Letting My Arrows Fly.

When I graduated high school, my first adventure was to travel about 3 1/2 hours south east to San Angelo for college.  I stayed there for two years before moving my adventure to the big city of Austin for my final two years of university.  At age 22, I married the love of my youth and from that union God created our family. There are five of us, and for almost 30 years this family has been my most wonderful joy!  What follows are my thoughts from the last couple of days–thoughts fed by a family wedding, a conversation with my husband and a Sunday morning sermon.

For me, weddings rank in the top five celebrations in this life!  Last weekend my husband and I, along with two or our children, were blessed to experience the joy firsthand with our beautiful niece. With weddings also comes the opportunity to reunite with family members I haven’t seen in a while.  We talk about jobs. We talk about old times.  But mostly we talk about our children.

Now, I’ll have to digress for just a moment here to say that our children have not always fit the mold for this particular side of the family.  At different times during their young adult lives, my boys have sported long hair…sometimesponytails…even the occasional pigtails!  They’ve worn beards of varying lengths—maybe going for as long as a year without shaving.  At family reunions, greetings from relativesoften went something like this: “Wow, for a minute I thought that was Jesus walking through the door”.  Or they are compared in appearance to the caveman from the Geico commercials.  They get that, too. The funny part is those doling out the niceties actually think they are the first  to ever come up with them.  Little do they know…!

My children aren’t business majors.  They were/are liberal arts students…studying Spanish and German.  Our daughter, after a year of university, has taken time off to be a full-time musician. One is a vegetarian.  They all love a good thrift shop.  They don’t fit the family profile!  Their lives, at this age, look nothing like most of our family members and their children. They look nothing like my life looked at their ages.  When I was their age, I had travelled to Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico and Mississippi.  Here’s where they have collectively travelled–mostly on their own dimes: Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, El Salvador, Ecuador, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Slavakia and other places.   They go to learn.  To serve.  To understand.

Now back to the wedding.

As a family member quizzed my oldest son on his upcoming life plans, he asked (in regards to travel), “Why do you like to do this”?  How do you answer this question?  If someone hasn’t experienced it firsthand, is it possible to understand the beauty of riding in the back of a truck with chickens in a foreign land?  Or biking 1,000 miles partly with a 70-year old man? Or sharing dinner from a campfire with little Peruvian children?  Is it possible to understand the sheer lovliness of helping to build a one-room home for a family whose feet will no longer have to feel a dirt floor beneath them?  Can we understand finding beauty in something as simple as learning to bale hay, make apple cider and bake forty loaves of bread in a brick oven.   To the one asking the question,  this way of life is downright confounding–even inconceivable!

Later in the evening,  as I shared a conversation with a cousin, I realized we have such differing views on parenthood.  He expressed how difficult it was to have his son be some 10 hours away from home for college.  We talked about study abroad and he said he would never encourage that.  I know it was never intended, but to me there was a subtle implication that perhaps the strongest parental love keeps our children close to us.    That way we keep them safe.  You know, like maybe the really close-knit families don’t ever wander too far from each other in this lifetime–because in some way, if our children want to “go” it must mean that they are running away from us.

The morning after the wedding, my husband and I drove for a little over an hour to attend a church service in the city where our daughter would be singing.  As we drove, I wore my emotions on my sleeve as I recounted my conversations from the night before.  They were still nagging me. Maybe I was a little offended.  Maybe I was quite a lot defensive.  You see, I was still pondering how a family can be “close” when they are not “near”.  I wanted to somehow justify this.  Let’s just say it bugged me that others just didn’t “get” my children.   For just a moment, I began to wonder if maybe there wasn’t some truth in keeping our children “near”.  I mean, it would be nice to never have to miss a family birthday.  It would be awesome if all my children could be with me on Mother’s Day!  If they were near, whenever they have a problem, I could do my best to “fix” it, you know?  After all, I’m a mother and that’s what mothers do, isn’t it?  Maybe I messed up when I sent them off time after time.  Maybe if they’d known how my heart grieved for them to stay, they wouldn’t have gone so far.  A little manipulation isn’t a bad thing, right?

Then came the serman. A discussion about our quivers.  Straight from Psalm 127.  The pastor read from a letter sent from the missionary Jim Elliot to his parents as he was about to go far away.  They weren’t with him 100% in his endeavor, and that bothered him.  Here is what he wrote to them.

“I do not wonder that you are saddened at the word of my going to South America….Grieve not, then, if your sons seem to desert you, but rejoice, rather, seeing the will of God done gladly. Remember how the Psalmist described children? He said that they were as an heritage from the Lord, and that every man should be happy who had his quiver full of them. And what is a quiver full of but arrows? And what are arrows for but to shoot? So with the strong arm of prayer, draw the bowstring back and let the arrows fly – all of them straight at the Enemy’s hosts”.

So, from a wedding, a conversation with my sweet husband and a sermon, God sent me a word.  And it is this.  We CAN hold our children close even when they are not near.  I felt like I was getting a big bear hug from God as he confirmed to me how right it is to let the arrows fly.

In a matter of weeks, my three children will be in New England, Guatamala and Germany.  I send them off with so much prayer and a renewed enthusiasm, knowing full well that the deepest of all love lets go.

                                                                   Lainey in Iceland.                                                                   Lainey in Iceland.