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.

 

IMG_8661   IMG_8589    

 

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. 

 

IMG_8518 IMG_8521

IMG_8584

IMG_8533

IMG_8621

 

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.

 

IMG_8583

IMG_8595

 

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.

 

IMG_8604 IMG_8610

IMG_8552

IMG_8660    

 

*****

*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! 

 

Continue Reading

Where we’ve been

So hmm, it’s been more than 3 months since I last posted. I started working freelance sometime in May and while it’s been a great help with the extra bills, I’m still trying to find my balance. Think of time spent after the kids’ bedtime until the wee hours, editing a 600-page book on copyright law when I’m already dog-eared and flattened … you get some idea.

It might have been manageable with the usual daytime park outings, homeschool, cooking and chores (with Sweet Man relieving me of a bit here and there), but top it all with mother-in-law sustaining a bad fall (post-stroke), Puppy having a recurrent lice problem, a major bathroom plumbing boo boo, our built-in wardrobe falling apart, the air-conditioning in my old car going on and off, tons of drilling and dust coming from our neighbour’s major renovation works, Sweet Man working every single weekend (plus travel overnight once), my severely sleep-deprived self went a bit crazy.

I’m glad most of that is behind us now.

I’ve caught up with sleep, dusting and a mountainous load of ironing, re-organized all our  homeschooling supplies, started prepping lessons and craft projects properly again, and put on a few pounds after enjoying lots of late suppers with Sweet Man just to catch up. I’ll be applying for shorter projects with more flexible deadlines to make sure I get enough sleep in future, but right now that will be for sometime later this week.

Working on a big project like a book made me value doing something unrelated to mothering, but more important than that – having the energy to be the wife and mom I want to be to our family!

As for current happenings, schooling is in full swing.

18 month old Piglet decides which curriculum suits him best.

This week we had some fun doing math with our new Base Ten Starter Set.

Our organic farm is progressing slowly but surely. After digging out all the rocks and rubbish from our land, Sweet Man’s put in a good supply of vermicompost. Yahqappu (our farmer friend consultant) came over 3 weeks ago to deliver the compost and showed us him how to make raised beds. (Obviously I am the farmer wannabe, SM is the bona fide farmer.) We’ve started making fish compost and burying our veggie-fruit waste in order to nutrify the soil before beginning planting. Sweet Man’s next project is to construct a rain water-harvesting system so that our green things can drink chlorine-free.

I was devastated recently to discover that we had to pass up an opportunity to rear a goat. Yes. Someone offered us one for free but given our limited energy reserves of course I had to say we weren’t in a position to take it. Never mind. My hopes and dreams of goat-rearing and chicken-rearing remain and I hope that after our veggie patch is established and the kids are grown a bit more, we will someday have chickens first, then goats. Oh, a dog first before chickens.

I digress. Right now, I’ve got to get back to watering the plants on a regular basis! And figure out how to blog, freelance, prep homeschool and write during decent hours when I’m not already toad-eyed.

Continue Reading