We navigated through the crowded woodland-themed lobby towards the canopied exit. As we pushed the double doors open, fresh air filled our lungs and though the warm spring sun was fading, we caught whimsical glimpses of its reflection on birds flying high above.
We exhaled. The kids climbed a giant wolf-rock that was probably fake for all I know. A fellow vacationer wrapped up her cigarette break and thoughtfully asked if we wanted her to take our family picture. Where were we again?
That moment was like a reality-check-pause in our mini vacation to Great Wolf Lodge recently. It’s really the perfect all-in-one place to take a young family. You unload your light luggage and walk into a child’s dream: face painting, crafts, and balloon shapes, capped with a giant woodland character display. And that’s just the lobby. Whimsy is included in check-in, where you receive fuzzy wolf ears for all and head up to your hotel room.
There, the kids get to explore their mini wolf cave, complete with bunkbeds and wall mounted TV. They even threw in some bottled water for free this time.
But that’s not really why you’re there…because the whole place is part indoor water park, part indoor ropes course with an arcade, spa, and mini restaurants. Since the waterpark passes are included in your stay, this is the true highlight of the trip, and the big kids ooh’d about the wave-pool while the three year old mastered the mini-slides in his goofy, irrepressible way.
Then we’d move to another area in the water park and my seven year old crossed a rope-over-water obstacle course while the boys floated in the lazy river or gleefully avoided the giant dumping water bucket.
Pure bliss, right?
But I haven’t told you about the fantastic water pass wrist bands, which were probably invented by a genius who loses things a lot. The adult wrist band is your room key (*everyone freaks out and faints in amazement!*)…and you can conveniently use it at ANY of the Lodge’s on site locations to buy…well, anything: food, spa, arcade, even the Dunkin’ Donuts on premises. Hallelujah, it’s convenience on steroids. Except its alarmingly less convenient than we’d think.
We happened to have $50 free resort credit loaded on our card, so we used the wrist bands for purchases till that was used up. But since my mind doesn’t know how to truly vacation from all thoughts probing, theological or otherwise, I started to actually be troubled by the stupid room-charge wrist bands. Because as easy as it is to swipe a credit card mindlessly to pay for things (which I often do), at the tap of a wrist band and a quick signature I could be on my merry way, hardly thinking about the total I was accruing.
Maybe it was the chlorine saturated artificial humidity or maybe it was my over-analytical brain but as I sat watching people walk through the water park area with their Wolf Lodge Pizzas and appetizers, I started picturing everyone with some dollar sign over their head. I’m picturing invisible running tallies for that thick cut pepperoni, spa splurges, arcade binge, and plush wolf souvenirs.
I’m not even a math person which certainly didn’t help my sense of panic.
But back to my point, if I can find it somewhere in all the fake dollar signs and magical forest creatures: I don’t think it’s wrong to splurge sometimes to enjoy ourselves, to relax as a family, to embrace something fun and whimsical. (Side note: Our family was blessed to go, and had a blast.)
Great Wolf Lodge is one of those places where you have absolutely everything you need to be happy, but you’re subtly surrounded by the idea that you could be MORE content if you spent MORE. You can’t convince me it’s not intentional that you have to pass the arcade, spa, wizard wands and bubble blowers to get from the lobby to the waterpark, and it wasn’t lost on our children.
You have the whole amazing water park and THEN some, but as I’m not the first to point out, discontent is good business. If someone can insert just a hint of discontent, we’re likely to buy into it in a literal sense.
And then we’re surrounded by vacationers who are spending it up with THEIR adorable kids, some of whom have themed wolf pajamas, spa glazed hands or collectible wolf coins (3 for only $10!). And there’s a part of all of us parents that feels like maybe we’re not giving our kids the best- the most fun- the world that they deserve.
But what if the “more” is not what we need? What if the more is actually squelching something beautiful in our kids…in ourselves? What if the more is actually feeding our discontent which feeds our more…which…well, you get it.
And I realized that the resort we were staying at was like a microcosm of real life. Vacations are meant for a little splurge. But our real world works a lot like that resort: I have really good things that many people don’t have. I have a beautiful family, comfortable home, food and coffee and entertainment pretty much at my fingertips. It’s my flipping waterpark bliss.
But I’m dazzled by the arcade and spa of my world, whether furniture or wardrobe or latte or must-have for my children. And am I really any happier for all my spending and stacking of things? Are my kids? In reality, our more is suffocating us and overflowing in giveaway bags and trash cans. It’s coming out our drawers, filling up the floor of my car with empty coffee cups and yet my mind screams for…more.
And I realized I need a moment, just like at the water park, where I intentionally force myself away from the crowd, out those materialistic doors into….the fresh air of a REAL Kingdom that is built on truth, love, and hope. It’s a Kingdom that doesn’t run on our currency or pinterest wish list, that isn’t driven by profit or prestige. It’s a place where the Bible says “I lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1) and God says that everything He has is ours already (Luke 15:31). It’s not a magical unicorn place free from hardships on earth, and yet it’s a place where we can find strength to be content in every situation (Philippians 4:11-13).
It’s the place where I find that something eternal is growing in the midst of precisely the less that I thought I could never be happy with. He literally makes my less more.
What are the things that draw me out those doors, back into that Kingdom perspective when I’m struggling with discontent? Is it listening to others who don’t have what I do? Is it realizing that while I’ve regretted plenty of purchases, I’ve almost never regretted giving money and things away? Is it saying no to myself sometimes to realize my heart’s capacity to be content in Christ with less?
No matter what, I believe God is telling me I’m missing something in my excess. (And trust me, I have a lot of it.)
If you’re looking for your own key to enter the perspective of that Kingdom, I’ve made a printable sheet of mini-contentment challenges for you and your family. Print out a few and stick them in your wallet, car, fridge, or wherever. Try a few of mine or use the blank card for you or your kids to write their own.
And if you end up with a cool story to share, or you have other ideas for being content, please comment!
*If you don’t want to download, I’ve listed the Contentment Card Suggestions Below:
- Give Away One Thing a Day for a Week (Be Creative!)
- Choose to Say “NO” To Yourself Once This Week (When it’s HARD).
- Do Something As A Family That is FREE But Fills Your Soul.
- Thank God for something when you feel discontent.
- Make a List of Things You GAVE AWAY that made you HAPPIER.
- Send Your Kids on a “Thankful Hunt”: Let them make a list or a Picture.
- Take a break from Facebook, Pinterest or Social Media that feeds your need for more.