Going to a pumpkin patch and the beach were a blast in NJ and were definitely highlights. But while in NJ we also had another wonderful experience that was quite different from traditional fun, but was also definitely a highlight: meeting with a Christian counselor who gets together with missionary couples and pastors.
I know it's a little unusual to talk about counseling, but since my sister and Jeyson's mom are both Christian counselors, our family/extended family has learned so much about how wonderful, healthy and great counseling can be even for people who are doing well, like we feel we are. We did this about 5 years ago with the same counselor and found it so valuable to debrief about the joys and struggles in life, especially life in ministry, where there are a lot more pressures and stresses. So we decided to give it a go again this time.
The counselor who we met with sees people in ministry for free and he himself was a missionary kid to Japan, so he GETS some of the stresses we face day-to-day. He works at Cairn college, so it was an hour hike each time over to PA, but totally worth it for the three times we could go. We had lots of great conversations on the way there and back (especially with no kids in tow!) and it was so nice to sit down with someone not connected at all with anyone or anything in your lives or ministry or family and just talk, look at things from different angles, etc. And of course to have time focused just on us and our needs, unlike the natural give and take of conversations with peers or in ministry.
We came away from the sessions with some really fresh perspectives on our challenges of living overseas, some practical ways to invest in our marriage, and just a lightness of heart of processing through our past years with someone skilled in helping us do so. The hours spent talking with the counselor were some of the most valuable of our furlough, really getting us ready for our next term.
As I said, unfortunately it's kind of unusual to admit that you have been to counseling, almost taboo in a way. But after seeing how great it can be to go, even when you're doing well, made me want to write this to encourage anyone out there, especially in ministry to consider the opportunity if it ever arises! It truly was a blessing to us!