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In the fall of 2011, my wife, Stefani, and I awakened to reality. We only have 12 short years left to shape our children’s lives, to teach them the way of Jesus’ mission and the values of His Kingdom. And these are the years they will remember. These are the years where stories are created – where memories are made – where trust is forged. The stories we create today will live beyond our last breath. These stories will shape our children’s futures and change our lives forever. When our kids are grown, we will revel in great adventures shared; laugh at our mistakes, and dream of adventures to come. If the stories are never created, they are never told, and life remains mundane.
Every great story requires risk, demands sacrifice, and defies comfort. Realities Stefani and I embraced while planning our first in a series of life shaping adventures with our kids.
“I look forward to going home, but not returning to normal.” After 26 nights of camping on the Colorado Plateau, my 12 year old daughters’ frank statement pierced my heart. There was nothing normal about the previous three-and-a-half weeks. We only had four changes of clothing, two tents, sleeping bags, showers every few days, two days food at any given time, and limited cell reception.
Life was simple. Electronic entertainment was replaced with imagination – movies replaced with books around the fire – the office chair replaced with hiking boots – the school room replace with nature. Our children’s ages? Noelle, eight. She is our risk taker. Ryan, nine. He is our genius. Karena, twelve. She is our care giver.
We have been training our children in the outdoors for years. And yet, we knew we were pushing the limits when all other families with young kids retreated from the trail prior to completing the first mile. We kept pushing on. Most trails are packed dirt, rock, and sand. Not this one. This was the Virgin River. For four miles, we fought against her strong current – the water a chilling 48 degrees. At times, we firmly held our children so they wouldn’t be swept away. The canyon walls of “The Narrows” towered hundreds of feet around us with moss hanging like garland above our heads. Every turn presented another world of wonder. The walls narrowed the further we went. Our shoes filled with sand. There was nothing comfortable other than the beauty and serenity of our surroundings. At the end of the day, we were physically and emotionally exhausted. Cheep ice cream never tasted better.
Days later we took off to find Hidden Canyon. And it was hidden well. A one mile trail twisted up a 1000 foot cliff. At times the trail was no wider than 24 inches. A chain bolted into the side of the cliff served as a hand rail. Tripping could result in a several hundred foot fall. Stefani and I gripped the back of our youngest children’s shirts in an effort to catch them if they were to slip. This futile act seemed to diminish our anxiety. Risky? Yes – with the reward of breath taking beauty.
Retreat! Sometimes this is for self-preservation. While driving into camp through the endless desert of Navajo Country, a storm built in the western horizon. We hadn’t seen rain in weeks. We could only imagine how refreshing a desert storm would be. It would clean the dust off our tents and filter the air – bring coolness after scorching days. This was no night to sit around the fire. After dinner, we moved into our tents waiting for the storm to hit. And it hit hard. But there wasn’t rain. It was dust. Wind was ripping through our tents bring with it gobs dirt – layering our sleeping bags like unwelcome snow. Our head lamps revealed the dust swirling in the air that choked our lungs. To say we were miserable is an understatement. The weather forecast predicted the storm to last 7 hours. In seven minutes, camp was torn down, and we were back on the road. Retreating to where nature would perhaps be less harsh.
“I look forward to going home, but not returning to normal.” There was nothing normal about this trip. These are only a few of the stories we created. After pondering the depth of this statement, I responded to Karena, “I look forward to going home too, but we don’t have to return to normal. We have the ability to choose a new normal.” Sitting down with our children, Stefani and I invited them to define the “new normal”. Our children didn’t hesitate. First – spend more time as a family. Second – spend more time with friends. Third –play more. Our son added a fourth for himself – do more school. He is our genius.
I am amazed at the simplicity of the “new normal” – relationships, recreation, and learning. And Jesus says, “Unless you become like children, you will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” A lesson from God, taught by children, found in the simplicity of life. In our pursuit of a discipleship adventure for our Children, God taught us.
And now, we are redefining our lives to create a “new normal”.
By Ron and Stefani Klabunde
Bio: Ron and Stefani are church planters in Northern Virginia. Their journey in church planting began with a community needs assessment, the launching of a community based non-profit, that formed Restore Community Church. Through this journey, they started Generosity Feeds – a national non-profit that works with churches to mobilize their communities to create meals for local children who struggle with hunger. Though their children play an essential role in the life of the church and the development of the non-profit, Ron and Stefani quickly admit that even with a strong emphasis on their children, it is easy to let the discipleship of others overshadow the discipleship of their kids.