Friday, May 5, 2017

Finding our Furlough Footing

Attempting a family selfie in Hong Kong on our trip back to the US. Clearly some of us need a tutorial.
Well...hey there!

I hope you'll forgive my silence on this space. I know it's been awhile. (Where's the eye roll emoji when you need it?!)

If I can be perfectly honest, I was dead tired, or as we say in Texas "dog tired", when we left PNG almost 5 months ago. I really had no idea how drained I really was until a few months ago. I know you've been there and have felt that way at some point in your life so you get it.

Between the stress of packing, leaving life as we knew it and re-entering here, there was so much to say, but I couldn't put it into words as I was still sorting it all out in my heart and mind. Then at some point a couple of months ago, I realised I felt more rested, more together, than I had been in awhile. The transition fog had cleared a bit...but really? Would anybody care to read the ramblings of a missionary, wife and mother who had just come fresh off the field? She's bound to be a wack-o or really boring. And weird. Definitely weird.

Ummm...clearly there's been alot of self doubt. Thus the silence. Which is funny because I'm not exactly known for being the quiet one in the room.

But...since we've been back I've heard from a few people, some I didn't even know until recently, who have kept up with our journey via the blog, not social media. It turns out people like rambling,
wack-o missionary wives that write just like they talk :) With gentle prodding from my mom, Nannie (shout out to grandmothers who use technology!) and even my husband, I'm attempting to revive this space.

Where to begin (again)? What to say?

So much has changed since we've been gone but...I get it. I know I've changed too. Moving to a different country, learning to live and adapt to a different culture so completely foreign than here, learning a different language...those things changed my world view, my perspective. I'm coming back seeing life around me differently than before. I'm also seeing life through my kids eyes, especially our youngest as it's like she's seeing the U.S. for the first time. I mean, I never thought I'd have to explain a sno cone or roller skating or dressing we are. Jason and I have needed more patience than I think we even realised. There are a *million* questions about U.S. culture, slang, name it, it's probably been asked. I'm thankful our three are taking us seriously on our "nothing is a dumb question so ask it" offer.

Thankfully, at the same time, much has stayed the same. Our friends and family have welcomed us back with so much love. We are completely overwhelmed by the generosity of everyone that has contributed to what we've needed this year. I know. Just a year.

The question of how long we'll stay stateside comes up frequently. Lord willing, all the many pieces, like training and support, will come together and we'll go back to PNG in early January. I can't explain WHY we're going other than that's where the Lord wants for us. I don't know why we can't stay here, trust me, I've asked. For whatever reason He's told us to go, so that's what we have to do. Today I ran across a timely quote from author Priscilla Shirer:

Making sense of God's call is not a prerequisite for following it. Obey.

And I hope that whatever He's calling you to do, you're doing it. We all have our part to play in His bigger picture and plan even when we don't understand it. Yeah...obedience is tough sometimes.

I know a year doesn't seem like much time when, here we are, already in May. For now, we're not focusing so much on that as we are trying to soak up as much time with family and friends. Time, we've realised the last four years, is a precious commodity not to be taken for granted. We know we can't make up for the time we've lost, but we can certainly make the most of right now and we're soaking it in.

Oh and while we're stateside you'll probably find us eating all the ice cream we can :)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Furlough Prep Part 5: The Last 30 Days

The homestretch is here. Less than thirty days before furlough.

Our walls are bare, most of the boxes are packed and waiting to make an entrance to the attic while the suitcases are about to make an appearance for the long trip over the ocean.

If you’ve followed us on this journey over the years, you know I really try to close out seasons of time well wherever we are at. We learned the benefits of “saying goodbye well” during our pre-field training and I have found it to be beneficial for our family, so the tradition continues.

Why say good-bye to this term? Well, we know far too well how transient our community is. This dynamic of people we currently see on a daily and weekly basis may or may not be around when we, Lord willing, return in a year. As life goes anywhere you're at, things always change. What we know as “normal” now won't be the same “normal" we return to. And yes, we’re keeping this in mind as we transition back to the U.S., a place that used to be our normal, knowing full well that it’s not the same place we left.

