Tuesday Topic: Surviving Furlough

From Phyllis in Ukraine: What does it take to survive a furlough? We’re planning a trip now, and I still feel like I haven’t recovered from the last time we went, four years ago!

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6 Responses to “Tuesday Topic: Surviving Furlough”


  1. 1 Becka May 2, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    I gave a hearty laugh when I read today’s topic. We are getting ready for our first furlough and I feel like I am barely surviving even getting ready for it much less do I know how to survive the actual furlough.
    I will however be reading comments with rapt attention.

  2. 2 Ashley L May 3, 2012 at 3:45 am

    Phyllis and Becka, I’ll be praying for both of your furloughs! This is always a hard question for me too! It seems that every time we go back, there is always way more to do than is possible. Ideally we’d just say no to more things, but sometimes it just ends up being unavoidable (like on support raising trips). Our most successful trip, however, was one where we really fought hard to keep boundaries in place as to what is healthy for our family. This included saying no to a lot of things that we would have loved to have done and making family health and rest a top priority. It was hard but it made our whole experience so much better than the ones when we run here to there and everywhere until we’re about to fall over.

    What has helped us a lot is to really plan out as much ahead of time as possible as to make sure the most important things make it into the schedule, rest being one of those things. I always print out calendars for the months that we’ll be back and start filling in important things and scheduling doctor and dentist appointments, etc., before we even fly back. We also block out our initial rest/adjustment week, family days and vacation days, and try to pre-arrange dates for visiting churches, etc. The more work we can arrange before we arrive, the less stress we’ll have on our plate when we’re actually there on our furlough. And work hard to guard those rest times! I had a downloadable “Furlough Planning Worksheet” on the bottom right of this page, but it seems to have disappeared. If you’d like that planning tool, I’d be glad to email it to you. (email me at formissionarymoms@gmail.com)

    So, my biggest tip (learned from much failure in this area), would be to fight for a healthy schedule, no matter how tempting it is to do as much as you can while there.

    Oh, and another huge thing for us is planning gatherings that will give us the opportunity to see as many people as possible, as well as to give as many people as who are interested the opportunity to see us and hear a ministry update. No matter how much we would absolutely love the opportunity to sit down with every ministry partner one on one, it is just not humanly possible, so group gatherings are key for us. They always end up being such special times and we love being able to at least extend an invitation to visit to nearly every person connected to our ministry. We have found that often times people don’t understand how stressful a furlough can be with regards to having way more things that we would like to do than would be possible, and many times people have very loving and wonderful offers that simply aren’t possible. These are the hardest things for me to turn down, but we have had to learn to express our deep thanks and how much we would love to take them up on the offer, while at the same time explaining that, despite our desire, we simply did not have the time or energy to accept. Occasionally (though rarely) we’ve had to deal with instances of people getting upset with us for not being able to make one-on-one time with them. In those circumstances, should they arise, just do your best to graciously explain the situation and affirm their value to you, but also just understand that not everyone will understand how many demands there are on your time. I shed many tears in a couple of situations when I wanted to live up to other people’s hopes and expectations of me but simply could not. Pray and accept the Lord’s grace and care should this happen and know that He values your health and sanity and that it is ok to say no! =)

    I’ve got lots of other thoughts, but I’ll leave it at that for now! I hope others will chime in sometime too! I would love to grow in this area a lot myself.

  3. 3 Kara Coe May 3, 2012 at 5:36 am

    for me, it’s important to enter in knowing that it will be a separate roller-coaster of emotions for each family member. Re-entry culture shock (stress) is a powerful and ever-changing experience.

    When I am with my family, in the place I grew up and feel comfortable, it is a time of grief. I am always so sad not to live there with them. In the last few years, I have experienced a lot of jealousy about material things and opportunities for our children. I need a lot of extra time with God, a lot of walks alone, time with my husband, and time processing with other missionaries. And that’s hard to do in the midst of all the other demands.

    As mentioned in the previous comments, I think one of the keys is to protect your schedule. Saying ‘no’ to invitations and opportunities is important to make it without killing off yourself and your kids. Until our youngest was 4, my husband did most of the travelling around and speaking, and the kids and I just enjoyed life with our extended families. There is no way I can handle bringing toddlers to church after church or dinner after dinner! Last year, we did a lot more as a family, and that has it’s own challenges. We learned that an engagement every day is too much, even for a week!

