Sunday, April 29, 2018

Life After Furlough

Three months ago we returned from our ten month furlough. (For those wondering what 'furlough' looks like, this article explains it well.)

At the start of this time I was excited to live life in the UK, visiting new places and meeting people who I don't normally get to see. 

We had a great time finding snow in the Lake District along the Hardknott Pass, one of Britain's steepest roads.
However, by the end of last year I was very ready to return to the country where we serve overseas and was longing for the familiar.  I couldn't wait to leave behind all the stresses of furlough.  

The adjustment back to life in our host country wasn't the easiest thing ever though.  This was what it looked like for me:

Day 1:
So, so thankful to be home.  When we got close to our final destination I felt a burden lift as I let go of the travel-related questions:  Are our bags the right weight and size?  Will our suitcases fall apart?  Are we leaving enough time to get to the airport?  How will the transfer between terminals go in Australia?  Will our baggage make it?  Are we allowed to carry cheese into the country?  Which batteries do I need to keep in my carry-on?  Are we going to miss our connecting flight? 

Days 2 - 3:
It's been wonderful to spend the weekend with friends, some of whom we haven't seen for over two years.  I'm delighted to be home, and in a place where I have so many good friends living a few minutes' walk from my house. 

Week 1:
I'm reminded of the harder aspects of living here: People wanting financial help for legitimate causes; a cold virus caught while travelling; repairs that are needed in the house; walking up and down the hill in the hot sun or pouring rain; having a lot of musty belongings to take out of storage and find a home for.   But I'm still so happy to be home and so grateful to God that we were able to return.

Weeks 2 -3
Time to ease back into work.  Well, perhaps it would be better to focus on getting my house straight, but going to work is much more fun.  I'm glad to be getting back to my role here, and am looking forward to putting into practice the training I took on furlough.  I think I'm feeling settled...or at least that I'm almost there.

Weeks 4 - 5
Life is back to normal...sort of.  I'm still not feeling quite right emotionally.  The thought of paperwork that I still need to do can cause anxiety to rise in me fast; especially with financially-related topics.  I remind myself that God provided for us incredibly on furlough in sending the provision that we needed to return to the field and that he's not about to abandon us now.

A couple of friends have reminded me that it takes a while to fully adjust after an international move.  That's the kind of advice I would give to someone else; I forget to apply it to myself though!

I'm still so relieved to be back here.

Week 6:
I really am feeling better this week!  Although our furlough went well overall, with some wonderful moments spent with people we love, it was still tiring and stressful; part of this could have been avoided if I'd made different choices.  But the fact is that I didn't return to our country of service in the most refreshed state; it's really not surprising that my body and mind have taken a while to recover and feel normal again.  

I think I now have the capacity to start typing the blog posts that I've been writing in my head!

Month Four:
I'm finally getting around to sorting out the cupboards that I threw items into when we first got back.  It certainly makes daily life easier when I know where to find and put things.  I don't think I've yet managed to have the whole living area tidy at one time yet, but that goal is now looking realistic rather than overwhelming.  I think I'll get there before our next furlough ;-)

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Eleven Things I've Learnt in Eleven Years of Marriage

We celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary this year.  I've been learning a lot along the way:

1) The strength of my marriage is not measured by the intensity of my feelings.  I'm not someone who regularly overflows with positive feelings towards others; so it's unlikely you'll ever find me declaring that I fall more and more in love with my husband every year.  That doesn't mean that our relationship hasn't strengthened though.

2) Our marriage has strengths that I'm not even aware of.  I thought I had a good idea of the areas where our marriage is strong and not so strong.  And of course it's easy to focus on the 'not so strong'.  A couple of years ago though I took part in a small group study about marriage.  The issues talked about were ones that I'd never even realised people struggled with; I knew we didn't.  I wonder what other areas of strength we have that I'm totally unaware of.

