Recalculating Route

Alison, the passenger

Alison, the passenger

It’s true.  I’ve been known to get a little anxiety about being in high-stress situations in a vehicle — these may include bad winter roads, high traffic, or unknown places which is sad because I have also driven lots of places on my own, far more than I ever dreamed I would!

Traveling with my family on my sweet man’s business trips and setting up in various cities with a determination to take my children to see the sights while he conducted meetings, tends to force a girl out of her comfort zone.  When we first started road-tripping as a family, I earned my navigational chops with a rare item — you may have heard of it?  It’s called a paper map.  Eventually, we progressed to a GPS that suctioned to the windshield.  One of those babies guided me, driving on my own with my children in the backseat) through downtown Washington DC (my most challenging driving to date).  I once drove a bit on the wrong side of the road in Australia.  I have navigated my husband through situations so dicey we would never want to repeat them.  In those moments, when tensions run high, I promise, it helps everything when you love your navigator — and he, you.

Ironically, now we live in a place where we are literally the farthest location in the continental US from an interstate highway.  Where we live, two lane roads are what we’ve got, and every route will most likely include dirt-road driving.  With some of the highest snowfall in the country, winter-road-driving is an every day occurrence half of the year.  Might as well settle into it.

Because though the weather might be frightening, it also provides views like this…


Or this…


But there are still days.  There are still times when my stomach is in my throat.  When I have to release my grip from the passenger door.  When I have to tell myself that tears won’t help the zero visibility and give myself a pep talk something like…”Chin up, buttercup!  Just get home.”  Or maybe, “Please, Jesus just take the wheel!”  Haha.

When I look back at the path we have chosen as a family, I see it like those big cities, foreign countries, and unfamiliar roads.  There have been so many that were overwhelming, so many that felt upside-down and backwards, and so many that were so beautiful, they took my breath away.

Around the world, you find a couple different kinds of folks.  You find those that are content to stay put, and those that need to see more than the world around them.  Everywhere we’ve been, we find people who have always been in their hometown and have never ventured out.  And then you find people like we’ve been with an insatiable desire to have our worlds expanded.  I think each has a hard time imagining how the other feels.

Once upon a time, we were doing the thing.  We were living in a neighborhood and driving a minivan and we had a dog and a cat and a boy and two girls.  My husband worked long hours, and I did from home as well.  We went to a church and were working our way up the *life ladders,* whether social, church or corporate. Our visions for our future and our family looked much like everyone else’s.  We had a 401K because everyone did.  We invested more than we had into our home because we were told it was a sound investment.

We made most decisions based on how it would be perceived rather than what was authentic to who we were.

And then, one day, we were told that we were traveling too much and our kids were missing too much school.  An awareness began.  A feeling of unrest took root.  When it was time to send my little precious people out to a freezing cold bus stop and send them to a movie day at school with their pillows and a stuffed animal, I kept them home and we watched the same movie snuggled in momma’s bed, and I realized there might be a different way.  I began to research and it was within a few weeks that we quit school and our precious little people inspired a new path for our family — at home.  We understood (though we had no idea the depth) that we would be different.  That our children would be judged and stared at and commented upon.  But we were willing to pay that price.

That price affected us greatly.  We endured insults and comments and judgments.  But we also road-tripped 48 states and visited several countries.  We also got as close as a family can get, and beautifully, that bond endures.  My children are brilliant (I wish I could take the credit but I can’t) because they had space and time to learn and grow and develop on their own.  And even because of the comments and insults and judgments.

This first route change began a series of route recalculations that we could have never seen coming.  Within a few years, we would be called as a family to buck all of the systems and lay down every one of our desires to be normal and keep up with those darn Joneses.  Each time we got called out of something, we lost friends and areas of community, and each time we gained vast perspective and measures of freedom.

I heard a song recently called Different.  In it, the writer says he longs to be different.  To take the road less traveled, so to speak.  I heard those words and I wondered if he meant it.  We thought that once.  We told God we would be willing to do anything He asked us to.  We told Him we would lay it ALL down.  He listened.  He put one challenge, one obstacle course after another in front of us, and asked if we meant it.  Each time, we felt His smile and His hand guiding our every move.  But each time we had to be willing to lose to GAIN.  Perhaps the hardest part was letting go of what folks would think, but each time got easier and those voices faded into the distance.

