I’m drowning. The only thing keeping me from being completely washed away is the edge of smooth wood my thumbs are hooked around, and the rough upholstery my finger tips are digging into.
“Be on your guard, that your hearts may not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day come on you suddenly like a trap;”
“Weighted down with the worries of life,” is that what’s happened to me? I have felt so empty these past two weeks as the regularity of my time with God fell apart. Sitting in church I was so desperate. I was clinging to the pew in front of me with my eyes scrunched shut trying to block out the worries of life that were whining and wiggling in the pew next to me. I have been so busy these past two weeks. Running this household is taking every minute of my day and kid behavior is taking every second of my thoughts. I haven’t been neglecting God because I’m choosing to entertain myself instead, but because… because my family is running my life! My greatest gift from God has become a stumbling block filling me with worry and stress- oh, my poor kids! As I sit in church I try to just breathe God in. I need Him so much. Surrounded by my family I am trying to put my family back where it belongs. “God, I don’t want this! My kids, my husband- I don’t want them if they keep me from you!” and in that moment I would have walked away. I would have become like that missionary who abandoned his family to go to Africa. Give up on my relationships with my precious children and my husband- the little lights of my life. I would give up on my favorite, most precious job- the thing God used to save me. I don’t want to be a mother- if it is going to make it harder for me to know God. I will abandon it. Only, God doesn’t make me do that. He hates for a child or marriage to be abandoned so that he never calls me to act so selfishly. In truth, I think He knows that it would be easier to abandon all entanglements and make Christianity my career serving God in some desolate corner of Africa. This living for God in entanglements, in relationships, in my culture is so much harder! But when I sit there for a moment, hating my family- not hating them in the way of a heart filled up with anger- but choosing to love God so much that I won’t chose them over Him- in that moment God puts my family back where it should be, and he puts my heart back as it should be—an open portal in my chest filling me up with Him. “Oh Beloved God I have missed You!”
The next second my five year old rebels- angrily kicking off her shoes and squalling as loud as she dares in the quiet sanctuary, “I hate this day!” I pray “Oh God, please help me, how do I respond? Why won’t my daughter obey?” “Because you don’t obey.” Oh. I am being disobedient about reading my Bible and my daughter has likewise developed a loudly voiced streak of rebellion. Maybe what I have seen as distraction, a tribulation designed to try my focus on God could actually be a chance to open my eyes and see my own behavior. So I sit and I am quiet and I wait for God to tell me what to do. God is quiet, so I am too, and hours later the rebel leader comes to me in tears and surrenders and because I am already whole I can receive her surrender with gracious terms. In the meantime I felt God with me as I spoke to my brothers and sisters after church- felt Him waiting behind my answers. I felt Him as I listened to the sermon with my husband’s arm locked tightly around my shoulder. Can it be that hating my marriage out of love for God has made me love my husband better? After lunch I read my Bible and I don’t have to leave my family to do it. In fact, three times kids flop on the bed next to me bringing me their open little hearts as I have finally decided to bring my heart to their Creator. I am still as they wiggle, I am whole as they talk, and I am at peace as their problems splash around us. Oh, I have missed my Lord so much!