    If at all possible, I encourage you to find some way to ‘debrief’ within a month of arrival. Programs like MTI’s Debrief and Renewal program are great–but expensive! Helping your kids deal with the emotions of transitions and their identity as TCKs is vital, too. I think we will always set aside a few days for our family to process together, to review our materials from our previous debriefings, and just to rest in God’s presence.

    May you rest in Him as you prepare and ride the roller coaster!

  4. 4 nlkamper May 4, 2012 at 9:36 am

    perfect timing!! We just (as in 6 days ago) flew back to the states for our first furlough/having a baby and I have been wondering how this all works. Some people around us are looking at it as a 6 month vacation, but there is a lot we have to get done and then having a baby in the midst of it all…well, you all know…Thanks for your thoughts on all of this! And for this place to connect with other women in the same boat, because frankly, the little middle America town we’re living in doesn’t have a clue about some of this!:)

  5. 5 richelle May 5, 2012 at 5:42 am

    one thing that has been so key for us has been finding a spot to call home base for our furlough and really making that home. we are so blessed b/c we always head back to my husband’s home town and our sending church, live in the same misso house, have our kids in the same school (and so now they have friends, etc., they they keep up with via fb, etc.) – that has actually helped to give us a “home” on that side of the ocean, too.

    blogging, good communication with friends. making phone calls from time to time, etc. also helps our home assignment seasons – people that feel a connection with our family are more inclined to travel and visit us and that takes a burden off of us.

    we try and plan our trips to see supporters as “road trips and vacations” – some even having our own traditions (i.e. when out that way, we always spend a day at the omaha zoo – our kids look forward to that time so much – and we keep it a just us family day). our plan right now is to head home in a little over a year, after our oldest graduates from the mk school our children attend – we will start planning our travel schedule next fall, probably. for our shorter trips to visit supporters – while understanding that supporters love to see our whole family, we’ve also recognized that not everyone needs to go on every trip – for some, that might be the perfect weekend to hang out with gammie and gampy or my husband takes a couple and travels while i stay home with the ones preparing for huge exams and the ones who have colds.

    we try to keep boundaries, remembering to say no; we are very intentional with our scheduling. we also try not to have huge expectations for what our furlough will look like – taking advantage of moments and opportunities that are spontaneous or require unepxected yeses and learning to let treasured times with people we don’t see often define our furlough – not some of the craziness. we’ve learned to make that choice intentionally, over and over again.

    we also plan specific periods of “vacation” where we aren’t the misso on display with people/family who love us because we’re family, not because we’re the exotic living folks they pray for all the time – if that makes sense.

    teaching a weekly bible study in my home base community (which i love to do and is a ministry i have while on the field) helps me feel connected and builds relationships – and i’ve come to learn – is as much for me as it is a “ministry” to others.

    home assignment times are challenging times, but our whole family looks forward to them. i wonder if our next one will be harder, tho’ b/c we don’t know right now if we’ll be coming back to our place of service… or even if we will continue serving as missos. before, furlough has always been a temporary time. it will also be the first time we’ve left children behind instead of the entire family returning. i’m sure that will change the nature of our furlough the next time around.

    for our family, perspective really is key – choosing thankfulness and deliberately building memories with people, investing in those relationships even tho’ it means heartache with goodbyes – the crazy busyness of furloughs fade, especially with time, to a general recognition that “yes, it is a crazy busy time” but the intentional memories made and investment into people who’ve so invested into our lives are also cherished treasures that have been so worth it.

    so summary, i guess:
    1. perspective
    2. boundaries
    3. a clear home base/furlough traditions for our family
    4. a planned, very intentional schedule/framework for that time
    5. freedom from trying to meet everyone else’s expectations while prayerfully & deliberately seeking what God wants us to do with our furlough
    6. an outlet for individual, non mission related ministry/ies that help/s us to feel as tho’ we continue to contribute and are connected

  6. 6 Anonymous March 11, 2014 at 9:32 am

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