Monday, May 19, 2014

The Wheels Fell Off

Telling your children two of whom are teenagers that you plan to uproot them and take them to a foreign country is a challenge. We had been counseled to NOT tell them, “Pack your bags we’re leaving,” but instead we should invite them to be a part of the decision making process. Kevin and I jumped on this idea wholeheartedly because we were confident that going to Thailand was exactly what God wanted. Surely God would instill the same confidence in them if they would just listen to Him. Being who I am I thought all I needed to do was train them how to seek God, listen for His voice and all will be well.

In order to do this I came up with a brilliant plan. I would put together a short prayer guide with scripture to read and questions to ponder. All of which would help them identify their fears and concerns but would also show them how obedience to God is worth facing whatever would come our way. On a beautiful summer day Kevin and I planned to take the boys to our family’s favorite park. There we would all spend some time alone listening for God, talk about what God had said, and then spend the rest of the day enjoying some family fun. It sounded so perfect. It was going to be a scene worthy of a Hallmark commercial, but instead it was the day the wheels fell off the bus bound for Thailand.

The day came for the big family prayer retreat and we never made it the park. Shelby was passed out from exhaustion and we could barely get him to crack an eye. Ethan was in a terrible mood and was adamant that, “I don’t want to go anywhere!” Jon was the only one willing to go, but by this time both Kevin and I’s moods were beginning to implode. It was time for Plan B.

Plan B consisted of dropping the bomb shell, “God is calling us to be missionaries in Thailand,” in our living room. Then we sent the boys to their rooms with my helpful prayer guide and told them, “Go listen to God.” Everyone went to their separate corners in a huff and I prayed, “Please God do something!”

God did do something that day but it wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted all the boys jumping on the bus to Thailand with joy in their heart. Instead, God just cracked the door. The boys were honest with us. One said, “God may be calling you to Thailand but my mission field is right here.” Another said, “I’m just not going.” One was in tears. It wasn’t the outcome we were hoping for, but it was a healthy place to start. Over the next few weeks Kevin met with each one of the boys on their terms. Conversations were started and hearts began to soften. Now, months and many conversations later, there is an excitement growing in our boy’s hearts. Moving half-way around the world will still be hard but they are looking forward to the adventure of it all.  

Telling our boys that God was asking us to move to Thailand was not the Hallmark moment we expected, but God taught us a critical lesson that day. On this journey of faith we can’t control the outcome. There will be days when the wheels fall off and when that happens…all you can do is hang on and trust.

I'm Not Ready

I am asking my children to be mature beyond their years. Being on board, even excited about moving to foreign country is a hard concept for an adult let alone a teenage boy. Of all my kids Shelby has the most to lose in this process. He is a junior in high school. He has a good group of friends and is highly involved with his swim team. This move will cost him his senior year with those he has grown to love over the past three years. For him my heart breaks.

Because I have the gift of years on him, I can see what an amazing opportunity this is. I know that these experiences with give him a perspective of God and this world He created that he can’t get by staying put. I also see something that God has planted deep inside Shelby’s heart (a seed of service and compassion) that this experience will nurture. I believe that this journey has the potential to revolutionize his entire world. I can see this, but it is hard for a teen-age boy.

Shelby has struggled. For a long time he was unwilling to share with his swim team that he would be moving. He worried that he will be letting them down. Because of this, it was especially hard for him when he shared with his swim coach what was going on. The day he did, it caught me by surprise.

When I picked Shelby up from swim practice, he informed me that he didn’t have to move to Thailand after all. The coach had said that he would find a place for him to live so that he could finish his senior year with his team and his friends. Needless to say this comment hit me like ton of bricks. I was furious. I was confused. I was heartbroken. How could he even consider this as an option? I asked him if he really felt he was ready to live apart from us, from me? He answered with a tentative, “Yes, I could.”  My emotions caught me by surprise and I responded, “Shelby, I’m not ready to be away from you.”

In that moment I was transported back to a time with a little boy in my back seat who cried all the way to kindergarten. He cried and I consoled. I promised him it would be okay and then pried him from my arms and left him with his teacher. Day after day we repeated the same heart wrenching scene until one day I couldn’t stand it anymore. As Shelby cried and begged me not to make him go, I lost it. I broke down and cried myself. Through tears I told him that I was sorry that I had to make him but he had to go. It was the best thing for him. When I finished my true confession, I looked back to see a little boy surprised that his momma felt his pain. That was the last day he cried about going to school.

Since I told Shelby that I wasn’t ready to let him go, he hasn’t talked anymore of staying behind. I know he is still struggling with the sacrifice that he will have to make, but I hope he sees that just like when he was struggling with going to kindergarten his momma does feel his pain.   

Fear, Faith, and ADHD

For years Shelby has been taking medication for ADHD. Six weeks into first grade it became clear that he had some learning issues. As we began to do test seeking a diagnosis we were immediately told that he had ADHD and he needed medication. We refused to put him on medication and fought this diagnosis for over a year. Then one day while I was sitting with Shelby as he read I realized that eyes darted to and fro as he tried to read. He simply could not focus on the words. It was then that I knew he needed help. Medication made a HUGE difference in his ability to focus and learn and for the past 9 years it has been a normal part of his life.
When we knew that God was calling us to Thailand you can imagine that one of my first questions was about whether or not we would be able to get Shelby’s medication. We soon learned that his medication is not available but we were told that we could bring in medications with us as long as we have a letter from a doctor. “Great!” I thought. We will just bring what we need.
A few weeks ago I began the research to find out exactly what was involved with bringing a year’s supply into the country.  It was thenI found out that Shelby’s medication is considered a class 2 drug which means not only is it unavailable in Thailand but you CANNOT bring it into the country, either. What?!? So now, we asking Shelby to adjust to a new school, new country and new culture without his medication. 
When this reality hit I panicked. I thought we can’t do this. It is way too much to ask. How could we do this to him? This is a setting him up for disaster! As I began to pray (it was really complaining), God answered, “Have faith.” What do you mean, have faith? This makes no sense! Then it hit me…walking by faith most often DOES NOT MAKE SENSE.
I want to be a woman of faith. I want to follow God in every way, but when that journey of faith interferes with what I think is best for my kids my resolve is replaced with hesitation and fear. I can let go of my life but letting go of my children is another story.

The bottom line is Shelby will be going off his medication and life will be different. I am scared but I am trusting that God’s got this. This detail has not caught God by surprise. He has known this from the beginning. I am asking God to do something amazing. I have no idea what the next year is going to look like and honestly I am still a little anxious. My fear is not gone but I am choosing to trust. I will walk by faith and believe that a year from now the fear will be replaced with praise for all that God has done.