Monday, July 15, 2013
I never saw it coming
Due to a family emergency I find myself 1300 miles from home and very busy, but I’m eager to finish telling you why and how God has left me breathless, nearly speechless, and fall-down-on-my-face astonished.
I’ve been telling you how God asked me to give highest priority to Him and His plans for me. My priority was to have a close, supportive relationship with my kids, but God’s priority would require me to walk away from them and move to Africa.
I thought moving half a world away from them would kill me, but good ol’ Abraham intervened. I don’t know how I could have left my kids if I hadn’t had his example of blind-eyed, bent-kneed faith and his willingness to place God first over his son Isaac.
Eventually I was willing to move to Africa but I had questions, one in particular: When Abraham obeyed God and tied Isaac on the altar, He let Abraham untie his son and take him home (Genesis 22:1-19). If I, figuratively, placed my children on the altar, would God “untie” them and give them back to me? Or did He want me to sever my relationship with them? Or, could there be something in between?
(Let me hasten to make this clear: even though God seemed to ask Abraham to put his son to death, it only seemed that way. Similarly, God wasn’t asking me to put my children to death. It took a while to figure it out, but God was asking me to die to the dreams and plans I had as mother to my kids and grandmother to their kids.)
Fast-forward eight years. My husband, Dave, and I completed our eight years in Africa and returned to our beloved Washington State.
Within 72 hours of our arrival, our daughter, Karen, and her husband, Brian, gave birth to their first, Chase. They lived about 1500 miles from Washington State.
Matt and Jill, our son and daughter-in-law, had already given birth to Maggie and Emma a few years earlier. (You remember the girls—Grandma’s Letters from Africa, my memoir, is letters I wrote to them.) They, too, lived 1500 miles from Washington, and about 1600 miles from Karen.
Family gatherings were few and far between.
Around that time the “R” word started getting stuck in our throats. Dave and I tried to say the word, but it came our “R-R-R-R…” We couldn’t be old enough to retire, could we?!
A few months before that R-day arrived, Matt called from Missouri where he is a university professor. “Why don’t you think about moving to Missouri after you retire?”
The idea had never crossed my mind but after we hung up, Dave and I talked it over—just briefly!—and knew it was the right thing to do. Maggie was entering high school and Emma was right behind her, and by then we also had a two-year old granddaughter, Claire. If we were ever going to get acquainted with those girls, especially the older ones, we would need to act fast.
And so, for the past five years we’ve lived across the street and down two houses from Matt and family. It has been delightful, one of the richest blessings of our lives, and, from what Matt’s family tells us, the feeling is mutual.
Then, a few months ago Dave said to me, “I think we should buy an inexpensive vacation home near Karen.”
What?! Had I heard correctly?
Yes, I had. He was serious.
The idea had never occurred to me!
But we did it! We bought an old mobile home in a senior citizens’ park in southern California and now we are getting better acquainted with our three grandsons, ages 12, almost 10, and 8. They have been busy, busy, busy with Little League and post-season All-Star teams so we have had the joy of watching them first-hand.
Here’s what has left me breathless, nearly speechless, and fall-down-on-my-face astonished. You’ll remember that all those years ago, I wondered if God would give my kids back to me in some form, similar to the way he gave Isaac back to Abraham.
Yes! It took a couple of decades, but God did it.
Here’s what also leaves me breathless, nearly speechless, and fall-down-on-my-face astonished: I never saw it coming. Neither of these two possibilities had ever crossed my mind. I did not manipulate them into being. I was completely caught by surprise. I had nothing to do with it.
I’m so thankful I never saw it coming—so thankful!—because now I know God did it. It feels like life has come full-circle.
I wonder if I will ever get over being breathless, nearly speechless, and fall-down-on-my-face astonished. I hope not. Oh, I hope not.