Who knew? That stretch marks happen in your heart as well as the rest of your body. And the heart-kind are more ongoing, deeper, and longer-lasting than the other kind. In fact, they never go away. At least not if you’re a mom.
For me, this is a summer of stretch marks. Two of my three kids are moving. Really moving, I mean. Farther away from me, which is how a Nana measures space and time. Erika and her family have moved not only from one country to another (from Northern Ireland in the UK to the Republic of Ireland), but also into an entirely new world as her husband Richie has just been ordained and installed as the minister of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Cork, Ireland. Irish roots—and God’s calling—grow deeper and deeper.
Lars and his family are moving from Virginia to Alaska. Not just Alaska. To Kodiak Island, off the coast, which is a 12-hour ferry ride from southern Alaska. They are just now completing a marvelous 5 ½ week, 6800-mile adventure driving their RV across our country and through Canada, seeing amazing and spectacular displays of God’s grandeur as they go, visiting national parks and just plain gorgeous campsites along the way. Their destination is one of the world’s largest Coast Guard Stations, where they will live for three years while Lars flies C-130J’s and participates in ongoing training and management of the new C130J program there.
Roots and wings. A Nana heart pulled and tugged in new directions. Often I pray geographically. Thus the new stretch marks. And oh, yes. Did I mention that our son Bjorn and his family—the “local” ones who only an hour-plus away in New Hampshire—are embarking on a new potential adoption journey with India. Yup. More stretch marks ahead.
I often joke with our kids about how I should go back and re-do the Mom to Mom curriculum—and our own parenting—because obviously we overdid the wings! An interesting response: “But Mom, did you ever consider that it’s because we have/had such secure roots that we could sprout wings big enough to fly where we believe God is calling us?” Hmm.
At the moment I am dealing with geography-induced stretch marks. But all you mamas know that stretch marks in moms are caused in many other ways as well. A new child joins your family—either by birth or adoption or blended family. A new diagnosis for one of your kids—whether medical, educational, or psychological—opens you up to a whole new world of exploration, understanding, and coping. A new life circumstance stretches you in unexpected ways, as you watch your kids deal with an altered family dynamic as you and your spouse experience job loss or a new job, marital challenges, extended family needs . . . The list goes on.
That Mama-heart. Some of you reading this have sent kids off to college or seen them walk down a long aisle or, hardest of all, walk away from you—or God. Deeper stretch marks. An entirely new level.
Why on earth am I writing about this in the middle of a gorgeous summer when some of you, I hope, are savoring a slightly more relaxed (if you can ever use that word about mom life!) summer schedule—and the rest of you are feverishly counting the days until school starts? Let’s talk survival, you may be thinking. Forget stretch-mark warnings.
Here’s why. As it turns out, I am learning that the best thing about stretch marks is that they stretch and grow our relationship with God. If only we let them. When we are too far away, or our kids’ needs are beyond our power to meet, it is a constant reminder of Who does follow our kids wherever they go and Who can meet their every need. Even when we can’t. Especially when we can’t.
Read Psalm 139 if you need a reminder, especially verses 7-12. I’ve prayed these verses across the globe to Iraq and Afghanistan, and now to Ireland and Kodiak. You can pray them into hospital rooms and diagnostic testing and tough school situations. And way beyond . . .
“Though I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea . . .”