Furlough Fever: decisions, transition & adjustment

by mendibpng

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It’s not just the kids who are experiencing emotions and thoughts about furlough. Ben and I are navigating them as well. There’s the plain ordinary side of transition and grief that I can feel beginning to well up. As is often talked about in transition seminars, we haven’t left yet…we haven’t arrived, either, so we’re caught in the middle. I think of it all lumped together as The Great Unknown. Steven and Jocelyn Head, our friends who work with Heartstream ministries (member care to missionaries) explained it to me like this:  it’s as if we are in a river: we haven’t quite put everything behind yet, but we haven’t reached the other side, either. There’s the good expectations, like seeing loved ones who we haven’t seen in years–former missionaries, friends, family, coworkers who are home based. But then we are also leaving our friends behind who understand our life here and have become like family to us. We don’t just live life together in community. We carry each other’s burdens in the hard times, and our friendships are deep. On top of all of these things, I suspect I take goodbyes rather hard because of my history as a TCK (Third Culture Kid).

It doesn’t matter where we go in the world, we will always be missing someone somewhere.

Next, there’s the decisions. As the parental units for our family, we have millions of options weighing on us. Some things can wait, but other decisions need our attention sooner rather than later. How long should we stop over in transit to Chicago? Will anyone live in our house while we are gone? What repairs need to be made in that case? How much traveling can we do as a family without burning ourselves out? Will it be as fun as we anticipate? Where will we live? What will happen with our team while we are gone? Will we hear from our village friends in our absence? What expectations will people have for us once we get to the U.S.?

Finally, there’s the physical adjustments we’ll have to make. Some of them we know will happen since this is our third time to go on furlough or “home assignment;”  however, it doesn’t make them any less shocking.  Some call it ‘reverse culture shock.” Things like: hearing our mother tongue (English) spoken constantly, recovering from jet lag for days, driving on the other side of the road with all the different traffic signs/signals (we only have stop signs here on our center to obey), shopping with a plethora of choices, helping our kids navigate their new world and trying to make sense of the culture that has moved on in our absence (For instance, we don’t own a smart phone yet!) I remember feeling very disoriented for a while after arriving last time, almost a surreal feeling like I had just stepped off the plane from another planet.

The only thing that keeps my insanity at bay is stopping whenever I am starting to feel anxious is to invite Jesus into the center of what I’m thinking about. I have claimed Psalm 23 repeatedly, picturing myself walking hand in hand with him through green pastures. I went there again today when I started thinking about Ben’s 3 1/2 week trip starting tomorrow.

I’m going to quote it from the King James Version because I love the sound of it:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (Psalm 23 King James Version)

After I got to the “surely goodness and mercy” part, I heard God say to me, “put on your banquet shoes.” I shook my head, wondering what on earth that meant. I had that feeling that I was making it up. But then I knew. I’ve been exercising three mornings a week, and during that time it’s just Me and God. No kids needing a drink or snack. Nobody’s bottom to wipe. No phone ringing. No other noise except the two of us (and sometimes worship music). And it all made sense, as these things usually do when He speaks. I need to keep my sacred places intact even in the midst of the unknowns ahead because that’s where God will meet me. Those banquets are where blessings begin to pour out on me, where I can stop thinking about myself and ask Him to replace those self-focused thoughts with desiring Jesus more than I want all my concerns resolved. That’s where he restores me, leads me beside still waters, and is present in my fears and anxieties. I’m still going to have to go through this process over and over again before our departure date of June 25 rolls around, but I know that goodness and mercy is going to follow me the whole way.

“My cup runneth over.”

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8 Comments to “Furlough Fever: decisions, transition & adjustment”

  1. Thought you might like to know that you won’t be the only ones without smart phones. No one in our family has one ~ not me, Anthony or the kids! Although sometimes I do feel behind everyone else, I’m actually thankful not to have one or the bills that go with it! Praying for you in the time of transition…

    • Thank you Paula! I am really glad to know we aren’t the only ones. I am wondering how we will deal with the pull of all the things phone/internet related! Some of us have cell phones here (pre-paid) but we only really use them when traveling or communicating with friends in the village. It feels like a whole new world! I will be glad, though, when I will have the chance to call you again in the same time zone! 🙂

  2. Hello, daughter! I’m so happy for you in the times you can hear God’s particular words to you in your intentional times of stillness and listening. Those times are the times when the promised “well springing up” are bubbling up, for sure!
    If God says “put on your banquet shoes,” Mom adds “and get ready to dance!” xxoo, Mom.

  3. I stumbled upon your blog a few months ago as I was searching for PNG blogs. My husband and I are in the beginning stages of applying to come to Ukarumpa. We have been in Asia for 10 years and we have been in Indonesia since 2008. We are returning to the States in June. I saw that you were an MK from Indonesia…where did you live? I’ve appreciated reading about your experiences, especially as a larger family (we have six children).

    • hi Janet! We spent time on Java, Sumatera and Sulawesi but I also went to school in Malaysia! Thank you for writing–please feel free to email me if you have any questions about PNG. If you are still home next year (starting in July) we can talk on the phone too. thanks for stopping by!

      • I actually looked for an email address before I commented, but couldn’t find one. It would be great to be in contact. I assume you went to Dalat. We were dormparents there for two years so we know it well. Penang is one of our very favorite places!

      • Hi Janet, yes, I went to Dalat from ’88-’93. My sister and her husband teach there now. When were you there?

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