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.


Of the Herculean Sort

I have some people I love dearly in absolute crisis at this moment.  My texting thumbs are screaming in pain, but also in proof that I have their backs no matter what.  Each of these women are going through situations the likes of which could make up the stuff of best-sellers.  Seriously, we’re talking about folks going through heartbreak that is monumental.  They’ve all been betrayed in the worst kinds of ways, and my heart breaks with theirs.

As I look at each, I am wowed by their exquisite beauty and strength even through the worst.  These women are made of the toughest stuff, and I swear I can see their emotional and spiritual muscles forming before my very eyes.  There are things they have experienced in the last year that no one should have to survive, and I can promise there were moments that they thought they couldn’t — but they have.  They’ve not only survived, but they have turned positively Herculean.

Beautiful brutes, all. Don’t even mess with them now.  :o)

I know how it feels on the flip-side.  I hated my extreme growth period.  Hated it.  But, wow –I earned the crap out of those spiritual and emotional muscles!!

I have these bum arms.  Well, especially my right arm.  It’s been giving me grief since I was a teenager; not sure if it was the car accident or the dog bite, but something hasn’t been right.  In my early thirties, I was told I’d never regain feeling in my fingers.  Through much massage therapy, I do indeed, have feeling.  I also have really bad spells with lots of debilitating nerve pain, swelling, and numbness.  It gets worse the more I use it which is kind of a big bummer since it’s my right hand and all.  But, life goes on.  My family helps pick up slack for me when I’m in a rough spell, and I really vacillate between the *screw the pain, I have stuff to do* mode and trying to let it rest and heal.  This last year has been the worst with it, by far.

I have been also dealing with some, ahem, later-in-life-female-stuff.  This has caused some weight gain and screwed with my metabolism.  In an effort to get that revved up a bit, I’ve been doing this neat metabolism-boosting workout program.  Pretty stinking proud of myself!  Day one, the agenda included about 50 push-ups.  I almost laughed out loud at the absurdity of these arms doing ONE push-up — let alone 50.  I used to be pretty great at them a few years ago.  Wait.  Maybe that was a couple decades ago — oh well, who cares how long ago! I was, okay?  But when workout guy told me to do some push-ups, I was committed to the process and I just got down on my mat and did the stupid things.

And I kept going.  I was doing push-ups!!!

The next workout, with the sorest pecs of my life, I did more.  And I added some fancy, scoopy moves to my push-ups.   My arms did not rebel!  They maintained their position.  No better, but no worse.

Man, I’m stronger than I thought!

There were some moments on some epic hikes we did last summer where I found myself waaayyyy stronger than I thought possible.  Something about being out in the middle of absolutely nowhere with no help available and camp on the other side of a mountain and maybe even with a fever in the rain with eight more miles to go until you get help, makes you dig deep and find some deeply buried something that you didn’t know you owned.

There are moments in life were you are 110% convinced that you just can’t — but somehow, you can and you do!

Last fall, I brought a dear friend of mine on too long of a hike.  She didn’t feel well to begin with, and she hadn’t conditioned with crazy, stupid hikes like I had all summer.  We went way too many miles up and down mountains (she’s a flat-lander, geographically), and in order to get to the car at the end of the loooooong day’s hike, we had to literally climb a mountain.  At the top was going to be the view of a lifetime.  I knew this.  At the top, we would finally get to the car and a drink and a snack, and be done walking.  But first, we had to hike some serious switchbacks.  Looking back, I’m surprised she still loves me at all.  The last 15 minutes were rough.  She just looked at me and I think she was pretty sure she couldn’t go any further.  I decided to give her some visual goals.  I would walk ahead to a tree and stop and turn to her and ask her to just make it to me.  She did.  She would stop when she got to me, and breathe, and I would go on ahead and do it again.  This is how she made it victoriously to the top.  Once there, she took an epic picture with her arm showing her muscles as she overlooked a mountain range.  She looked weary and a little glisten-y, but she looked absolutely beautiful and positively Herculean.


It reminds me of a verse about finding strength.  “I look to the hills; where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth.”

He put it in us, friends.  He gives us just what we need when we need it.  Like manna-food from the sky that comes out of nowhere, He gives us strength and courage and wherewithal that we would’ve sworn we didn’t have.  Just when we’re ready to call it and not only throw in the towel but douse it and burn it, we get some muscles out of nowhere.

We might end up all glisten-y and not smell the prettiest from the fight, but you cannot PEEL that victorious look off our face or SCRAPE that smile off or DAMPEN the light in our eyes.  If you’re fighting for all of your worth, look to some hills.  If the hills seem too big, look to the next tree and put that shoe in front of the other one and just step.  You’re going to love your new muscles and the view from the top.  I absolutely promise.