Tuesday, July 29, 2014

So, My Husband Went on a Mission Trip: This is what I learned

I picked up my husband one week ago today after an hour and a half of trying to entertain a 5 year old and 3 year old in the international wing of DFW. Before our arrival there, it had been 12 days of trying to entertain them at home. This week since he has been home I have been clinging to the “normal routine” that I so flippantly took for granted.

I will be the first to admit to you that I pushed Chris hard to go on this trip. Actually, I wanted us both to go; shortly after the trip to South Africa was announced, we found out we were expecting our third little ‘love goblin’. After doing the math and realizing that I did not want to birth a baby while in a foreign country, I turned my attention to why my husband should go. After compiling the list of reasons in my head, praying for direction or interference, I made some pretty bold statements to my husband. Bold as in, “you are going”.

Those bold statements were of no comfort to me as I cried my eyes out in the days leading up to my husband getting on that plane. It was so bad that the night before they left Chris asked if I wanted him to stay home. Of course I wanted him to stay home. The reality of it all was hard-hitting. I was very pregnant, very tired, very scared, and had two very precious kiddos that require a lot of time and attention. But, I also knew that he and I would’ve regretted that decision for the rest of our lives.


I had tried to make the most of every moment we had as a family before he left…maybe too much. I planned something special for us to do as a family starting the week before he left. Chris finally had to call me out and say, “I know what you are doing, why you are taking all these pictures, if something happens to me on this trip”. Yes. Yes, okay. I was scared. Terrified of having to explain their father’s death; I wanted to have markers to remember everything.

I only lost it in front of my kids once; hours before he left, as Chris was praying with our kids before bed, our sweet Eli said, “Mommy! Go get the camera and take one more picture of daddy and us before he leaves”. It was just too much to process in the moment and I started sobbing. By 2:30a.m. I had cried all I could, taken a deep breath and let him walk out the door, knowing that really, God was in control of everything that happened from that moment on. Being the control freak that I am, those moments of complete helplessness are hard, but serve as a reminder that I am insignificant and any sense of control I do feel is an illusion.

The next morning I awoke early to a string of texts that my husband and their team had made it to Dallas. They were parking vans and going through security, boarding the plane. My kids were playing together as I hung on every word Chris was saying on the phone- when he would be in Dubai, how many hours ahead they were there, the flight numbers, he would text as soon as he was allowed- I swallowed hard and whispered “I love you” knowing that if I tried to speak normally, my voice would catch and Chris would know for certain I was crying. I hung up fast because I knew he wouldn’t. In that moment I sobbed and just told God that I needed something. Something to know that this was what He wanted. How He wanted us to spend our time, our resources…our lives. I turned the corner and there were my beautiful kids, playing.

“Mommy, look! We are playing missionaries. We are going to Kansas to tell all the people there about Jesus”!

I wept. In that moment I knew that by their daddy actually walking out the door and ‘doing missions’ we left a much bigger mark on our children’s lives than just ‘talking missions’. And I was thankful that Chris had gone and I praised God for that moment that I knew He had given me.

The days were long, the nights were longer. Much of my sense of security was gone without Chris there. We filled the days with trips to the pool, library, Zoo…whatever involved taking my mind and the kiddos mind off of daddy. It was hard to be motivated to cook a good dinner for just me and two kiddos- we ate a lot of sandwiches. I tracked flights, never went to another room without my phone and tried to fill our days with fun special things. I wrote long, sappy love messages to Chris through facebook, even though he wouldn’t have the internet to read them. Thankfully, I had two friends whose husbands were also on the trip and they were at home with their kiddos too. We ate dinner one night together, went to watch a baseball game together the next. Texted every day. I had friends checking up on me, even a meal or two. I am so grateful for the community that we have created here. I had people to call if I needed anything, but I still felt very alone.

