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.

A Word About Calling

Here I am. My name is my blog. And there is a picture of my face all smiling and sweet, looking like life is perfect and I have all the answers. Who am I?

Let me just get this off my chest, friends, because I have struggled, struggled, struggled through this. Why am I writing? Why do I think anyone would listen to me?

I don’t have to tell you dear reader, that I am nobody special. You already know that, because you have no idea who I am. 🙂 (Or you’re my mom.) But, I am just a woman like you. A mother like you. A sinner like you. One who struggles to put an outfit together and brush my teeth in the morning. One who gets frustrated when my kids can’t find their shoes. I yell at my kids more than I would like, harbor jealousy in the dark places of my heart, and cry over the exponential amount of cellulite I have accumulated over the past five years. I am just your average American stay at home mom.

So what do have to say? What can tell you that you do not already know? The reality is, probably nothing. And yet, here I sit, typing away on a computer like it’s my job: a job that no one is asking me to do.

And then it hit me one day as I read the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. Oddly enough, the word “talents” here is another term for money, but immediately we see the word and read the Webster’s definition: “a special natural ability or aptitude.” And when you read it like that, it gets a little more real. While we have been given money to be good stewards of, we have also been given talents, abilities, gifts.

Honestly, reading through the parable is a little scary. Three servants, two choose to invest wisely, and one gets kicked out. There’s a lot going on in this parable that I don’t have time to unpack here, but it shows more of the “judgement” side of God, one that we aren’t very comfortable with. He gives us things, and expects us to do something with it. It’s not just for safe keeping but investing. Investing in others for the glory of God and the expansion of His Kingdom.

Reading through this passage again I was struck by the fact that I have been given talents from God. We all have. Not one of us can say we haven’t been given anything. Maybe some of us have been given a lot, some of us a little. Either way, we’ve all been given to. And as I read and processed this, I saw myself a lot like the one servant nobody wants to be, the one who was scared to invest the gifts God had given him and buried a hole instead.

God wants me use my “talents” for Him, not cover them up because I am scared. And although no human being was asking me to write, He was. He has a job for me to do. Do I have the guts to take a risk and invest? Or would I bury a hole out of fear instead?

You see, I had been looking at it upside down or outside in. It isn’t about who I am or what I have to say or not say. It isn’t about me at all. It is about Jesus. It was always and only ever about Him. This is His world, His story, and I am His child using His money, His talents, His gifts.

God isn’t calling me to write because I am the world’s best writer or His gift to moms everywhere. He called me to write–so I am. And I figure He knows what He is doing, even if I don’t. I trust that He will be glorified in some way, big or small, by my obedience to Him.

Because I am 100% convinced that when we do what we love, we glorify Him. Even if it’s the beauty of one life lived to Him. One life lived for the glory of God may seem slightly insignificant to us, but to the God who performed individual miracles and radically changed lives one person at a time, there is no greater thing.

So I am not writing because I have all the answers, but because He does. And when He says, “jump!” I’m gonna jump.

Over the past two years I have been slowly learning that “calling” is really pretty simple. It looks a lot like obedience to God. It’s that’s simple and it’s that hard. It’s simple because it isn’t complicated. You just follow God’s lead. You say “yes, Lord” when He tells you the thing it is He wants you to do.

But it’s hard because sometimes He can ask us to do crazy things. Things that don’t make a lot of sense. Things have uncertainty written all over them. Things that are risky. When I say yes to God, I’m not really sure what I’m getting myself into. I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I have to trust that it is there.

Most times, obedience to God requires straight up blind faith. But I’m pretty certain there is no better place to be than standing in obedience to God.

It doesn’t mean that things will come easy, or even that what I thought would come to pass will. But I will no doubt get front row seats to something wonderful–something special: watching God work and seeing Him reap a harvest, whatever that looks like. That’s worth all the obedience in the world to me.

