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…

PIKE LAKE ROAD

Or this…

sunset

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.

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At the intersection of life and love…

My son saved a man’s life yesterday.  He arrived home shaken, yet all in one piece, and made his momma cry and then tearfully thank God with the story he told.

As he came home from his often-frustrating job yesterday dressed in his clothes that are so filthy that he may look less than the brilliant man that he is, he told me about how he had approached a four-way stop less than three miles away from home, and saw an elderly man riding a bike approach the same intersection.  The man had waited, in his blue poncho in the rain, for his turn to cross and began pedaling.  About halfway across the busy road, his feet slipped off the pedals and he struggled.  At the same moment, Justin noticed a car approaching from his right whose driver clearly had no intentions of stopping at the sign.  
In milliseconds, my son realized that he was about to witness the death of a man that had reminded him of his well-loved great-grandfather.

This is the moment when you realize, as a mother, that your child has his own path and that path will happen regardless of how much you like it or not.

Because my son drove his big, blue pickup into the intersection in such a way that he would effectively block the road and stop her car before it hit the man.
And he did.
And the woman slammed on her brakes so hard the the cell phone she was using (ahem) flew into the windshield, and she stopped within inches of Justin’s door.  The old man on one side, breathing hard and eyes wide, the woman in her little car on the other, breathing hard and eyes wide.  
“Are you okay?” he asked the old man on his left.
“Yes,” he replied.
“Are you okay?” he asked the woman on his right.
“Yes,” she humbly replied.
And he drove home.

In a world where life is so fragile and not one moment can be taken for granted, I feel frustrated.
Because, you see, my son (one hero on my short list) works at a job, as we all have at some point in our lives, where he is treated as less than he is.  
He will not complain and would be mad at me for even writing these words.  Good thing it’s our little secret, right? 
Whether it’s by people who think they’ve arrived in life and this somehow qualifies them to belittle the lowly employee who services them or a boss who just doesn’t care about his employees as people, we’ve all been treated as less than we are.
We get grouped into levels of worth based on one word.

This one, seemingly innocent word makes me want to grab my family and run for the hills.

Label:  a short word or phrase descriptive of a person, group, intellectual movement, etc.

Seriously, if we, as a culture, were incapable of labeling anything or anyone the world would change. But, as it stands, we group together in classifications and we exclude, and brand people, and judge people, and jump to conclusions about people.  And isn’t it ridiculous?

As if I’m less because of the label or lack of one on, say, my purse.

I unwittingly participated in my own social experiment the other day.  I had dropped three of my people off at a huge venue to watch a Coldplay concert in another city than my own.  It takes about three hours to arrive at a city that Coldplay would be playing to more than just cows and squirrels and the like, so off we went.  
Happy girls, happy momma as I found a nearby shopping complex in which to while away my few hours to myself where I could do whatever it was I felt like doing.

What I felt like doing was changing my clothes.  You see, I am a horribly messy eater and really should factor this into my packing because inevitably I wear lunch.  Today, my comfiest grey skirt looked like it had been comfy for too many days and too many meals as my chicken piccata from lunch had left its mark.  
So sad. Must buy some jeans.  
My iPhone found me this lovely little outdoor mall.  Little did I know that folks with a splotch on their skirt do not shop here.  Especially folks with a splotch on their skirt and no label on their purse.  
And folks who work here must’ve been told not to help people who eat and wear chicken piccata.  Sigh…  I must’ve missed that on the sign when I arrived. 

So, I got myself some clean clothes and some cute (clearance) shoes and changed my look.  I went from comfy and ignored to jeans and heels, and all of a sudden I began to be treated differently.  “Yes, ma’am.  How can I help you, ma’am?”

Hmm….

Can’t tell you how many times in life I’ve been in a social group in which I am classified as the outsider.  Can’t tell you how that feeling frustrates me.  As if our worth is determined by our shoes, or the condition of our yard, or size of our diamond, or hairstyle, or career choice, or age, or gender, or which church we attend–or don’t. The list is endless–political views, car you drive, how many letters follow your name–or don’t.

I’m weary of feeling judged for being myself.
And I’m even more weary of the judgment flung at my children for choosing to be exactly who they were raised to be–individuals!  
But not weary enough to conform.

Being different makes you stronger, but it also opens mouths around you.

I guess people just want to relate.  We group up with folks of a like-mind.  It feels good to have somebody get you, doesn’t it? So I suppose that’s how these little subcultures form.  This is what we think and we call it…”____”.  And now were not sure what to do with you if you don’t think like us.

I’m guilty.  We all are to whatever degree we allow ourselves.  Us and them.  It’s running rampant.  
But, it needs to be evaluated.
Having done some traveling and listening to folks who’ve traveled more than I,  I’ve learned something priceless.  No matter how far away we are from home, people are people and if you peeled the skin off like a banana (like a friend of mine used to say) we are all pretty much the same.  

We all long to be loved and to be seen and to matter.  
That’s it.  It’s the holy grail.  

And it’s our job to care less about the labels we apply than the people unconsciously wearing them.  
So do it.  Listen for it in your words today.  Find the labels you apply to folks and rip those suckers off–fast like a band-aid.  Stop the cycles we’ve begun for our children.   Reach out past your comfort level and make someone feel like they matter.  Put yourself right there in the intersection and brace yourself.  It may just save a life.