My family and I recently returned from a mission trip in Monterrey, Mexico, where our daughter, Jenna, is a full time missionary. She went on a mission trip her junior year in high school and spent Christmas Day at an orphanage in Mexico. When I read her senior scholarship essay about establishing an orphanage where children would feel known and loved, I realized God had captured her heart for orphan ministry.
Jenna is my only daughter, the oldest of four children. As she narrowed college choices, she settled on two Christian colleges. One was two hours away and the other was eleven hours away. Just as God grabbed her heart for orphan ministry, he grabbed by heart as a fledging mother who needed to let go.
I was rehearsing how to tell Jenna she should attend the college closer to home when the Holy Spirit convicted me. “You’re not letting her choose,” He said. “I want to work in her life but you’re standing in the way. Loosen your fingers so I can work. You have to release her to me. If I’m calling her away to the mission field, a college that’s far away is just a stepping stone. Let go.”
I stood in my living room crying. I got the message. God told me to back off and take my hands off my only daughter. It was a lesson in obedience, like Abraham with Isaac. I’ve had to surrender at the altar again and again.
Jenna went to that far away university, which also took her to Guatemala several times and confirmed her call to orphaned and vulnerable children. She currently is a full time missionary doing orphan care with Back2Back ministries in Mexico.
Since Jenna graduated, two more of our children have fledged. My youngest is still in high school. Releasing a firstborn, single daughter to the mission field has been a life altering journey. Here are seven lessons I’ve learned since God said, “Let go.”
1.When worried about her safety, God reminds He’s her safety. I have to trust her to God’s care.
2.Seeing a child immersed in their calling brings joy. But it’s bittersweet when it takes them to another country.
3.Family time is scarce when kids are far away. Our family is only together about twice a year. Rather than lamenting the times we’re not together, I embrace the times we are (there’s more about this in Fledge).
4.I miss common mother-daughter experiences like shopping or hanging out. It’s just that simple.
5.Being a missionary parent is a unique role. There’s a spiritual battle for children called to vocational ministry. Their needs are different because the demands of the mission field are unique, similar to that of service men and women. Our role is to support her emotionally and spiritually.
6.I must be strong even when I don’t feel like it. A missionary child needs a mom who’s strong and supportive rather than worried and weepy. I take my burdens to God, trusting he will provide. This often is an act of obedient faith.
7.Raising kids means we let them go so they can cling to God, not us. This is a conscious choice.
Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind is based on Psalm 127: Like arrows in the hands of warriors are children born of one’s youth. God was right when he told me to take my hands off my firstborn, and he asks the same of you. Our parenting job is to raise our children with tender hearts positioned towards God. When we hold our children too tightly, we get in the way of God’s perfect plan. He asks us to let go.
For more on letting go and everything else relating to the fledging stage of parenting, get Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind. It’s available online and at major retailers. Join me on Facebook for our Fledge Parenting Forum, on Instagram, Twitter, and at brendayoder.com