Friday, January 6, 2012

Chapter 13 - "Letter to Lorie"

I have two desks…one in my bedroom that I use when my house is full of children and grandchildren, and one in my living room. This desk I use exclusively for e-mailing (because I don’t have good coverage in my bedroom), or when my house is empty and quiet.

I’m sitting at my living room desk this morning, so you know I’m all alone.

Because I live across the drive from our church here, and because some of my children live within walking distance of my house, I usually sit at my bedroom desk for my early morning writing. Except for the men who came out for 6:00 prayer meeting this morning, I have enjoyed delicious peace and quiet, and at the risk of sounding pious, which I’m not, I’ve enjoyed fellowshipping with the Lord this morning.

Unless you have lived in a busy, noisy house for most of your life, you have no idea how I treasure these rare times…getting up in the morning to a peaceful house, with exactly the amount of dirty dishes I left in the sink last night…none, when I’m alone.

I love watching daybreak through my living room window, walking outside and into our peaceful church building, to turn off the outside lights.

But there’s an obvious downside to solitude. There’s no one around, specifically, no children.

We, and especially I, need to be so careful that we don’t take things and people for granted. I love solitude because it’s so rare to me. But what about the lonely widows all over the world, or the ladies who never had children, or the elderly grandmothers in nursing homes whose children have forgotten them (although sometimes it may be their fault). I must constantly remind myself of how very, very blessed I am to be literally surrounded by people who love me, and whom I love.

While I thank the Lord every morning for this special alone-time He’s given to me, I also know that with time, this could begin to turn into loneliness and boredom because of the lack of challenge of seeing a nice clean house, and all the laundry done. Those are things that keep my life full of “up hills,” and the joy and satisfaction of finally having all those dishes done and actually put away. When I’m alone, those tasks are mere “few-minute-jobs,” and sooner or later turn into routine. There’s no longer pleasure in seeing all my counter tops clean, laundry folded and put away, and not one single thing out of order.

Always-full-cupboards take on a ho-hum effect, and I don’t even have to check to see if I’m out of eggs, since I’m the only one baking and eating here.

With that in mind, I would like to direct this chapter to those mothers who would consider my life right now like a vacation to a lovely Pacific island, or wherever she would like to be…anywhere except where she is right now…surrounded…no, overwhelmed with housework, homework, church work, mission work, and just work in general.

I’m writing this on New Year’s Eve, and always this time of the year, my mind goes back to our children’s college years…the hardest mothering years of my life. In a few days, my children would be returning to college after a two-week Christmas vacation.

Several times in the last few days I have either received e-mails, or talked with ladies whose children will soon be leaving home. In most of these cases, this child is the firstborn, and so a first for these moms.

So I’ve been trying to put myself in their places, and empathize with them. How easy that is for me!

Several months ago, I received an e-mail from a lovely missionary wife/mom. They were fixing to say goodbye to their firstborn. WOW! What vivid memories that brought to my mind. So I share with you the letter I wrote in response to her e-mail. I have changed names, and a few circumstances and places “to protect the innocent.”

Dearest Lorie, (not her real name)

I have already marked July 10 on my calendar with "Smith’s return to Africa without college child," because I'm assuming the child you are leaving behind will be starting college, and that she will be attending Bible College.

My heart goes out to you, and I have absolutely no words of comfort to offer.  For twelve years I waved good bye more times than I care to remember to our eight children, and I can truthfully say that college years were the hardest part of my mothering years.  If your family is like ours was, there will be tears.  You will try to cram all the fun into the last days, and give her all the advice and money you can possible part with.

There will be those many "just one last hug."  I remember thinking, "I don't want to forget what her hair smells like"...or "Will he remember to change his sheets at least once a week? Will he run out of toothpaste?"

If you ask me, Lorie, that's when we really truly "give our children to the Lord."  Dedicating her to the Lord on a Sunday morning when she's a newborn is only symbolic; and we did it with all eight of our children.  If I ever did shed tears on those occasions, they were merely sentimental.

Tears shed while driving away from the dorm, and looking out the back window until you can't see him anymore (what if he runs out to tell me something, just as I look away?)...those are the true tears at the very core of what it means to be a mother, and literally give him back to the Lord.

And although I can't do one single thing to ease your almost physical pain of that parting, I can assure you with all my heart...looking back, as if I were looking through the back window of our old van...looking back over the past nine years since our last one graduated, it is one of the best decisions you will ever make.

