Life is a Tuesday

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. 🙂

Week One

Hellooo out there! It’s been a while.

I can’t believe I wrote absolutely nothing on here about our lovely time in a duplex in Tahoe this fall! It honestly makes me sad because it was a gift of a season our family will always cherish.

Now, however, as of January 1, 2021, we are proud residents of a Thor Four Winds 31E Motor Coach, our new mobile home, and the adventure is truly underway. We have completed our first week in our six-month journey around America.

Actually, we have finished our tenth day, if you’re counting, and believe me, we are.

The kids are all snuggled in their little RV beds, Darrell is snoozing by my elbow, and somehow I find myself awake in the dark and quiet with a mind that is able and willing to string a few thoughts and words together. It’s a miracle! But I’ll warn you, I’m rusty. So get ready for some bad writing. They say you have to get the bad writing out first, in order to get to the good stuff, but I barely have time for the bad writing these days! However, I want to write regularly here in an attempt to document this most-likely once in a life-time adventure we are on. I say most likely, because who really knows anything these days? We may be roadies for life. I mean, that could be cool. Maybe.

But if you were to ask me what I think of it so far, I would say–better than I anticipated.

AND mind you, we have dealt with a clogged toilet, a leaky sink (which has turned into a sink that won’t drain), and a door that wouldn’t shut right. All problems we caused, not problems with the motorhome itself. I think that’s good news?

Still, it’s better than I anticipated. I guess the beach helps with that. Oh yes, forgot to mention we are at the beach!

After leaving Sacramento on New Years Day, we traveled to Fresno for a few nights to visit friends, and have been “resting” in Newport Beach since the 4th. It’s pretty sweet. And sandy. So so sandy. But we are right on the sand, err beach, and the kids play outside our door for hours and hours. I’m so grateful for that. It helps even out the downside like the leaky sink and the ENDLESS laundry. End-less. I guess I could count the number of loads, but it’s easier to count dollars, and we’ve spent almost 40 of those on laundry the six days we’ve been here. Yikes!

The upside? The upside has been connecting with people. Pulling into a spot at the RV park is a little like opening a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. (Thank you Forrest.)

Who will our neighbors be today, we ask when we hear the rumble of a trailer coming towards us. It’s a crap shoot, but we have won the RV park gamble more than once. We have met some truly wonderful people. People like Scott from Mississippi who heard we were giving away the proceeds of my book to widows in Rwanda, and he came back and handed us 8 times the cost of the book! We’d known him for 48 hours. How does he know we aren’t going to take the money and run? I mean, we aren’t, but Scott really trusted us–even knowing us for so short a time. His kindness and generosity will not soon be forgotten. Another family across the way with SIX kids (and I thought our camper was full) heard about our trip to Rwanda and gave us money for our trip! WHAT?

It’s blowing my mind, people.

And then there are the people in more desperate situations. We haven’t gotten to know too many yet, but we know they are there and trust that God will also direct us in how to show Jesus to them. How to walk the fine line of letting our kids be “in the world” but not of it. Trying to protect our kids from profane language and speech, while teaching them that Jesus came for the lost, the profane and the kid who pushes you down in the sand. It’s a delicate balance. One which I hope we come closer to understanding on this trip, because it is essential that we do as believers.

We’ve been guests in our friends driveways, homes, and churches and the recipients of amazing undeserved hospitality. I’m grateful.

As for the things I’ve learned about RV life so far? I’m sure this list will grow, (at least I hope it does), but after 10 days this is what I would tell you if you were planning on getting in an RV with 3 or 5 of your kids and going on a 6 month trip:

  1. Buy the good toilet paper. The kind they make FOR RVs and boats–they make it for a reason. No matter what you tell them, the kids will build a nest in the toilet. You will need the kind that dissolves.
  2. Bins, bins, and more bins. Pack in bins. Stackable, packable, fantastic.
  3. When packing to go on a longterm RV adventure, I read you should set out everything you think you’ll need on the trip, and then go through it and pair down again. I can’t remember if I took this advice, or if you really need to pair down two or three times more. We are still overflowing.
  4. Don’t put coffee grounds down the sink. Roger that.
  5. You will never understand how you can have SO FEW clothes and SO MUCH LAUNDRY. All day, every day. I’m tempted to say choose a spot close to the laundry, but really I’d much rather be on the beach and drive to the laundromat every day.
  6. Lastly, don’t underestimate the number of wonderful, generous, good-hearted people left in America. If you’re not convinced, just grab your trailer and come on down, they’re sitting by their campfire next to us.

