New Season – New Surrender

Encouragement for moms in transition from a mom in transition

When I was 17 years old, I remember singing the words “I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.” I sang with tears in my eyes and a yearning in my heart to go. I was completely surrendered in that moment, and I wanted more than anything to serve God somewhere overseas.

When I was 28, God called my husband and me to Thailand and I had to surrender again to serve him overseas. We were living and working in an ideal ministry with people we loved all around us. Were we really supposed to leave that? I was scared and excited. The Lord made it so obvious through so many different ways that He had specific plans for us in Southeast Asia. I can remember sitting in a service one night and the preacher announced the title to his sermon “Have You Lost Your Heart for the Harvest?” That sermon was the culmination of everything that God was doing in our lives, and I knew God was calling me to surrender again to serve Him. So without hesitation, we packed up with our 3 children and headed to Thailand with great joy and expectation.

          We love our life in Thailand. What an adventurous place to raise a family. I remember thinking many times “I can’t believe this is my life. I am living the dream that God gave me as a child.” I am so grateful for the life and calling God has given us.

          So, fast forward several years and now I have come to a new place of surrender. Our oldest two daughters have left Thailand for university in the States, and everything in life is changing/has changed/continues to change almost daily. I was caught off guard and unprepared for how challenging this stage of life would be, and I struggle with how to adequately express the struggle without being discouraging to you the reader.

          It was very hard to say goodbye to our oldest daughter knowing we wouldn’t be nearby to help her when she needed us. It was super hard when she was sent away from college because of the Covid pandemic, and Thai restrictions wouldn’t allow her to come home to Thailand. She recently told us that the only place she feels “at home” is when she’s on campus at college because it’s the only place she’s been able to unpack her suitcases in the past two years. When she went through challenging times with friends and boy relationships, it was so difficult to not be able to talk face to face, especially since we are 12 time zones apart. Fast forward 8 months.

          Because of visa restrictions, in December of 2020 our second daughter had to fly across the world alone (Bangkok to Qatar to Dallas to South Carolina) to start college. I wasn’t sure if I was strong enough for that either. Less than a month after she returned to the States, both of the girls tested positive for Covid and were sent to quarantine on campus for 10 days. We were powerless to help. Powerless to comfort. Powerless to do anything but watch all this unfold on a smart phone screen from 10,000 miles across the globe. (We were able to ask family to deliver Chick-fil-A to their quarantine dorm so that’s something, right?)

          I am not writing this to give 10 steps to success for other moms facing this time of life. I am not writing to say “this is how I survived” this stage of life because, honestly, I haven’t yet. But I would like to state the obvious: Living with this level of elevated tension and uncertainty is emotionally, physically and spiritually depleting. So, with that in mind, I felt compelled to write out some of the lessons that I am learning as I navigate this new season.

1. I am not alone in this struggle.

There is something about knowing that someone else has experienced the same thing that I am that is comforting. I’ll never forget the first time I read an article of another expat who was struggling to go back to her mission field just like I was. It was the first time that I had felt that way and I felt guilty. Her article encouraged me so much to realize that I was not alone and reminded me to remember my “why” for serving the Lord.

We should seek counsel from others who are walking this path ahead of us and also seek to encourage others who are going through the same thing we are. It is also invaluable to consider the cost that God paid in sending his own Son to earth to redeem us from our sin.

2. Surrender. Again. And again. And again. And again.

I used to think that surrender was a “one and done” thing. Now I am realizing that it is a continual process. Sometimes I have to keep surrendering the same thing over and over. Just when I think that I have accepted what God is doing in my life, I realize that I am holding back again. It is a gift of grace to be able to live in a place of surrender.

3. What I say to my self is important.

If I tell myself that this is an overwhelming sacrifice and I cannot do this, I will believe myself. If I remind myself that God has a plan in all of our trials and that He is sovereign over every detail in my life as well as my children’s lives, I can live with hope. Paul Tripp talks about the children of Israel and how what they were thinking influenced their response to God’s leading. He says –

