Hello there. It’s been a few weeks since I last wrote here and I am feeling better. Stronger. More adjusted. And boy oh boy, is it a good feeling. I’ve been able to loosen my death grip on the steering wheel, and the other night we had chili and rolls for dinner and found a way to stream an American football game. It almost felt like a normal fall Saturday.
I am not one to count days and weeks–or really anything for that matter. Maybe that’s because I am more of a words girl than a number one or because countdowns make me nervous. In general, numbers just don’t matter very much to me. Occasionally, however, they do give me perspective.
If I wanted to keep track of the number of days we have been here, it would be easy. We arrived the night of August 1. For a gal who doesn’t like counting, I love it when things are easy like that. Like the fact that we were married in 2005 and three of our five children were born in 2010 and 2015. Woot woot. This word girl can do skip counting.
And so, if we arrived August 1, I can do second grade math and figure out that we have been here 53 days. Or, if we want to be really specific, (since we are being so mathematical here), 52, because August 2 was our first full day in Rwanda.
Why does it matter? Well, first of all, I am not wholly sure it does. But someone once told us it would take 90 days for our family to settle in.
We are over halfway there.
At first, my husband thought 90 days sounded ridiculous. I am not sure I really thought much about it at all, honestly. I knew we were going into a whole new world and my expectations were nil because how could I know what I didn’t know? Now, on the ground for about seven weeks, we are learning, it’s true. It takes a lot of time to settle your family in well.
Why? Because EVERYONE is adjusting. Mom, dad, and five little children with needs, desires, fears, worries, expectations and hopes. We are flexing. We are swimming in the water. We are finding our way in this strange new world where barber’s don’t know how to cut our hair and cheddar cheese is a luxury!
So when I break down in tears, or my son does too, I remember, we’ve only been here 53 days. (or 52 if you want to slice it that way). We are newborns. Still learning how to get milk and how to sleep through the night. Those are both literal, actually.
It takes time. Lots of time. Lots of patience. Lots of grace.
“Slowly, slowly, slowly,” they say here in Rwanda.
They don’t rush. They wait. They are a patient and gentle people.
I am learning to be patient and gentle with myself (and my family) too.
Moses wrote the famous words in Psalm 90, “teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
I’ve always thought of that in the ways of numbering our days here on earth, because we never know when we may be taken up to glory. And that is what Moses is speaking of here.
But when I think of it in different terms, of numbering the days we’ve been in transition, the number of days we were on the road in an RV, the number of places we’ve visited, the states we drove through or the number of houses we have called “home” in the past year, I think I also can gain a heart of wisdom. Because the numbers start to tell a story. No, they can’t tell the whole one, but they can give a piece of it. They give insight into the struggle our brains have had in doing mental gymnastics time and time again for 52 days and before.
So for fun, here are a few numbers:
In the past year we:
Spent 170 days on the road in an RV
Visited 27 states
Lived in four different time zones
Drove 9,000 miles.
Flew 9,000 miles
Have called 6 different places home.
Have called Rwanda home for 53 days.
Things we lost track of? The number of places we stopped, the number of people we were privileged to see, and the number of ways God came through and made a way. Those things are counted in our hearts.
Yes, sometimes numbers help. Yes, to 90 days (or more) of adjusting. Yes to hoping we are over halfway there. Yes to going slow. Yes to giving grace. Yes to remembering where we have been and why that is exhausting. And yes to knowing where we are right now. And most of all, yes to the One who goes before, comes behind and walks alongside us as we go.
Here’s to day 54. Whatever it may bring. May He be our constant in the midst of it all.
“…Because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.”
2 Timothy 1:12
We made it. We are here in Rwanda. And by God’s good grace, we’ve already been invited in. Into people’s homes, lives, and even a small group. Grateful for this providence.
But as I sat down on a banana leaf bench on our first Thursday night at worship, I was weary. We had just spent a long beautiful day visiting a ministry two hours outside the city. It was a gift, but honestly, it had been a long two weeks. Car problems, a never-ending visa process, kids, and the major life adjustments that come with a move to Africa piled high on my plate.
A new friend sat down next to me asked how I was doing. For some reason, I didn’t say the usual “pretty good.” I was too exhausted to pretend, I guess. And I knew the more frequently I shared how I was feeling, the less it seemed to well up inside of me.
“Okay,” I sighed. She nodded understandably waiting for me to continue.
