As I type, I have just “shipped” my 7th and 8th “Flat Stanley/Wolfie” to my nephews John Robert and Nathan. If you are unfamiliar with “Flat Stanley”, you can learn more here. “Flat Wolfie” is the variation of the program for the Whitefield Academy WolfPack.
Once again, I have put a good deal of effort in getting these done well.
My sleep was literally impeded as I completed “Flat Stanley” this week, staying up well past mid-night last night.
You may ask, “Why in the heck would you do something like Flat Stanley with such vigor and intensity?” I literally risked my life to get a cool picture with Mr. Stanley in the middle of Asian traffic (see the bottom of this article . . . maybe a little over the top)!
The simple answer is this; I killed it with Flat Stanley in order to love my nephews Nathan and John Robert well.
Perhaps my biggest personal sacrifice I have made in living overseas the past 12+ years is in not being present for my family, specifically my eight wonderful nieces and nephews. I miss so much of their daily lives that it is difficult to reconcile in my heart.
Simply stated, there are many things in life I cannot be a part of with my family because I live 10,000 miles away.
However, instead of dwelling upon what I cannot do for my family, I have sought to do all I can do to love them through every means of which I do have control. There ARE advantages to living overseas in serving and loving my nieces and nephews. I try to focus on these.
I can love my eight nieces and nephews well during my brief stints in America.
Though my times in the States are few and far between, I do try to prioritize my nieces and nephews during such visits. My last extended time in the States was fall 2010. I took each of them out individually and did whatever they chose.
For Kathryn and Anna, it was separate times to the Japanese hibachi grill in Vinings. For Cole, it was going to the Ferrari dealership and just walking around looking at the cars. Stephen and I had a long conversation over hot wings and burgers at the US Cafe. Great times.
Besides that, I try to get to games, school plays, dance recitals, and/or birthday parties when I am in Atlanta. I know it’s not much, but I do try to do whatever I can in the line of “presence” for them while in America.
I can love them tangibly and creatively from afar.
When my nieces and nephews were younger, this was easy. I brought the coolest gifts back from the far corners of the world. They were able to show them off to their friends. Pretty cool to have an Uncle in Asia when “show and tell” rolls around.
All of the boys now have Tibetan swords. The girls both have pearls and other pretty stuff I could probably not afford were I to buy them in America. It is always fun being able to surprise them with special gifts when I come home.
They also might or might not have some pretty cool boot-leg items.
The latest way I can “love them from afar” has been the “Flat Stanley” competitions at their schools. I have tried to go way overboard in “Flat Stanley” stuff over the years. I think these have been special for all of them.
I can love my eight nieces and nephews by simply living as an example to them in life values and choices.
This is the one thing I cherish that I have hopefully been able to give to my eight nieces and nephews. My brother-in-law Kevin Bracher once pulled me aside while I was in America.
He said something along the these lines. . .
“John, I know you miss living in America and being a more involved uncle. However, know that by them knowing and seeing you prioritize your calling in Christ above all else, you have given them something uniquely special. They know you. They love you. And they understand better what it means to be a follower of Christ by your decisions and priorities.”
I have never forgotten this and it still informs my prayers for my nieces and nephews these many years later. Though the raw hours I will log with them over the course of their “younger years” will be limited, I pray the Lord will use our relationships to encourage them in growth and Godliness well beyond my years.
I write this for many reasons. The main reason, though, is to help others like me who live overseas understand that we can still build into and impact our love ones in America. It’s not easy, but it is possible. As we take steps, the Lord will bless these relationships.
Have a great weekend!