Archive for ‘challenges’

September 6, 2016

Vulnerability and Telling the Truth

by mendibpng

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I used to have a hard time telling the truth, especially if it had the potential to cause someone to be unhappy with me.  I couldn’t reconcile the command to “speak the truth” with the “in love” part. So often in Christian circles the “love” part is emphasized but we don’t call each other out because we want to avoid shame to the other person or to ourselves.  I have also seen many people hurt by immovable idealists.  What I mean is people who think they are telling the truth but really are dogmatic in their own beliefs and unwilling to hear other points of view. The tension of living cross culturally is that you are always going to run into someone who makes different choices. It’s the lack of grace that makes people feel like they’ve been thrown into the gutter. I’ve been thrown into the gutter and I know I’ve been guilty of throwing others in. That’s the hard thing about being human…we will hurt each other. But if we can’t talk about it, there’s no way to move forward.

I began boundaries training with my friend Kay many years ago, and it started with me approaching strangers politely asking for more cream in my coffee, or asking for something in the store that wasn’t on the shelf. This progressed to me saying that I had to think about an invitation or request before saying “yes” or “no” to them.  It meant listening to the Holy Spirit (and to my heart instead of denying my thoughts and feelings as I was conditioned to do) and facing my paralyzing fear of disappointing people. I had to keep asking myself “what if I say ‘no’ to …….?” what could happen? (For example: she could get mad. I might lose a friend. I won’t die. I might be able to say ‘no’ more easily next time.) And “am I responsible for ………’s response?” (nope!) I had to remind myself that I have value (and so does the other person) and to say “yes” when I really mean “no” is a way of devaluing myself (or my family). Often I find that the fallout extends to my husband and kids as well as myself.

What I learned was that I needed to accept the consequences of telling the truth and practice it, even if it meant that it cost me something. No longer would I be angry at someone for asking me for a favor. Because it was my responsibility to respond appropriately. I can’t say the gut wrenching feelings ended with me learning to speak truthfully/honestly, but I think they have subsided some as I’ve put what Kay taught me into practice.

Telling the truth means that there will be personal consequences. Here’s where the vulnerability comes in. It’s a risk to tell the truth. Someone won’t like what I said. We might have completely different ideas of what is “respectful” behavior or even what is normal. Or, sometimes I get it wrong by the story I told myself about what happened. Sometimes I confront on my own strength without seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Sometimes the thing I said gets blown out of proportion and the thing I was hoping to convey gets lost in the conflict. Another result is that I’ve said my peace and there is no response or worse, a hostile one. At that point, I can choose to stop engaging with the crazy. I usually conclude in the end that I’m glad I said something because it’s worth it not to allow myself to be victimized. My previous efforts to be ‘nice’ damaged me because I lived in a constant state of fear of making people unhappy. In his book, ‘When Panic Attacks’, David Burns writes, “If you show me a hundred people who are anxious, I’ll show you a hundred of the nicest people you ever met!”

One of my friends tells the truth unapologetically. She has no problem approaching others to find out what really happened, and I think she’s really good at diffusing a situation that could get ugly. The reason I find safety in our friendship (and others like it) is that I know she’s going to tell me the truth every time. We don’t have to agree on everything but we both know each other’s hearts so we can assume good intentions right from the start.

It took time to build up our friendship and trust each other. She would never put me above her family or relationship with her husband and nor would she expect me to do that for her. We both have other close friends and freely expect each other to spend time with them. When I’m with her, it’s common for her to share with me what she’s studying in the Scriptures. Her desire to grow spiritually is infectious.  Also, she makes me laugh. I don’t have time for emotional games or drama in friendships, because I am stretched with all that I’m called to do here (wife, mother, teammate, etc.) I have several friendships here like this, where there are no ‘shoulds’ or guilt trips and for that I’m really thankful!

Living in community means more opportunities for truth telling and for loving confrontation.

 But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending  life, the real life! ( The Message, Jude 20-21)

March 11, 2016

“I’ve got this.”

by mendibpng

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(above) The flowers in our village and here in Ukarumpa lure a multitude of butterflies so I rarely go a day without seeing several. Each time I see one, it is a reminder to me of God’s love for me and of his transforming grace. They often appear at times when I need encouragement the most, or when the daily grind of the mundane has me teetering on the ledge of self pity…

Periodically, I encounter the “what if’s.”

