Sometimes a dark, quiet room with a rocking chair is just what the doctor ordered for a heavy heart. At least I found it to be so when I retreated to its shadows to shed a few tears during my Friday morning shift at FLORECE last week. Weighty to-do lists for family, FLORECE, and our upcoming furlough overwhelmed my mind to near paralyzation and a private timeout seemed imminently in order. Alone in the silence, I breathed deeply and prayed for peace and strength.
It surely won't be the last time I do so.
The ticker above this post is a countdown to June 5, the day Pedro and I pack ourselves and our half a dozen precious children onto a plane headed first to Santiago, then Miami, then Philadelphia en route to almost a year's "home assignment" on United States soil. In other words, it is a countdown to the coaster.
As noted in the image above, according to the Cambridge dictionary one definition for coaster (or roller coaster) is this: "A situation which changes from one extreme to another, or in which a person's feelings change from one extreme to another." If that isn't a definition of a missionary's furlough, I don't know what is!
A colleague once noted that a year's furlough is like going to Disney for a day and trying to squeeze in every single ride. Imagine the preparations, the hurry, the waiting, the anticipation, the exhilaration, the anxiety, the joy, the let down and the weariness when all is said and done - and yes, I'd say that's a pretty apt description.
There are many wonderful things about furlough ministry. (Four years ago, I wrote about several of them in a blog post entitled "Finishing Furlough.") Already family members have expressed their gladness at seeing us, and of course we are overjoyed to see them as well. Supporting churches have begun to respond to our invitation for scheduling and we have been reminded of the blessing of the Body of Christ both here and at "home." While our children's emotions fluctuate regarding the upcoming change, they often chime in with requests for favorite restaurants and fond memories of places they vaguely remember. Our wishlist of places to visit includes Florida, New York City, California, Texas, the Creation Museum, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Longwood Gardens, Legoland and Washington, D.C. (to name just a few in no particular order.) The enormous potential for Christian events is alluring: Christian conferences on marriage, adoption, pastoral ministry, missions, counseling, family; quality Christian camps; dependable Christian children's programs such as AWANA or Word of Life. So many things we don't even realize we miss until the options are laid out before us, and then the sheer variety is overwhelming. (Did I even mention Christian bookstores? Oh my!)
And then there's reality.
To get from point A to point B means traversing the treacherous terrain of pulling up stakes from ministries, schools, home and people's lives. It means the nitty gritty details of packing up a house that's been well lived in for four years and sorting, cleaning, repairing, pitching, storing - all while life goes on around you, and six children's souls need tending and their minds need educating. It means praying for people to fill in the gaps we leave behind in ministry, and for some kind soul who will comfort our daughter by giving her dog a home. It means finding a renter, sending e-mails to unknown schools seeking scholarships, counting ahead the years and realizing this is the last time our daughters will be stateside with us before college and that means feeling the future is far too close and scary for this momma's heart. (It also means adding college tours to an already packed calendar of "Disney rides.")
Sometimes, it also means a few tears are shed in a dark, quiet room. But, oh the comfort of knowing the God Who calls us to this coaster is also counting those tears and collecting them in His bottle! (Psalm 56:8) And He is worthy of the wildest ride. So even as I countdown to the coaster, I cling to His promises. "The One Who calls you is faithful, and He will do it." (1 Thessalonians 5:24)