I spent a lot of time at night catching up on photo edits, listening to “Secret Church” sermons. I didn’t sleep well, but God is merciful and gave me exactly the energy I needed to get through the day. Every day we would mark off a day on the calendar to see how many days were left until daddy was home. Chris would call every evening when he was going to bed- around 3 in the afternoon our time. Twice we got to see his face on facetime. Those were the days the kids would cry the most for their daddy, Ileigh especially. 

One night, while working on photos, listening to David Platt and perusing Pinterest, I came upon a random quote by Elizabeth Elliot. I decided that I loved the quote and decided to look her up. Then I realized who she was…and I cried. I read quote after quote of hers about her life experiences. This one hit me the hardest: 

“Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering. The love of God is of a different nature altogether. It does not hate tragedy. It never denies reality. It stands in the very teeth of suffering. The love of God did not protect His own Son. The Cross was the proof of His love- that He gave that Son, that He let Him go to Calvary’s cross, though “legions of angels” might have rescued Him. He will not necessarily protect us- not from anything it takes to make us like His Son. A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process”.   

The next day I learned of the Malaysian flight that was shot down very close to Chris’ flight path. That evening Platt’s sermon was over widows. I wanted to laugh at the irony, but instead was terrified that I was being set up for something. I crossed off project after project, activity after activity. Did way more than a woman 4 weeks away from having a baby should be. I stayed up late, and when I did sleep, woke up every hour, paced the house, checked on the kids and checked my phone. It was miserable. 
Adding fun to boring cabinets
New flower beds!
Bike Rides!

 I found my brightest glimmer of hope through bedtime routine with my kids. Eli had so many questions about Jesus and we had very deep conversations. It is refreshing to know that your child wants to talk to you about his faith…and that his baby sister is lying right next to him soaking in every word too. We talked a lot about death and heaven and why Jesus had to die and why we have to tell others about Jesus. We prayed every night for God to protect daddy and his team. And on the nights that Ileigh would cry herself to sleep because she missed her daddy, it was her big brother that would tell her why daddy was a missionary and why he had to tell everyone about Jesus. Oh, if I were more like a child.

On his last fight back to the US, I couldn’t track Chris’ plane. All the altitude info and radar photos couldn’t be accessed- I’m guessing for security reasons. I could only find a Google countdown clock of the flight. Of course I freaked out, but again, it was a time where absolutely nothing I could’ve done would change anything, so I tried to sleep. I woke up every two hours, checked the flight timer, turned off the AC in the hotel room and climbed back into bed beside my two beautiful kiddies. That morning, we got up early, and waited for any hour and a half in the international terminal of DFW. I cried when finally saw my husband open up the door. My kiddos ran into his arms and I whispered “I love you” knowing that if I tried to speak normally, my voice would catch and Chris would know for certain I had been crying. 

So excited to see daddy!
Sometimes it is easy to pass up the opportunity of missions. It is easy to be in a stage of life and pass the ball on going because of obligations we have at home- young children, limited time-off from work, limited financial resources. I encourage you, especially if your kids are young and impressionable, to reconsider the inclination to pass. On the drive back home to Amarillo, daddy taught us all new songs and told us stories about all the kiddos he met. He told us about the new bracelet he made and promised to make one for them too. Eli told him that he believed in Jesus and that He had died on the cross and rose again.

I treasure the time we have together now, but I’m thankful for the time apart because of the mark it left on my kids, who got to see their daddy living out his faith in obedience to God. I pray that this time isn’t wasted; I pray that my husband has been changed by his experience, yes, but that also my heart and my children’s hearts have also been changed- because the sacrifice of going isn’t only on the ones walking out the door, it is in the spouses, parents, children and friends that stay behind. And the life-changing experiences gained through that trip are for everyone too.

Single mothers are my new found heroes. Military wives who spend months away from their husbands are heavy on my heart. People go through this every day. Even if this separation was only 12 days by comparison, it was still hard. My fears were real. It was painful. But, through the uncertainty I was able to grow and have a tiny glimpse into the depth of God's love for me and my family. A glimpse into the knowledge that He really is good, sovereign and holy- even in the fear and uncertainty.