Traveling Trials

I’m writing this blog for those of you who think that since I am a missionary, I have been granted supernatural patience. Unfortunately, I practice patience the same way we all have to: under trial.

The date is March 24th, 2016.  Our family, (Rob and I, and our five children), had finally crammed the last possible item into our luggage and were at the airport to catch our flight to Panama. We were checking 7 items: 5 suitcases, one carry-on bag, a stuffed hiking pack and a guitar. In addition, each child had a back pack of their own with excess items I couldn’t seem to find room to pack in the suitcases. Two of our checked bags were holding the curriculum for our kids’ school-work for the next nine months. My 37 years of life had brought me to this point:

Seven bags, one guitar, five children, one husband.

Sobering thought.

It is our turn in the queue, and I get our passports ready for check-in. Ready or not, Panama, here we come!

….Except there is a little snag. Our five suitcases were overweight by 5 pounds each. Rob had bought a handy luggage scale where you hook the bag and suspend it. It gives you an “accurate” read-out of your luggage weight. Except it must have been off by 5 pounds. Verdict: Luggage scale: NOT so handy.

So, I start pulling out enough stacks of socks and shirts and PACE’s (the kids’ school books) to get the weight reduced. By the fifth bag, I think I’m getting pretty good at gauging how much weight is in an adult pair of socks or stack of t-shirts. I congratulate myself on my success at getting five bags under the weight limit. Only now I must face the fact that I have to re-allocate this weight to a guitar, an already stuffed hiking pack, and a small suitcase.

Desperation makes you creative. Under the watchful eye of other travelers waiting to check in for their flights, we take on the challenge of re-distributing our travel weight. There is nothing more humbling than this particular moment: Hours of deliberate planning and organized packing dissolve into a hasty panic of trying to stuff personal items back out of the sight of complete strangers. Rob and I no longer look like cool, collected travelers. We’re frantically stuffing socks into the cavity of his guitar. Hiding our panic, we call our kids over and start cramming books and clothes into their airplane carry-ons. Rivulets of sweat drip between my eyebrows.

While tossing items to Rob, I catch a glimpse of another passenger. He appears polished and svelte; I spot a manicured hand resting on the upraised handle of an infinitesimal Samsonite suitcase. I am torn between the twin sins of wanting to sue the “handy” luggage scale inventors, and envying my cosmopolitan fellow passenger. In a moment he will push his slick little suitcase onto the luggage scale with a victorious 15 pounds under weight. I want to verbally challenge him,

“Oh yeah? Are you living out of THAT for the next nine months???? I didn’t THINK so!”

I catch myself, realizing I am fantasizing about an argument instead of finishing this deplorable duty. Soon, the task is complete. I say a little prayer over the bulging zippers of the back-packs, and walk away satisfied. Maybe the zippers will burst and everything will fly out. At this point, I couldn’t care less. I’m a missionary, for goodness sake: If my kids don’t have extra underwear, I’ll just remind them that their next-door neighbors have been living without extra changes of clothes for their entire lives. How hard can it be?!

The next step is even tougher. We say goodbye to our parents and our kids hug their grandparents for the last time for nine months. It’s moments like these that are much harder than luggage weight re-allocation. Our hearts ache for the moments we will miss and the memories we will only share through Skype calls.

People often ask me, “What is it like to do what you do?”

This question is not easy to answer. Honestly, I am no super-hero. I am just a busy mom who is willing to live wherever God sends us. Those hectic moments of packing and re-packing and those poignant moments of heartache and goodbyes all culminate into one truth:

The Lamb is worthy.

Everything He has freely given me, I freely give back.

As we walk the breezeway to board our plane, I take a deep breath. I don’t know how my luggage will end up, but this I do know: I will proudly stand beside my husband and my 5 beautiful children as we follow God’s leading. We are living an incredible adventure that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

….But I DO have a luggage scale back home I am happy to give away to anyone who is interested…..

Family pic airport March 2016

My family at the airport. We took this photo BEFORE we realized we would be re-packing all our luggage. Hence, the nice smiles.

Furlough in Missouri


My Large (but beautiful) Family

For the past two weeks, I’ve been driving my minivan around town and faithfully performing the following duties:

  • Dr. Appointments
  • Dental Visits (all 5 kids need their teeth cleaned and ISAAC has cavities….)
  • Orthodontic appointments (Isaac again)
  • New Driver’s license
  • Homeschooling
  • Walmart (to buy a fresh supply of underwear and socks for the next 9 months…)
  • Laundry
  • Laundry
  • Laundry


Actually, looking at the final three items, I’ve been ignoring some of the above mentioned duties…oops.

