Our son Noah (above) graduates from grade six next week…I found this picture of him in the rain at age 4 when I was looking for pictures to send in for his class slide show. He is not only transitioning to the U.S. this month, but he is finishing his Primary School days.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about our upcoming furlough. I know I’ve probably said it before, but it’s worth repeating…it’s really hard to stay in the ‘here and now’ when there is so much involved in getting ready for the next big thing, which is literally moving our family from this side of the world to the other.
A few things I’ve realized:
- Traveling with five children is trickier than I ever thought (and we haven’t even left yet!). Being a family of seven means we won’t fit into a medium sized car, or even one hotel room. Thankfully for most of our trip home, we will be able to stay with family and friends and either travel with them or use local transportation!
- Making airplane bookings is agonizing from this distance! Having been gone from the US for four years makes us wonder when the best time is to buy or whether we would use a travel agent or book everything ourselves. Thankfully, we have made all the decisions needed to get us back to Wheaton, IL between leaving here in June and arriving there mid July…it involved hundreds of smaller choices like where we would stop, how long we would stay (and where) and how would we get around in each place!
- Leaving for furlough is a lot harder this time around because the goodbyes are for longer or more final than ever before. We have friends of 13 years leaving for good (they leave before we get back) and we have other friends going on furlough before we get back, which means we won’t see them for two years total, or more.
- All seven of us experience different symptoms of transition. Noticing how each person handles the grief and stress is a necessary part of parenthood and marriage because it helps us have grace for each one.
Being thankful/grateful for the good things we have had as a part of missionary life has been a source of comfort to me in recent weeks. A friend in our small group led us all in a night of “Stones of Remembrance” where we watched a slideshow of the last 10 years together and then talked about the ways that God had answered prayers for us. These friends, and others, here, have truly walked through some dark valleys with us and have celebrated joys as well. So, in honor of my friend Kelly, who started this whole topic for me, here are a few stones of remembrance for our family that I want to publically thank God for: (this is by no means a comprehensive list but it gives the general idea…)
- The births of our five children, including the safe delivery of our high risk twins.
- Jenny Beth’s heart defect healed the year after we returned. (I took her to Australia twice, the second time we were told she had no hole in her heart anymore!)
- On several occasions where either us or our kids were in physical danger, God protected us.
- Provision of all of our physical needs during our entire career as missionaries. We have had some (unexpected) gifts come in when we had medical trips to Australia.
- A purposeful job, where we get to see people hearing and reading God’s Word in their own language for the first time.
- “Fun nights” with our small group, where we have literally laughed all evening.
- Opportunities to host short term personnel and interns in our project. Each one has left a stone of remembrance with us.
- Close friends, who have journeyed with us through hard times.
- Community: I love being able to walk to my close friends’ houses in under 5 minutes! I love having the possibility available to me.
- Supportive family and friends who have prayed for us.
- A market where I can buy fresh fruit and vegetables three times a week. I know I am going to miss this!
- Our PNG friends and colleagues, especially Mama Hana who has been a part of our family since 2002.
- The wonderful school that our kids go to. It is very common for me to bump into one of my kids’ teachers, who will tell me some little tidbit about that child and I am reminded that we are so blessed by the educators here.
- The other support workers here–too many to list–who have also been called to serve Bible translation, providing technical, medical, financial, transportation and food services. We couldn’t do our job without them!
- Teammates. Usually you get who you get and you make the best of it, right? God placed some really gifted (fun) and great friends in our team. Some of them work remotely and some we see often.
- And finally, I’m grateful for the pace of life here. Sometimes I complain about the lack of opportunities to eat out or have ‘date nights’ with my husband. But I know I will miss the minimalistic life we have here.
It’s my goal to have an attitude of contentment wherever I am. Some days I am able to live that way and other days I sink into self pity pretty quickly. I’m anticipating seeing friends and family who we haven’t seen in four years. I can’t wait for my kids to know their grandparents and also to create some memories with family and friends.
I know from previous furloughs that there will be some reverse culture shock and that there is no way to avoid it, just to walk through it while hopefully not taking myself too seriously. It means being unbalanced and a little crazy at times and giving freedom to my kids to do the same.
Because we’re not shooting for perfection here: just reality.
And sometimes a little bit of sanity.