Our children are sinners, and they married sinners, and made little sinners.  But if my children ever have amounted to anything for the Lord, in part, and in a huge, huge part, it is because of all the people who influenced their lives during those grueling years:  our pastor most of all; their teachers, classmates (well, some of them), the kids they picked up on their bus routes; members of the church; and pastors and missionaries, whom they would have never in a million years ever met had they not been attending Bible College.  I believe David is a missionary to Ukraine today partly because of the influence of a Russian missionary he had the honor of picking up at the airport and escorting during his college years.

Your children probably need Bible College more than the average child who attends a good church in America, simply because he DOESN’T attend a good church in America.  I can't tell you how ignorant our children were in almost everything from singing in a choir, to eating in a cafeteria.  Their college years gave them (don't laugh) poise and confidence.  Our children needed the exposure to all that they needed in order to be who they are today, and to do what they do.  Never could my husband and I have given them all that.

A few weeks ago one of my children called me early one morning.  "Mom, I just wanted to call you and thank you for all you've done for me through the years.  I believe I'm serving the Lord today because of you."  And I said, "You are who you are because of many, many people God has put into your life."  And probably most of those people were there during his college years.

Please know that on July 10, my prayers and thoughts will be with you, as well as the days before and after your departure.

Your friend,
Mrs. Billie Sloan
Nahum 1:7

I have shared that letter with you for two reasons:

1.      If you’re a “college mom,” or if you’re fixing to say goodbye to your child who will soon be leaving the nest, take heart. This is part of being a mom. Remember, your child needs the people God puts in her life in order to become the person He wants her to be. I’m assuming, of course, that your child is leaving with your blessings.
2.      Recently, three of my daughters and I were privileged to get to spend a week together, without babies, homeschooling, or housework. What precious memories we made together! One of my daughters commented, “I feel like I’ve been on a honeymoon with Jesus.” I told her, “One of these days, you are going to suddenly wake up to a quiet house. All your children will be gone. You’ll go downstairs, and everything will be in order, and there won’t be one single toy or one stray sock in the floor. You’re going to leisurely pour your coffee, and have your quiet time without having your ear tuned to the baby’s bedroom the minute she wakes up. And you’re going to remember how simple life was back then…noisy and busy, but simple.” If you’re longing for a little peace and quiet, a little freedom from incessant laundry and wiping runny noses, and senseless dusting of furniture, fast-forward your life for a few minutes. One of these days, you’ll be sitting at your “empty-house-desk,” wishing with all your heart that your life were as simple as the days when the most important decision you had to make was whether to have mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese to go with the roast you just put in the oven.


~Ruth said...

I have tears in my are the most special woman in the world. Thank you for reminding me that I can be JOYFUL in doing exactly what I am doing RIGHT NOW. You have always been my top role model. I am HONORED to call you Mama. ~Love, Ruthie

Tammy Brouwer said...

Hello. My name is Tammy and our family has been missionaries in East Africa for 15 years. August found me, a mother of three, with an empty nest. My main role on the mission field has always been that of a wife and mother. Now that my nest is empty I'm struggling to find my place. For one thing, I have found that although my children are not living in my home, they still need me. With the time difference I am sometimes up late talking to them via skype. They still need my words of encouragement, my counsel, and sometimes my rebuke, and most importantly prayer. So it's not like I'm no longer a mom without a job. I'm just a mom who needs to figure out this new job.

What words of wisdom would you have for me as I enter this new phase of life?

Thanks for your time. I know you are very busy and I would appreciate any advice you can give.

Jolene said...

Another wonderful chapter to your book, Mom! Thank you!

I'm disappointed that it came through the e-mail subscription incorrectly again. I'll be sure to just re-type your posts in the future. And don't worry about it being any extra trouble for me. It will be my honor, and I'll do it with lots of love!

López Family said...

Whew! I remember those days! I'm sure it was emotionally as hard for us as it was for you!

But what happy, happy times the Lord has given us TOGETHER since then, hasn't He? And how blessed our lives are! I look back over the college years and realize how MUCH I learned...and I know it was a sacrifice for you and Dad to have sent sacrifice, physical sacrifice, and emotional sacrifice.

Thank you for ALL you have done for me. You are such an encouragement to me!

I love you!

jen said...

Thank you. I have at least 8 years before my first leaves but I needed this now. Thank yo also for your faithfulness on the field.

Cinnamon said...

What a beautiful letter. Thank you for sharing it. I am in the midst of noisy, busy, ear turned toward the baby's room listening for when she wakes up and we have one leaving for college this fall.

Thank you for reminding me that God is in control and cares for my children more than I.