Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Today is my mom's birthday. Due to distance and virus germs floating around our family, I couldn't be with her today.

The kids mailed her pictures, my beautiful and smart sister-in-law Stephanie helped me buy her flowers, and I called to wish her a happy birthday this morning complete with a trio sung by me, Merry, and Laura.

But none of that really seems enough for the woman who not only gave birth to me, but gave me freedom.

I don't ever remember my mom holding me back from making my dreams come true. Whether it was trying out for a part in a school play or going all the way to the other end of the state for college, she not only didn't try to stop me, she did what she could to help me. She was behind me all the way.

This is clearly illustrated by a photo I came across today as I was looking for some photos of me and my mom. The photo was a staged one taken by a newspaper photographer right before I left for Swaziland back in 1988 as a wide-eyed, fresh-from-college, twenty-two year old. You know it is staged because I would never have been able to have so easily carried a packed-for-Africa suitcase and overnight bag. But the idea behind the photo is still the same, staged or not. My mom knew that I was leaving for two years. She hoped to get to visit once during that time but there was no guarantee. She was letting me go to a foreign continent to live all by myself for the very first time in a brand new culture working with and for strangers.

As a mom myself, I can easily imagine the worries and fears that must have crossed her mind.

Heck! I couldn't even balance my own checkbook and Miss Messy Procrastinator could have been my pseudonym. Airhead was another apt descriptor. Yet despite these factors, my mom believed firmly that God had called me to leave my home and move thousands and thousands away to a country we had never even heard of just a few months before. She helped me buy the things I needed, she helped me keep the paperwork straight, she helped me pack the bags and trunk...the bags and trunk she had purchased for me! She did what she could to get me to Africa and then spent the next two years writing me copious amounts of letters, sending care packages, calling once a month despite the dollar-a-minute rate, and even invested the time and money to come visit me. She did all that she could to support me even from another nation.

I could list adjective after adjective that would describe my mom. Hardworking, faithful, and always-there-when-you-need-her are just a small fraction of the qualities I so appreciate in her. But today, what really hit me, was her willingness to let me go and her commitment to helping me go.

She let me go then, she is willing to let me go now.

As much as she'd love us living closer than 3 hours away, she knows that this is where God led us to live and work nearly two decades ago and she's never pressured us to change that.

And now we're facing moving much, much further away. We will be packing up and taking her grandbabies across the ocean to the country she first released me to 23 years ago. We've talked about it. It is hard to realize that we'll rarely see each other. It is hard to know that my younger children will grow up not knowing her the same way that my older children did. Even though we don't live in the same town as she does, we still live close enough to see each other every Christmas and get together every couple of months for birthdays or other special events. When we move to Africa, a simple car drive won't reunite us. It is hard to know that as she grows older, I won't be there to help her when she needs us.

But still.

Despite all that, she is letting me go without protest or guilt. She loves God. She loves me. And she knows that in order to fulfill God's plans for her life and for my life, she's got to let go...let go of what she might want for what she knows God wants.

That takes a strong, loving, amazing mama.

That woman is my mama.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I love and appreciate you so much! You have been and you continue to be an important part of God's provision for His precious little ones in Swaziland, Africa. Without you, there wouldn't be us going. You might not ever wear the title missionary, but you wear the title of beloved mother and grandmother to the ones He calls to go, and that's not just our family moving to Swaziland, but your grandchildren and all the different places around the world that God is taking them.

Mom, you will share in the eternal rewards because you have shared in our God dreams.


Stephanie said...

Your mom sounds wonderful and your post reminds me that my sons are His and my job is to do whatever I can to help them fulfill the purpose He has for them. Sometimes that can be a very tall order. Your post brought tears to my eyes and strength to my heart.

Elysa said...

Thanks, Stephanie. Yes, she's pretty great and I'm very blessed but I still sometimes find it hard to let go of my own. It has been a journey of letting go and giving over to God. I'm the mom who makes wants them to take the cell phone when they just ride their bikes around our uber safe neighborhood!

Robin said...

What a beautiful tribute to your mom, Elysa. I'm praying I can give that same gift of freedom to my daughter. You are both incredibly blessed women!

Drewe Llyn said...

Makes me feel like a failure. I can hardly send Cassie off to college in Clinton without crying and making her feel guilty. Not even thinking about Candace's adventure to Nicaragua! Thanks for the inspiration. *sniff...sniff*!

PS: Happy Late Birthday to your mom!

Elysa said...

Robin, thank you. Your daughter is blessed to have you as a mom! And He WILL give you the ability to let go. That doesn't mean it will be easy, but it can be done.

Elysa said...

Oh, Drewe Llyn. I know. I'm already missing Betsie and she hasn't even left for Thailand yet.

Courage isn't not being afraid, it is doing what we know we must do anyway. The same for letting go. It doesn't mean we don't hurt for them or miss them or worry like crazy, but it means we release them anyway, even at our own expense. :*(