Diary: October 2017

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Roo.   You are a living dynamo. Always moving. Bouncing. Talking. You speak honest-to-goodness the thoughts that pass through your mind. There is no disguise. No concealment. This morning you grabbed the house keys and the car keys and pronounced, “I’m going to work.” Last week, it was “Piglet is aggravating me!” The irony of all your three-going-on-thirteen talk-and-do is that you still clamber up onto my lap during story time and tell me, “I love your milk. I love it so much and so much and so much and SO MUCH!”

Piglet.   I often find you curled up on the couch or sitting on the bed, reading. It always interests me to see what kind of book you’ve buried your head in, rapt with attention. Every day you’ll check our home schedule on the kitchen wall to see how best you’d use your time. My heart warms to see you enjoy chapter readings from the Gospels and take reflective journaling so seriously. Could you really just be six?

Lamb.   I’m finding you taking household chores up a notch these days. Like trying to remember to help fold and put away laundry. It isn’t easy, I know, to have a “first-things-first” attitude when you’re nine, with that fat book you simply want to finish by today, and bursting with energy. So watching you grow daily in the area of servanthood makes me thankful, as much as I’m enthralled watching you swing that tennis racket.

Puppy.   At eleven, you are changing. We laugh about it girly-like during our private moments together, and you especially like hearing stories about the time I was your age, all clumsy and confused. I’m delighted to share this part of your journey with you. We’ll still snuggle in bed sometimes after the younger ones are asleep. After a busy day of attention given to so many other things, I sense you still enjoy having my arm around you as you drift off to sleep. Somehow, the silent comfort of a mother’s arm makes the changes easier.

 

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When the Search for Answers Becomes Exhausting

 

It’s been some time since our family went on a holiday. Just on our own. We’ve gone on trips with grandparents, trips with friends, church camps, and not one just ourselves since Roo was born three and a half years ago.

Of late the laundry baskets and the washing and homeschool days just seemed fuller than before.

Full to overflowing.

And I kept thinking a good break was due, long before we were able to get to it.

What do you do when you’re exhausted with the perpetual grind of family care, situations that don’t seem to move, hearts that don’t seem to change?

Seng and I talked. We planned for a complete change of scene to recoup, regroup, recover. To ponder some crucial questions that have remained unanswered for long enough, to pray over a time of uncertainty.

 

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The Cameron Highlands is special place for our family. It’s always been the first holiday destination we head to after a baby is born. Always. And we go before he or she starts needing solids.

This time we chose to take the kids out of school for a couple of days to avoid the frenetic holiday-makers and traffic jams so characteristic of the Highlands on public and school holidays. It was as low-budget as we’d get. RM120 a night for a quad room in a simple retreat centre. We’d do breakfasts and half our lunches in. I packed whatever food we needed. Think four big kid-appetites – that’s a lot.

Packing!

Puppy mirrors my compunction for lists, but this time she had a three-pager that put me to shame. From toothpaste to the phone charger, tennis rackets to snacks that would fill a whole IKEA carry bag, Puppy nailed it all.

Including five Harry Potter movies and a laptop!

The three older kids packed their own things following Puppy’s list to a T. They put in warm clothing that I laid out on our big bed, three books each, animal friends they sleep with.

Two soft toy dogs. A bunny. A polar bear.

Now, my idea of a holiday is to REST, not to do anything touristy at all. (Read: laze about, do nothing, sleep a lot, read as much as I can.) Our kids’ idea of a holiday is to play a lot and have all the movie nights they miss during term time. That’s what we did!

Upon arrival, I set up a kitchen corner and assembled home-baked seed-filled, wholemeal sandwiches, fruit, salad, and hot chocolate while the kids played outside. Hey, I had even brought a cooler box to keep our butter and two different types of cheese. Does this sound like work or what! But really, the idea of eating out for every single meal even while we’re on holiday makes me sick. Admittedly it also has something to do with the churning in my stomach whenever our budget’s about to get busted.

For dessert, we indulged in grapes topped with Nutella. Because you absolutely need Nutella when you go on holiday. Right?

Of course, we had a steamboat dinner. Roo wriggled in her seat in all the ways a three-year-old can, saying it made her face all hot until I turned the opening away from her direction. 

