Freedom, Communication & Walkie Talkies

Main topics in this post:

  • Walkie-talkies as a way to enhance family walks, give freedom to explore, keep connection and have fun!
  • Balancing Freedom & Safety
  • the Value of Communication

Getting out into nature is a natural way for children (and adults) to exercise, learn and have fun. It is also a great chance for relationship building, times to walk and talk with each other and times to be quiet and away from distractions to have time with God.

While we love hikes in the woods, we had a small issue, one of our children loves to run. Our solution was that he could run until he couldn’t see us anymore (and thus we couldn’t see him) and then he needed to wait. This sort of took the fun out of scouting and exploring.

This past week we took several hikes into new areas, but with a very important change. We brought walkie talkies! This allowed our “runner” to scout way ahead, and yet be in constant communication. He could ask what to do if he came to a fork in the path. He could give us updates on rough ground ahead or when he saw a snake, etc. When we did take different routes, we were able to quickly identify and fix the situation. Everyone had a blast.

Yes, there is still a danger and if something bad happened it would take us a while to get there, but when balancing safety and freedom, we saw this as a good balance on giving more freedom and personal responsibility. We were in an area where I really doubt anyone would be waiting to hurt a child and our son has shown himself to be quite responsible, especially when he is keeping us updated on what he is doing and seeing.

We also had plenty of time to walk together as a whole family, or to be in smaller groups or two or three, etc., but having this freedom to let them run and explore really added to the family time.

This got me thinking about the balance of freedom and safety and the value of communication 

Freedom and Safety

For the past 2+ years the message of “safety” has been blasted into our lives. We don’t even have a TV and we have heard it repeatedly. (I really feel for those who have been driven into a state of isolated fear by this constant messaging of fear and control.) Benjamin Franklin is credited as saying, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Like my wife and I needed to evaluate freedom vs safety when letting our children run through the woods, our society could benefit from evaluating how much of our freedoms we are giving away for “Safety” and how we may end up with neither freedom or safety.

It also helped me to greater appreciate that our only true safety is in Christ.

Our child may be right by our side and get injured or have other dangers. In the same way, this world may fall apart. Tyrants may rule. We may face isolation, persecution and death. But God is still completely and entirely in control. He is sovereign over all things. It is only in him that we have either true freedom or true safety.

While we may like the feeling of control, only God can truly protect us and our children.

The Bible speaks often about resting in God as our fortress, rock, protector, provider and savior, however I will take an extreme example. (See also our post about Psalm 37.)

In Matthew 10:28, Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Even in the worst case scenario of death (of us or our children), we are told not to be afraid. Death is still only limited to this life (which is so short). Our fear (speaking of a holy respect) is to be of God who has the power of eternal life and death.

This same God, who can “destroy both soul and body in hell” is also the one who gives, “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-26).

Our true safety will never be in our wisdom or strength, it is only in God giving us his own righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ!

Therefore, we are called to live in freedom, not in seeking our own safety. When considering that freedom, we are also reminded in Galatians 5:13-14, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Communication

As we gave this freedom, we greater appreciated the power of communication. We knew that our children were “safe”. While we couldn’t know what would happen with their next step, we could know that for the moment they were doing fine. They weren’t laying at the bottom of a drop off. No one had grabbed them. They were fine and having a great time. And we could relax and enjoy the hike.

On the flip side, this communication gave much more freedom and excitement for our children as well. When they encountered a fork in the road, they could ask us which way to go, and could know that we would be following them and eventually catch up. If they did get a little lost or go the wrong direction, they knew that we could call them back and be reunited. If they were to have a problem, get hurt, etc., they knew that they could call us. This communication brought constant connection, which in turn gave them more freedom, peace and joy!

God does not need a walkie-talkie. He always sees us. He not only sees us, he knows and is in complete control over what is around the next corner of our lives.

However, we need a “walkie-talkie”. We need communication with God. With all of the changes that are happening in our world and in our lives, my prayer has been following Solomon’s lead, “Lord, give me wisdom to know and wisdom to follow your ways for my life.” I am increasingly seeing my inadequacy. What should I do? When do I need to make sudden changes, when I don’t and can’t know all of the information and how it will turn out? Lord! Give me your wisdom and help me to follow!  I am like a little child. I need connection with my Father!

As I have communication and connection with God, through His Word and His Spirit, things make much more sense and I am comforted and encouraged by his character, presence and promise in my life.

(I have found a systematic reading of the Psalms to be a powerful way for God to speak his character, presence and promise into my life.)

My children have greater freedom, peace and joy when they are connected with me. My greatest freedom, peace and joy is when I am connected with my Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

A walk in the woods gives great opportunities to build relationships, with others and with God. It also gives time to face unknowns and to see that our only safety and true freedom is in Christ and to reflect on our need for him.

A few closing notes:

  • Again, the trails seemed to be fairly safe trails. We weren’t sending a young child to a crowded area of strangers by himself.
  • Technically, we weren’t only using walkie talkies. We had one GMRS radio (licensed) which fostered clearer communication over longer distances (though we were never that far away).