So we’ve begun our list of things we have loved about the last 4 years…the things, the people, the country that have become our home. As we started this list, it occurred to me how our departure, with this list, coincides with November, a month where we try to be intentional about gratitude and thankfulness for all the Lord has done.

In looking over the last four years, I have so much to be grateful for. Even in the hard times, the times I questioned why in the world we are here…in this place…that really feels like the ends of the earth! This calling that He’s given us to support the work of Bible translation has my heart. No, it hasn’t been easy. Yes, it’s been exhausting, hard, filled with pain, challenges we’ve never faced before, but He’s carried us through each situation. We praise God for the physical health He’s given us even if it has come with a couple of broken bones, some nasty infections and many a stomach virus. I’m thankful for His protection over Jason as he’s flown all over this beautiful country and come home safely at night. I’m thankful that He’s heard and mended our broken hearts when the homesickness and desire to be with our families had us in tears. 

Suffice it to say, I could go on...there is no question that we have been blessed in our first term overseas. As we look forward to the next year, with the unknown challenges that lie ahead, we have the assurance that He has and will continue to be faithful, no matter where in the world we are.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Furlough Prep Part 4: 60 Days

Two months!!

We're really starting to feel the tension of having one foot here and one foot in the US. Planning our schedule and arrangements for the next year stateside in tandem with finishing work, school and life here as we know it...while packing, cleaning and trying to finish well.

I'm reigning in the anticipation/fear of the next year while trying to maintain a sense of normalcy. In the last month that's meant celebrating two milestone birthdays of the kids which translates into parties...and food!! And all the while remembering through our training and books I've read on mission life that this tug we're feeling and transient living for a missionary is...normal?!

We're at the point where everything in our two worlds are colliding, even our dreams. The other night Jason dreamed that he was driving our totally rad 1985 his parents house!
I've had dreams about all sorts of things lately but most of them revolve around shopping in the US and my indecision on what to buy because there are too many choices and variety.

Currently my life (and brain!) are divided into three categories: ship back, give away and my favorite: throw away. Since no one knows the future and the Lord has a history of changing people's plans, our organization asks us to designate a friend or colleague to be the keeper of our house keys so if we don't come back, our "stuff" (which will be stored in our attic) can either be given away or shipped back. It's a bit daunting to decide what I'd want to send back if for some reason our plans change.
I keep asking myself "is this something I'd want to have with me in the US?" I don't want to over think the process, but it does make me to think about what's priority for me like the kids writing journals from school or paintings and wood carvings from local artists. Oh and don't forget the Christmas ornaments! On the bright side it does force you to do a good cleaning every term.

I've also been pretty excited about using the "lasts" of things like spices or bottles of things in the fridge. We're almost to the point that I can start throwing away ziplock bags instead of washing them...again. Oh and hole-y socks? They don't see the light of day anymore!

If you think of us, please pray for sanity and wisdom for all my sorting in the next 60 days! The to-do lists are getting longer and the days shorter...if only I had all the emojis with the crazy faces to insert right here...

Monday, September 12, 2016

Furlough Prep Part 3: 90 Days


We're 90 days from leaving PNG and heading out on our first furlough.

The tickets are purchased.

Our stay at the Guesthouse on our Center is booked. We'll stay there a couple of nights before we leave so we can clean the house and wash everything without having to also live in it at the same time. We'll rely on the generosity of our friends hospitality for our last meals.

The reality is closing in that our first 4 year term is coming to an end.

I've gone back and forth about what to write this month about our furlough preparations. There are all the logistics of setting up life in the U.S. for a year (a house, a car etc.). There are the gory details of packing up our things here and getting the house ready for renters while we're away. There are ALL the questions of what it's going to be like in the U.S., where we'll live, who we'll see, what we'll do...what we'll eat besides bacon and ice cream :)

And then?? There are ALL the emotions.

My oh my.