  • There’s a decision we need to make about our near future. What if we make the wrong decision?
  • Ben and I are leaving for the weekend. What if one of our children needs a medevac while we are gone? What if the little ones end up being a lot to handle for their aunties who have kindly offered to look after them?
  • Our son is researching colleges and universities. What if we don’t know how to best help him with this process?
  • There are often concerns in the missionary community where we live. What if the truth gets minimized or buried?
  • We encounter needs and important tasks for our our project and family life: what if we can’t handle it and end up burned out again?

These are just a few of questions swirling around (incidentally, it actually helps to get them out of my head an write them down because some of them I wasn’t even aware of until just now!)

This morning, I fed my soul with God’s Word. Comfort and direction come without fail. Here’s what I read today:

Easy come, easy go, but steady diligence pays off. Proverbs 13: 11 (The Message)

My coffee is cold, vegetables waiting to be soaked, bread dough is unmade….but I can’t give up.

I read Acts 22-23 as well as all of Proverbs 13 and once again felt encouraged by the presence of the Holy Spirit. I may not hear an audible voice as the Apostle Paul did at times, but I do receive clear direction from the Word and from the Voice speaking to my heart. I’ve come to rely on it, so much that it’s easy to discern it from my own thoughts.

But here’s the difficulty. I know I need Quiet to hear. I know I need Solitude. Yet, as a missionary, mom of five, and wife to Ben, I feel like I can barely remember to brush my hair sometimes, much less sit down with my Bible. The crazy seems to be hiding in the next room and being quiet is often a luxury I don’t give myself. I’ve come to realize, however, that spiritual food is as necessary to me as physical food. My awareness of God in everything and worship is also as necessary as me being conscious of my ‘to do’ list.

That night the Master appeared to Paul: ‘It’s going to be all right. Everything is going to turn out for the best.’ Acts 23:11 (The Message)

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….to me, the Master says, “I’ve got this.”

 

May 8, 2015

The Pehrsons in Papua New Guinea

by bzephyr

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Is it worth the sacrifice to live so far away from home in Papua New Guinea with our five children?

Watch this video to learn about our life in PNG and why we answer that question the way we do.

Mandy’s PNG visa was granted today. That’s one more hurdle removed so that we can return to PNG in June.

March 21, 2015

Mercy, not sacrifice

by mendibpng

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I have been thinking a lot about the word “mercy” because this week I took several Spiritual Gifts inventories online. It turns out, that was my top categories in all of the inventories. (By the way, if you are interested in taking one, I thought this free one was the most detailed/helpful.)

I looked it up online at Meriam-Webster and the definitions were

: kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly

: kindness or help given to people who are in a very bad or desperate situation

: a good or lucky fact or situation

The gift of mercy does resound with me because I gravitate towards righting injustice, caring for those who are downtrodden, and showing compassion to those who are left in the gutter. (A note here, this gifting can quickly lead to compassion fatigue, but that is a post for another time!)

As our return to Papua New Guinea fast approaches, I have begun praying for a renewed sense of what God wants for me over there. In December of this year, I clearly heard Him tell me that we would return and He would provide for all of our needs. But the question I have now is…what does He want for me? So far, my roles of wife, mother and team leader (a job I share with Ben) keep me busy. But I don’t want to end up tired and burned out again because I was seeking my own list of tasks without pursing what God has for me.

I usually like to write posts AFTER I’ve figured things out, because that makes me feel less insecure and more justified in writing. Credibility is something I value…but as I said in my last post maybe it’s not as important as being authentic.

I have loved the book “The Emotionally Healthy Church,” by Peter Scazzero for many years now, and end up re-reading it once a year. This year, I came across his wife Geri’s book called “The Emotionally Healthy Woman.” While her husband was pastoring a church that they planted, she quit. Her book explains the things she had to quit in order to become a more healthy person. I haven’t progressed in the book because I got stuck on chapter three, where she says,

“Quit dying to the wrong things”

I’ve never asked myself that question, ie, “what am I dying to that I shouldn’t be?” quite so succinctly. When Ben and I joined the Bible Translation movement over 15 years ago, God spoke to me personally. I asked Him to speak to me clearly because I didn’t want to wake up one day overseas and blame my husband for dragging me over there. He did. I left relationships, material things and cultural comforts and traded them for new relationships, a labor intensive lifestyle, culture stress/conflicts and a ministry where we could see God’s Word directly impacting people’s lives. As I often say, it’s hard, but good. Painful, but purposeful. There are some days when the sacrifices feel like they are too much. Then there are the days when we feel encouraged by the stories we hear or by prayer times we have with our PNG colleagues who face constant injustice and hardship and we know we are in the right place.

So, as we prepare to go again for our third term, I’m asking Him again, “what do you want of me?” and adding to it, “what am I sacrificing that I shouldn’t be?” and “Am I really ready to say my goodbyes and pack up my family again for another term overseas?”

