Lightening Heavy Hearts

Tomorrow our family of five, Tara, Tanner (9), Keaton (6), Regan (3) and I, board our first of three flights to make it to Birmingham, England. We are returning to a YWAM Training base outside of Nuneaton, England, called The King’s Lodge. We are going, not exactly knowing why or even ultimately where, except that God has told us to go. In this we remember Abram when God told him to go to a country that God WOULD show him.

We did this a year ago as well. We left in March knowing that we would return in a little less than six months. We knew that our house in Arkansas would be awaiting our return because God had delivered a family of 15 (yes, 15!) to rent it for the exact period of our mission just three days before we left.

This time we are leaving knowing that we have return flights 8 and 1/2 months from now. The extra 3 months don’t seem like much, really, but I feel dramatically different. As I was doing last minute errands today I felt very heavy hearted. I am very excited for what lies ahead and extremely passionate about what we are embarking upon, but I feel the change much more markedly this time.

I recently found this quote on Wade Burleson’s blog, and it is spot on:

“Never pity missionaries; envy them. They are where the real action is — where life and death, sin and grace, Heaven and Hell converge. ” Robert C. Shannon

But that real action doesn’t take away the many losses one experiences when they leave their home with little more in hand than a couple of suitcases.

As my heart sank today I thought of things like my dad. He just had a growth removed from his nasal passage that was malignant. They think they got everything out, but it was malignant nonetheless. That is complicated by the fact that this March 22nd, my parents will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, a celebration that I will miss while away. Pile on top of that that my mom just had her first bout of shingles and it stopped her in her tracks for quite a period of time.

Then I think of Tara’s parents and I can see on their faces the lines that seem to draw more deeply at the thought of missing their grandchildren. I hear in their voices their concern as they wonder how we will continue to be able to do what we’re doing with our house still on the market.

I think of our dog, Liberty, who is 12 and experiencing health and stress issues as she watches us pull out our luggage once again. She cannot travel with us and it breaks Tara’s heart every time to leave her.

I think of our boys’ teachers, one of whom took Tanner on a date after his last day of school, taking him shopping and to a fancy Japanese Hibachi dinner. I think of baseball season, soccer season, all of them just getting better on their bicycles and scooters and going skating for the first time. I think of the little girl in Keaton’s class who wrote that she loved him, would miss him, and hoped that he could find a new friend but that she didn’t want to find a new friend.

Your home church takes on a new light when you find yourself in a different culture as well. You miss the music you know, the people who sharpen you, and the spirit-filled words of a pastor you love and trust.

I think of our favorite restaurants. Hugo’s burgers. My hot chicken strips at Slim Chickens. Down time at Common Grounds. A cup of java or chocolate at Arsaga’s.

I remember that we haven’t been able to buy season tickets at the Walton Arts Center for the past couple of years, missing shows like Movin’ Out, Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph, and Mamma Mia!

And there are the little things like hitting a jogging trail with a best friend, laughing at your kids playing with their best friends (the children of your best friend), ordering pizza while watching an American football game, and having unbelievable selection at your local Wal-Mart.

Perhaps the heaviness and awareness of the changes arise because I have this sense that things will be very different the next time we hit American soil. It is with a mixture of hope and sadness that I believe we will be “homeless” the next time we return, as I think our house will sell. And, I am nagged with the sense that even more things will have changed, but I have no idea what that might even mean.

It is with that weight in my chest that I must say, praise God I can say, that I rejoice in the fact that I have a King and Savior who is gentle and humble in heart and who can bear every heavy burden the world, the enemy, and my mind tries to put on me. And, for those who love us who also bear some heaviness in this time of good byes, I encourage you all to lighten your loads at the feet of Jesus as well. I pray you will feel His arms around you even now, hugging you and whispering gently that everything will be fantastic because a perfect plan is being revealed through all of this.

Thank you all for your prayers and love. We travel all evening Wednesday the 16th and most of the day on Thursday the 17th. Pray for our health and strength as preparing for the journey, the time change, leaving many loved ones, and the culture change all put strains on a family. We are thrilled to be on this journey and know that God will be faithful to see us through!

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