The Father Fortress

“How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” – Matthew 23:37b

When my three year old comes running over to drag me to make a “Baba Fort”, it is music to my ears. He still loves to be close and to feel the safety of the Baba Fort.

“What is a “Baba Fort”?” … I’m glad you asked. :o)

In its simplest form a Baba Fort is when my son lays on the couch and I am over him on my hands and knees. (Sort of like a mix between a “Child’s Pose” and the “cat” of “Cat/Cow” in Yoga, with my son underneath.) My head usually rests on the arm of the couch.

Some variations are that my hand can be a window that he can ask to open or close to look out or we may put a blanket over my back. While my seven year old will sometimes join him for a double wide fort (which probably looks quite awkward, but the goal isn’t truly that they are in the fort, but that they “feel” like they are in the fort). The variation that best involves all three boys (including the 11 year old), is the “Attack Baba Fort”. The “Attack Baba Fort” would be better named the “Defensive Baba Fort”, but “Attack” sounds cooler. For this variation one of the boys (usually the youngest is in the Baba Fort. The other two boys are attacking in various ways and the one in the fort is kept safe. They may be trying to tag him or shoot him with toy tarts, but the Baba Fort (aka: me) blocks and pushes them away with my outside hand or foot. Another may be that they are climbing on top of the Baba Fort while the little one is kept safe inside. One variation that is a little different is “Escape from the Baba Fort” (more like a prison). For this, they are in the Baba Fort and I close it up fairly well (depending on their age), and they try to wiggle their way out (and then come in and try again). We have all sorts of variations that develop. The point is that the youngest (or youngest two) feel the closeness and safety of being with their “Baba” (me), and the others get the fun of wrestling, attacking, etc. 

It is also nice that I can have conversations with the child in the Baba Fort and they feel that they are all alone in a safe world with me (although we are in the middle of the living room in the middle of the house).

The “Baba Fort” was discovered by accident one day. I was exhausted to the point of hardly being able to keep my eyes open and my youngest two children wanted to play. I don’t remember exactly how, but out of that the “Baba Fort” was born. I could close my eyes and just be there while all of the boys were busy either being in the fort, or climbing on the fort.

While I don’t have girls, perhaps it could be a “Baba Cloud Castle”. Really, it could be anything as long as the story is set into their imaginations (Baba Tank, Baba Cave, Baba House, etc.).

Now, I do want to caution that the “Baba Fort” should be coupled with other, more intentionally involved activities and not just as a way to justify lazy parenting, but it is great for some quiet time to be close with young children… or when you can hardly keep your eyes open.

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In Matthew 23:37, while Jesus is lamenting over Jerusalem, he reflects, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” The heart of Christ is to be close to his children. Like a mother hen protects her defenseless chicks.

I know my desire to provide for and protect my children, to have them trust me and to provide for them while providing opportunities for them to grow. (As imperfect as my provision and protection are)

To Christ, I am the helpless child. Do I run to him, hunger for time with him in His word? Do I cast my cares on him (for he cares for me) (1 Peter 5:7)? Or do I try to make life work on my own plans and efforts? Christ longs to gather me into his gentle care.

One day the Baba Fort helped me to see Christ’s desire for us, to be close, to protect and provide, to be our source of strength and life.

I need to learn to live in the “Baba Fort” of my Heavenly Father, and to point to the true Fortress, who rules over the heavens and the earth.

A note to fathers: Whether your children are young enough for the “Baba Fort” or are older, we can be there to cover them with unconditional love and the sacrificial gift of time and connection. How are we doing at lovingly discipling our children as we point them to Christ?

October Free Family Events (Cleveland, OH)

Well, the fall is revving up, and so are the fall activities. As the world changes color, one of the greatest events is simply to get outside and enjoy God’s artwork. The Cleveland Metroparks offer a greatly appreciated, and yet greatly underused, journey into the colorful world (with or without paved trails :o). They also offer a variety of free events all around the area, from tapping maple trees, to events in the nature centers.

So let’s enjoy the fall. Here are a sampling of some of the events and opportunities around the Cleveland area:

Weekly Recurring Events

Monthly Recurring Events

Ongoing Events

Events for October

Some of those events do get filled up pretty quickly. Be sure to check whether the registration is still open before you plan your trip. Happy Awesome October in Cleveland!