“It’s been a hard couple weeks, and I was talking with Darrell the other night and said, you know what, I would totally go home right now. I would gladly pack my bags and head back tomorrow. No problem.”
I paused. “I just want easy, and none of this is easy.”
“I understand,” she replied, and I knew she did. “We have all been there. No judgement.”
Ease. That is what my mind, body and soul was craving because nothing is easy right now. Not even buying milk. Things that used to be super simple, like driving a car, going to the grocery store, or chatting with a clerk behind the counter are no longer that.
I longed to sit on a comfortable couch in a home without bars on my windows. I wanted a dishwasher in the kitchen, a frozen lasagna in the freezer, and to know that when I wake up in the morning I will know where I am going, how to get there and how to pronounce it.
The next day this same sweet friend, whom I had known a matter of days, wrote me this and it was exactly what I needed to be hear:
“Transitioning into life in Sub-Saharan Africa is a huge mental stretch that you really cannot prepare for. You basically get here, go through shock and then the goodness and kindness of the Lord walks with you as you look for the bread, and milk, and vegetables and meat, and navigate the water and electricity shortages.
Slowly you will see beautiful things you have never seen before, and the sun shining through the clouds, and you will get God’s love in your heart for the people and their land and you will be transformed in a way that you never will have been in the U.S.
Good things are coming for you. Right now you are in the dark clouds and seeing the red dirt in your shoes. And tears are the only appropriate response. Welcome to Rwanda.”
Yes, yes, yes. One thousand percent.
My brand new friend gave me exactly what I needed: permission to not be okay. Permission to shed tears over having to go to three different places to get the meat, vegetables, and bread. Permission to dislike lukewarm showers and really, really long lines. Permission to want easy.
I was feeling bad complaining to my husband because truly there have been no major problems and God has been so very, very good and gracious to us here. I can literally list off 20 things right now where I have seen His hand these past five weeks, and here I am crying at the end of every day because—I’m not even sure why anymore.
But guess what? He knows adjusting is hard. He understands. And perhaps that is why He has gently and lovingly paved the way for us because He knows just how strenuous it is to be out of place, to be new, to be a foreigner in a strange land. He very much knows, not just because He is Creator of all—but because He was one too.
I know He has good things in store for us here in Rwanda, because that is who He is. And now I know (thanks to a fellow sojourner) that I am seeing the dirt instead of the hills, and when that happens, tears are the only appropriate response. My gracious, kind Heavenly Father is totally okay with that.
Because soon enough He will wipe away the tears from our eyes and the sun will come out, and slowly, slowly, we will figure out how to do life here. One day at a time.
I thought I would have a lot of time on the road to write about our trip. I’m not sure what I was thinking.
My HANDS ARE FULL you guys. Jokes aside. In all kinds of different ways than they were before. And I feel the same way I did when my kids were all six and under, drowning with all the crazy chaotic stories to tell and zero time to tell them.
Most nights, I fall into bed exhausted and uninspired by the day’s events. Not that the day’s events aren’t eventful. By all means they are. They are perhaps, too eventful. And while sometimes the chaos inspires, it is also true that sometimes the chaos exhausts.
Right now, I’m in the “exhausting phase” hoping to one day make it back to the “inspiring” one.
However, I did want to let you know we survived Snowmageddon in Texas. Southern Texas. We were almost in Mexico you guys! There should not be snow there, there should not! And yet there was. And it became another opportunity to trust God, another opportunity to hold plans loosely. I didn’t think I needed anymore practice.
I know some of you were worried about us. And for good reason. It was precarious.
Most of the roads were fine the day we traveled, but one section of the road between Carlsbad, New Mexico and San Antonio, was covered in snow, and we saw at least 20 tractor trailers busted on the side of highway 10 from the previous snow and ice storm. We stopped at three different McDonalds that were not open. No power or no water, maybe both.
We almost ran out of gas because the gas stations didn’t have any. Thank the Lord, we found one that had gas with about 10 miles to E. After ten hours of driving, we finally arrived at the Airbnb we had rented to “weather out the storm” but it didn’t have power. So we slept in the RV, thankful for a generator that could run our lights and heat.
The next day, Darrell got a 24 hour stomach bug. L (Really, the miracle in all of it was nobody else got it—thank you Jesus 1000 times!!)
