Well, it’s over. Our much anticipated time away has come and gone. Slivers of sorrow lined our parting with the sun, sand, shady campsite, copious amounts of indulgent snacks and great times with friends. But we’ve comforted ourselves by scheming a repeat performance next year.
In my last post I ruminated on stress. Those pre-trip musings proved invaluable. This past week I was presented with many “opportunities” to trust God in the midst of tenuous situations. Situations in which I wasn’t getting what I wanted. But God strengthened, and provided. Thankfully, His provision did not require me to shave my legs (read this for context on my leg shaving).
As a parent, I often don’t get what I want. Why? Children. If you have one (or more) you know what I’m talking about. Parental life is a constant outflow. A non-stop providing for little men and women-in-training who need to be clothed, taught, fed, disciplined and loved. Sacrificial care for cherished dependents. As the father of a nicely full quiver of five, my purpose is to give of myself so they might flourish. It’s a privilege. But it often means l don’t get what I want.
Like sleep. A clean car. An uninterrupted conversation. A garage to put my vehicles in. A plump bank account. Sure wish I could increase my debt ceiling to meet my family’s (and my) presumed entitlements. 
The demands of parenting can be taxing. When I’m stretched thin and pummeled by reality, deep-seated feelings of discontent become irritated. This irritation leads to grumbling. Grumbling to self-pity. Then I grasp. Grasp for things I hope will relieve my pain, or at least cause others to acknowledge my pain. To pity me. 
My grasping has a deep-rutted history. When discontent, I habitually back-into old behaviors that lead to over-played scenes of selfishness. Such scenes unfold to a scripted cadence in which I move – zombie-like – through well-rehearsed motions. I spiral down into a self-absorbed, narrow-minded place of neediness. In this zombie state, I’m pathetic. Putrid. Ugly. Even if I could dance like the zombies in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, I’m still worthless when dead to myself, and dead to others. 
In her book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard said, “beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” Each day, scenes of beauty and grace live on the stage of life alongside the horror of staggering zombies. It’s a stark juxtaposition. 
Moment-by-moment, I’m living a story. It can be a beautiful story. It can also be a tale of the dead who won’t die. When the zombie hoard beckons will I march like Frankenstein? Or, will I cling to this truth: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8) Abundant grace. Anytime. For anything. No grasping at my desires, just giving from the beauty and grace that flows from a generous Father. 
So, after last week’s Tour de Stress, I’m freshening my senses to beauty and opening my heart, mind and soul to grace. I can’t always get what I want. And that’s how it should be.

Windy City Waffles

Our big-sized family took-on the big city this week. Yep, Chicago will never be the same. Okay, Chicago handled us just fine, but we will never be the same. And that’s good.

At the hotel, our family “bigness” was greeted by whispers and stares from the senior traveling club who had also chosen the same downtown accommodations. I can’t blame them for their gasps of horror as we crashed the breakfast bar that first morning. Our brood was just a wee-bit excited about the waffle station. What kid (or adult) wouldn’t be? Seriously. A device that dispenses an endless supply of liquid love positioned adjacent to an already hot waffle-maker. Dispense, pour, close, flip. Wait two-minutes, and bam! Golden, crusty deliciousness molded with deep, squared-shaped canyons anxious to receive a volume of syrup that could qualify for status as the sixth Great Lake. Ah, Heaven! (almost)

By the time breakfast festivities closed on day one, our kids had wooed the gray-hairs with their cuteness, politeness and cleanly waffle making. Speculative whispers about truancy and irresponsible parenting turned suddenly complimentary – particularly after revealing we home school. Katrina received kudos (which she should) and an amiable coexistence between the old and young was established. Katrina and I basked in a moment of parental victory while everyone got their share (and then some) of waffle wonderfulness.

Waffle making mastered, we moved on – sort of. Our children got a crash course (literally) in the use of revolving doors. Apparently the timing required for entering, revolving and exiting is an under-developed skill for one member of our family. Don’t worry; the bruises are healing nicely. Glad for but a few revolving doors here in West Michigan.

Beyond waffles and revolving doors, we had many memorable shared experiences. We consumed large quantities of deep-dish pizza and cheesecake. We made significant donations to Mr. Lego and Ms. American Girl. We saw ancient things. We saw things modern. We didn’t see everything we hoped, and at times saw more than desired. We wore ourselves silly with walking. We saw beggars and rich folk. We had conversations with Chicagoans, which were always pleasant. Conversations with our children about going to sleep in our cozy little suite were, let’s say, “pleasantly firm.”

It was good to get away – and to come home. After confinement to his crate, our dog is thankful to once again roam about his kingdom. And just in case we forgot what the non-vacationing life is like, a tube of Chap Stick – stowed-away with a load of laundry – welcomed us home. The heat of the dryer combined with damp clothing and whatever it is that comprises Chap Stick does not make a “Three’s Company.” I’m afraid to look at the results of the re-wash. Hoping the splotchy look is the rave this summer.

Now, time for a nap.

Unicorns and a Teepee

The end of another spring break is upon us. True to form, we’ve had rain – and snow. Granted, we had some sun too. Temps have been mostly in the 40s, and finally above 50 today. The predicted high temp for the last day of break is 78. Figures.

The reality of snow in April, coupled with envious thoughts of friends vacationing in warmer places, began to darken our family mood. Relationships were straining. A bit of separation was necessary, so I shooed the kids outside to relieve some tension.

Once outside, our girls got busy making a fort. They crafted a wonderful little stick and pine needle abode: cozy, welcoming and warm. They were methodical, resourceful and very proud of their dwelling. They will both make excellent homemakers. Our boys, impressed and jealous, dubbed the girl’s fort, “The Unicorn Stable.” (we’ve developed a strange affinity for unicorns)

Not to be outdone, the boys started their own project. It was much less organized. There was a tear-down and relocation, bickering, name-calling and aimless wandering. There was wrestling and chasing and whipping with sticks. All the classic ingredients of boyhood play. In the end, the boys brought a teepee to life. It’s not cozy, but certainly manly. And with the top of the teepee 12-inches from the power line, opportunity is ripe for future excitement.

As a dad, it was fun to watch (and help) my children in their creative play. Snow, sand, sun or whatever, taking a break with the kids is valuable leisure time. And, it is a relief to know the unicorns finally have a place to sleep.

The Unicorn Stable

The Teepee