Called to go, Willing to stay: A Blessing Counting Journal (12)

  1. Parental blessing (b)

Let the Little Children Come! (Matthew 19:14)

Okay, back to the times of house repair. I am grateful God has allowed me to see more of His preparations from years ago for the heart work for His eternal glory. The trip to China confirmed His unchanging love and perfect timing in everything and every season in our life. Since I didn’t have a set time or place to study God’s Word during the house construction, I did my Bible study whenever I could, in front of the kids. It was not my favorite way of studying the Bible. But the Lord not only knows my season in life but orchestrates it. He always provided what I needed to hear and met me where I was. It could be just one verse, one hymn or a radio program, which was sufficient for my day.

My four year old then could see my genuine need to spend time with the Lord. Not only did he learn to have some quiet time together with me, but he also wanted to read his own children’s Bible and took notes like I did. Whenever I think about this, my heart is warmed by God’s grace. Our kids don’t need us to put them first but they do need to see Who (the Ultimate higher authority) we are under and worshipping. God used my children to challenge me to worship Him at all times and see life as an adventure with my Lord.

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It takes creativity and open mind to grow life in the midst of house repair. 🙂

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Called to go, Willing to stay: A Blessing Counting Journal (11)

  1. Parental blessing (a)

    For the Lord is good;    
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100:5 

Thank you, Father!

In October, 2015, I started this blessing counting journal around the one year house-owning anniversary. The Lord put ten specific areas of blessings on my heart to record. By the time I am meditating on #9, the “parental blessing”, we are already back from our one-month trip to China over the Christmas break! Once again, I am grateful for the beautiful timing. I am reminded that no matter how much our hearts are stirred due to our current circumstances (good or bad), it all shall pass. It seems like ages ago when we were rebuilding the house, now that life has much more settled down. However, the heart lessons are still as fresh as yesterday. Interestingly, time in China in many ways resembled our time with all the construction going on around the house: lots of new things everyday, no set schedule, no set place for everything, great need for flexibility and wisdom in parenting, more time with our parents (or grandparents for the boys).


When we are pushed out of our comfort zone in parenting, we are more likely to fall back to our flesh, and idolize circumstances we used to live in. We need to be more reliant on our Heavenly Father in choice-making, attitude-setting, and following His teaching from His Word and leading in the Spirit. As a mom of two active boys, I fail so many times and feel inadequate, but I am even more blessed to grow along with them by the grace of my Father above.

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Yeah, we had the floor done before the baby started crawling!

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First Birthday Party, First Blog Post!

Happy Birthday, Isaiah Tiancheng Goll! 高天成,生日快乐!

Mama and Baba (Daddy in Chinese) have been working hard to get this blog running so we can start writing and leave a “simple abundant legacy“. What a joy that our first post after we are done with the blog construction pages is to celebrate our 2nd son’s first birthday!

His birthday this year has fallen on a Monday, free zoo day, also the first day my husband is done with Monday classes for the semester! With the beautiful weather, we can’t think about a better way to celebrate Isaiah’s birthday but to a zoo visit!  To make the event merrier, grandparents also joined us! Yeah for grandparents living nearby!!

Let’s get to know our little buddy a little more:

10 fun facts about Isaiah:

  1. “Happy Feet, Isaiah!” Since he was born, he likes to move his feet and toes. At first I thought it was a baby thing, then I realized it is an “Isaiah” thing. Not sure how long this is going to last but we surely enjoy watching his movement.
  2. Adores his big brother, Elijah. He is watching and interested in what his brother is doing and where he is going.
  3. Loves music. As soon as music starts, so does his rocking.
  4. Born at home on Mother’s Day in 2014.
  5. “In Christ Alone” is Isaiah’s bedtime hymn.
  6. Loves people and would rather happily play with people even when naps/meals are missed.
  7. Blocks are not to build but to throw, the further the better.
  8. Two bottom teeth like to chew a lot of real food, especially food from mama’s bowl.
  9. Uses a lot of clicks in his speech (a great potential to learn African languages with clicks).
  10. Loves sitting position the best as he discovered all the potentials by being super flexible.

Isaiah’s 5 Major Events 

  1. He watched us gutting the house so patiently and joyfully.
  2. Two road trips: Chicago, Memphis. Lost some hair in the back while laying in the car seat, but did amazingly well with the trip.
  3. Attended BSF infant program.
  4. Got to be with Gonggong (mama’s dad from China) for six weeks.
  5. Attended Sunday services with us as a family.

5 Things Isaiah didn’t do for the first year: 

  1. No fancy themed birthday party.
  2. No sick visit for the first year.
  3. No hair cut.
  4. No baby story time at the library but attended pre-school programs with his big brother instead.
  5. No walking, which worked out great with the house construction going on.