After two nights of on and off electricity, we had to switch houses because apparently there was a new guest coming in, although I found that extremely hard to believe as we drove through the snowy streets of San Antonio where so many were without power or water.
It is a strange feeling not knowing where you are going to sleep at night.
But another GRACE in it all, was when so many couldn’t or were hesitant to rent out their house because of the black outs, we found a lady who was willing. And it was a beautiful place. I walked in and just cried. It was a gift. It felt like home. We ended up having electricity the whole time, and were able to take baths and wash our clothes. We just had to boil our drinking water. 😉
So yes, we survived the hundred-year-snow-storm in Texas and the below freezing temperatures in Carlsbad, New Mexico. I slept in my puffer for three nights in a row and barely changed my clothes, but we all stayed warm at night in the RV. The kids also wore jackets to sleep a couple times, which, was not so unusual for Lee, since he pretty much lived in his snow pants and jacket in Tahoe, even INSIDE our duplex. I don’t think the kid likes being cold. Or he really likes jackets.
Once we finally got to the Airbnb that had electricity (consistently) I made ALL the kids shower.
As Lee stripped down, I realized he was wearing two-thirds of the shirts he owns. I’m not kidding. He pulled off five or six shirts!! Instead of taking the old one off each day he’d just add a new shirt on top! Easy-peasy. Get dressed? No problem, mom. I’ll just add it on top. 😉 What a kid. At least he stayed warm.
Now we are in Dallas, there is not a slush pile in sight, and it was 72 degrees today.
It’s almost like the whole thing was a bad dream.
And I realized yesterday when it was warm but the wind whipped off the table cloth, knocked over our chips, blew away our trash, and turned over a chair that there are lots of kinds of weather that are not good for RV life.
Snow/ sleet/freezing rain.
Any temperature under 60 degrees.
Basically, it has to be sunny, or partly sunny, and between 60-80 degrees for the RV life to live its best life.
So here’s to hoping for more of that. Fingers crossed. No tornadoes in the South East, okay? We’re coming for ya’ll next.
Guess what? I am writing to you from a couch. That’s right, a couch. In a living room. It is 9:30 p.m. and there is no sleeping husband by my elbow and my kids are not within 20 feet of me. Can we have a moment of silence?
Thank you Lord for your good gifts!!
That’s right. We are in a house! Thanks to some very kind and generous friends who have a little, (okay, awesome,) casita next to their home in Arizona. 🙂 We get to sleep in real beds, and there is a bath tub, AND my own washer and dryer to use! No more carting my laundry back and forth! Are two moments of silence two too many?
For less suffering in laundry, I think not.
So needless to say, I’m living the dream. I almost don’t even feel like writing about RV life because I am soaking all this goodness in. RV life? What is that? It’s a distant memory. Right now, I have a kitchen, a house, a bathroom all to myself. It’s almost too much you guys.
I’ll be honest though, I almost wasn’t looking forward to staying at our friend’s casita, because I was worried it will make getting back into the RV that much harder. Maybe it will, BUT you know what? It’s pretty awesome, and a break from tight quarters is definitely what the doctor ordered.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, how God gives us seasons. Seasons of work, and seasons of rest. Seasons of suffering and seasons of peace. Seasons of poverty and seasons of prosperity. Literally, seasons of light, and seasons of darkness, of warmth and coldness. And in that way, it helps us appreciate each of them. If we always lived in the warmth of the sunlight, without an overcast day, we wouldn’t realize how beautiful and wonderful the sun really is. And we would actually love those cool and rainy days, because they have a different kind of beauty.
And so as we come from a season of cramped space, sand, and driving our dirty clothes to a laundromat, we can bask in the goodness of a season that has the absence of it.
Times like these are the streams in the desert. The oasis in the wilderness. Like the one we visited last week in the middle of Joshua Tree National Park.
This is our Cottonwood Springs. A place of refreshment. A place to spread out and relax. A place to drink deep of couch-sitting, bath-tubing, and a full-size fridging. A place where we can finally get the alllll sand out of our bed.
And so instead of worrying about what “suffering” will come on the other side of this sweet spot, and wondering if the enlarged space will make our home on wheels feel even smaller, I am going to ENJOY this time, knowing that in all of it He goes with us, and in all of it, He is good. And He gives us seasons of rest—so we can do exactly that: REST.
