Great Expectations

by Elizabeth

After nearly two years of living in Cambodia, our family visited the United States for the first time. I had grand plans for how I was going to spend my time in America. I would:

  • Catch up on sleep.
  • Catch up on reading (thanks to my public library obsession).
  • Walk in safe, quiet neighborhoods (a favorite pre-Cambodia activity).
  • Read aloud to my kids (because we homeschool Charlotte Mason style).
  • Play outside with my children (and enjoy American public cleanliness).

None of those things happened the way I envisioned. Accustomed to tropical temperatures, I froze in Midwestern winter. This kept me from walking and playing outside. We traveled a lot and met with a lot of people, which exhausted my introvert self, and instead of reading aloud to my children, I let them watch too much television. I didn’t sleep enough, and I even neglected my own personal reading.

As I neared the end of my time in America, I looked back over the past few months, dissatisfied. Disappointed in myself. With that in mind, I further examined my time in America. What I discovered were some unexpected blessings:

  • Driving was easy. I had been nervous to drive again because I hadn’t driven the entire time I lived in Cambodia. (If you come visit, you can see for yourself why that is.) Happily, driving came back to me quickly.
  • I picked up exactly where I had left off with friends, as if nothing had changed. In the space of two years, people change. We’ve changed, our friends have changed. But somehow our friendships still feel very much the same to me. Thank you for loving us just the same. Thank you for opening your dinner tables and your guest rooms to us. Thank you for inviting us into your lives and investing in ours. Relationships that span the test of time are a glimpse of heaven to me.
  • I remembered my childhood piano and ballet lessons more easily than I expected. I’m stretching my right brain this year, having devoted many years solely to my left brain. (I’ll still be reading science magazines, thanks to the friends who send them our way.)
  • I practiced speaking in public, and it wasn’t nearly as scary as I had thought. I spoke three times (which is admittedly not very many), but I was surprised to find myself growing in confidence and ability to at least pretend I wasn’t nervous. Who knew that was possible??

How does one describe a furlough? Well, mine certainly wasn’t expectable. I can also definitively say this: I am weary. For me, furlough consisted of three months of sustained fatigue.

With less than a week left on American soil, I have mixed feelings about my return to Cambodia. (Yes, not only am I conflicted about the furlough itself, but I am also conflicted about its conclusion.) I want to go back to my life in Asia, though I’m not ready to say goodbye to the people and places I love but so seldom see.

I have kept Cambodia in my heart and mind these past 3 months. I love you, and I miss you, and I will be with you soon. Over the next two years, as I’ve done the last two, I will keep America in my heart and my mind. I love you, and I will miss you. Lord willing, I’ll be back again someday, ready once again to share life with you, however brief our time together may be.

13 thoughts on “Great Expectations

  1. I miss you guys already!! I know you all must be exhausted but I’m grateful for all of your efforts and sustained fatigue while you’ve been here! It really has been great spending time with you and your family for the past 3 months.

    • Thanks for loving us Tawny! I agree, it’s been great to be together, though it seems no amount of time is ever enough. . . We’ll be at church on Wednesday night for more goodbyes. 😦

  2. you are not the only one to feel exhausted after home leave – i love going home every year to KC for a month, but it is definitely not restful in a lot of ways. but i can’t imagine not seeing family and friends! and driving always tops my list of highs back home. 🙂

    • I barely feel able to pack us up every two years, so I can’t imagine doing it once a year! It’s hard to stretch your heart over so much distance, but I do hope you enjoy your next visit, whenever that may be 🙂

  3. Oh am I so thankful for your work here in the states while you were on furlough! ACC youth have been impacted, and I have renewed hope, and strength in ministry after witnessing you and your family once again. It is hard to believe 2 years as a missionary family has already passed. More than ever Burhart prayers are with you and your family my wonderful friend.
    May the Lord bless you richly this season as you follow Jesus wherever He leads and whatever the cost!

    Many blessings, and many thanks to you brother

    • It was SO good to catch up with you and Jessica that Wednesday night. I could have stayed a lot longer talking with you! Thank you for being so supportive of us, and God bless you as you add another baby to your family this year 🙂 ~Elizabeth

    • Thanks so much, man! Hanging out with you and the Adrian peeps is always so much fun, and it’s awesome to see how God is growing and maturing the teens down there! It’ll be exciting to see all that has happened when we get together two years from now, eh? : )

      — Jonathan

  4. We love you both and will be praying for you as you transition back to your life in Cambodia. It was great to be able to visit w/you, share a meal w/you and above all listen while you both shared your vision for the next 2yrs.
    I know leaving is hard but if the next 2 years are like the last two it will fly by!
    Will continue to send care pkgs your way!! Looking forward to your contd blogs Elizabeth-what a gift you have!!
    Continue to Love each other well!!
    Prayerfully, Pam & Don

  5. Dear Elizabeth and Jonathan, thanks for sharing your journey! Found your blog through an email forwarded around some C&MA int’l workers (I posted on my blog and linked to yours- hope you don’t mind). So, after 7 years abroad, our family of 5 are headed back to the US for a year of furlough (with a stop off for a debrief at MTI!) in July. Do you run into Jeff & Courtney H. in Cambodia? Jeff is fraternity brother from college. I look forward to reading more of your journey… it’s a bit like ours… youth ministry in the US for over a decade… raising TCK’s… path marked by great joys and deep grief… Blessings to you. Steve and Alace Straw (

    • Thanks for the note, Steve. You’re more than welcome to share the message about grief; I’m so grateful that God is using it to minister to folks!

      I haven’t personally met Jeff and Courtney, but some of our good friends serve with them, so I’ve heard lots of good things about them.

      By the way, I checked out your page and it looks like you have the job that pulled me into missions in the first place: Missionary Aviation.

      Well, may your furlough be restful and give you what you need to minister out of the overflow. God bless you and your family! – Jonathan

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