“Think of the children of Israel in the wilderness as they are actually contemplating going back to Egypt. How could they possibly consider that response if they saw themselves as the miraculously redeemed, sustained, and guided children of the covenant? Could they seriously contemplate, even for a moment, a return to the very place of slavery from which God had graciously rescued them? Imagine the difference it would make during the hardships of the wilderness to say, “Yes, this circumstance if difficult, and no, we don’t always know what God is doing. But there is one thing we know. We are the children of God. He gave us his covenant promises, he redeemed us out of slavery, he revealed to us his law, and he has guided and provided for us. Because we are his children, we are never alone. The God who delivered us from Egypt will be with us, even in this tough moment. Our only hope is to remain with him, and any other option would mean denying our very identity as the children of the Most High God.”
(Lost in the Middle: MidLife and the Grace of God: Mid-Life Crisis and the Grace of God by Paul David Tripp)

That is a profound thought. Just imagine what would have been different for the children of Israel if they would have thought differently about their circumstances and about their God.

4. I must make sure I am surrounding myself with biblical truth.

God’s Word has been such a comfort and rebuke to me during this time of change in our lives. The Psalms have encouraged me over and over to pour out my heart before my God and seek His guidance. Songs with biblical truth have been especially comforting to me. I have had this song on repeat for months:

Father of Light

All praise to the name

Of the Father of Light

One who listens and hears when I call

Ev’ry step he ordains,

I shall walk without fear

In His light I’ll not stumble or fall.

He knows all of my feelings,

The depths of despair

All the limits my soul can endure.

I will trust in His name,

I have nothing to lose,

For in Him all my hopes are secure.

-Craig Courtney

5. Look for God’s hand in my life and be grateful.

God is always at work. He is trustworthy. He is sovereign. He is good. And if I take the time to look for how he is working, I will spend a lot more time being grateful and a lot less time complaining. It was a stretching time for our family when Erica had to fly back to America alone. It was hard. But seeing how God worked in her heart to prepare her and then seeing the strength he gave her and how he guided her was faith building for all of us. I wouldn’t trade the way we saw God work for anything. It takes effort to stop and notice how God is working in our lives and in our children’s lives. Psalm 66:16 says “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.” I need to take time to reflect on God’s mighty hand upholding me and I need to share what He is doing with others.

There have been many days when I didn’t think I could make it on the mission field any longer. There have been many days when I wanted to quit. But there are more days when I bow my head and ask God to help me surrender to what He wants for my life. I do not want to choose my own way. He is all-wise and I trust Him. This is my prayer:

Thy way, not mine, O Lord,
  However dark it be;
Lead me by Thine own hand,
  Choose out the Path for me.

Smooth let it be, or rough,
  It will be still the best;
Winding or straight it leads
  Right onward to Thy rest.

I dare not choose my lot;
  I would not if I might:
Choose Thou for me, my God,
  So shall I walk aright.

Take Thou my cup, and it
  With joy or sorrow fill,
As best to Thee may seem;
  Choose Thou my good and ill.

Choose Thou for me my friends,
  My sickness or my health.
Choose Thou my cares for me,
  My poverty or wealth.

Not mine, not mine the choice,
  In things both great and small;
Be Thou my guide, my strength,
  My wisdom and my all.

-Horatius Bonar

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

10 thoughts on “New Season – New Surrender

  1. “Look for God’s hand in my life and be grateful.” Amen! I want to emulate this discipline in my own journey. Thank you for sharing these struggles and lessons!

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  2. Thanks for being transparent, Courtney! Sometimes we all just need to know others are going through similar things and we are not alone. I know how to pray for you now!! If there is anything I can do for your girls, please let me know. I’m glad our kids are friends. 🙂

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  3. Really encouraged by this today. My sister shared this with me. Thank you for sharing your lessons. John 9:1-6 have hugely encouraged me during life’s recent frustrations and sadness at being separated from family. My husband recently gave a devotional on this at our church and I have thought of it many times since. Here the blind man (for me that would be a huge frustration, inconvenience, and hardship) was told the reason for his blindness “that the works of God may be manifest”. God simply wants my life to declare His works. In your words, surrender. “Even so, Lord, for so it seems good in Your sight.” If the difficulties must be deep for His glory to be seen and for the dross to be purged, then even so! The people we are trying to reach are watching how we will deal with these things. May our lives scream of His working! Thank you for your transparency here.

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  4. Thank you for sharing! As you know, we left Katie in the states. I know she is in God’s will and I know He loves her even more than we do! However, the pain of missing her has been so hard. I am realizing it is a grieving process as well as a continual surrender to God’s will, not mine. Praying for you friend!

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