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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Come walk with me

Come walk with me.

Let’s go where the grass is green and our hair keeps getting tousled by the breeze and we can smell the woodiness of the outdoors.

Mugs of tea unfinished the night before because of falling asleep, nursing someone else to sleep – they’re telling me it’s time to get the adrenalin moving.

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Little feet cuddled against my tummy at nights, how I love to see you run in the day.

That love note reminds me of a papa that plays outdoors often enough with his kids, on weekdays.

You are so blessed to have him present.

As for me I’ve been so busy working late nights the past couple of months it’s sometimes easier to watch you play more often than play along.

Today’s the day.

There are books everywhere.

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I love watching you read.

But it’s time to get out. You remember, the way we used to every morning.

I thought about walking with you last weekend when I repaired the terraced garden beds and amended the soil for a new planting season and you little people got busy with scissors of all sizes, trimming the unruly, prickly hedge and then dragging all the stuff down to the compost heap below.

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You’ve become adept at handling so many things including a phone camera!

Forget the garden now, come walk with me.

Walk, simply.

Forget laundry piles because we’re tired and because the soft purple blossoms you picked for me alongside the French beans make me remember our long walks around the neighbourhood with Roo still in my belly and then in her infant stroller and we never tired of spotting cats and dogs and a hundred different flowers.

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I’m glad we went for that walk today.

We went on the fly because the weather at 10.30am was still cool instead of the usual tropical burn and we had enough of school at the table.

How delighted you were with the first treasure you spotted on the grass!

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A jackfruit? I wasn’t sure. It was awesome heavy but you took turns carrying it between you.

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And then you – not me! – you had the first glimpse of the bird.

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What kind of bird? I didn’t know.

I laughed because I know so little, because there is so much more of God and His amazing creation to know that can be known!

We breathed in awe and whispered together for a long time and tried not to fall over into the lake watching that gorgeous bird catch and swallow one tiny fish after another.

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You decided it was time for a snack of bananas.

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You ran tiptoed and chased birds.

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You couldn’t believe how small some green leaves were, they could fit onto your finger and oh, how fresh they smelled!

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You thought these were beautiful, these “berries!” and I had to tell you it wasn’t possible to eat them right then and other times too.

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We had our fill of fresh air and of holding hands on a casual stroll, then running like crazy and being amazed at just everything.

It was humid and sticky but it wasn’t bad.

It was time for the school pick up and time for washing down Roo’s muddy legs before we got into the car and I had to tell myself that although I didn’t like it, it really wasn’t so bad either.

On the way back we belted out “The Greatest Treasure” along with Colin Buchanan blasting on the car player and somehow it just seemed right that on this day you could say it clearer than ever before – “Peace with God”.

I felt God’s amazing presence and His Fatherly love envelope us today. Did you?

I know I will miss days like this when you finally go to school and stay in a classroom for hours.

But then there will be evening walks.

A different kind of sun and where the birds fly to and things we’ll talk about.

Oh, the things we’ll talk about.

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