I’ll say it again, eating up in the Highlands is a simple, but extra delicious experience just because of the weather. Let me tempt you with take-out roti canai with fish curry and dhal and hot coffee for breakfast, out in the breezy cold, our insides filling up with tasty warm, warm, warm. 

 

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We visited the BOH tea plantation one morning. The one with the gorgeous wooden deck overhanging the valley. That’s a given on each and every one of our Cameron Highlands trips. I know I know, it’s a touristy thing. But somehow it doesn’t feel that way during the low season. Hot tea and all the wide, rolling green around us – it never gets tiring. 

The rest of the time, the older kids just played.

They played in the playground opposite our room. They played basketball, table tennis, and tennis on the grounds whenever they wanted. Seng booked a proper tennis court on two afternoons and everyone headed out while I napped with Roo. I knocked out for two full hours on the afternoons they were away!

One afternoon we all stayed in and I just sat and read and watched the kids play. 

I had a wonderful, restful time. Even though I wiped the room floor every morning on my hands and knees (yes, I actually brought our microfiber dusting cloth, go ahead roll your eyes), dusted the floor mats, kept the place in order, and insisted everyone eat their share of fruit and drink their water – it was still a wonderful, restful time. 

It was a space where I was able to ponder, at length, over my questions.

Over the monsters I’d started seeing in dirty dishes from meals and snacks around the clock, in the unending laundry, in floors that never remain clean beyond a day with four children at home.

I spent many hours in total sitting cross-legged and once on my knees until they ached, praying over issues of work and provision and my limited energy and our future direction as a family.

A long time ago, Henri Nouwen, author, priest, and spiritual counselor, asked Mother Teresa for some advice over the many things he was struggling with. This was her answer –

 

“Well, when you spend one hour a day adoring your Lord

and never do anything which you know is wrong

you will be fine!”

 

Too simplistic? Wholly impractical? 

But in a flash I saw how much energy I spent labouring and worrying over things “from below.” Things, situations, hearts that human wisdom cannot convict and human endeavor cannot change. How little time I spent in comparison, focusing on things “from above” – the supernatural that makes possible what is impossible in the natural.

For when you’ve leaped out of the boat in faith and actually walked some way on the water, the wind and the waves can be so tumultuous you start focusing on them instead of the Miracle Maker and wham! you start sinking.

Where do you look, My child?

To what, or whom, do you turn?

“One hour a day adoring your Lord.”

I jump-started my engine again in the hills.

I went for morning walks around the retreat grounds with two bouncy little ones and watched them pick pretty, wild flowers. 

I breathed again with the smallest beautiful things, even the ones growing in a grilled-up drain.

We hunted for cobwebs together on a shivering cold morning with the dew still glistening fresh.

 

“Your hidden glory in creation

Now revealed in You our Christ.”

 

My Christ.

King of Kings in a vulnerable baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in an earthy, wooden manger surrounded by animals.

Supernatural conqueror of sin, sickness, and death.

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace.

 

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I came back from the hills to four loads of laundry and a house to clean and every night after that I still crashed into bed tired after long days of life, love, and more questions over work and provision and four kids.

But to a different kind of tired.

One hour a day, adoring one’s Lord, doing one’s best to follow Him.

This changes everything.

You skip downstairs after everyone’s asleep and get right to it. Praise. Wait. Confess. Pray Scripture. Pray for others. Pray for yourself. Sing thanks. Meditate. Listen. Praise again.

And you remember again, your life is in the hands of a Father God who loves you so so much.

Who wants to pour out all of heaven’s blessings into your life.

Who will help you turn from what is wrong to what is right and make you a blessing to the nations.

And you sit like a little trusting child in His arms, again.

You walk on the water, again.

You look straight into the wind and the waves to the One beckoning you, “Come!”

You find the supernatural power you need to carry you through questions that haven’t yet been answered, kid fights, curtains cut with a child scissors, Lego and sweet potato bits littered around the couch.

You keep going. You go right through.

 

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*****

*Quotes from Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith.

** “One hour a day” – Dick Eastman, The Hour That Changes the World: A Practical Guide for Personal Prayer.

*** “Your hidden glory in creation, Now revealed in You our Christ” – What a Beautiful Name, Hillsong Worship.

 

PS. I’m back at Makchic sharing stories of our home education experience. Please do visit and have a read! Thank you! 

 

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