I'm experiencing furlough withdrawal and culture shock––especially stressed with the task of daily cooking again. Gone are the days of whipping into McDonald's or feasting at a friend's home or overindulging at church covered dish dinners. I admit I enjoyed the pampering and attention––now it's real life again.
So what is furlough? Many missions now replace the word "furlough" with the term "home assignment." That's understandable. Missionaries are home to do another job––visiting their supporters and churches. However, I still prefer the word furlough because it is defined as a temporary leave of absence from the job you are doing. Missionaries desperately need time apart. I'd classify our time in the States as both––furlough, leaving our work on the field, and also home assignment, coming home to inform our supporters of the work on the field. Contrary to most thinking, furlough is not a time of rest but another part of the job.
Furlough or home assignment is fun! It is a state of frenzy. It is fabulous. We had five months of travel, meals in homes and nice restaurants (Wendy's and McDonald's too), covered dish dinners, and encouraging meetings and visits galore. It was all invigorating and encouraging. And, it was exhausting and demanding. But, it was a spectacular time! Then suddenly, it's over. How's that make you feel? Let down? Sad? Relieved? Rejuvenated? Exhausted? Blessed? All of the above?
Times in the States for missionaries may not be a time of rest, but it is a time of refreshment and reconnecting. It is needed. But, you don't have to be a missionary to experience all of these emotions. Furlough can be any time period in life when you are on the mountaintop. But then, you have to descend the mountain and enter real life again. What does that feel like? Consider it to be like jumping off that mountaintop and spiraling downward instead of heading step by step, down the trail you scaled up oh so swiftly and without difficulty.
The mountaintops and the valleys are real life to all of us, but mostly, we live somewhere in between. On the mountaintop we soar, sparkle, and shine for God. In the valley we pause, pray more, and ponder. Somewhere in between the two, we call that daily life. We can't always soar or we'll eventually crash. Neither can we experience the valley times constantly or we will despair and give up. Both draw us closer to God. Our faith grows, and we glorify God and tell of His wondrous works in the mountaintop experiences and in the valleys. However, the everyday path of daily living is where we spend most of our time––just ordinary people serving an extraordinary God. Shouldn't we glorify God in the everyday tasks also?
Life is never boring with God. He planned it that way to meet our every need. "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens;" Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV) Aren't you thankful life is seasoned by God? Never too much, never too little, always just right––perfectly seasoned by a loving God.
* To be continued: "Ordinary People ~ Extraordinary Friends"