• Stephanie Ehmke, MA, LPC

Distance


“May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other.” Genesis 31:49 (NIV)

Tonight, I am missing my kids. I’ve been feeling a little blue for the last day or so and couldn’t quite pinpoint why until now, but this is it. I miss my kids. I’m sure everyone feels this way at various times when their kids grow up and move on (as it should be) and it’s not a deep dark place I’m in; I’m just feeling a bit melancholy about the distance today. One is 900 miles away and the other 30 miles, but not living in my home anymore, they may as well be living on the moon. I think the shift in weather is what triggered the feelings. As the fall temps dropped, my desire to bake and cook comfort food kicked into high gear. Then, I realized it was just me and my husband in the house and I felt blah. Who do I bake for now? Why would I cook a big meal just for the two of us? Rambling thoughts began to pour in, not helping my mood at all. It also did not help that while out to dinner over the weekend our tiny table for two sat next to a huge round table full of family. It was obvious by the conversation (yes, I was eavesdropping a bit) and their interactions that there were 3 generations present – mom and dad, kids with their spouses, and a few grandkids sprinkled around as well. It was beautiful and made my heart ache to realize this will not be a scene in my life during this season. Tonight, as I connected the dots, I oddly enough began to think of you. While I’m missing my kids, I know many of you are missing loved ones too. Some of your loved ones are separated by distance as well, but some are separated by conflict and tension. Then, there are those who are separated by sickness or even death. My heart wept for you when I thought of the sadness and heartache you may be carrying right now. As much as I miss my kids right now, I know I will see them soon, but not so for some of you. As these thoughts poured in, I began to pray for you, grateful that God knows all the details of your pain and struggle that I have no idea about and that he is faithful to bring comfort. Oh, how I pray he brings you his comfort. The holiday season, unlike any other, has a way of making all of our feelings even more intense as it further magnifies the distance we feel from our loved ones, whether it is geographical, emotional, or physical and it can be so easy to be drawn into a dark place of grief. Helping others navigate grief is something that has been part of my professional life in ministry and in the counseling room for more than twelve years now. It is one of the hardest, most holy, and complicated things I get to do for God. The part of me that desperately wants someone’s pain to stop, longs to speak words of hope and encouragement, but the part of me that’s walked the path of grief myself, knows there are no such words that will be adequate. Grief is hard simply because there is nothing to do with it except walk through it and feel it. So, what do we do? How do we navigate life when distance separates us from those we love and various levels of emotion from melancholy to full-blown grief creep up on us? I take comfort in today’s verse from Genesis, remembering that the Lord is watching over us and our loved ones who are distant.

“May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other.” Genesis 31:49 (NIV)

This verse reminds me that God is keeping watch over every detail of my life and of those I love. With this knowledge, I feel more freedom to talk with him about my feelings, about the distance, and about missing them. There is great comfort in knowing God is not only keeping watch, but he is also listening and is sensitive to our sorrow. I also find great comfort in joyful memories. As I stood in my kitchen tonight feeling blah, I decided to discard all the objections I’d made earlier about not doing the things I love to do for my kids. They may not be here, but my momma’s heart still is, so I ran to the store and chose to do what I would normally do. I cooked and baked! One night I made a massive pot of chili and triple chocolate chunk brownies. Delicious! The next night I made one of our family favorite dinners to exact specifications. Tender cube steaks in thick, luxurious gravy, mashed potatoes, fresh-style green beans, and blueberry muffins with lots of butter! So many dinners in the past were spent around a table with this particular meal and as my husband and I sat eating it together I found my heart and stomach were as full as those moments in the past. The kids may not have been around to enjoy it with us, but by making it and enjoying it, I was honoring the life and memories we’ve shared. Surprisingly, sitting and eating the meal filled my heart with such joy that the kids no longer seemed quite so far away, and at that moment I realized that even though there was the distance they were still right where they’ll always be… deep in my heart. I am so grateful to Jesus for precious memories to sustain me through the distance. For Your Reflection… Missing those we love can be incredibly painful, regardless of why they are absent. What can you do today to celebrate those you miss?


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