A scone from my favorite little tea shop--maybe ever! In Merry Old England
Occasionally I get so many emails and messages and never get time to answer them all, and I really wish I could have all of you over for tea at my house to catch up. But since I can't, I thought you could just look at a picture of tea and we could visit anyway!
Traveling Cheaply with Your Children--and How come I get to go on so many trips?
So many women have said or written, "I wish I could go on a trip to England!"
Clay and I dated and then got married when I was a missionary in Eastern Europe. I cut my teeth on 4 languages, love missions and travel, and so when we were dating, his commitment to me was that he would help me be able to travel and work in missions as long as God opened the doors. Now, after his back surgery, traveling isn't as comfortable to him, but he always sends me and sends me on adventures with the kids. I am so blessed that he has always understood the value of "international " issues, people and missions in my own life.
A friend of mine challenged me a couple of years ago to take 6 important trips when I turned 60--one for each decade. And she challenged me to consider what would inspire my heart and soul and fill my vision to help prepare me for another 60 years! :) And so I took her challenge and began to make plans. Returning to Vienna and Poland and reviewing my years there, the mission work I was a part of, and focussing on these countries for a couple of weeks was my first meaningful journey--seeing all that God had done over the years was so very faith validating. Then there was England, so inspiring on many levels--but for another time.
And so, I started saving money 2 years ago. I have this little box where I put money every month--for special events and journeys. Even if I can just put a little bit each month, it still grows the fund. Also, because of my speaking schedule and trips, I am able to save up points for free airlines. And the final blessing is that I earn hotel points at conferences to receive free hotel rooms for overseas mission trips. We almost always use these points for international missions, so I had saved up enough points to take 3 international trips and most of our hotel nights have been free. This happened with careful saving and planning and learning how to manipulate these systems over the years.
In our family, money is always an issue. (Isn't it in everyone's lives?) As there are always clothes to wear, cars to drive, things to fix, places you have so spend money. Consequently, we have accepted that it will always be this way. I wish I had learned not to fret about money much earlier in life, but to trust God more. If you focus on it too much, it becomes an idol.
God has been so faithful to us and finances are just a part of life--so it is not worth always living in worry about it. God provides and gives ideas on how to be more productive and work. It was a hidden blessing for our children to not have all of their wants met, because they learned to become more content with less. They also had to learn the value and joy of work! (They would do day camps in our home--history days, Mom's Day Out Days, all sorts of camps with kids to earn their plane fare for history trips--great memories and good experiences.)
APPLICATION: DON'T MAKE MONEY AN IDOL. LEARN TO BE CONTENT AND TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO BE CONTENT (YOU ARE THE MODEL) AND THEN LEARN TO WORK HARD AND EARN THAT MONEY TO PAY FOR SOME OF YOUR WISHES--IT IS MORE FULFILLING AND CULTIVATES GODLY CHARACTER.
But all of us have worked a lot in our family, and now I even find my work such a blessing and pleasure that I feel so blessed. I have been a working mom all my life, (I would write books early in the mornings before Clay left for work, our conferences were a family vision so we all worked, and Clay running our ministry and setting up our publishing business. This has meant that we have all had to work together and every year and always, but now, looking back, we wouldn't change anything. (Except I would have had a full time housekeeper if I could have--wouldn't that be a dream!)
And so we knew that there would always be bills, always something would break, but that there would be some experiences that could not be measured by keeping a budget. And so we have always had a fund that we build up for these trips because they have been a commitment all of our lives--and it is a choice that has opened many doors for our children and broadened all of our experiences in life immeasurably.
Is there something God has put on your heart that you would love to do as an experience or training grounds for your family? Write it down. Make a plan. Work towards it as long as it is within God's will and blessing.
Trips and traveling started when my children were 12 and under. For many years, I used to offer to speak to support groups in places I wanted to travel with the kids (historical places and interesting places.) I always had a friend and other children who would partner with me in these schemes. (Clay did not want us to go alone and it was more fun.)
Usually, people from the areas where I would go to speak would take a love offering to pay for my speaking and often they offered to keep us in their homes. Oh, how many wonderful friends I have met from staying with them in their homes--you know who you are and how much fun I have had staying with you!
On the road, we split meals, sleep together in tiny hotel rooms--even if on the floor--but thankfully those years are gone. Eat bread and cheese and simple meals while traveling and know how to have deals.