During the school year our family tastes like a granola bar. We are healthy and effective and often flavored with sweet bits. We do chores and school and spend time in healthy, enriching activities with plenty of exercise and friendship. Every hour has a purpose directed towards being good stewards of our time and relationships. It’s not that we are so busy we are neglecting our family- many of our daily activities are focused on family bonding- but the rhythm of our activities carries us along from September straight through May. When school ends much of our structure falls away leaving an excess of time- whole days in fact, with no commitments- just time together. In that atmosphere our family takes on a new, sweeter flavor. It starts with wild strawberries picked beside every sidewalk as we meander through errands. Then add cokes- cold from the snack machine on the pool deck- purchased with carefully compiled coins carried in pockets and dirty fists. Cup after cup of lemonade, sold under a glittery sign, and cookies baked in a dust cloud of flour and preteen laughter. I love the summer as it picks up its own current. With sisters holding each other’s hands through doctor’s visits. A big sister teaching a little one to swim, and play hot crossed buns on the recorder. Brothers who seem to dwell in the different worlds of adolescence and elementary school all year long build a digital world just for the two of them, with next door houses and matching hot tubs. For a girl who is pulled along all school year in her peer’s rush to grow up, our house becomes an island, full of time on daddy’s lap and spying behind corners- invisible in black- writing down conversations over heard. No longer thinking about school and activities my mind has time to consider what’s really important- in my parenting, in my heart. No longer having the cushions of our structure and routines mean that conflicts deal straight with the heart and in healing we grow together. Sweetness spills out of an open book as everyone- even teenagers and adults- beg for just one more chapter, out of conversations taking place when we should be sleeping. Sometimes it is squeezed out from between white knuckles as we try new things, like the high dive, or bruised and battered into shape as we struggle through making peace. During summer I get to know my kid’s friends, get to make them part of our family for a day at a time, and I get to know my kids- all the new things about them that have snuck in. At times the taste of summer becomes a little too rich- towers of pizza boxes and soda cans on a table on the pool deck- bedtimes that just never seem to come- glow sticks and bubbles spilled all over the playground in the dark- we could never live on summer alone, but these sweet times are tying the strings that will support our family during the practicality of our working and accomplishing in the school year to come. In the past I have been tempted to minimize summer break. Being homeschoolers we often just skipped it all together, or shortened it to a week or two, or replaced it with a sort of softer “summer school” with fewer subjects. When I married and gained two kids in the public school we had to take summer break, but I still resisted it, filling our time off with enriching activates and lots of structure as if summer itself was something to be avoided. Turns out, I was wrong. The lack of time constraints, sheer quantity of time together, and the fun activates that we fall into as a family strengthen our family’s character and build the network of ties that support our relationships through the rest of the year. Summer break is a gift.
Tinsel in hair, summer is the perfect time for reading the Complete Works of Dr. Suess.
Or for painting your toes…
Teaching your six year old brother to shave…
Building a tower of chocolate chip pancakes…
Reading as a family…
And just being goofy for no reason at all!
Two great things to do with kids in Seoul, Korea: the Korean war museum and Splish Splash water park at Camp Humphrey.
The Korean War Museum
Even families who aren’t museum nerds (I’m afraid we are- incurably,) will love the Korean War Museum. Outside there are dozens of military vehicles, tanks, and planes, and even a ship docked in a pond with a 4d movie built into the side. Inside there are more exhibits than you can see in a day, most presented through digital displays. Signs and display information are printed in English, Korean, Chinese, or Japanese. There are also at least three small 4d movie experiences that thrilled the kids. From the minute we saw the first tank till we dragged them out of the nuclear fall out shelter museum hidden under the sculpture in the front gate, our sons were fighting the Korean war. They ran through ship corridors shouting “All hands on deck,” drove immobile troop transports and shot imaginary machine guns along side manikin soldiers.
One of the Many Exhibit Halls
There are many more planes and tanks for climb in and on.
Bullet holes are marked in red along the ship’s sides.
Inside the ship
The memorial for fallen soldiers is really beautiful and explains all the symbolism in English as well as Korean.
Splish Splash Water Park
Smaller than whitewater, bigger than the neighborhood pool and perfect for a family to enjoy a carefree day of fun in the sun. Admission was low, less than $5 a person, the drive from Yong San was easy and only about an hour long. The water park is made of three pools connected by one continuous deck. In other words you can mostly see from one end to the other, making kid-watching easy. The first pool is a mini swimming pool perfect for preschoolers and their parents. The second is half wet playground with water guns and small slides, and half a three foot pool into which two large water slides empty. Third pool is deep- one half of it is for the two diving boards and one high dive, the other half is an Olympic sized pool for every kind of swimming and diving. There is also a hot tub, a preschoolers’ wet playground, a dry playground on the deck, a snack bar and plenty of lawn chairs. I spent the day walking from one kid’s exciting feat of jumping off the high dive, to watch another spin in circles on the water slide. I wish every day could be as joyful and active.