So the question I now ask is…what is God calling you to do? I bet you already know. Now here comes the hard part. Obey. Just do it. Just show up. Invest. Begin. Just say “yes, Lord, here I am, send me.” If we are daring enough to take him at His word, I think it will be the best thing we’ve ever done.

 

Of Risk and Reward: A Year of Life on the Ranch

Last summer, we packed up our three-bedroom suburban life and trucked it out 40 minutes to a sprawling five-bedroom ranch. The latest risk in a string of many we have taken over our thirteen married years.

I’m not sure when the dream began, but my husband and I have often talked of our country-living vision. The simplicity and beauty of country life beckoned to us from the suburbs, although neither of had ever lived it.

Every time I read books like Charlotte’s Webor Mr. Brown’s Farmto my kids, I would imagine ponds and ducks and children running in fields of green and yellow.

Living in the country this past year has definitely held its excitement; barns to explore, woods to walk, and views to see. But I’m not gonna lie here and say it has been all Fern and Wilbur. It’s been an adjustment. Because you can take the girl out of the suburbs, but you can’t take the suburbs out of the girl.

Target and Starbucks are my people. I just can’t help that. Most may not be proud to be from the cookie-cutter community that exists 30 miles outside the city limits, but I am not one of them. The country is wild and quiet. So unlike the noisy pre-planned community I am used to.

The first few months on our dream property were like a honeymoon. We woke up to golden hills topped with a bright orange sun, and were in awe that this was all “ours.” Eyes wide open we would go exploring and adventuring, learning the land and feeling free.

Then we began the first of many renovations. And like my husband is always apt to do, we went big instead of going home. We (I mean he, with a rope and a truck and a couple of saws) tore down our old unstable front porch. We filled three full size dumpsters with demo from the porch and treasures from the barn like old T.V.s, canned food, and carpet.

We replaced 16 windows, created a man cave in the barn, rebuilt our front porch, replaced siding, installed a new front door and built a beautiful brick staircase leading up to it.

Our first family picture on the ranch! Pj’s, bare feet, bellies showing, biker shorts (on me) and all. I actually love it. 🙂
We were so anxious to start hosting events, we signed up perhaps a little too early. Getting ready for a staff Christmas party in early December, there was a day we felt like we were on Extreme Makeover, Home Edition. We had plastic hanging in our hallway for guys patching drywall, someone painting the trim around our front door, guys taking down doors and painting in the man cave, laying brick, drilling on siding, and an interior designer trying to hang pictures in the hallway so our house wouldn’t look so bare. I felt like a bride getting ready for her wedding. I was pulled in a million different directions and asked a thousand questions which needed answers on the spot. And then there were kids. Five of them. I’m so thankful my parents were there through this season making sure nobody stepped on a nail or super-glued their head to the carpet.

We made it through those few crazy weeks and January left us tired and happy for the quiet and peace we finally felt in our new home. But then it got a little too quiet. And then with baseball in the spring, too busy. And it seemed as if we had in fact moved, which of course we did. We knew we were moving to the hills, far from our friends, but we hadn’t felt it until now. We are people people and we never want to lose the connection to our beloved suburban community. But the 40-minute drive was feeling farther than it had before.

Nine months later, spring left us wondering if country living was all it was cracked up to be.

It was a hard place to sit. When you risk it all, you have to be willing for the potential reality that things won’t turn out like you were hoping. That you will in fact, have chanced it all and lost. When we moved, we knew it was a big risk. We knew we didn’t know what it would be like to live in the country having been suburb kids our whole lives.

But we felt (and still do) that sometimes it’s better to try than to wonder, and so we took the chance and bought the farm.

And as I sort through feelings of missing crowds but enjoying space, I’m reminded that any change we face in life is like this: full of pros and full of cons, of risk and reward.
Now we were wrestling with that decision. Was it all we imagined it would be?  Did we want to move back to the land filled with bagels and flowing with lattes? (I love bagels and lattes).

