Category Archives: Family

Taking a sabbatical

As my family rests in Honduras, I’ve decided to take a personal sabbath from blogging so that I can spend more time here reading, writing for other projects, and just resting and spending quality, undivided time with my family.  The only exception may be some “Deep Thoughts” that come my way during our time in Honduras.  “Light from the Darke” will return in full force during the week of August 19.

Don’t fret, though, Becca will continue to blog about our time here at darkesidehonduras.wordpress.com, and her updates are always a treat (even for me – and I’m “living the blog” with her).  And I’ll be posting pictures from our trip on my Facebook page (facebook.com/phildarke).

One more thing . . . take a look at this video about Providence if you haven’t already.  It gives some glimpses into what God is doing in and through Providence in Honduras and around the world.

Looking forward to continuing our conversation in August!

A counter-cultural sabbath rest – Summer in Honduras

I want YOU to join us on our Honduras adventure this summer!

I want YOU to join us on our Honduras adventure this summer!

As part of our ongoing search for rest and “slowing” in our family and our respective lives this year, we are spending the summer in Siguatepeque, Honduras (about 15 minutes from the location of Providence’s orphan care community, La Providencia).  While our first week has been a whirlwind of settling in, parties, shopping, Spanish classes, frisbee golf, futbol (i.e., soccer), we’ve also snuck in some reading and relaxing, and we’re hoping that the “slowing” and rest will happen soon.

My wife, Becca, is blogging about our time here this summer at darkesidehonduras.wordpress.com, so I won’t go into much detail here.  This is a big win for you all because she is a much better and funnier writer than me.  And her first post, “Estamos Aqui (We’re Here),” which published yesterday, did not disappoint.  So if you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to follow the blog (you can subscribe to it) so that you can join us on our adventure here this summer.

Here are some pictures from our travels and first few days in Honduras (don’t know if they’ll encourage or discourage you with big families to make a similar trip : )):

Our first attempt at air travel as a family of 7

Our first attempt at air travel as a family of 7

Follow the leader

Follow the leader

Security would have been a bit of a nightmare if they hadn't taken us to a "special location" to get checked : )

Security would have been a bit of a nightmare if they hadn’t taken us to a “special location” to get checked : )

This is how we roll

This is how we roll

I'm sure that this shot was posed

I’m sure that this shot was posed

Some of that rest we were hoping to get (didn't happen too much during the flights)

Some of that rest we were hoping to get (didn’t happen too much during the flights)

Honduran immersion - shopping at Price Smart (i.e., Costco)

Honduran immersion – shopping at Price Smart (i.e., Costco)

Playin' in the rain

Playin’ in the rain

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Just chillin’ in my hammock

Lovin’ the treehouse

Savannah with her "tattoos" at the party on our first full day in Siguatepeque

Savannah with her “tattoos” at the party on our first full day in Siguatepeque

Savannah "leading" Sunday School at church

Savannah “leading” Sunday School at church

One sweet moment

At Family Camp last week, I enjoyed one special moment that stands out from the rest (and there were several great memories made last week).

Friday night, after a week of ropes courses, speakers, foosball, climbing walls, archery, sling shots, the beach, the Boardwalk, frisbee, soccer, and a whole lot more, the entire camp came together to celebrate the week by watching the kids perform songs, recite Bible verses, and answer some questions from their counselors.  When our 4-year-old daughter, Kirsten, took the stage, the moment happened.

While Kirsten was “singing” and “doing” the hand motions, I saw my 11-year-old daughter, Malia, out of the corner of my eye nudging a friend sitting next to her.  So I watched Malia for a brief moment and saw an older sister beaming with pride, with a huge smile on her face, telling her friend, “That’s my sister!”

I'm praying that Malia keeps "hitting the mark" as she grows up

I’m praying that Malia keeps “hitting the mark” as she grows up

This may not seem like a big deal to you.  But, let me tell you, in a house full of competitive children, moments like these don’t come around very often.  And it brought tremendous joy to my heart.

I’m hoping that similar moments become much more common as our kids grow up, mature, and figure out how incredibly special it is to be able to share life with four siblings (and two parents) who love each other very much.

I’d love to hear similar stories from you – bring ’em on – let’s encourage each other today.

For those of you who are interested, I’ve included some pictures of our time at Family Camp below.

Becca, Malia, and me before embarking on the ropes course

Becca, Malia, and me before embarking on the ropes course

Kirsten bouldering after they told her she couldn't do the ropes course

Kirsten bouldering after they told her she couldn’t do the ropes course

Savannah with cousin Emily on the ropes course

Savannah with cousin Emily on the ropes course

Malia and Savannah "bonding" on the ropes course

Malia and Savannah “bonding” on the ropes course

Justin's joy is "electric" and contagious

Justin’s joy is “electric” and contagious

Enjoying some lunch in Santa Cruz

Enjoying some lunch in Santa Cruz

Kirsten "reading" a story to Justin

Kirsten “reading” a story to Justin

A counter-cultural sabbath rest – Month 5

In last month’s update (“A counter-cultural sabbath rest – Months 2-4”) on our family’s attempt to take a 2013 “counter-cultural sabbath rest,” I talked about our family’s need to recalibrate after hitting reality in the face with our “experiment” in slowing down in our fast-paced world.  As I talked about last month, slowing down has been a struggle, and in that struggle we’ve learned lots of lessons together as a family.

