Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Oh boy, was I in for a BIG surprise!


If you’ve read Grandma’s Letters from Africa or if you’ve been following this blog, you know that everything within me, humanly speaking, rebelled at leaving two young adult kids in the US to do missions work in Africa with my husband, Dave.

But God had given Dave, to paraphrase St. Francis’s prayer from last Thursday:

a discomfort with easy answers and half truths,

a discontent with injustice, oppression, and exploitation, starvation, and war.

He wanted to stop pursuing the American Dream and instead, to reach out a hand to comfort and turn pain to joy.

As if in answer to St. Francis’s prayer, God gave Dave enough foolishness to believe he could make a difference in the world, or at least in Africa.

I, however, did not share Dave’s perspective. I had my own goals and dreams and they all included hanging out with my kids and future grandkids.

Had God given Dave this radical, outrageous idea, or was Dave just going through a midlife crisis?

I knew I had to give God a chance to show me, to make it clear. I gave Him time—a long timehoping He would close doors and keep us home, but He only opened them.

I didn’t understand it then, but God was simply asking me to follow through on commitments and promises I’d made to Him. (I shared a couple of them in Closed fists and white knuckles.) He asked me to loosen my grip voluntarily on my kids, grandkids, and my dreams—as an act of worship, an expression of my commitment to Him.

Sometimes God tests us so we’ll discover if He is our first priority. He asks us for our best so He can give us His better. He offers us a gift that will bring our faith to a higher, deeper, broader level.

And so, I put “deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways” I definitely did not “understand at the time” (Oswald Chambers) and took a screaming-sobbing-wailing-trembling leap of faith and agreed to move to Africa.

I made the “difficult choice out of pure blind-eyed, bent-kneed acceptance that it was somehow part of a greater plan.…” (Beth Moore, Esther)

With countless tears and a throbbing, bleeding heart, on July 11, 1993, I slid into the car, pulled the door closed, and clicked on the seat belt. Beside me, Dave turned the key, shifted into reverse, and inched the car down the driveway.

My mother stood beside our car with her arm around Karen and together they waved goodbye. Tears streaked their faces. I choked on my own sobs. How could I survive four years without seeing them? (Grandma’s Letters from Africa, Chapter 2) 

And that was what hurt so much: How could I survive four years without seeing them? Four years!

I worried about Karen the most. Our son Matt had married his sweetheart Jill, but Karen was all alone. A few weeks before our move to Africa, Karen graduated and moved 1200 miles away from college, her brother, and her friends so she could begin her first year of teaching. Matt and Jill had each other, their own support system, but Karen was on her own. How could I—how could Karen—survive four years? The thought was numbing, paralyzing.

But oh, boy, was I in for a big surprise!

A few months after we arrived in Africa, we could tell Karen was going through quite an adjustment. Life wasn't easy for her.

One evening after we’d lived in Kenya for some six months, it seemed as if God sat with us in our living room and asked, “Why don’t you invite Karen to visit you during her school’s summer vacation?”

Great idea! Why hadn’t we thought of that earlier? We splurged—we called her long-distance—and asked her to think about it. Before long, we received her e-mail:

Thanks so much for calling. I am sorry if I have worried you by not writing more. I have wanted and tried to write a bunch lately and I have failed most times because I haven’t been able to read through my tears. But don’t get me wrong, I am not miserable in the least. In fact, everything is going quite well overall. I just do miss you very much and I get frustrated when I have to try to explain everything in letters. I wanted to say much more on the phone this morning. I was so thrilled that you called but I didn’t want to cry.

I really, really want to come see you this summer. Can I stay for a long time? I know I won’t want to leave.

We wouldn’t have to wait four years! Karen was coming to visit!

Our joy knew no bounds! What a delightful surprise!


  1. What a touching story of how God really makes the pure desires of our heart come to pass when we are faithful to him. God bless :-)

  2. Oh,Linda, how I remember that angst I felt for you as you left your two children in Grandma's Letters. That's why I loved your book. You brought us right there with you through that angst into the light of God's ever present grace and mercy. And you showed us how His plan was revealed to you and how He showered you with His abundant blessings through your faith and trust in Him. What a powerful message to us all! Thank you.

  3. Joyful and Kathy, thanks for your kind words. I'm still discovering ways God used those times and those experiences in ways I never could have imagined at the time. Leaving the kids hurt like crazy, but I understand some of the reasons God called me to do so. What knocks me to my knees is the number of blessings upon blessings He has showered upon me. For example, after all the heartache of living half a world away from Maggie and Emma, guess what? Now I live across the street from them! I never could have predicted that!!!

    Hugs and smiles,

  4. Wow! I can feel your struggle. Makes me think of Abraham and that walk to the altar with his son.

    I do love that Oswald Chambers quote. I'm going to write it down. Thanks for sharing that with me!

  5. Hi, Rhonda, I think of Abraham, too, in fact I wrote a lot about Abraham in my book, and in the blog too, if I recall correctly. Abraham's situation was harsher than mine, but he was a great role model for me when I was going through my crises over leaving my kids. I thank God for His Word in my own language so I have access to stories of people like Abraham and how God leads us and woos us ever closer to Him.

    Thanks for stopping by, Rhonda. I'm glad you enjoyed the Chambers quote. He always zings me. :)

    Your post today over at your blog still has me smiling! :)