Well, I think that is it. I better get some shut eye myself. Because if there is one more thing I’ve learned about Rv life it’s that every day is a full one.

36 Days in a Motorhome

I’ve been really bad at documenting our first month in our new home, our motorhome. It’s honestly been a blur. I am a big processor, but I’ve barely been able to process this, either in thought or word, feeling or photo.

But I think–it’s starting to sink in. This is life and this is different. Many days, hard.

I was scrolling through pictures randomly on my phone the other night (bad idea) and I came across photos of me and the girls sitting outside our barn at our last yard sale and the tears just started flowing. Before you could say “motor-home” I was full on crying into a pillow.

How did this happen? What did we do? We thought this was a good idea. It’s not feeling so good right now. 

I miss our home. I miss our room. I miss the girls’ room. I miss dinners at our big farm table and reading my Bible in the wee hours of the morning in the chair in my room, instead of  a cold camping chair, or snuggled in my bed trying not to make a sound or bonk my head on the cabinets inches above me.

I miss a house in general. You don’t have to wear flip-flops when you shower or find quarters to wash and dry your clothes. And you have rooms, multiple rooms to stretch out in, to let the kids read and work and play in.

Yeah, I miss some things these days.

But as I have been lamenting the hard parts of RV-life to my husband and friends lately, the thought has occurred to me and it is this.

Sometime too soon we will be owners of a house again and life will be “normal.”

Now, it is very un-normal. We are homeschooling; something we haven’t done before. We are living in a motorhome; something we haven’t done before. We’ve launched a book, started a ministry and are bouncing around like college students with five kids—all things we haven’t done before.

But we are on an adventure, and on the brink, I think, of something really cool: traveling the United States of America in a motorhome. Something I’ve always dreamed of doing.

And… 

It won’t always be this way. 

Right now that feels like a good thing. But I know ONE day, I am going to look back on this and think, “We did that?! Oh yes we did. How did we EVER do that? And wasn’t that amazing and remember that’s when we met so and so and remember that time when…”

It’s a blip on the screen of the movie of our life—which in turn is a blip on the screen of eternity.

And that makes this matter a whole lot and not very much all at the same strange time.

Because this season  is a gift. A really big gift. Being present in it is one too. And while we have never been this way before, we will also never go this way again.

Anyway, I’m not sure if your hearing me on this because it is difficult for my brain to understand, let alone explain.

So, here we are. We’ve spent 36 nights straight in our RV and tonight is our last.

Well, for a minute. 

We’ll stay in our friends place for a week (thank you Jesus and friends!!) and then spend a few more nights in the RV before heading to a duplex in Tahoe until the end of the year. 

THEN at last, come January, we will pack back up in old faithful (we really need to give her a name) and get on the road to the rest of America.

But as we lay our heads on our pillows tonight, I’m realizing the first leg of our journey is over. It’s one we had anticipated for a while. Our first stay. Our first “adventure.” Our first “home” on the road–the little RV park down the street from our old house where we would come to get ice cream on hot summer days. 

So it’s about time to let go of the chaos I can’t control. The dirty feet, the incessant flies and bees at dinner, the six inches of counter space, the shower shoes, and rolling the laundry wagon back and forth–and start savoring the journey. Because while it kinda feels like this is our “new normal,” I know it won’t be for long. 

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Losses, Gains, and a Good Crisis

Remember that time when you were excited to send your first child to Kindergarten? To take a picture of your chubby-cheeked five-year old standing with a backpack hanging past his knee caps, grinning like the Cheshire cat and standing at your front door? When you imagined the hot tears streaming down your cheeks as you waved to him getting on the bus, or standing at her classroom door?

Remember that time you were excited to send your LAST child to kindergarten? When you  dreamt about all the time you were going to have while your beloved offspring ate at laminated lunch tables and learned their multiplication ones? About the wreaths you were going to make, the bread you were going to bake, and about the life you were going to catch up on?

Yeah. About those. 

Lots of dreams have died this year. And this is yet another one. 

And while we have no doubt lost quite a few things in 2020, I see something we have gained: a time like this. A crisis. An unexpected opportunity. One that has potential to have some unexpected blessings too. 

As we venture into this uncharted territory of schooling at home, maybe we can begin to see it as a gift, whether we like it, love it, or neither. Whether it messes up our plans, or confirms them. 

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination. I am in this with you. I am going to be schooling five children this year.

Lord, help us all.

