It took us about two days to get here, to this our own little wonderland. We left Qingdao Sunday afternoon, surrounded by our dear friends and sent off with full and yet very sad hearts. All the kids even ran beside the bus as it pulled away, shouting our names and pounding on windows, like it was a movie or something. I thought I wouldn't, but I did, I cried.
We took a bus, to an airport, went through customs, got on a plane, went through customs in Korea, on to a bus, then to a hotel, spent the night, back to the airport, through customs, onto a plane (after coffee... and doughnuts!!), endured twelve hours of near torture for this mama and her unhappy little girl, finally off the plane (proof that it does in fact have to end at some point), through customs and into the arms of a waiting gramma, then back in a car... and finally... wonderland.
I call this place wonderland because in the face of all the advice that tells you to be honest about your expectations for your summer visit home, all the advice that says your expectations will likely be disappointed, or at least unmet in some way, this place that is my parent's home does not disappoint. It exceeds and meets expectations every time. Not because it is a mansion or located in any idyllic setting like a lake in New Hampshire or the mountains of Colorado (it is in fact just south of Interstate 80 in Ho Hum Northwest Indiana), but because it is a peaceful, beautiful, and absolutely perfect oasis for children (and adults). And it is my childhood home.
There is a tire swing from an old tractor that we hung when I was a child and is still in use today, there is a tree fort and swings and a sand box, there are sprinklers and open fields of grass, there is a fire pit and a basketball court, a garden and a dinner bell and a tractor and bikes... and there is the screened in porch where you can sit and take it all in.
We arrived around noon and not long after, two out of three children were completely passed out on said porch where the breeze whispered lullabies from shading trees above, and the third child wandered the grounds inspecting tree houses and trampolines, sandboxes and flower gardens, and even found the hidden "fort" tucked away in gramma's basement.
By evening, most of us had groggily stumbled out of our slumber and made our way into the yard as well. My husband has long chided me with how little we ever went out on the town when we came to visit my parents in the early stages of dating and marriage. He goads me for never having seen anything of this area outside of the famed back porch. But he too has succumbed to its spell, and even now- half way on the other side of the globe finishing up his studies for the next three weeks- he is pining for the time he will miss tucked away in this corner of the world, on the porch.
It is a strange and wonderful time, these days we are presently in. I feel bitten with this ever present reminder of grief: tomorrow is the birthday of our friend's boy who died a little over two months ago, we have just left our home of four wonderful years, and we are all a bit confused as to where we will be laying our heads in a few months. But I am awash with a sense of gratefulness too. Today is my anniversary... eight years of marriage to my husband, three beautiful children who I could barely imagine the existence of on that day in 2003, and a life infused with, upheld by, and spread wide and deep with the presence of the One who made us.
It's a good place to land, this place where He has gently put us... for no other reason sometimes than the fact that it is His everlasting arms that are underneath it all. A life surrendered to Him may not mean you always know or even like the place where you will lay your head, but it is a soft landing no matter where it be.