I am so honored to begin this series with one of my dearest friends Sarah. Sarah and I have been friends for almost ten years. We served at Northland Camp together, she held my hand through a very difficult time in my life, stood right by my side as I said "I do", and she loves my children like they are family. She's an amazing wife, mother and friend. Here's her story...
My name is Sarah and I am the proud mom to Amelia, almost 4 years, and Simeon, 9 months. My family has lived in Italy for the past 3 years working with a Fiilipino church where my husband pastors and leads Bible studies. I also work with the ladies in the church, mentoring and teaching book and Bible studies.
It’s hard to know where to begin in talking about the things God has taught me these past 3 years. Living in Italy has some awesome aspects. I love the food, the clothes, the laid back lifestyle. The gelato. But in some ways these years have been the most spiritually dry I’ve ever experienced. God has used the trials of leaving family and friends, learning a new culture and language, and a myriad of other changes, to expose all the ugliness that had been lying dormant for so long. But the beauty in it all is that it has shown me HOW MUCH I need God’s grace to make it through everyday. And that He is using these things to make me more like Him (even though I don’t always like His methods).
In the realm of mothering the biggest thing I have learned is that I need to give my kids to God completely and trust that He knows what they need better than I do. I know every mother struggles with fear and worry over her children. Moving to another country magnified that by about a thousand for me. I could share a ton of examples of times where I was fearful but I’ll narrow it down to 1 per child.
We decided about a year ago that the best way for Amelia to learn the Italian language was to enroll her in preschool. I have struggled with so many feelings of guilt over this decision...what kind of mother would send her 3 year old to a school where she doesn’t understand the language and doesn’t know anyone? And why would I send her anyway when she’s so little and I’m at home all day? Will she be scarred for life? I’ll never forget fighting back tears during the first “parent/teacher conference” when her teacher told us that Amelia acted sad sometimes and played by herself a lot. But the past few months have proven that this was the best decision we could have made for Amelia. She loves going to school and has made several little friends (most of them are foreigners...I guess they like to stick together). She is learning the language and has a much needed outlet for all that energy. When I started contemplating those feelings of “guilt” I came to the conclusion that it was way more about my comfort and my need to be in control than it was about her well-being. Because deep down I knew my social little girl needed that outlet. And the longer we put off teaching her the language the longer she was going to go without friends and learning how to interact with others. It’s been hard to learn that life is not about me.
Another huge challenge for us was dealing with pregnancy and birth in a new country. The amount of time and energy it took to schedule appointments, blood tests, and ultrasounds was huge. I was sure this new baby would come out being super uptight and needy since I was so stressed during the whole pregnancy. With my oldest I had a c-section but I wanted to try a VBAC with the second. The doctors here encouraged that decision until it became clear that Simeon was a big baby. They went ahead a scheduled a c-section the day after my due date. I was absolutely freaked out about having surgery in a foreign country. Not to mention the fact that I would have to stay in the hospital for 5 nights and share a room with other patients (my husband could not stay with me). The night before the scheduled surgery I laid in bed and sobbed about what was to come. Little did I know that about 4 hours later I would go into labor on my own and 4 hours after that I would be holding my little boy who came out the natural way! Not only did I only have to stay in the hospital 2 nights but my husband was able to be there with me in a private room for the first night. Why had I doubted that God would take care of me? The truth was even if I had had the surgery and stayed in the hospital for a long time God would have taken care of me then too, but He chose to bless me in a way I couldn’t imagine.
Do I still struggle with fear and worry? Every day. Do I still wonder if my kids are going to be normal after living such a strange life? Yep. And I wonder every day how God can use such a broken person like myself. But He loves me. And He loves my kids way more than I do. And it’s all about Him.
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9