This list can probably be found in every suburban mother’s home, complete with children and the minivan with the sticky seats. Unfortunately, my official job description is not “stay-at-home Missouri Mom,” but “international missionary mom home on furlough.” The key word in both descriptions is “Mom,” and there’s no escaping the fact that motherhood trumps fancy job descriptions and reduces you to that lady who never has enough hours in her day….

Our furlough home has been interesting. I had this secret wish list of things to do upon arriving in Missouri:

  • Visit family
  • Hang out with friends (show them I’m learning to drink coffee…. Actually, I don’t think “official” coffee drinkers consider a “Latte” to be true coffee, but I’m breaking a non-coffee habit of 36 years…)
  • Indulge in the following hard-to-find foods in Latin America:
    • DR. PEPPER
    • Steaks cooked Medium Rare with no fear of food poisoning
    • Sour Cream. On everything… Except the Lattes.
    • American Candy, especially Reese’s Pieces.
  • Catch up on some needed rest
  • Take long soaks in the bathtub with very hot water
  • And, hey, maybe asking too much, but it’d be nice to see some snow. (Just the pretty kind that falls and doesn’t stick or make the roads dangerous.)


My actual time home has been much, much busier. Our crazy schedule has made the above list a bit challenging to accomplish. On the bright side, my list looks like a solid plan for “How to Gain Weight Effortlessly,” so it’s probably for the best.

To give you a little idea of what a five-week furlough can look like, in the last 5 weeks, we:

  • Drove 2,500 miles (not counting Rob’s 1,500 mile drive to Juarez, Mexico, & back)
  • Changed time zones 3 times (4 if you count going onto daylight savings time)
  • Traveled through the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri
  • Visited 6 different churches and one para-church ministry
  • Went to 10 office appointments
  • celebrated 3 birthdays and an adoption
  • Unpacked/Re-packed/Unpacked (again!) a total of 8 suitcases
  • recorded a radio/podcast interview (here’s my plug for NextGen Worship, you should take a listen sometime)


I don’t know if you’ve picked up on the trend yet, but I’m become very proficient at making lists. (Maybe I should’ve used the word obsessive instead of proficient…?)

Where am I heading with all of this?

Please know, first of all, I’m really not complaining. It’s so great to see our dear friends, family and supporters!

I’m blogging about this because it’s such a contrast of roles:

One minute, I’m sharing my great passion for the beautiful people in Mexico and Panama, and the next moment I’m sitting in the car singing “On the Road Again” with the kids. The slide shows, highlight videos, and RKMissions T-shirts morph into another round of suitcases, our trusty GPS unit, and another pile of laundry.

Hold on a sec. I WILL complain about that! Do any of you ever feel like that pile of laundry should really be called “Mt. NEVEREST?” As in, it will NEVER get done, EVER(est)? I have been stepping around it, my kind husband has been stepping over it, and my 5 children just run over the top of it. What’s with that anyway? I know it wouldn’t look as cute as the pink Energizer bunny marching around and around and never stopping, but, seriously, my laundry pile WILL EXIST into Infinity and Beyond!!!

Which brings me to another pile that seems to keep growing: the un-matched sock pile. Every few months, I throw away a gallon-bucket-sized pile of socks that have no mates. Only to turn around and find the “Un-matched” pile has appeared again, daring me to believe the other sock will turn up as I do the laundry.

No matter where I go, what I do, or how much I check items off my to-do list, the laundry never goes away. It patiently sits there, awaiting my next energy spurt.

But, for all my complaining, I’m still having the time of my life. (With a little less sleep than originally hoped…)

Nothing replaces our excitement to visit with our families. Nothing compares to seeing people weep as we share about loving the Ngobe Indians in Panama. Nothing erases the effects of hearing our loved ones pray for us and encourage us.

Not even the laundry pile can steal the simple joys of enjoying the fickle Missouri weather, talking with friends, and laughing with family.

We are blessed. We are loved. And whether I can see it or not, we are advancing the Kingdom,

… dirty sock at a time.

Kathryn Laundry

CLEAN Laundry!  (Special thanks to Matt Nickel for the Photo Bomb.)