Our family just returned from furlough after almost 3 months. It's the longest furlough we've taken, and it definitely hasn't been easy. Here are 6 things we learned from our trip:

#1 - You're reminded who your family is.
Yes, this is a given. You're thousands of miles away from the people who will always be close to you. It's a family reunion every time you step off the plane. Grandma and Grandpa, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles,  cousins - it's a big party. We're just trying to make the best of the short time we have. Sometimes living so far away makes it difficult to keep that close bond. Furlough gives you a chance to reconnect with your family and close friends. We live in this age of communication, but a hug means more than any email or Facebook status ever will.
map of california


#2 - You're not on vacation.
Sure, it's California (for us, at least) and it's sunny and there's a beach nearby. Our friends took us to Legoland for a Christmas present. We get to see a lot of fun things, but it is not just a "lay-around, do-nothing all day" kind of trip. We stayed in at least 10 different locations throughout the State. Our kids fell asleep and woke up at every hour imaginable. It seemed like we were constantly traveling. Plus, here in Romania we take the Metro everywhere. In California, we have to drive. Not a big deal for adults, but for kids who've never been strapped into a mobile torture chamber car-seat before, it makes every car ride horrible interesting.

#3 - You might forget your English and people will think you are being silly. 
We can’t really explain this one. All we know is that maybe we worked so hard on speaking only in Romanian or remembering that “potrivit” means “suitable” and things like that, that many times we would find ourselves stuttering to remember the, uh, potrivit word in English. Strangely enough, Marie read something about this in a “preparing to furlough” article but it still left us baffled. It was also interesting to watch our kids express themselves better in Romanian than in English but by the end of the trip, be completely “up to par” in English. Yes it does leave us slightly jealous of the child brain! 

#4 - You feel guilty when you don't see everyone.
This is a hard one. "You fly all the way across the planet and you can't even see us for a minute?" No one's actually asked us this, but I bet some people think it. We have friends on the east coast, friends and family in the Midwest, and a bunch of friends we didn't get to see in California. It's tough enough as it is to see people, but when you realize you missed someone you really wanted to see, it's not a great feeling. "We'll really try to make it work next time." Which is true, but not any easier.

#5 - You wonder where "home" is.
It's very weird to be dual-culture. Being with friends and family, driving through the city you grew up in, and visiting places that are childhood memories makes it feel like it's where you belong. But it's not like we "live in the States" and "work in Romania." We are not ex-pats, we are *called* to be here, and that puts a certain significance on the place we live. The "foreign" country isn't foreign, now. The places and sights have become part of the adventure, and it too feels like home. So where is "home"? It's wherever we are together as a family.

#6 - You get excited for the ministry.
Not that we were burned out, but when you get the chance to share the vision with others, their excitement rubs off on you. It reminds us why we came here in the first place. It rekindles that fire we have to help these kids. We remember that we are making a difference in these lives - for the better. And we know that what we're doing is not in vain. 

So, we're back. In a few more days we'll be *hopefully* done with jet lag and into the swing of things. We'll be seeing these forgotten kids, one smile at a time.

Care to join us?