So, back to my spiritual gift of mercy…the ideas of mercy and sacrifice are actually together in the Bible, but for some reason I never linked them, even though the following verse is one I memorized as a small child. I don’t understand how they fit together (if you do have some insight for me please comment, because I really want to know!) I can’t have mercy without sacrificing some part of myself, either in some material way or an emotional one…but maybe the key is in “acknowledgement of God.” So once again I’m asking for His wisdom, rather than seeking my own.

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6 (NIV)

March 5, 2015

On putting on my Mandy face…

by mendibpng

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Just before leaving for a missions conference last Thursday, I emailed a friend last week that I had to go “put my missionary face on…” and she replied, “put your Mandy face on!” I had to smile at that, because she was right. Even if I try to put on a façade, the real me will eventually seep out. As a Third Culture Kid (TCK), it is much easier for me to go straight to a deep conversation, rather than making small talk (which I’m not very good at!) I always have the fear that I’m over-sharing and that I’ve scared someone off because of the things I share. But, it’s how I operate and I can’t seem to help myself. I found myself voicing these insecurities during the missions conference a few times to another adult TCK who assured me that this is what is good, and necessary. I’m thankful for people in my life who ‘get’ the whole roller coaster of emotions that go along with what to share and how far to go….

When Ben and I speak in groups, whether small or large, it is always a goal of ours to be authentic. Sometimes that means admitting some of the things we struggle with. Other times it means sharing where we feel like we have failed in our work, in our marriage, or as parents. The life we live can seem glamorous at times, and although we find a lot of joy and purpose in it, it can be really hard and full of struggles at times, in some cases even traumatic.

Letting our true selves hang out has a lot of benefits, like connecting with those who want to have a grasp of our situation and know us well (I call them the ‘unshockable’ people!) Also, some of the themes in our struggles are the same whether you are overseas or living in the First World, like parenting, marriage and cross cultural conflicts. It gives a level of safety, where you wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to have a meaningful conversation.

Opening up has risks. Sometimes well meaning people think they assume they know you after having only a small glimpse of your life. Other times, they might give unsolicited advice that isn’t always helpful (and although I want to have a loving response–it’s extremely awkward to find an appropriate one!) I am all for a word of timely advice! I’m just talking about the kind of advice which isn’t so helpful.

Also, a side note here: as someone who has struggled with boundaries my whole life, in the area of vulnerability, I have found Henri Nouwen’s advice in my favorite book by him “The Inner Voice of Love” to be really helpful,

You must decide for yourself to whom and when you give access to your interior life. For years you have permitted others to walk in and out of your life according to their needs and desires. Thus you were no longer master in your own house, and you felt increasingly used. So, too, you quickly became tired, irritated, angry and resentful…

and

It is important for you to control your own drawbridge. There must be times when you keep your bridge drawn and have the opportunity to be alone or only with those to whom you feel close. Never allow yourself to become public property where anyone can walk in and out at will. You might think that you are being generous in giving access to anyone who wants to enter or leave but you will soon find yourself losing your soul.

As I speak with people and feel my insecurities invading, I try to remember to pray “Lord, let me be who You want me to be today. Let me only speak Your words.” If I choose this, He always comes through for me, and He is my place of safety every time. I suspect this is going to be a lesson I come back to often because I am a fallen & sinful person…I am always going to feel the pull to ‘put my missionary face on,’ as I was going to do last week before my friend encouraged me to be me.

All this to say, I had the opportunity again yesterday to ask myself, “how much am I willing to let others, even strangers, see my deepest struggles?” Almost as soon as that thought appears, I fall back to, “if my life is not my own, and it really belongs to Jesus, then all it really matters is what He thinks of me.” And if me being transparent opens the doors for people to extend grace (and care) to themselves and especially to my fellow overseas workers, then that is well worth it. Authenticity, transparency….this is where I want to live.

And to my brave brothers and sisters who have gone before me in living authentically, thank you. You are the hands at feet of Christ to me.

 

 

January 10, 2015

I was burning out… (part 1)

by bzephyr

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In June we ended our last 4-year term in Papua New Guinea in the agony of burnout. I felt a lot like this pickup truck that we came across one day with its rear bumper hung up on one edge of this narrow creek and it’s front end pressed into the opposite bank. The back wheels were spinning in the air, well, in the water really. It was working hard, going nowhere, and they were burning out the transmission.

After 6 months away, we want to go back for more. But not more of the same. In this and the next post: the circumstances in which I was burning out. In an upcoming post: learning to burn bright without burning out.

