Thursday, May 31, 2012

{furlough is about} Relationships

A missionary family's furlough can be overwhelming, glorious, chaotic, restorative and bone-wearying all in the same week. This little series called {furlough is about} is a meager attempt to capture snapshots of our own first furlough experience by way of words and pictures. -Stephanie

It was nearly five years ago that we last visited our friends Jathan and Melissa Newton at their home in Indiana. Much has changed since then, including their ministry location and ours. They now minister in California and we are in Chile, meaning that at certain times of year it is a challenge to know when to connect (with up to five hours' difference in time zone!) 

the adults enjoy close fellowship around this small table
Yet we have attempted to keep in touch despite the distance, thanks to modern conveniences such as Skype and Facebook. Of course, electronic communication cannot hold a candle to seeing one another face to face. So it was with much anticipation that we prepared for their May visit to our home in Lapeer while on furlough - and we were not disappointed!

the boys eating supper in their corner of the yard
The last time we were together, each family had only three children. Our then-youngest Owen and their then-youngest Drew were both two years old, chubby little toddlers trying to figure out each other! The kids got along wonderfully on that visit, but we wondered about the dynamics now that we had nine children between us of varying ages and backgrounds.

and the girls eating their supper a safe distance away
As it turned out, we needn't have worried because the kids got along great! It was amusing to watch the friendships blossom and observe how different pairs of children would connect over different interests. Sometimes it was Drew and Owen on the former's i-Pad; other times it was Ian following Mackenzie on an outdoor adventure; often it was Eva and company out in the barn with the kittens or Isabel pushing a younger sibling or friend on the tire swing.

all the gang (minus) Mackenzie (plus) cousin Eli

Many of our best memories on this visit were made outdoors. The Newtons love sports and fitness and carried us along with their enthusiasm (much to our health's benefit and our bones' and joints' achiness, ha!) Games of frisbee were simply warm ups to hard-fought battles of kickball. Cooler evenings were an invitation to mile-long walks on our country roads. Our last night ended with an all-out race competition back and forth across the field and culminated in the kids' best attempts at a three-legged adventure!

"Team Newton" cheering to start a game of kickball
Paige and Drew on either side tried to help Ian and Alec run the three-legged race
We were so touched that our friends took the time from a crazy, cross-country drive (including a 14-hour all-night leg from Kansas to Michigan) to come and visit with us. The time was too short, especially to catch up on all that has transpired in five years of life and ministry. As we reminisced one evening, it was incredible to think back to our early meeting as childless newlyweds in seminary and compare those days to our busy ministry- and family-filled lives today. We share a bond of fellowship as believers and co-laborers in ministry (just in different parts of God's world!) We also have each experienced unique adoption journeys, encouraging one another along the way.

our first picture together as friends was on the NYC ferry with the Twin Towers behind us, ten years ago

A Michigan friend who happened to stop by one day while all the Newton and Garcia kids were outside playing, commented to me that we truly had the "United Nations" in our back yard! I love the picture below for its reflection not only of friendship that has survived the test of time and distance, but also how it reminds us of God's perfect design and what Heaven will one day be like. 

As I considered how to share about this special visit on our blog, I decided it was only fitting that it be the first in my {furlough is about} series because one of the greatest highlights of this time stateside is being able to revisit the relationships that have been such a blessing to our family over the years. We hope to be able to give back some of the encouragement that others have given to us, and to value those whose lives have been used of God to touch our own!

We love you, Newtons! :)

Other posts in this series:

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