Furlough is a busy time filled with
long car rides,
introducing your children to so many people they will never remember them all,
visits to many churches and family members along the way,
scheduling over due medical appointments,
family photo sessions for new prayer cards,
clothes shopping for the new clothes that will be worn in the family photos,
and the list goes on and on.
Many people assume that all of those things are going to be a part of any missionary's furlough experience. We enjoy visiting churches, sharing what God is doing in Siberia. But, in addition to the "normal" activities of furlough, sometimes, along the way, God gives missionaries special opportunities or experiences. These memories are made from some of the simplest events that to some may seem to be common or, even nothing special. For us, they are often answers to prayers we didn't even know that we should have prayed for or the fulfillment of needs we didn't even realize we had,
which we will remember forever.
This furlough God allowed our family to experience many of these moments that I wanted to share with you. In order to keep this relatively short, I listed them and briefly described them. The photos will speak for us!
1. Youth Group activities for our teenage daughter!
Our daughter became a teenager while on the field and it didn't dawn on us that she could be a part of the youth group in our local church while we were in the US on furlough! She was even allowed to attend Teen Conference. As well as, be at our church during a Preacher's Delight meeting when they hold separate services for the teens almost like a youth conference. What a blessing it was for her to be with other teens and to hear preaching geared towards her age group! She grew (spiritually) tremendously through these opportunities.
2. The opportunity to see the ocean and to stand on the beach!
We were able to visit the coast of California, where the kids were able to put their feet in the sand, for the boys this was the first time.
As well as, the Gulf of Mexico at Pensacola Beach.
3. To enjoy the sunset together as a family...
...and enjoy eating In-N-Out burgers for the very first time.
4. Showing the kids where we grew up and our childhood homes.
5. Introducing our kids to family they have only heard stories about.
6. Spending holidays with cousins, opening presents, being goofy, and eating together.
7. Just spending time together sightseeing with no schedule.
8. Taking the kids to places we have been as a couple to try new foods like they are from the restaurant and not how Mom makes them. Then, ordering Root Beer to wash it down!
9. Visiting those family members who need some love from family who they rarely see, because we are not promised they will be with us next furlough.
10. Taking time for difficult stops to allow the kids to see where their stillborn baby brother was buried for the first time in their lives.
11. And showing them a very real memory for us of the Oklahoma City bombing site.
12. Visiting colleges, since our oldest will finish high school in just two short years.
13. Getting snowed in when in the US and NOT out in the middle of Siberia!
(Okay, that really wasn't in the plans!)
14. Meeting up with old friends for Missions Conferences and introducing your kids to their kids whom you have never even seen before!
15. Soaking up all the sunshine and beauty we could.
16. Buying decorations for our home in Siberia that will one day be finished.
17. Planning our daughter's Sweet Sixteen birthday party for her and her friends!
18. Celebrating birthdays in really cool places.
19. Just seeing some cool places!
20. Watching God bless and answer this Momma's prayers!
I did! I prayed that the Lord might so graciously allow our family to spend one day at Disney Land! He DID! This for me, was one of the highlights of our furlough. Just walking around and showing our children the "Happiest Place on Earth"! We had SO much fun together!
21. Reuniting with other missionary ladies at a special retreat to truly understand that you aren't any different from them and...
22. ...most importantly, spending lots of time just laughing!
Laughing, in my opinion, is one of the things that we underestimate! How I enjoyed time with friends and family - just laughing and relaxing together!
I know God completely understands our hearts, needs, and desires in the time we spend on furlough. He provided some great opportunities for us as a family, as well as, individually, to help renew us and strengthen us for the next term. Thank you, Lord, for your goodness!