Too many hats

During our last two years in PNG, I felt more and more overwhelmed by the many hats I wore in our 10-language Bible translation project…

  • Translation trainer/advisor
  • Translation consultant
  • Language development specialist
  • Team leader
  • Budget and reporting administrator
  • Transportation facilitator
  • Purchasing and shipping coordinator
  • Building and maintenance supervisor
  • IT support technician
  • Community relations spokesperson
  • Crisis manager

Whenever we left the village and stayed at our national training center, I wore those same hats in a different location, but added a few more…

  • Translation & NT Greek instructor
  • Translation software troubleshooting assistant
  • Branch policy and strategy contributor

Too little too late

As time went on, I thought I was getting better at managing a myriad of tasks. I did start learning to say ‘no’ and to have better boundaries. And there were many people inside and outside our team who took various parts of the load. But it was all too little too late for what I had already done to myself, and the heavy load that I had placed on my own shoulders came at a cost to my health and to my family.

On many occasions we talked about change and we tried to make improvements to how we planned and how we responded to the overwhelming needs around us, but these intentions were like brief blips on the screen that are gone as soon as they appear.

A year is not too much for the most important thing

By June we were ready for a real furlough, and not one where our work triples because we keep doing our overseas work while adding all the speaking engagements and taking on a study program at the same time. We needed a year of intentional evaluation of our circumstances, retraining of our minds, and revitalization of our spirits. Our hope is that it will be hard to forget a year of redefining who we are and the patterns we follow. It will be hard to forget a year of being remade. It will be hard to forget a year of intentional focus on reestablishing who we are and whose will we’re called to serve.

You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring — what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”  James 4:14-15 (HCSB)

November 7, 2014

You know you are in reverse culture shock when….

by mendibpng

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  • your mad skills at things like dehydrating food, booking plane tickets, and malaria prevention are no longer needed. All of a sudden you need a whole new skill set (and believe me, mine were rusty!)
  • a simple task like mailing a package is daunting (Me, “Where is the PO? Where do I park? Oh, I have to take a stub to be next in line? What if she calls the number and I don’t hear her?”)
  • the GPS tells you to turn right, you do, and realize you are going the wrong way on a ONE WAY street when someone honks loudly at you…
  • you forget how cold it is outside and walk out with a t-shirt and flip flops.
  • you feel incredibly grateful when someone in a grocery store talks to you kindly because it happens so rarely.
  • you forget names, drop things, spill drinks and generally are hyper-alert because of all the things going on in your head all at once.
  • you program your phone number into your cell phone because your mind still blanks even after several months.
  • you find yourself reading price labels out loud at the grocery store because there are so many options and you are overwhelmed.
  • you (or your spouse) have been looking forward to doing something culturally American but your children aren’t really keen on the activity…do you go ahead with it and hope they come around, or scrap it??
  • it surprises you that cars stop for you to cross the street, so you run a little.
  • you are still converting things to the currency where you live overseas whenever you go out shopping.
  • some habits stick with you like, you lock your door during the day and check it multiple times at night to make sure it’s locked.
  • you successfully order pizza using your coupon and (hopefully) didn’t sound like a crazy person.
  • you speak English but you feel like you are speaking a different language than everyone else. (My language now includes cultural idioms from my British and Australian colleagues and also from PNG.) We coached the children, “don’t say where is the toilet?” We say, “where is the restroom?” here.

Some of the things listed above made me laugh, and some to be honest made me cry. In reality, any small thing can trigger great anxiety or emotion because I am still trying to adjust. This week while talking to a friend, I described what I’m experiencing as similar to chronic illness (in that it’s invisible). A friend of mine struggles with a chronic illness, and you would never know it unless you knew her well. She suffers daily (hourly!) but bravely lives with a valor that I’ve never seen in another human being. Anyway, I am sure I do not carry myself as well as she does, but to look at me, it is probably not evident to most people that I am struggling under the surface. Cumulative stress from living overseas has taken its toll on our marriage and family (that is a good reason to have a furlough, right?) And yet, I have five kids to care for daily, so I try not to ‘wear’ these things on my sleeve every day. Plus when my kids are having a hard time with reverse-culture shock, it is really hard for them to see their mom falling apart.

On top of that, there’s a delicate balance between being totally honest with people (who may find it shocking to know the truth, or who really don’t want to know!) or veering into self pity (even if I’m not feeling self pity, I don’t want to be perceived as such!) Anyway, my closest friends are gracious to accept me for who I am, do not judge or try to ‘fix’ me. They laugh with me over funny things that happen and cry with me when things get rough.

