Tonight I write as a mom – one whose heart is full of excitement, joy, anticipation and gratitude. As I write, and as you log on to read this post, my youngest son Blake is winging his way home from China. He flew out of Shanghai at 10 p.m. on Tuesday evening, and will arrive in Detroit – good Lord willing – at noon on Wednesday. Depending on how long it takes to get through customs, he will be landing in Pellston, MI at either 3 p.m. or 4:50 p.m. Either way, Ted and I will be at the Pellston airport as that door opens into the waiting area, and Blake walks through it.
I remember precisely the moment when Blake told me he wanted to go to China. He was a senior at Berry College in Rome, GA, and instead of calling to say he had a job already nailed down after graduation, he wanted to talk to me about going to China for a year to teach English. An organization in California sends Christian young men and women to China each year to teach and, through their lives, be ambassadors for our Lord.
I did not go easy into my immediate response to Blake. In fact, I broke down and cried my heart out. CHINA! Throughout that conversation and many more to come, I begged and pleaded and tried to persuade him not to go. “Anywhere but China!” I would say. “Why China?” I would question.
Then the other shoe fell. Not only was he going to China, but he wasn’t going to be paid to go. He had to raise the money himself for the entire trip and his living expenses for a year through contributions. Finally, I felt a wave of relief! He would never be able to come up with all that money! But he did, and in August – after graduating from college in May – he flew to Los Angeles for two weeks of training, then on to China for a year of teaching. I went into mourning. I cried, I prayed, I worried, I spent sleepless nights wide-eyed and restless. I tried to be supportive when I talked to Blake on the phone, but I know my every emotion showed through my shallow words. I wanted my boy home – or at least on this side of the world. I was miserable.
It had been my plan to read through the Bible that year, and in January I half-heartedly began. My new Bible had a section explaining how to do that – with chapter and verse marked for each day. And so I started, rapidly becoming more dedicated to completing the task than most anything I had ever promised myself to do before. I would begin each day with a prayer that went basically like this: “Please Lord, show me something in Your book today that will give me peace about Blake being in China.”
I cannot tell you that it was a specific verse that helped me get to the point of peace. What it was, I think, was losing myself in the Old Testament and studying how God has a plan for each of us. We can choose to ignore that plan and be miserable, or we can follow that plan and find peace. What I had to learn was that God’s plan for Blake was for him to go to China, and His plan for me was to be a supportive mother. I do remember specifically the moment it was laid on my heart that a supportive mother is what I would be. It happened as I prayed in my car on the way to work on a cold March morning in south Georgia. I pulled to a stop before I turned off our dirt road onto the paved highway, and I thanked God for allowing me to see what I should have been doing since “China” was first mentioned. I asked to be forgiven for being so non-supportive and negative. Immediately – the peace. The next time Blake and I talked, I asked his forgiveness as well.
When Blake came home that June, he immediately began seminary in Orlando, Florida. His first year in China had taught him there was so much need there, and there was such an openness in the people of China to accept what they tried to “teach”. He also learned that he clearly needed a different kind of education in order to complete the plan. Three years later, he graduated from seminary with a Masters in Theology. That fall he began a four-year commitment to China – spending two years in Beijing in language school, then the last two years teaching in a Chinese university and spreading the Good News wherever possible. All of that time has been supported by contributions from friends, family and churches, and from many individuals who don’t even know Blake, but have wanted to support what he was doing. God is indeed good.
After four years, each “teacher” is given an opportunity for a one-year furlough. Blake is choosing to be home for at least two years. He wants to connect back to his country, his family, his friends, and his supporters. He will be actively seeking employment as soon as he arrives back in the states.
Please pray with me for his safe travels back and for God to once again open doors. I certainly will never again be anything but supportive in whatever God asks from my children. After all, and this was the hardest thing to accept, they are not really mine. They are just on loan from God. And God makes no mistakes.
Note 1: Header is from Blake’s visit to Mackinac Island last summer.
Note 2: For the rest of the week (through the 4th of July), I won’t be posting a blog daily, but please check here to see if I’ve written anything or posted pictures. I know from past experience that it will take Blake three days to get through jet lag and have his inner clock set once again to American time (China is 12 hours ahead of us). He will be with us for 10 days before flying to Atlanta to begin his job search, and I plan to enjoy every moment! God bless you all.