It’s like putting a destination into your map app and seeing the shortest, easiest route and instead choosing the route with tolls and bridges and dirt roads and maybe even a ferry ride –through a blizzard.

The harder path changes you.  It has to because the challenges make you dig into your grit, lean heavily into trusting something bigger than yourself even when the way is unclear, yet provides you with views and stories of which you’ve never dreamed!

Our best stories from our 13,000 mile family RV trip 8 years ago are the ones that got us to impossible moments where we reached the end of the road and our own capabilities.  Only miracles could fix the pickles in which we found ourselves.

And miracles abounded.

So here’s a question for you: let’s say you were to begin a road trip of that magnitude today with your family.  Would you prefer to travel in an ancient, untested RV that got 5 miles to the gallon, beginning with $600 in your bank account with winter on your heels, OR would you pick the million dollar motorhome with all the comforts possible, unlimited funds, guaranteed safety, and perfect summer weather?  I’m asking myself right this minute, and I will still say that I honestly don’t know.  I did the first one and guys, it was HARD! And scary! And pushed me to my limits as a person, wife, and mother.  Yet, I GREW!  I left my home convinced that the place on which we had a huge mortgage was the only home I had ever known and I could never — would never — leave it.  I came home from that trip having seen things that made me ready to shuck off anything and everything and go anywhere God asked me to go.  I let go of all of the things I thought were important and was prepared for anything.  In each *impossible* situation, my fingers were pried off of my security, one by one,  and I was asked to trust in a whole new way.  By the time we pulled in to palm tree-lined campground pads next to Prevosts in our Clampett-mobile a couple dozen times, we had decided that our image was something to let go of!

But friends, our dreams changed! Our scope, our perspective, our very vision grew!!  We saw our box and leaped out!!! Our lives would turn upside down, and we would be called to *different* in a way we could have never imagined in a million years.

We sit in awe these days — awe at what God did with our dreams when we set them at His feet.

He took us through storms to train us to lean in and listen through the wind and thunder for the route to be recalculated.

He drove us through deserts so we would not only know what dry felt like, but abundance when we saw it.

He took us on roads so winding that we couldn’t even see the road ahead until we popped out on top of a mountain and had our breath stolen by the view.

I say it often — you can’t surrender a little bit.  Surrender to something bigger than you requires every little morsel.  But when the road you’re on has signs that feel like STOP and DEAD END, it’s most likely that surrendering the route to the Navigator Who adores you, Who can see the view from every direction, will absolutely change your life.

And you wouldn’t go back for ANYTHING.


That Kind of Woman…

I could hardly walk.  And when I did, it looked as if I had issues.  I almost wept at the sight of stairs.  All because of a day of fun.  See, for my birthday some months back I received a present.  A two-wheeled present that reopened a door for this 40 year old and hearkened back to yesteryear when I was but a 12 year old in the peak of my awkward stage.

Once upon that time, we had visited some friends up in Cheboygan, Michigan and they had a little dirt bike that they let me ride while I was there.  To this sheltered pubescent, it provided a new way for me to explore the woods I loved.  In that time of my life, I pretty much lived in the woods behind my house–not like Tarzan or anything–but our five acres and beyond was my escape from the inside world at my house which was not exactly a utopia.  I would get home from school and quickly change my clothes and either hike or cross-country ski or go to my tree fort.  Anything to get out.

My dad got a huge kick out of me riding that little dirt bike and in my heart I will thank him forever for promptly hiring someone to build me a dirt bike of my own.  In the meantime, he somehow got the guy building it to let me use a dirt bike.  A little Honda XR-80.   I have pictures of goofy little bespectacled me on my bike, and wouldn’t you just love to see that?  No.  Just no.

My own dirt bike never did come to fruition.  And at some point a couple years later, I had to give the guy his back.  My dad was not really the poster father of follow-through.  But in the meantime, my dirt bike and I had adventures.  I found trails all over my neighborhood and found a friend with a dirt bike and we rode every single day.   Most likely drove my neighbors batty.