How do you celebrate the 4th of July?

What do you think of when you think of July 4? What do you tend to do on this day? What conversations tend to take place?

For those in the U.S.A. and Americans living around the world, July 4 (1776) is when we celebrate the founding of our nation. However the war which confirmed that we were free of British rule actually started in 1775 and lasted 8 years until it officially ended with the Treaty of Paris on September 4, 1783 and this treaty was ratified by the U.S. Congress on January 14, 1784.

During these eight years of war, approximately 25,000 men, women and children lost their lives, with many more losing their homes, belongings and loved ones, many standing firm for what they saw as right, even when they knew that it would cost them everything.

What traditions do you have to celebrate July 4? (Or, for those who are from other nations, how do you remember the sacrifices that were likely made to form your country?)

As our family is looking to develop our traditions, here are some activities we are trying with those with whom we celebrate. We would love to hear your traditions as well.

Our goals are to:

  • Remember the sacrifices that were made
    • Matthew 20:28, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
  • Reflect on the importance of standing for what is right, even when it takes great sacrifice and perseverance
    • Daniel 3:16-18, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.””
    • Acts 5:41-42, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.”
  • Foster pride in our citizenship and identity (to point to our heavenly citizenship)
    • Whatever country one is from, if you don’t have a concept of being proud of your country, heritage and citizenship, which you can see and know, how are we to have an excitement for our citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven (which as of yet, is unseen)?
      • Philippians 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ”
  • Point to the power of God working to establish countries and install governments and peoples. 
    • These countries, governments and peoples may have fallen far from living for Christ and his intent, but they are still within God’s sovereign domain. 
      • Romans 13:1, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

Discussion questions

Rather than focusing on food, games and fun family events, it can be good to focus on the meaning and costs of living in a free country.

Questions can be put out on slips to draw, or any other way to direct the conversation to meaningful things. One or two good questions may be all that are needed to get the conversation going.

Here are some example questions:

  • What is something that you are proud of about America?
  • What is a reason that America is worth fighting for?
  • Sing national songs. After each song, ask: What do we see in this song about our country, the sacrifice of standing up in difficulty and the character and works of God?

Sing National Songs

Many of America’s National songs point to the willingness to fight for what is right, not for our own good, but to be willing to lose everything for the good of others. Many as well point to the goodness, power and sovereignty of God in the ways of men.

When singing the national songs, depending on the ages of the children, it is very powerful to either sing or read and reflect on the later verses, not only the first, and often more well known, verse.

“The Star-Spangled Banner (The National Anthem)”

1 O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

2 O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Pow’r that has made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto, “In God is our trust.”
And the star spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Battle Hymn of the Republic

1 Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.
He has loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.

Refrain:
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

2 I have seen him in the watchfires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded him an altar in the evening dews and damps.
I can read the righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on. [Refrain]

3 He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of all before his judgment seat.
O be swift, my soul, to answer him; be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on. [Refrain]

4 In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me.
As he died to make us holy, let us live to make all free!
While God is marching on. [Refrain]

5 He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave;
He is wisdom to the mighty, he is honor to the brave.
So the world shall be his footstool, and the soul of wrong his slave.
Our God is marching on. [Refrain]

My Country ‘Tis of thee

1 My country, ’tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died, Land of the pilgrims’ pride, From ev’ry mountainside Let freedom ring.

2 My native country, thee, Land of the noble free, Thy name I love; 
I love thy rocks and rills, Thy woods and templed hills; My heart with rapture thrills Like that above.

3 Let music swell the breeze, And ring from all the trees Sweet freedom’s song:
Let mortal tongues awake; Let all that breathe partake; Let rocks their silence break, The sound prolong.

4 Our fathers’ God, to Thee, Author of liberty, To thee we sing:
Long may our land be bright With freedom’s holy light; Protect us by thy might, Great God, our King.

America the Beautiful

1 O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea.

2 O beautiful for pilgrim feet, Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self control, Thy liberty in law.

3 O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved, And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness, And ev’ry gain divine.

4 O beautiful for patriot dream That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam, Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea.

Fireworks, Sparklers, etc.

For the things that sparkle, make loud noises, etc., we don’t focus as much on adding meaning. They are more of a fun way to end the day as a family. We may point out how different it would feel if those were bombs going off, but even that is quick, with the focus being on just enjoying. For fireworks, we’ve found a spot between the cities where we can see several sets of fireworks going off surrounding us, while avoiding the crowds.

Conclusion

Our hope is to enjoy the time with family in this free country that many have lived and died for, while at the same time remembering the sacrifices that were made, while worshiping God who is sovereign over all things, and acknowledging the responsibility we have to boldly follow him, by his direction and strength, at all costs.

What ideas do you have for how to have the 4th be a meaningful day of remembrance and worship?

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.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

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.