Most of us were probably not planning on homeschooling our kids this year. We were planning on free time. On working. On normal routines and after-school activities.  But I can’t help but think of all the unforeseen gifts in the things were weren’t planning on. The things that will be grateful for when we cast our glance backwards at the end of 2021. 

Winston Churchill famously said, “never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Moms, we have a crisis before us. And we also have opportunity. We have the chance to rethink how we do things. Why we do things. To ask tough questions of ourselves and others. We have been given the gift of forcibly rearranging our schedules, our plans, our life, and centering it more around home, family, and being teachers. 

No, we’re not fifth grade math teachers by trade, (well most of us aren’t anyway) but we are all teachers. And this year, we get the chance to not only teach them how to wipe the seat and shut the cupboards, but teach them about the world around them. About history and science and stinking common core math. About persevering through difficult things and how to flex when plans change. 

And maybe in these new rhythms there will be more freedom. Freedom to try new things. To let go of perfection. To live in the moment and cherish the small things. Freedom to sleep in. To let our kids wear fairy wings and pajamas while they do math at the breakfast table. Freedom to take a hike in the middle of the day. Freedom to make new memories doing a new thing, something we never imagined.

Friends, it’s not going to be easy. I know that. But may we grab ahold of this once in a lifetime (let’s hope) opportunity that feels a lot like a lemon, and squeeze every last drop of juice we can from it so we can make one refreshing glass of lemonade.

For the betterment of ourselves, for our children, for our world and for the glory of the Kingdom of God.

Reimagining 2020

It has become pretty clear this year is unique. Different. I would even go so far as to say, special. Yes, I think Coronavirus and 2020 are two of those “painful gifts” we hear people, who’ve battled cancer and life-altering situations, talk about with a grace that’s hard to understand. 

Naturally, a box of confetti may not be the first thing that comes to mind as we think of what 2020 has been so far. It certainly has brought a lot of heartache, distress, anxiety and depression upon millions of people across the world. I don’t want to discount that. It has brought us some distress as well.

And although these kinds of gifts don’t come with confetti, distress, heartache and loss can be gifts too. Because it is our emptiness, that precedes our filling. It is in our moments of desperation, when we see our deep need for someone beyond ourselves. Desperation draws us to our knees where Jesus meets us and picks us up to carry us. We move forward not in our own strength, but in His.

This box of confetti was filled with Little Debbie treats my mother-in-law sent me for my birthday, half joking, half serious. We received the box with joy and laughter and eventually consumed its contents, even if I packed on a few pounds doing so. (Thank God for five kids to help ease the burden of eating cake. ;))

And as the empty red party box sat on the shelf in our laundry room, God gave me the idea to make it into a memory box for this year. The year when everyone’s plans were chopped up into little colorful pieces and sent filtering down like confetti. Just kidding. Kind of. 

2020. The year of confetti. The year of adventure. The year of uniqueness. The year of dreams coming true, and others changing. A year of trusting, releasing, surrendering, and CELEBRATING. 

Because honestly, aside from the “painful gifts” I mentioned earlier, this year has also had some sweet treats for me (not just the Little Debbie’s). There have already been some unexpected blessings, some pleasant surprises, and some ways I have seen God move and act for me personally. While there are some things I’d rather have gone without this year, there have also been some really great moments. I don’t want to forget them.

And so here is where I’ll keep them. The memories of 2020. The words of encouragement sent in the mail when I needed them most, journal entries of painful times, birthday cards, a copy of my first book written, bound, and published, and maybe even a roll of toilet paper. If we can spare one.

Only God knows what else I will place in this box over the next six months left in 2020, but I am already excited about looking back on the contents of this box in some year like 2030.

Because what once was a red cardboard box filled with sweets and confetti, is going to be a box filled with something so much sweeter, and so much more worth celebrating: the goodness of God. 

The testimonies of the ways He has shown up starting January 1, 2020, the ways He showed up today, and the ways in which I don’t know yet but eagerly anticipate Him showing up tomorrow. Not because I deserve it, not because I have a false hope or am applying the power of positivity, but because I know He is my loving Father, and a loving father cares for his children. 

It doesn’t mean we won’t see troubles, or hardship, pain or suffering, but it does mean He will take care of us in the midst of the wilderness and do us good in the end. (Deuteronomy 8:15-16). Good thing it’s not over yet. We’ve got a lot to look forward to.

And whenever that day comes, that day when all wrongs will be righted and every tear dried, what a celebration it will be! I’m pretty sure there’ll be some confetti.

Maybe even a Zebra Cake.

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