APPLICATION: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SOME DAY DO? START DREAMING AND PLANNING NOW AND ASK GOD TO HELP OPEN DOORS FOR THESE HEART DESIRES.
England specifically: Joel and Sarah both had long term reasons to be in England and to pursue some of their own dreams, so they saved up for their own plane trip and we all used our points and had a very reasonable trip to England. But it takes planning and saving. More on how to travel in another blog.
THE LITTLE YEARS--another issue
Many women lately have written me about how overwhelmed they are with so many little ones and resenting the limited lives they have..
I know just how you feel. There were so many years when I just could not see the light at the end of the tunnel, but now at 60, I am getting to do a few things that are dreams come true. It took years of waiting and hoping--but the wait was worth it!
When I was surrounded by 4 young children, messes, needs, ear infections and making meals around the clock, it seemed, I could only dream of ever taking a trip to England with one of my children--or even by myself. For most of our years, doing the basics day in and day out was my lot. There is a real truth that the early years of having babes is very much like boot camp. It is immersion into a totally different lifestyle, little sleep, a learning to give up all of yourself and time--even though you were never expecting it to be this hard--and without training or help--and then feeling like you will ever come out of this season alive.
But, I promise you, this season of littles will pass. And all of my friends my age, and I, so miss that cuddly, warm cooing baby and the warm tender minutes of quiet singing and rocking and loving a little one. At first, though, becoming a mama of 3 under 5 left me gasping so many days, but falling in love with my little ones and turning my heart to God's heart in parenting, helped me to enjoy it more.
Spend lots and lots of time and attention with your children and in loving them and caring for them when they are very young and they will grow stronger, faster, become your own best friends and be easier to manage in their older years. Children who are resented or neglected or left unattended when they are little seem to carry their unmet needs to other seasons of their lives.
APPLICATION: INVEST TIME AND LOVE IN YOUR CHILDREN WHILE THEY ARE YOUNG AND IT WILL PAY DIVIDENDS THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. TAKE A DEEP BREATH--EVERY DAY YOU ARE BECOMING STRONGER AND MORE CAPABLE AT YOUR ROLE AS A PARENT.
Never a break but it does get more and more fun!
But, I hate to tell you this, you are never ever going to get much of a break from your children. I raised mine to all be idealists--imagine that, since I am so idealistic--and now all of their ideals cost so much in time, help and money. (Joel's albums and music ventures are truly wonderful and blessing people but of course there is lots of help and design and marketing and recording, etc. and we get to help and be involved. Sarah is a starving artist writer--and so has been with us off and on for years--publishing is a demanding work--deadlines, proposals, marketing, and then those lean years of writing and figuring out a day gig. Then there is Nathan! Hollywood, really--you want to do what? Become an actor? Produce a film? How are you going to do that? How will you raise the funds.
So little issues, like taking care of your children, grow into bigger issues--driving, college, jobs, more houses--
But, because all of us Clarksons are so close and dream together, what one does, all support--so as a mama, I try to promote their dreams, projects, give time, help, finances and spend a lot and lot of time just being a friend to them. All of my children live and work in very broken places--(Hollywood, New York City, London, Oxford, Boston--and all have been confronted with such testing of faith and morality and values and loneliness. A mama of older's spends so much time on the phone, in counseling, encouraging, praying, helping and supporting. I am so very thankful we are all so close--but there are no other people out there for my children who seem to offer the same kind of friendship and spiritual underpinnings--so my commitment as a parent has never allowed me much free time. It just goes on and on--but now, my children are my best counselors, companions, fellow dreamers and intellectually stimulating companions.
APPLICATION:DETERMINE TO EMBRACE THE LIFE GOD HAS GIVEN YOU AND CULTIVATE JOY IN THE MIDST---IT IS BETTER TO DECIDE TO LOVE GOD'S WILL THAN TO SPEND A LIFETIME OF RESENTMENT AND NOT BEING ABLE TO CHANGE IT ANYWAY. A MEANINGFUL LIFE WILL ALWAYS BE A LOT OF WORK AND COST YOU YOUR BEST IN TIME AND COMMITMENT.
OFF FOR NOW, BUT WISH I COULD TRULY HAVE MANY OF YOU OVER FOR A CUP OF TEA--BUT THESE QUESTIONS KEPT COMING. THANKS FOR YOUR TIME.
OUR LITTLE TEA SHOP IN ELY CATHEDRAL--SOOO CHARMING!