Fast-forward 27 years or so…my husband found me almost the exact bike.  Seriously, what a guy.  Though it is super fun, it doesn’t love soft sand on the trails as much my boys’ ATV’s do.


So this year, for my 40th birthday, I got a new bike.


Now this…THIS bike can handle about anything.  It took us several months to make time to go riding, but last week, on a perfect fall day, we made it happen.  We drove about 90 minutes to a trail system and played all afternoon.

And that’s why I could hardly walk.  My thigh muscles haven’t been that sore since I rode waves on a Sea-Doo years back.  It probably didn’t help that I rode like a crazy woman at crazy speeds.  I don’t know what gets into me!  It also didn’t help that I’m not 12 anymore.

Three days later, we had no plans, the sun was shining, and what did we do?  Loaded the bikes up again.

Hair of the dog?  Glutton for punishment?

Not sure which, but I’ll tell you, I sure am paying for it today!

But, I need to tell you something I am convinced of after all of that riding.

Every woman needs a dirt bike.

I’m not kidding.  The whole time I was riding, I was writing this blog in my mind.  Well, when I wasn’t belly laughing for the sheer joy of it or picking bugs out of my lipgloss.  Why do women need dirt bikes, you ask?  Because rarely do we just play.  Even more rarely do we let ourselves play in the dirt.  My family laughed out loud at me when I took my helmet off and revealed a face with dirt embedded in my laugh lines around my mouth.  I kissed my husband with brown, dirt-covered lips and he loved it.  I cannot tell you the last time I had so much fun.  Just out-and-out, carefree, dirt-covered fun.  I can hardly wait to go again.

And moms, your kids need dirt bikes, too.  I mean it.  They need to get outside and smell what fall smells like mixed with exhaust (probably the best smell in the world right after a baby’s breath).  They need to put the remote control and the controllers down and learn how to use a clutch and to shift gears.  They need to come home with dirt under their nails and all over their face.  It’s healthy and fun!

It made me think about the different kinds of women we are, and sadly, the kinds of women we don’t often let ourselves be.  We get stuck in patterns and ruts, and fall into the temptation of molding ourselves into images someone else made up for us to be, and then mentally self-flagellating when we somehow don’t fit well into that image.

I love getting dressed up.  Whether it’s going on a hot date with my husband or getting my makeup done for a wedding.  I love to feel put-together with a great pair of heels.  I’m that kind of woman.

I love falling asleep on the couch and having my husband carry me to bed.  It must be the little girl in me that longs to be taken care of and cherished.  I’m just that kind of woman.

I love putting a meal on the table that nourishes my family.  I love working on it all day until my feet hurt, but knowing that their bellies are full, their soul is somehow comforted and they are content.  It makes me feel like I provided something important.  I’m that kind of woman, too.

I love making music.  I could sit at my piano for hours on end and just get lost in the beauty of a song.  I am definitely that kind of woman.

I love being a wife.  I love all that that entails.  I love feeling like I am a good wife, and I know what that means to me.  We all have our own definitions for that, but when I have succeeded in my mind, I really am satisfied to be that kind of woman.

I love, love, love being a momma.  I love when my kids need me and when they really talk to me and when they say something that makes me feel like I did it.  Like I did what I set out to do 22 years ago and became the kind of momma of which I had only dreamed.  I absolutely love being that kind of woman.

And, I love flying a little recklessly along a 40 mile trail of dirty dirt with sand crunching in my teeth, my hair an absolute mess under my storm trooper helmet, belly laughing at the bumps that made me airborne with muscles so sore I can hardly stand when I’m done.  I’m also that kind of woman.

And all of that deserves to be celebrated.  That shape of me is what makes me, me!  The things you love, the things you do well, the things you fail at–they make you the woman you are.  And chances are, if I look at you, I’m going to be amazed at where you came from and how you got to where you are.  And it’s more than a little likely that I might be a little jealous of your talent and your gifts.

So, I wish we could celebrate each other instead of comparing and judging and feeling either less or more than each other just because we have differences.

I really would like to be that kind of woman.  Wouldn’t you?