As a child, my most precious memories aren't of being at home with my 7 siblings, or family dinners where we learned about each other's day. Our home was always tension-filled with my father's drama in his alcoholism. When I look back, I see my most precious memories at my maternal grandmother's house. She doted on us constantly, baked fresh cookies and cakes, never raised her voice and brought stability to my life in a way that nothing else did. I didn't have many plans for when I grew up. Seemed to me that actually surviving my dad's violence and growing up was enough of a goal. I had no room for thoughts of what I would do once I grew up. But, I did make one plan. Because my grandma's house was so special, so peaceful, so wonderful and so delicious-smelling, I decided that would be my house when I was a grandma. I was going to be my Mammow Leach. All my grandchildren would come to Sunday dinner and watch me bake and I'd warn them not to "gom" their cookies all over the floor and I would smile and I would look just like Mammow Leach.
Now I have grandchildren; 2 of them. Just last year at this time, my then 5-year-old grandson sat in my kitchen watching me bake and he said, "You sure know how to bake!" and he loved watching me and I told him what the flour would do once I put all the other ingredients in it and we made a marvelous memory. And he lived with us for 6 months, he and his mom, while his dad was deployed to Afghanistan. And we made a myriad of memories in that time. Then he went home. To the east coast. And I remained in Minnesota.
And, I have a granddaughter who is the definition of beautiful, and smart and energetic and fascinating and awesome and thoroughly amazing. And I've only seen her in person once. And she's never been to my house. She lives in VA with my daughter and her husband. And I honestly don't know when I'll see her - or them - again. Money is tight. Time is tight. Minnesota is a long way from Virginia.
Ministry has brought us to Minnesota. Our last ministry had us in New York for 19 years. Most of our 8 children grew up in NY and they have a history there. They have no history in MN, although each and every one of them serve the Lord in some capacity whenever they visit us here. I was honestly unprepared for this side-effect of ministry; this side-effect being that we have no "homestead" as most people think of a homestead. There is no permanent home. Home is defined by where we are at the time, not by the history of one place or another like when I was a kid.
If I could, I would insure that my kids are always geographically close enough for the occasional Sunday dinner with the family where we could make the same memories I have. But, the reality is, even if all my kids suddenly moved to Minnesota to be close to us, the ministry could easily move us to Arizona! All this has me thinking of ownership quite a bit, so I made a list of things I used to think I own but realize I don't.
1. I don't own my kids. That "mother hen" instinct is strong and I had it in mega-doses since I have such a large family. But, the bottom line is, they are going to grow up and they are going to have their own lives and I have to let them. If that leads them to Iraq, so be it. If that leads them to the coast while I live in the heartland, so be it. I do not own them. While they love me and I love them, I don't own them and part of loving them is letting them live their own lives. I see many parents who struggle with this and clip the wings of their kids so they'll stay close, but clipping wings doesn't work in the long run. They end up going farther from us in their hearts than they ever would have geographically. With fully-spread, un-clipped wings, they are free to fly to the ends of the earth, then back home again. And they will come home, but it will be their home, not mine. (And we have Skype and that really, really helps!)
2. I don't own my marriage. It may come as a surprise to some people, but the person we marry is an entirely separate person! The only thing I own in my marriage are my own choices and behaviors. I don't own him and can't tell him how to live his life. I'm not his manager; I'm not his boss; I'm not his mom; I'm not in charge of him. I'm also not in charge of how my marriage is; I'm only in charge of my own actions, choices, and words. I don't own him.
3. I don't own the ministry. This might be tough for one who is a pastor's wife, since the ministry affects our lives daily in nearly every area, but we still don't own it. We can't manipulate an outcome just because we don't like how it might affect our lives otherwise. The ministry is God's and God's, alone. I know first hand how the ministry affects the daily life of a pastor's family. While most other church members can go home and forget about church, the pastor's family can't do that. And, we live on the campus of our church, so it's a daily reminder that every single thing that happens is going to affect us in this house - and it does. Still, I don't own it. The sovereignty of God is still in effect, even on the campus of any given church where the pastor and his family might live. I don't own it; I can't control it; I can't manipulate it. This is the sole reason why I cringe when someone starts a ministry, then names it after themselves. Yikes! It speaks volumes; I couldn't do that.
So, those are the main 3 things that thinking about ownership has led me to concentrate on. Letting go of ownership is incredibly freeing......it leads to deeper faith because we actually get to see God's sovereign will in action. Romans 8:28 is true for my kids, my husband and the ministry, all the things that are primary in my life.
Because of God's sovereign grace in my life, I'm able to be a long-distance grandma with grace and peace. Not that I don't miss them - oh, my word, I miss them all the time! But, I don't despair and wallow in self-pity because I can't see them every week. I sure wish I could, but this is one of the prices that people in ministry pay. At first, I was unprepared for this realization, but I'm ok now. Because of God's grace.