After five months of being here, I’m starting to feel like I’m coming out of the fog, and even have had some experiences where I haven’t felt completely out of it (yay!) I’m really thankful for the time we have here, and for the chance to adjust in our own time frame. We are also enjoying so many things about being home, that it is definitely worth the effort of readjusting.

November 5, 2014

Noah’s furlough blog

by mendibpng

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I am an MK (missionary kid) meaning my parents are missionaries in Papua New Guinea or PNG for short. PNG is an island in the Pacific Ocean just above Australia. It is divided in half. Half of the island is PNG and the other half is Indonesia. There is over 800 languages so there is a main trade language called, Pidgin or Tok Pisin. It is derived from tons of different languages, like English. Since it is an island, the coasts are hot and humid. The highlands are temperate and about 80 degrees year round. The north coast is about 2 degrees south of the equator and there is only two seasons; rainy and dry. There are two large missionary bases that I know of in PNG. New Tribes in the North East and Ukarumpa in the Eastern Highlands. Ukarumpa is one of my home towns. Its where I grew up, but I was born in the USA. My home town in America is Wheaton, Illinois.

I’m in America. My home town here is new and exciting. The leaves are in the middle of turning colors and dropping to the ground. Also everything is spelled different. (PNG is a common wealth country.) There are paved roads, contrary to the dirt and gravel rounds in PNG. Fast food restaurants are everywhere. Half of them we couldn’t eat at for a while, we usually eat tons of vegetables and a little meat. Mc Donald’s is mostly processed meat and grease. Not to say it doesn’t taste good but we weren’t used to so much meat and oil. The meat grown in PNG is usually expensive or tough and chewy: chicken and crocodile. There is a crocodile farm that mianly uses the crocodiles for  the skins, and so they sell the meat cheaply. It tastes like chicken but has a different texture. There is a small store in Ukarumpa that gives us all that we need. But the prices are going up all the imported things like beef, lunch meat, toys…ect. Now we can buy meat for sometimes 3 times less here in the US.

Walking on cross walks and being careful opening car doors are lessons I had to learn the hard way. It was so embarrassing, we were visiting our cousins when I opened the car door into another car next to use and scratched it. Lesson learned. The other time wasn’t so bad, because all I got was an angry car honk and a little bit of a talking to by not just one but three of my family members. (Older brother, younger brother and mom.)

Being a furloughing MK  is nice at times. I get to finish school by lunch most days. I get to see my grandparents and eat fast food. I get to eat meat which we can only get occasionally in Papua New Guinea.  I am privileged enough to get a tablet. It brings “friends.” I vaguely know a few people in online games. I started reading the ‘Lord of the Rings.’ Books rarely take me more than 3 days but it has taken me a couple of weeks and I’m rarely half way through. In my defense it combined all three of the books so if you split it up, I finished the first book, and I’m about 2 thirds of the way through. We visited our other grandparents in Florida and we went to Aquatica. We visited my parents friends in our car trip in Colorado. They went camping with us and taught us (or retaught us) how to fish. We later visited friends who went to a training course with us in PNG and their oldest, a little 6 year old’s first words to me were “do you like legos? I have The Lego Movie and lots of legos.” Here in Illinois we have gone to a wildlife preserve called the Arboretum where there are tons of trees, and we have taken tons of pictures. I can’t put any on here because I don’t have them on this device but I took one thinking that one tree was photo bombing the other tree. Ha ha haa. Any way we have visited a couple friends and all of our grandparents. We have had a ton of fun. Tomorrow we are visiting a Planetarium so I hope to have even more fun!!! This is how our year back in the States has gone.

Some tough things about home schooling include: few friends. I only see my youth group and neighbors. In Ukarumpa we are a small comunity of Christian belivers. We are a very tight community and everyone knows each other. I don’t get to do much and I often feel bored here. I am losing the calluses on my feet. I have to wear shoes everywhere. (I know it sounds silly but I hate shoes.) I don’t have a real math teacher so if I have problems I can’t ask the teacher for help. My mom is not really a math teacher and finds math hard.  I miss my friends and I try to write to them but I often forget, and I really just sit around all day playing on my tablet or reading or watching a movie all day. It is so cold so I can’t really do anything. My life is taking sharp turns. First I’m in a theme park exhausted and the next I’m sitting in my house waiting for something to happen. I don’t want to sound like a Puddle Glum but I am often bored out of my mind. These are some of the pros and con’s of being me in the States. I hope you have enjoyed my story about this year.

May 26, 2014

Stones of Remembrance

by mendibpng

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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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

 

January 21, 2014

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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