I remembered:

I had given God many months to clarify whether He wanted us to move to Africa, and He said “Yes.”

Only “Yes.”

And I remembered:

I remembered driving out of town for the last time, destination: Africa. I felt almost dead inside, but at the same time, something in me whispered to God, I lift up my children as an offering to You. Please find it an acceptable sacrifice. Find in it a sweet aroma (Philippians4:18, Exodus 29:18).

And I remembered:

… On our way to Africa, we spent a few days in England … in an old World War II barracks. A poster in our dorm room displayed Psalm 126:5–6, “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping … will return with songs of joy.”

I pondered those words at length because I didn’t know what they meant for me specifically, but I did understand about tears. I shed tears on my way to Africa because I couldn’t see our children or parents for four long years.…

But, what about those verses about tears turned to joy? Could I believe it? Would I believe it? Would I believe that God could turn my tears into joy?

I thought about it for a couple of days and then, there in our dark little barracks room in England, I stood before that poster and told God I’d give Him time to show me songs of joy in Africa. (from Grandma’s Letters from Africa, Chapter 3)

And so, sitting in front of my computer screen in Nairobi, reading Matt’s e-mail, I lifted up my kids in surrender to my God, trusting Him for His best outcome.

I placed my heart into God’s hands and recommitted myself to abiding where He had placed me and to the role He had for me in His Vast, Eternal Agenda.

I whispered to God, I lift this offering to You. Please find it an acceptable sacrifice. Find in it a sweet aroma.

And I told God, yet again, I’d give Him time to turn my tears to joy.


  1. Beautiful written, Linda. I've always found that whenever we are called to do something, it going to require our sacrifice. May it always be pleasing unto the Lord.

  2. Hi, Joyful. Missionary kids issues are so complicated, and always involve pain of one sort or another. I am pretty convinced God deals with each family situation one by one. Like you said, following the Lord always involves some type of sacrifice, and it's sooooo important to be very careful to listen to God about His specific leading. Sometimes He says "go" and other times He says "stay home." Tough stuff either way. Thanks for stopping by, Penny.


  3. How beautiful...it reminds me to pray for our friends who just left behind their young adult children to be full time on the mission fields of China...thanks for reminding me of the sacrifice they have also made. Today the communication is easier, but the distance is still great

  4. Oh, Janette, you are right: communication nowadays is so much easier, but the distance between hearts and faces still hurts something awful. No one ever promised that loving God would be painless. Jesus said we are to count the cost. And on the positive side, I believe with all my heart that God follows through with His "hundred times as much" promises. I've written a number of blog posts about that.

    Have a good day, Janette. Thanks for stopping by.