Just one, small, part of the huge Riverview Park
and Zoo playground in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
We are a joking family. We have to be. Having two children on the autism spectrum can be very challenging but that is for another post. Anyway, one of my favorite ways to joke, often accompanied with much rolling of eyes and moaning, is to refer to my children as different animals. Jacob has often been called "our little monkey". I don't know why. He has never been overly inclined to climbing or swinging from vines. I guess it's because he reminds us of a cute, cuddly, chimpanzee.
Recently, however, he did display some monkeyness (is that a word?) and some amazing and inspiring determination as well. After a fun day filled with animal watching and train riding at the wonderful Riverview Park and Zoo in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, we decided to tackle their huge playground area. Riverview Park and Zoo is a small, free, zoo that is totally owned and operated by the town of Peterborough. It is really half park and half zoo. I guess that's why they named it the Riverview Park and Zoo. As well as the small zoo, they have many picnic areas throughout and the playground is amazing.
Sarah had gone back to the car to rest and enjoy some air conditioning since it was a very hot day. John Allen and I were running back and forth watching and exploring with Joshua and Jacob as well as enjoying some big kid stuff as well, when I noticed that Jacob was spending a lot of time in one particular area. He had found a set of monkey bars. You know, the kind that are horizontal from the ground and you have to swing from bar to bar to get across? He was determined that he was going to conquer the bars and cross over without falling.
What amazed me was his resolve. He was absolutely resolute. He was not going to leave those bars (pictured above, they are are the yellow ones toward the back on the right), until he did what he had never done before...crossed a set of monkey bars. I stood and watched, amazed at the unflinching look on his face as he fell, picked himself up, and tried again only to fall once more. Soon I was cheering him on and was followed closely by Joshua and John Allen. We didn't assist in any way. Jacob would have none of that. We just cheered and encouraged as he got closer and closer to the end before the inevitable fall. Sometimes he would stop to rest his aching hands, but only for a minute and then he was back in the fight.
There was a rope net that he was to grab hold of at the end. Once, he got so far that his feet touched the net before he fell. Being the overprotective father that I can sometimes be, I cheered and told him that he had made it. Nope! That was not enough! He was going to totally reach the net and grab hold of it with both his hands and his feet. Finally, after about 45 minutes of trying, he accomplished his goal. He crossed all the way over, grabbed hold of the net with both hands and feet, and climbed down. He had conquered the monkey bars! After much cheering, high-fiving and hugging, a triumphant, albeit sweaty and tired, young eight year old boy marched off to tell mom of his accomplishment. My heart filled with pride.
The Tinks at Riverview Park and Zoo
That event made me think once again about how determined I am to reach my goals and to make my dreams come true. I have been thinking a lot about that the past couple of years. I realized that even though I was still enjoying ministry, I had gotten into the "missionaries and anyone that is in the ministry is poor and they are always supposed to be poor" mindset. I had forgotten how to dream. I had let my dreams go by the wayside and decided that I was never going to reach them so why even bother. Then, through an amazing series of events, I began to dream again. It hasn't been easy. I began to understand that in order to realize my dreams I had to work on myself and allow God to work on me and become a confident person again. Being a Christian worker is hard. You get beaten down and knocked around a lot. It is a lot like Jacob's situation above. When things knock you down and you lose your grip and fall, you just need to pick yourself back up and try again to reach your dreams and goals.
I've also had to think about what my dreams really were. We have had a lot of family discussion about this and some of the things that we have talked and dreamed about have already been accomplished. We have been very blessed to be able to go on an amazing ministry trip each of the past two years. You can read a little about what we did on our most recent trip by clicking here.
Dreaming for us is an interesting process. First and foremost, as Christians, we always want our dreams to be in line with what God wants for us. This has led to a lot of praying and soul searching. What does God really want for us? Although we have had a tremendous amount of fun so far on our ministry journey, are we allowed to think outside of the box?
John Allen and I have been inspired by two amazing families that have done some amazing things together. One family, the Vogels, took a year off and biked 9000 miles around the United States with their two young, twin, sons. Then, just a year or so later, they embarked on a three year 17,000 mile bike trip from northern Alaska to the southern tip of South America.
Another, the Kallin Family, just completed an over 2000 mile thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail with their eight year old son and nine year old daughter.
Although she, like the rest of us, loves the outdoors, Sarah isn't the bicycling, backpacking, kind. We have done a lot of "roughing it" in the past, but she would rather the "roughing it" be at a camp where she is working in the kitchen or teaching Bible. A dream of hers would be to travel around in a motor home or pulling a trailer and tour the United States and Canada to help at camps along the way.
I tend to have the same dream of traveling and camping in an RV, but I still dream of trying something big and adventurous with our family. But how do you include two autistic kids in that dream? How do you include the whole family in an adventure when some of them aren't quite as adventurous as the others? How do we involve ministry in the adventure? Is the adventure something that God really wants us to go on in the first place?
Those are questions that are still to be answered. I know that in the months to come there is going to be a lot of praying and discussing. I also know, though, that I am not going to give up on my dreams. Those dreams may change somewhat as time goes by, but I am going to keep on dreaming and setting goals.
What are your goals? Do you still have dreams? Do you think God wants us to accomplish our dreams? Leave a comment below and tell me what you think.