We are emotional creatures. With two girls and a teenager, our house is full of emotion and we have our fair share of weekly, more often than not, daily, tears. God uniquely designed us to love, to hurt, to feel sadness but also undeniable times of joy. While emotions can be good, they're also tricky because they're unreliable and unsteady. If we're not careful our emotions can dictate our decisions and our thinking, instead of the concrete truth from the Word.

Right now we're entering an emotional stage of this transition that I don't think will leave any time soon. If you had asked me before I left the U.S. what I was most worried about, hands down it would have been how my kids were going to adjust living here. But God, in His goodness, has overwhelmed us with how well all three have thrived. They've put down roots. They're in a routine with school and classes, they have solid friends, they even have a dog they love. It's a daunting prospect to think about the unknown that we're walking into. They're worried, fearful and if we're all honest, apprehensive about what next year will look like. Change, even necessary change, is hard.

We dialogue openly, trying to answer as many of the questions as we can. The truth is though, we don't know what today holds, let alone next year in a place that isn't as known to us as it used to be. Places change, people change...we've changed. What we do know, the Truth we run to, is that we trust and serve a God who doesn't change. The same consistent God that called us here is the same good God that has guided us across the vast ocean to a beautiful country with beautiful people that desperately need to hear about His love for them. He will never leave us or forsake us.

This journey has been stretching, eye opening and yes, harder than I ever could have imagined, but He's walked with us every step of the way. Through all the tears, the heartache, the discovery, fun and laughter of this term...He has been the one true constant in our ever-changing lives and we have to keep clinging to Him.

If you think of us in the next 90 days, pray that we can manage our emotional selves. Pray that we can articulate our frustrations, our fears and ALL the excitement we have for the journey ahead.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Furlough Prep Part 2: Their Questions

Five months from today, we start the journey back to the US for our year long home assignment or furlough. This is "Part 2" in a monthly series I'm attempting to do, prior to our departure, so you can get an idea of what we're thinking and doing as we transition from here to there.

This month I'm looking at the questions my kids have been asking. The topic of furlough comes up, almost daily, as we anticipate all the changes that will be happening. So here, in no particular order, are some of their questions:

Will we have a dishwasher?
This is a big question since our three are on a daily rotation of washing, rinsing and drying. They pray we have a dishwasher so they can be off the hook for dish duty. I told them not to get too excited...those dishes don't load themselves or put themselves away. (Can you hear the collective groan from that response?)

Will we have to burn our trash on furlough?
We have a unique trash system here. Anything that can't be burned, or isn't food rubbish, gets tossed into a can for pick up on Tuesdays. Food scraps get tossed into a bucket that's taken out regularly and thrown into a deep hole in our backyard. Anything burnable gets tossed into another basket and those items burned in our backyard in a cement burn barrel. So...the thought of throwing everything away, into one can, without burning anything is really kind of disappointing to our designated pyro-loving trash burner.

Do we have to wear shoes?
Bless their hearts (see? Prepping for Texas :) These kids are used to having a "shoes optional" lifestyle. Needless to say, there's been quite the discussion about "No shoes. No shirt. No service" in the US. And regardless of our trip to Texas in December of 2014, they still question why they can't wear flip flops in December because, after all, that's summer time on this side of the world!

Just a heads up...old habits die hard, so when we come into your house, we're still likely to take our shoes off at the front door. Everyone has hardwood floors here, so it's common practice to take your shoes off so you don't track dirt inside the house. I've also gotten used to taking my house shoes or a pair of socks with me to keep my feet toasty when we go to someone's house.

Barefoot & dancin' in the rain!

Will the power go out in the US?
We're used to almost nightly power outages. Thanks to a generator, it doesn't stay out for long, but it's still something we're used to. We assured them that, most of the time, the power is fine and will stay on all the time. But then that led to a conversation about thunderstorms and losing power, which led to a discussion about tornadoes and thus a science lesson ensued. One thing leads to other around here.

Some nights a candlelight dinner is how we roll!
Despite all of the questions, the kids are getting excited about going back to the US. There will be a good deal of reverse culture shock we'll have to contend with, but hopefully they'll keep asking questions and hopefully we'll have some helpful answers.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Sixth Grade Grad

We celebrated sixth grade graduation on June 10. D has officially finished the primary campus and is off to the middle school at the secondary campus once July 20th hits!