Although we aren’t shutting out the chance that we may someday risk again and move back to the burbs, for now we are staying. Even in the worst of summer’s offerings (heat and dust aplenty) we’ve renewed our determination to stay. We’ve remembered the reasons we moved out here. Fallen in love with a mucky pond, four-wheeler rides and some barn dancing–just us.

There are a lot of hard things about suburban kids going country. But there are also a lot of perks. There’s painted sunrises and sunsets that we can actually see, horses to pet, trails to run and bikes to ride over gravel hills. There’s porch swinging and sipping and some pretty sweet campfires (in the rainy season of course). There’s dreams yet to be dreamed and room to explore.

And as I sort through feelings of missing crowds but enjoying space, I’m reminded that any change we face in life is like this: full of pros and full of cons, of risk and reward. Risking, venturing, change–all these are unsettling things bringing unsettled feelings.

To any decision in life we make, there are perks and there are drawbacks. Advantages and disadvantages, pros and cons. We can never be free from both.

And something I’m learning more recently is that there is risk in taking risk, but there is also risk in not taking it. It’s risky to get married, to have children, to move to a new city or take a new job. But there is also risk in NOT doing these things. In order to save ourselves heartache or loss by staying close and keeping safe, there’s a world out there of things we miss. Things we never knew we would love or people we never meet.

High risk, high reward, my husband likes to say. The risk is that there may not be a reward. But how will we know unless we try? And if we try and fail? Well then, we have learned to be brave. We have learned to live unencumbered by fear of failure, and that in itself is success.

Because like hockey great Wayne Gretzky said, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Me and the ranch man.
So we took a shot and we’re giving it one. We are committed to continuing this country thing, and letting the rewards of peace and quiet seep into our souls. We are taking the good, the bad, and the ugly (a.k.a the tarantula we saw on our front porch) and being extremely grateful for the opportunity we have before us. The opportunity to raise our kids in the great outdoors. The opportunity to live big and love big. To host parties and people and use it for His glory. The opportunity to live beyond our limits of comfort and find new strengths in new seasons.

Bursting My Buttons

Week 25.

I wore a dress today I had been saving. That was a mistake. The buttons are nearly bursting. I should have worn it earlier. It’s a super cute denim shirt dress, and it will only get worn about 2 weeks, if that. It’s a shame to waste a cute maternity dress. Especially when it’s your last pregnancy.

I’ve been saying I want to savor this pregnancy because it is my last. But that is quite a difficult thing to do when TWINS are your FOURTH pregnancy and you have three other active boys to take care of. Savor? Pregnancy? With twins?

After this one, LORD willing and the tubal ligation works, we will be done having children.

This is my last rodeo.

After this pregnancy, I will never again experience heart burn in the middle of the night (hopefully), or wake up to tingly fingers and a full bladder several times at night. I won’t see a basketball protruding through everything I wear. I won’t have problems bending over, and I’ll be able to comfortably wear my wedding rings again.

But I will also never feel a baby move within my body again. I won’t see the flicker or wave of an elbow just beneath the skin of my abdomen. I will never again have the amazing awesome responsibility of growing a life (or two).

So ladies, I am trying. Trying to squeeze my eyelids shut, pause, and make mental note of my last adventure in the most miraculous, mysterious, and fascinating event in the annals of motherhood: pregnancy.

So whether my buttons are bursting from joy or from an enlarged abdomen, may I be grateful and pause to remember this season of my life. For just like everything in life, it will pass. And like that cute maternity dress, it will never come around again.

The bane of a woman’s existence

At times like these it is good to know there are a few certainties in life.

Death, taxes…and cellulite.

Thankfully, no matter what is going on in our lives, our long time companion can always be counted on to show up. She never misses a get-together, nor a stage of life. Whether we are a blushing bride, pregnant with sextuplets, or training for a half-marathon, she will always be there right beside us cheering us on.

Poolside, bedside, on the couch and at the playground, she will stick to us like glue. There is none closer than her. Nor one who knows us more intimately. She is our forever friend…until the day we die.

It sure is good to know.

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