3)  Forgiveness is vital.  Resentment quickly sours a relationship.   When there are ongoing disappointments about something that I'm still waiting for, I may have to forgive 'seventy time seven times'.  I have probably needed forgiveness this many times for some of my own bad habits!

4) I am not responsible for my husband's choices.  Whether it's the words he speaks to others, the answers he gives to questions on a form or actions he takes, I have to recognise that it's not my job to control his choices and I am not responsible for the outcome of his decisions.  Of course I can give my opinion; I can pray; I can decide how I respond afterwards.  If he has offended or annoyed someone, it's between him and them; it doesn't need to affect my relationship with that person or their partner.

5) It's a very bad idea to compare my husband with others.   And these comparisons are usually inaccurate anyway: It's too easy to notice someone else's strengths without noting their more unappealing characteristics.

6) It is good to recognise the things that I really appreciate about my husband.  Not so that I can gloat, but so that I can be thankful.

7) I've learnt, through my husband, about the habits I have that can irritate others.   Some of them I can understand (such as leaving cupboard doors open, and interrupting).  Others make no sense to me, but are easy to avoid.  There are some goals that are always going to be a struggle for me (eg keeping the kitchen neat and tidy) but I can at least try.

8) When circumstances aren't ideal, I can adjust my expectations.   There are many interests and views that I would love to share with my husband.  But I'm married to a real person and not to a reflection of myself.   Yes, it would be nice if we had more shared interests.  But it can also be enjoyable to do things separately and come back and share our experiences.

9) Caring for others needs to start with my husband.  I've learnt so much in the last few years about supporting people through difficult times.  If I don't apply my listening skills to my own husband though, something is wrong. 

10) Sometimes I'm wrong!  I tend to be overconfident in my opinions and recall of facts.  Being married for ten years has given me plenty of opportunities to become more humble :-)

11) I still have plenty to learn.  My husband's personality is so different to mine.  After eleven years I still have lots to learn about how to love my husband and communicate well with him.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

My Overseas Kitchen

I'm not someone who loves to cook.  However, we have to eat and so I spend a fair bit of time in the kitchen.

In our remote location, packaged food is expensive and availability is sporadic; this is particularly true for chilled and frozen items.  So we do a lot of cooking from scratch.  To make it easier to feed the family, I have a lot more gadgets and appliances than I would if I lived in my home country.  Let me introduce you to some of them:

The first is the water filter:

Although the rain water that we drink is clean, it might not be so pure after it's landed on our roof and poured through the gutters.  As well as drinking the filtered water directly, we also use it to make milk from powder. (Boxed UHT milk is a special treat ;-))

Beans (eg black beans, navy beans) are cheap; we eat a lot of them!  But it's a challenge to cook them at 5000 feet, especially if they are already old by the time I use them.  This is where the pressure cooker comes in.  To make baked beans, I soak the beans overnight and then cook them for 25 minutes in the pressure cooker:

Sometimes I'll throw potatoes, carrots and chicken into the pressure cooker for an easy one-pot meal.

My rice cooker originally belonged to a Japanese family.  Fortunately a previous owner translated the labels into English:

Rice is cheap and easily available.  We eat it; we feed it to our friends; when dog food becomes unavailable, we feed it to our animals.  I'll also cook rice in the oven, in the pressure cooker or, of course, on the stove.  (Yes, we do have a regular oven, microwave and kettle in addition to these other gadgets.)

Friday night is popcorn and smoothie night for us.  Unpopped corn and bananas are cheap and plentiful so, with the assistance of the blender and popcorn maker, I can put together a cheap and easy meal:

There are challenges living in a community where people come and go so often.  An advantage though is that used items often come up for sale when people leave!  This how we obtained the appliances in the above two photos.  Many appliances sold by other missionaries were originally bought in the US; this means that a transformer (the large, clumpy, metal thing) is needed to run them. 

Other items we've acquired over the last 12+ years include a tortilla maker, waffle maker, sandwich maker, immersion blender and slow cooker.  All of these help me keep producing food in a place where I can't just pop something into the oven at the end of long day.