Amy Mullens shares a story about learning how to trust God while her children experienced difficult things. Now you can find the Kindred Mom book, Strong, Brave, and Beautiful: Stories of Hope for Moms in the Weeds, wherever books are sold. Subscribe to the Kindred Mom newsletter and receive a preview of the book today! Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
“I really don’t want to go tomorrow,” my daughter sighed.
“I know you don’t. I wish I could go in your place,” I commiserated. “You know it cannot be as bad as your first day of school when we had just moved here,” I added in an attempt to comfort.
In her eyes, I could see her mind was traveling back to that day two years ago. Only having lived in England for about a month and having changed living arrangements four times, it is little wonder those first school days felt tumultuous. Another contributing factor was this girl hadn’t yet attended a conventional school in her life. Up until that point, her education had been with one of the best teachers ever in a one-room schoolhouse that met three half days a week. It was like a beautiful little greenhouse under the umbrella of homeschooling, where children had no choice but to thrive. School all day, every day in her home culture would have been a big adjustment, but this transition summoned every ounce of bravery her nine-year-old self could muster.
“On that first day, my teacher was standing over me while I was writing a sentence. I came to the end, and she told me to put a full stop. I had no clue what she was talking about,” she said, giggling. “She looked at me like I was crazy and said, ‘You know, the little dot at the end.’ I told her that I called those periods. I don’t think that she had ever heard of that before.” My girl was now smiling at this memory that had been entirely disorienting to experience.
“You have come such a long way in the past two years,” I reassured her. “You know so much more about living in England than you did back then.”
“I am just afraid that I will cry like I ended up doing on that first day.” She looked down.
She was now eleven and starting “high school” in a new school, and she didn’t know anyone. I wished I could walk beside her and whisper brave things to her throughout the day.
She came up with a plan for saying good-bye the next day: We would get her big brother to walk with us. I would say good-bye once we got over the river bridge and he would walk her the remainder of the trip. This way, if she felt emotional after parting with me, she would have time to pull herself together before she reached school. Having attended her school, he would also better know where she needed to go. Thank God for big brothers!
When we said good-bye that morning, I did my best, but I know my voice shook.
All day long, my heart sat in my throat. I prayed for her with prayer that never ceased. Trusting God to sustain my kids when they walk through difficult things is the hardest thing my faith has ever been through.
I have always wanted what was best for my kids. Doesn’t everyone? I can remember being big-bellied and reading reviews of infant car seats, not being able to reconcile how they had all been approved as safe, but some were hundreds of dollars more than others. If I went middle-of-the-road, would my baby be ok or would I someday never be able to forgive myself for not forking over the extra money? And that was only the beginning. . .
Over the years, the calling of God upon my husband’s and my life has been in conflict with what most would deem “best for our kids.” Our littles never had a strict bedtime because pastors work a lot of nights often involving their wives. As a result, our kids learned to sleep anywhere. We always took them along for the ride and flexibility is now a strong point for all of them.
When they were little, I overheard this conversation between my boys:
“Was dad always a pastor?” the younger asked.
“No, we used to just go to church and mom and dad only had to worry about their own problems, not everyone else’s,” my firstborn candidly replied.
I have no doubt that the emotional burden of carrying the weight of others’ struggles has had an impact on my children. I hope they will grow to be the kind of people who will go on to care for and help others no matter what their vocation.
Adding a baby to our family through adoption was seen by some as a poor choice for our three biological children. That baby girl is six years younger than the youngest of them and she surely would hold us back. And you know what? Sometimes she does. Obviously, some things would be easier for our family to do without a five-year-old along. What my biological children have learned is that God designed all people to need and be a part of a family. We were called to be family to a girl who needed one. My kids have learned to accommodate their little sister when it is inconvenient because she is worth it. All people deserve a family.
Then, when our kids were 14, 12, 9, and 3, God moved and made it clear He was calling us to join a church plant in England. There are still moments when I can’t believe we made that move as a family with kids of those ages. It was unspeakably hard on them.
This past August, we got to travel back to the States for the first time in a year. On our last morning in Pennsylvania, I watched my dad pushing my girls on the swings in his backyard––the same yard I grew up in––and the guilt rolled in. This is what my kids are missing all of the time. In weak moments, I feel they are being “robbed” of time with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins so we can foster a tiny church on the other side of the Atlantic. Countless times during the past two years of our transatlantic journey, my husband and I have questioned whether or not we were ruining our kids.
My daughter’s first day of high school went well. Another girl invited her to eat lunch together, so the danger of being alone at that most vulnerable moment was provided for by a kind-hearted soul. Prayers were answered. During the subsequent first week, my daughter made friends with a girl who had moved to England from Africa only 9 months before. My heart smiled as these girls found a connection over an uncommon shared immigrant experience.
“Do you remember, Mom, how I used to cry every night when we first moved here?” my daughter asked the other day. “I thought that I would never get over leaving our life in the U.S.”
I will never forget the pain of those tearful nights. They almost sucked every ounce of courage out of me. There were so many times my husband and I considered waving a white flag and getting on a plane.
“Now that I know I can survive a move like that, I want to travel the world sharing Jesus and helping people when I grow up,” she confidently smiled.
When I watch our children be brave, I lean hard into my God for more courage than my heart knew it could muster. I have no idea what God has planned for them, but I can see glimpses of how He uses the hard parts of this life to do what is best for my kids.
Amy and her husband are church planters in the Midlands of England. Originally from Pennsylvania, she experienced in a deep way what it means to live as a pilgrim when she adjusted to ex-pat life and settled her children into a new culture. She is addicted to seeing Jesus change people’s lives and loves nothing better than to walk with them through His Word whether that be in a small group, her writing, or over coffee. Exploring the English countryside, getting lost in a book, and catching up with an old friend are among her favorite things. You can find her at www.amymullens.com or on Instagram.