I shared before that missionary furlough isn’t what most people think it is. It’s not a vacation or time off. It’s a blessed, rich, crazy, chaotic whirlwind of activity and emotion.
Our kids, four and 14 months, are absolute champions. They put up with nothing short of insanity for three months straight. We have our moments of tantrums, whining, and meltdowns, but overall, they amaze me every day.
This post is a window for you into Nora’s and Titus’ lives on furlough. It’s a reflection for me so that I cut them a little extra slack the next time they melt down. And it’s a memorial to them…because I couldn’t be prouder or more thankful for our adaptable kids whom we drag around the country and the world!
“Mama, which house are we sleeping in tonight?”
That was Nora, our four-year old, a couple days ago. Nora prefers to have a sense of what is coming next, some semblance of control, even if only in her mind. (No idea where she gets that, ha ha!)
Why does she ask where we’re sleeping? Because in the past five weeks, she’s slept in five different places, not including her own house! Five different beds, different houses. Three different time zones.
In the next seven weeks, she’ll sleep in at least another four new places.
She has sat for nine and a half hours straight in an airplane seat. Been on eight different flights. Trekked through eight airports.
She’s gone 24 hours without sleep. We’ve kept her awake until 2 A.M. and dragged her out of a deep sleep at 5 A.M. to stick her in a car seat. She’s adapted to a seven-hour time zone change. Her usual 7:30 bedtime is pushed back most nights to between 9:00 and 10:00.
She visits a different church every Sunday. New Sunday school. New teachers. New “friends” – her term for new kids she meets every week. Her longest Sunday at church was about six hours (we spoke at three services that day).
She eats lunch and dinner in new places at least five times a week (and that’s lowballing it, in all honesty).
She’s becoming the four-year old coloring book champion of the world. That’s her entertainment through meeting after meeting after meeting while Papa and Mama share with someone else about the ministry in L’viv.
She gets to watch more cartoons than is ever permissible at home. Why? Because eventually her parents run out of ideas for entertaining her and her 14-month old brother at said meetings.
Foods are unfamiliar. Smells are new. Everyday surroundings that you and I take for granted are an unusual phenomenon to her…for example:
She couldn’t figure out how to flush the toilet, because most Ukrainian tanks have a push button on top, not a lever on the side.
She had to ask what a shower curtain is. Most people don’t have them in Ukraine.
She thinks every backyard playground set is a public park.
She is constantly meeting people. Aunts and uncles and cousins and kids that are new to her and anxious to hug her. She gets shy. But she warms up in record time and makes new friends everywhere she goes.
She shares her toys. Bless her sweet little heart. In an existence that unstable cannot begin to describe, one of the few “normals” she can count on is her toys. We bring the same few stuffed animals everywhere we go. And it makes me want to cry that even in all this, she’s willing to hand over those constant companions to another child, to share with them for a little while.
Nora misses home.
She saw sunglasses at a store and told me they were Ilona’s (a favorite friend back in Ukraine).
We painted her fingernails, and she talked about Galya (Mama’s friend who always paints Nora’s nails when she visits).
She still thanks God in her prayers for her pink bedroom. I would have thought by now it was a distant memory in a cloud of bedrooms!
We asked her where we will take an airplane in a couple months. She answered with a big grin: “Ukraine!”
Nora says goodbye.
This one is the killer for me as Mama. Nora is addicted to social interactions and LOVES making friends. On furlough, she’s constantly playing with new friends, cousins her age, and kids in Sunday school.
She says goodbye a lot. I’m thankful that she’s not old enough to have a real sense of time. To understand that most of her goodbyes are for a long time, if not forever. But those goodbyes are still hard on her. She still asks about people after we leave places.
Nora’s whole world is in upheaval right now. Every day. In nearly every way. As my husband says, “Our kids deal with the brunt of the challenges our lifestyle brings.”
Nora is a champ. Most of the time she smiles and laughs and goes along with us. Sometimes she argues and resists and melts down a bit. Can you blame her?
I’m not one to make excuses for my kids. To overlook bad behaviors or reactions. But, as I reflect on all this, I’m a little more committed to being patient and showing compassion to my four-year old. I’m more grateful than ever for this incredible girl, who puts aside her control-freak tendencies to adapt to a life of continual upheaval.
“Thank you, Nora Love. You amaze me! Your Mama is so very proud of you.”