Set Them On a Path

by Tara Livesay on August 1, 2014

A friend recently wrote and shared this from Barbara Kingsolver, the author of the Poisonwood Bible:

There was a quote in the author’s notes at the beginning that blew my doors off.  Barbara is thanking her parents for being good ones and lists a few traits she particularly values. She states the final thing she is grateful they did for her  “…set me early on a path of exploring the great, shifting terrain between righteousness and what’s right”. 

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A quick google search brings up the top parenting books available on the market today. Further investigation tells me which ones are “Christians” and which ones are “secular”.

Most of us that have been parenting for a while have come to realize that the books don’t necessarily tell us the things we need to know and do the most.  

Books cannot make us humble or gracious or merciful and those are some of the most important things a parent can be.  Only God does that for us, and sometimes we forget to even ask Him because we are too busy reading parenting books.

Choosing to raise kids abroad does not make us better parents, worse parents, more faithful parents, or less caring and loving parents.  We are not idiots for doing it. We are not super heroes, either. We are just parents trying to do the best we can while we happen to be living outside of our ‘home’ culture.

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When our kids grow up and go away we grieve like every loving and involved parent that releases their child into the world. It is possible that it is a little bit harder or slightly more complicated because we are an international flight away, but hard is hard, and even a kid down the street can feel an awfully long way away to a grieving momma.

We moved our daughter last year, kissing her goodbye at the Dallas Ft.Worth airport at the start of this year. She was the second to leave the nest, and for reasons  too complicated to go into, it felt a bit scarier to us than launching the first one did. Five younger siblings and two parents felt the weight of a new separation as we boarded our first flight that day.

Not too many weeks later that daughter shared with us that she was newly pregnant.  (We wrote about it a couple of months later in May and June.)

One friend said, “Oh my, this is complicated for you being in full-time ministry and donor supported. How do you think this will affect you?”

Another friend said, “Will you try to keep this quiet?”

We knew that this (and other common things like it) were once a very hush-hush thing in Christian circles.  We were surprised to learn that even today some prefer the hush-hush approach.  Hiding was something we felt we could not and should not do. My reaction to those questions was one of unbelief.  Certainly we don’t sweep things under the rug in 2014, do we?  That thought was followed up with, anyone that would stop supporting us due to this are not really “our people” anyway.

Much happened in us and in our daughter in those first months of processing and adjusting. There were really good friends on the listening end of multiple conversations. There were hard conversations and many tears shed.

Once we had an appropriate amount of time work through some grief and move into love and forgiveness we openly shared the news with the folks that support us either financially or in prayer.

We landed in a place of great anticipation and we began to hand our fears over to God. We decided it was okay to say we were excited. We were told by a good friend that anything short of celebrating our new grandchild was not fair to our daughter or our future grandson. We believed her. We decided that hush-hush and half-truths and hiding is an old-school  way to live – and what God knows is happening, donors may as well know too.

We have mainly felt supported and encouraged by the responses.  Many and most people have been so kind. There will always be those that just don’t talk about these things. The sprinkling of “you ought to be ashamed” responses was tiny enough to ignore.

We have focused our attention on watchful anticipation of God’s continued mercy and healing in all of our lives.

Raising kids on the support money provided by churches, foundations, and friends never meant raising perfect kids in the first place.

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Certainly we can all agree that a donor that expects perfect children is delusional to begin with. No matter what their parents do as a vocation in the world, all kids claim equal rights to grow up disbelieving  or disenfranchised. I understand why pastors and missionaries feel like it is a big deal when their kids go off the rails in one way or another, but I won’t ever understand hiding it or being ashamed to share it with our support-team.  We are real people with real needs, not super-spiritual giants or heroes of the faith.  We sin. Our kids mess up.  We need help sometimes.

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We want to be people of love.  When we are disappointed, love.  When we are angry, love.  When we have been lied to or cheated, love.  When we are exhausted or burning out, a tired love – but still, love.

We desperately want the love we show the people of the country we serve to be a love that has been perfected in our own home. We want our hearts to be hearts of forgiveness and grace and true love. When we get a chance to practice at home, let us practice like champions.

Oswald Chambers wisely noted,  “If what we call love doesn’t take us beyond ourselves, it is not really love. If we have the idea that love is characterized as cautious, wise, sensible, shrewd, and never taken to extremes, we have missed the true meaning. This may describe affection and it may bring us a warm feeling, but it is not a true and accurate description of love.”

We will welcome our grandson in 11 short weeks.  The excitement and anticipation are growing by the week. We are not ashamed. We will celebrate his life. As always, we will continue to ask God’s restoration of our broken places.

Tonight we want to encourage our friends abroad and in domestic ministry with kids using drugs, running from God, or making otherwise questionable decisions to know that our love and support of them is not based on perfect performance by their kids OR by them.  We also want to encourage donors to remember that your friends in ministry don’t promise you perfection, (if they do – RED FLAG) but they would really like to trust you with openness and honesty.

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Have you ever felt it necessary to keep secrets from those that support you?

What other ways can we encourage one another to be vulnerable and honest about these things?

 

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About Tara Livesay

Tara and her family have lived in Haiti since 2006. She resides in Port au Prince, where she serves as a CPM (Midwife) with Heartline Ministries - Maternity Center working in the area orphan prevention, Maternal and Newborn Health. Tara is a the wife of Troy, the mother of seven children ranging in age from 27 to 9 years old and has recently become a grandmother to 3 grandsons. Tara enjoys friends, laughing, sarcasm and spending time with her family.

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