Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Break, But Not A Rest

We're away from Papua New Guinea (PNG) for 10 months, with no 9-5 job during that time.  I understand why we sometimes get asked whether this is a holiday (or 'vacation', here in the US). 

It certainly is good to have a break from living overseas.  When we're on Home Leave we leave behind (to a large extent) cross-cultural difficulties, security concerns, and limited resources.  We get to visit new places and enjoy the advantages of being in our home cultures

We are encouraged to take some holiday/vacation time during our home leave:  Andrew and I were delighted to escape to Edinburgh for a few nights in celebration of our tenth anniversary.  We've loved spending time relaxing with friends and family members.  But I certainly wouldn't describe the whole Home Leave experience as restful.

In my experience, Home Leave, mostly, is hard work; there's a lot to figure out.  Here are some of the questions I've been busy pondering this year:

*What will we do about our children's education?
*Who will we get together with, and when?
*What location will we meet these people in?*Which churches are we speaking at?
*What will we say in those churches?         
*What meals will we cook in this country?
*Which visa do I need?
*What clothes shall I wear for speaking in church?
*What kind of clothes do people even wear in this decade?         
*Where do I put my bank card if I want to pay for groceries?         
*What do I do when my child is too anxious to leave my side?         
*What shall we write in our next newsletter?
*What vehicle will we drive?
*How long will it take to get to the place we're going to?
*How many road trips is it realistic for us to make?         
*Is the amount of financial giving to our Wycliffe ministry enough for us to return to PNG?         
*What happens if we are still lacking in financial partnerships when my US visa runs out?
*Why aren't my children falling asleep at night here?
*Where can we go to get medical attention at the weekend?
*How can I best respond when my children are struggling with transition?
*How do I encourage my child to interact politely with new people?
*What clothes and shoes do I need to take with us for our next three-year field term?
*What size shoes might my son be wearing at the age of 12?
*How much should I bid on Ebay for a pair of Crocs?         
*What else should we ship to PNG, that we can't obtain overseas?         
*How do I use this 'Swiffer' mop?
*What's a GIF?
*How do I explain 'nine months' to a three year old who just wants to be back in her own house?         
*What can I do if I forget to take my cash from the cash machine?
*Do I want Cortana to help me?
*Is my UK driving licence valid in this country/state?
*Am I insured to drive this vehicle?         
*Which immunisations do we each need?
*Where will we get vaccinated?
*Where should I meet the person picking me up from the airport?         
*How many photo magnets shall I get printed?
*Which coins do I need to make 85c?
*How do I fill in this form when I don't fit any of the categories mentioned?         
*What is the law concerning child car seats in this country/state?
*Which mobile/cell phone plan do I want?
*When shall we travel back to PNG?
*How many hours should we leave between flights?
*What suitcases will we use in our travel?
*Which toys should we ship/take back/give away?
*How long will it take to pack up and clean our house?

As we've lived in two different countries on home leave, many of these questions have had to be answered at least twice!

Home Leave has been good, but it hasn't been easy.  It's been great to have a break from our work overseas.  But now I'm looking forward to being back in our own house, and settling into a normal routine.

The uncertainty raised by some of these questions has been a huge challenge for me, but God's provision has been incredible.  Time and time again I've had to surrender my desires and plans to God, rather than trying to control circumstances myself.  This has been especially true with regard to financial matters.  The increase that we needed to see in our financial partnerships was way beyond anything I could achieve in my own efforts.  I had to admit that our future plans, whether or not they involved a return to PNG, are completely in God's hands. 

But he does seem to be leading us back there.  It's amazing to see God provide all that we need to go back to PNG.   The stories of how he has brought us together with those who were looking to give monthly towards a Wycliffe ministry are so much more creative than anything I could have come up with! 

Just because we have nearly reached our financial goal, it doesn't mean I can stop surrendering control to God; there are so many areas where I still need to do this.  Especially with travel coming up, I need to continue to trust God in the details.  I can't do anything to guarantee that our trip will go smoothly but I know that we're in the best hands.  I'm not in control; and that's a good thing.

(Thanks to my Mum, Jenny Noble, for the pictures)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Living In The UK: Things I Love

It was great to spend five months back in the UK this Spring.  Here are some of my favourite things:

1) Seeing the friends and family who live there.  I might get in trouble if I didn't put this as number one; but it really does come first for me!

2) Complete strangers understand my accent and vocabulary.

3) Being anonymous when I go out in public.

4) Almost anything I need is within walking distance.

5) Being able to walk to the shops at 10.30pm.

6) I can buy pasta for 30p, baked beans for 25p and crisps for 7p; I even found some 17p toothpaste reduced to 3p!

7) Meat comes with instructions for how long to cook it.

8) I can travel alone to places I've never been to before (yes, I realise this one may sound strange).

9) I can catch a train to almost any place I'd want to go (unfortunately it costs more than 30p though).

10) We live next door to a library.

11) We live opposite a fish and chip shop.

12) Our church has a fantastic children's programme during the service.

13) I don't have to cook from scratch.

14) Hearing my children speaking more like me :-)

15) English villages are beautiful.

16) Clean tap water.

17) It's never too hot or too cold to go outside (though I may have contested this back in March, when I was quickly reminded what 'cold' feels like).

18) Free medical care.

19) Fresh milk.

20) The enthusiastic welcome of friends, family, small groups and churches.

21) The Puzzling Place Museum.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

You Know You're Still Adjusting When...

We've been back in the UK for over a month now.  Most of the time it feels completely normal to be here.  But now and again there are sudden reminders that I've been away for a long time.

You know you're still adjusting to British culture when...

1) ...the traffic lights are flashing amber but you can't remember what that means.

2) proudly enter your PIN correctly at the ATM but forget to collect your cash.

3) ...every time you see people doing something sterotypically British, you get excited and point out the activity to the people standing around you.

4) are impressed when the preacher uses the British pronunciation of the name 'Isaiah'.

5) choose your clothes for the day assuming that today's weather will be roughly similar to yesterday's.  You spend the rest of the day feeling too hot or too cold

6) find yourself asking a friend where the end of the queue is because you can't remember what the rules are (and you congratulate yourself that you remembered to use the word 'queue' at all).

7) fight the urge to greet people in town with, "Good morning!" and to offer strangers a lift in your car.

8) don't know what normal clothes look like: When you ask your spouse what the brown stretchy item is that you've just found on the carpet, you are informed that it's your sock.

9) correct yourself after using words from a different dialect of English.

10) still forget to take bags to the shop to put your shopping into.

11) feel slightly awkward after using 'home' to describe the country you've been living in.

12) ...your children still don't understand the point of socks and so never wear them.