The evening was hosted and organised by teachers and parents. Thankfully, one of the parents had just made a trip to Australia and was able to pick up balloons and decorations to us to use for the night.

During the ceremony, sixth graders in the band (all but 3 in his class) played a song and character awards for each student were handed out. D received the “Courtesy” award which they define as “Using respectful and thoughtful ways and words with others, putting others before myself.”

Afterwards, the parents hosted a reception for teachers and the families of the class. There were yummy snacks and a photo booth. Then we had an “after party” that lasted til midnight. I, in a moment of weakness, signed up to stay with a few other parents and Jason took the girls home for the night.

We learned Australian bush dancing and as we had an odd number, I volunteered to even the count. Oh my word…so fun, but wow…I was tired! And unfortunately there is now evidence showing I was a part of this floating around town. I know it will come back to haunt me some day! We also had a bonfire and someone organised a scavenger hunt in the dark at the campus. The kids loved running around in the dark!

By midnight, I was feeling my age, but I was so glad to spend the evening with a great class!

Our attempt at a class selfie! My arm is too short and I couldn't get all the kids in the shot!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Furlough Prep Part 1: The 5 W's

Exactly 6 months from today, we leave this place we call home and start our journey back to a place that still, in some ways, feels like home. So, since we’ve never done a furlough before, I thought I’d start a series of entries over the next few months as we prep for this transition, what we’re thinking, how it’s going etc. Today’s post addresses the 5 W’s: who, what, when, where and why.

WHO: The Brew Crew 5: two parents who are going back to their home country and feel semi-comfortable there. The oldest who remembers some of his younger years there. The middle child that has vague memories of the US, but thinks fondly of it. And…the youngest child who has lived here longer than she lived in the US. She’s looking at this whole process like a vacation, not going “home”. 

Who else does this involve? YOU! Our family, friends and those who have partnered with us financially and prayerfully.

WHAT: What is furlough or home assignment? Furlough is a period of time that we go back to our home home country, reconnect with all of the WHO mentioned above, plus get the necessary training to return for more service overseas.

WHEN: When are we coming?? Right now, our plans aren’t set in stone. We have our flight out of here booked for December 12, but after that, it’s still very much unknown. We’ll probably arrive stateside later that same week. Lord willing we will be there for around 13 months.

WHERE: Well….this too is still kind of up in the air. Lord willing, we’ll live in Texas near our families. We will spend quite a bit of time traveling to connect with all of those in our WHO. Jason will also need to go several different places for training. Our schedule isn’t firmed up and may not be for quite awhile. The planner in me LOVES to know exactly when we’re doing certain things, but I’ve had to realise not everyone functions like that, so flexibility is the name of the game…or at least my game that I don’t necessarily like to play.

WHY: As I mentioned in the “WHO”, furlough is a time where we can see many, if not all, of the people that love and partner with us. It’s a time where we can personally say “THANK YOU” for sticking with us over these last few years, hug your necks and find out how you’re doing. Our ministry budget has increased so we’ll also be looking for opportunities to share with new people what we’re doing and how they can be a part of supporting the work of Bible translation in PNG.

Furlough will also be a time for Jason to get recurrent flight training of various kinds so he can come back prepared for the next term here. At this point, because of staffing changes, I’m not sure what my assignment will be once we return in 2018. This could and probably will change between now and the time we leave so I might need further training depending on my assignment. This will also be a time where we can hopefully rest and get a break from the many different stresses we face while living overseas.

During this time we’ll need to acclimate our kids to their passport country. The US is a foreign place to them and the culture very different than the one they’re currently living in. We’ll tread the dicey waters of reverse culture shock (a separate post is coming on that!) We hope to see some US landmarks and learn some US and state history over the course of the next year.

And as a side note: We’ll also need to make sure we eat plenty of ice cream those 13 months. Real ice cream that’s made with milk and not unidentifiable acronyms and numbers. It’s just one of the many things we’re looking forward to in the months to come!