Well, I wrote that last week. Last week, and as my eyes got heavy sitting on the COUCH I closed the computer and never returned. I thought what I wrote was horrible. Turns out, it isn’t. I mean, it’s not genius, but it’s also life. And it’s been a whole week since I wrote that, and I’ve almost forgotten how amazing it is to sit on a couch because now I am used to it.
Funny how that works, isn’t it?
Things are such an enormous blessing to us one day–and in a week, or two, or a month, they become commonplace. Ordinary. We take them for granted.
Oh Lord, may we not do so. May we not forget how blessed we are to have the things we have and do the things we do, for as long as we can. They are blessings. All of it.
Today, we went to the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon! A massive, mile deep jagged rock canyon. Unbelievable.
Fourteen years ago this month, perhaps this same day, Darrell and I went to the Grand Canyon for the first time in our baby years of marriage. Like with no babies, like when our marriage was in the baby phase. That’s what I mean. Anyway, there we stood today, in almost the exact same spot–with five beautiful young lives standing next to us. What a gift. Our family has blossomed. Our quiver overflows.
Standing there on the edge of a cliff 14 years ago, I knew I wanted children, but I never would have guessed we would be given five of them. So blessed are we. Five energetic, blonde, bustling, creative and crazy kids. And my prayers were answered and we took five beautiful children home too! (That rim is scary and kids who love to run and climb are too!).
But as I looked at the picture of our little family standing there, I am reminded how much has changed in our family and how little has changed in the Grand Canyon. Like nothing. Like maybe one little rock somewhere is a little more worn by the water? Maybe? Probably not.
The Canyon is still there. It is still massive and awe-inspiring. It was here before me, before my five kids, and it will be here after us all. Life is so short.
I guess it makes sense, but the older I get the more I realize it’s true. Life IS short.
So play hard. Love big. Laugh more. Go to the places you’ve always wanted to go. Do that thing you’ve always wanted to do. Hug and kiss like you mean it. Live for what matters most, and what will live on after you. Love people and use things, not the other way around. Take stock of where you are headed and make adjustments if needed. Fear not. Jesus is real, and the things He says about life and love and money really are true. May we all have ears to hear and the guts to obey.
I am going to need to read this to myself in a week, because boy oh boy, I am a coward like the next person in the free-fall line at Six Flags. In fact, I am not even in that line! Haha. I give into temptation, I believe lies, I trust the wrong things and look for my worth every place else other than Jesus more days than I’d like to admit.
But I don’t want to.
I want to believe Jesus and go where He sends me in faith and obedience, trusting in His ever lasting goodness. Yes, I want more of that.
So if it means moving and letting go of the things I’ve held so dear for so long, then so be it. If it means going without a place to call “home” in the U.S. for a few years, so be it. If it means my kitchen is the size of a pack n’ play, there is forever sand in my bed, and hauling laundry is a daily job, so be it.
No it’s not easy. There are moments of heart ache, of a longing to sit on my OWN couch in my OWN home. There are moments when we are all going crazy in a fraction of the space we are used to. Moments when I wonder why are we doing this and what will our future be?
But there is joy in knowing Him and experiencing Him in the midst of the hard moments. There is a peace knowing not only does He lead us, but He is with us. Emmanuel.
And while there will always be an amount of suffering in following Him (maybe small, maybe great), there will also be places of rest and restoration– like casitas and canyons.
It’s a windy Tuesday and we are all in the RV. It’s pretty cozy, (all those throw pillows are helping. 🙂 I knew there was a reason to bring them). Okay, and screens. Screens are helping too. Everybody is on a screen right now! (Insert a nervous smile, because we are all familiar with what happens after screens, right? WWIII.) No, screens are NOT my favorite, and we limit them, but there is a thing called “necessary evil” right? Maybe this doesn’t apply to iPads, but alas, it’s where we’ve landed after a kind of rough start to this morning and a continual wind that blows sand in your face.
Over all, I would say RV life has been fun and better than I expected, but this morning was hard. Getting back into school after a four day weekend with five kids in a 5×10 space because it’s cold and windy outside wore me out. To say the least. I ended up walking out of the the RV when the eggs fell because I needed air. And patience. Fighting one to get out his school book, while another wanted eggs, while another one kept trying to ask me a question, while my five-year-old daughter kept saying, “Mommy, mommy. Mommy,” only for me to finally ask her what she wanted and her reply, “I love you.”
Sweet girl. I love her too.
If only I had more patience some days. And 15 hands. Those would be great too.