For instance, cutting things out of your life doesn’t guarantee that you’ll connect more as a family.  You have to continually work at connecting with each other (this holds true with Becca and me, as well as with the kids).

IMG_3549Spending more time together as a family doesn’t necessarily result in better family dynamics or better relationships — in fact, sometimes it has the opposite effect.  You have to make better dynamics and relationships a priority, and continually work towards those goals.

When you are intentional with relationships with your children, as well as between and among your children, and actually take the time to use the teachable moments to teach, coach, and lead your children, incredible things can happen.  Family relationships flourish, minds are shaped and formed in positive ways, character is developed, and disrespect for others decreases dramatically.

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In addition to our family lessons, I’ve learned some personal lessons through this experience. One thing in particular is that it is really easy to let “important” things sneak into our lives to distract us from the really important things in our lives.  And I constantly have to be on guard to ensure that I say “no” or “no more” to the non-essentials so that I can give 100% to the essentials.

Acting on what I’ve learned so far this year, I have successfully said “No more” or “not at this time” to two of my major commitments.  And I’ve taken a step back from everything that I’m doing right now and asked a simple question of myself: “What are the things in this world that only I, Phil Darke, can do?”

In answering the question, I came up with a very short list — a list of only three things:

  1. Self-care – i.e., take care of my mental, emotional, physical, social, psychological, and spiritual health.
  2. Be the husband to my bride.
  3. Be the father to my children.

dark family shoot 143 darke family shoot 168

Nobody else can do these things.

So, with God at the center, these are the three things I always have to give 100% to . . . no matter what.

Everything else in my life is secondary (or tertiary, or further down the list of priorities).  I know that God has created me to do other things, such as work to bring excellence to orphan care through Providence, and I’ll strive to do those things with excellence as long as I’m called to do them.  But not at the expense of the the things that only I can do.  As many have said before me, I won’t sacrifice my family at the altar of ministry or my job or any other “important thing.”

I encourage you to ask yourself the same question, “What are the things in this world that only I can do?,” and do whatever you have to do to make sure that you give 100% to those things — every minute of every day . . . no matter what.

A counter-cultural sabbath rest – Months 2-4

(This is the third entry in the series on our family’s experience taking a counter-cultural sabbath rest in 2013 – Part 1Part 2)

One thing has definitely become crystal-clear over the past three months.

Slowing down as a family in our fast-paced world is really hard.

Birthday cake - Darke style!

Birthday cake – Darke style!

Especially if your family has five children under the age of 12.  Add to that the fact that all of the children (and their parents) are extremely active, and you have a recipe for a very difficult sabbath rest.  Think about it . . . even if each your five kids has just one play date (or birthday party) a week, mom and dad go out on a date just once per week, you have occasional one-on-one time with each child, and you have dinner with another family just once every other week (I got tired just writing this : )), there is not much margin left for quality family time, particularly since a couple other things (i.e., school and work) need some attention, too.

That is what we’ve been up against the past few months.  After the “honeymoon” period of the first month, when we had very little on the calendar, work was slow, and we simply cut out nearly all commitments, we’ve run into busyness over the past couple months.  (Don’t get me wrong – we’re much less busy and are connecting as a family much more then years past, but busier than we want to be).

Without boring you with all the details, I’ll share a couple things with you that exemplify how busyness has crept into our lives despite our best-laid plans.

ImageRemember that idea I had that track would be a fun thing for the family to do together.  Well, it hasn’t worked out quite as we planned – because of illness, uncooperative younger children : ), injuries (including my severe ankle sprain), and other realities, we have not run together at a single practice in 2013.  We did get to be together at the older three kids’ first track meet a couple weeks ago . . . for those of you who have ever survived an all-day youth track meet, you know that we did not have quality family time connecting with each other that day.  We supported each other, had some good memories from the races, and our kids had fun with their friends, but Becca and I spent most of our time ensuring that Justin and Kirsten did not kill themselves on the bleachers where we camped out for most of the day.

Personally, I’ve been hit with all kids of “fires” at home, at Providence, and with the different boards and clubs with which I serve.

The experience with track, the “fires” in my life, and several other things have made us realize more and more just how intentional we need to be with our time and commitments if we truly want to slow down.

IMG_3434So we’ve been working on that intentionality over the past month or so, re-calibrating and trying to figure out what slowing down really takes and looks like in the reality we live in.  I hope and pray that the next post in this series will be about how we are getting closer to a “sweet spot” where we are consistently able to discern and commit to the path that leads to slowing down, growing closer together as a family, and enjoying the awesome things that happen when we have some margin in our lives — all while still pursuing with fervor our passions and the things that God has placed before us in our lives.

I’m sure you can relate with me . . .  I just want to ensure that I’m never to busy for the really important things in life.  Like snuggling with my two-year-old, not just to console him, but just to love him – because I know we both need it, that he is going to be 10 in the blink of an eye, and that he likely not want to snuggle with dad then (at least not in public).

I’d love to read your stories about how you and your family have been able to slow down in our fast-paced world.  We all have a lot to learn about this topic and I hope that we can all share our stories so that we can learn from each other.