Honestly, today would have been hard RV or not. Some days are just like that.
Getting back into any groove you’ve gotten out of it always a challenge, whether it’s running or cooking or reading your Bible. Or homeschooling your kids.
We’ve been doing the four-day school week, Monday thru Thursday, which I have been loving. It gives us Fridays as a freebie. A full day to adventure, explore, and do some life-learning.
This past Friday, we went whale watching. One of my life goals is to see a whale breach in the water, like in the commercials for Pacific Life. I’m going whale watching until that happens. Mark my words. Well, that didn’t happen Friday. Obviously. Or else there would be a BIG humpback whale breaching at the top of this post and I wouldn’t be writing about a windy Tuesday. But, it was refreshing to be out on the water with the wind in our hair and the sun on our backs. We didn’t see any whales actually, (it’s a little early), but we encountered a pod of 50 Bottlenose dolphins and met another super sweet homeschooling family. The dolphins swam with the boat, in front of, behind, and next to us, even jumping out of the water to give us a show! It was Sea World in the ocean! Such a treat. Even the biologists on the boat said this was an unusual experience. Grateful.
Saturday, I had a chance to speak to a mom’s group at SeaCoast Grace Church and it was fantastic. A gift to fellowship with moms, even if we froze, wore masks, and kept our distance. My heart was warmed all the same. Mostly, the same I guess. I do miss hugs. I am SUCH a hugger. You don’t realize how much physical touch is a love language until you’re not supposed to physically touch people! I find myself apologizing a lot. I do the Elaine from Seinfeld thing where I hit people on the shoulder when I get excited. Sorry. Not trying to spread Covid, just laughing at a joke. And yes, I was one who would reach out and touch the pregnant belly of a mom I was meeting for the first time. Forgive me. For better or worse, I am getting better at refraining.
Physical touch. Physical presence. There is something about being in the presence of people that makes our hearts happy. (Though some space does help, as I realized this morning! ;)). I hope we don’t forget about the soul healing that happens when we get together once this COVID thing has passed us over (Lord, please please may it pass). I remember hearing in high school once that a person needs 12 hugs today. That is a lot of hugs. Pretty sure even though I’m a hugger I’m not dishing out nor receiving 12 of them every day. I should probably work on that.
Sunday, we made it to church! A big outdoor church service and it was so good. We got In N Out Burger for lunch, like we usually did when we went to church and it felt kinda normal, even though we ate on the curb in the parking lot because there is once again no outdoor dining in CA. It was a tradition, church and burgers, that I’m glad we got to live out in our very nontraditional, atypical life these days. We all enjoyed it. Curbside delivery.
Monday was laundry day, among other things. Actually it ended up being pretty full with a zoom meeting, cleaning up the place, and a few in person visits, which were sweet.
And so here we are, Tuesday, super windy and kinda cozy. A day inside the RV is nice once in a while. The kids spend 90% of every day outside, which is amazing. (Thinking I should really track it for a few days and see.) As soon as they are finished with breakfast and have changed their clothes they go outside, scootering, biking, playing in the sand. The world, or the RV park, is literally their playground. It’s pretty dang nice.
As for us, the two adults here doing all the dishes and sweeping and laundry, we are hanging. It’s like I anticipated: high highs and low lows. From Dolphin sightings, to barely a moment to ourselves, to meeting the sweetest old man at the pool, to sand in my bed.
Like last night, for instance, we made a fire on the beach right in our backyard while the kids were sleeping in the camper. We sat and talked as we watch the logs burn slowly and crumble into orange embers, while the clouds above us came and went revealing black sky and tiny diamonds underneath, and the city lights glittered across the bay. It was a beautiful night. And we talked about the ranch and our favorite things from our old house. Fires was one of them. And four wheelers. We talked about good and hard things. RV life and future plans. I loved every minute.
And so, the dying and the rising. The up and the down. Last night was amazing, and this morning was horrendous. For a twenty minutes anyway. We had a do-over and we read the Bible as a family in a mini-family meeting. We apologized and we hugged it out. And we told the kids they can’t be so demanding! Ha. Okay, but really. Lord help us. I know they need us, but how can they need us in a way that saves everyone’s sanity? Praying about that one.
Well, I guess that’s it. We’re alive and well. Grateful for the adventure. Embracing all of it. Excited for what’s ahead. May God go before us and behind us and beside us. That sure helps. 🙂