nothing but crumbs

As much as I love freedom and the call of the open road, I thrive on routine. Schedules are my friend. Goals and I are besties. Therefore, when we pulled into my in-laws driveway 2 1/2 weeks ago, I was looking forward to having consistent room in our routine to establish our new normal. I’d spent some serious time during the 1,230 mile drive from Idaho to Minnesota really pondering my priorities. It is so easy to say that ______ is important with my mouth, but do my actions prove it? I don’t want to live a hypocritical life. I had to honestly ask if what was most important to me was leading the way in my schedule and routine or if it was fending for scraps of time and attention. To be completely honest a lot of “priorities” were getting nothing but crumbs but were expected to thrive. It was time to turn the boat into the wind and start making headway in the most critical areas.

What were my critical areas?

After some soul-searching, I identified the following areas of personal importance that needed scheduling attention:

  • My relationship with Christ
  • Family read-aloud time
  • Writing time

This is not to say that these three areas are my “top 3” in importance overall (although I could say that my relationship with Christ would certainly qualify). Instead, these are areas that I say are important but often get pushed aside by other things.

What has changed?

I don’t have any shocking secrets or hidden tricks that will wow you. However, I can say that the first step to making a change was simply to identify the changes needed. Secondly, I had to decide how to rearrange my routine. Third, I needed follow through and set a goal.

To start, I decided that despite the fact that I am a night owl, the honest reality was that I needed to put my most important activity at the beginning of my day to ensure it did not get pushed aside. I also needed a reading plan. So for the last 2 1/2 weeks Trent and I have been getting up an hour before the kids need to get up. I begin with my bible reading in bed and Trent goes to the living room for his own quiet time. From there he goes for a run (one of his new routines) and I get ready for the morning. My initial goal was to finish reading the book of Acts (which I’d started a while back and never finished). Last week I completed Acts (exciting end by the way) and now I’ve begun 1 Corinthians.

little-house-in-the-big-woods

For our family read aloud time, we began with a book that we all had an immediate interest in due to our recent visits to Plum Creek, Minnesota and De Smet, South Dakota: Little House in the Big Woods. Then we pushed back the kids’ bedtimes by 30 minutes in order to allow for more “cushion” for reading in the evening between dinner and bed. Lastly, we included grandma and grandpa in on the fun and made it a goal to finish the book before our departure so they could enjoy the entire story with us. We all fell instantly in love with Laura, Mary, Pa and Ma and found that a chapter a night was a “just right” fit for our time slot. Last night we completed the book and everyone voted to continue reading the series together. I feel that having a successful, regular routine established for these past 2 1/2 weeks will really help us continue the momentum moving forward.

Grandma, Grandpa and the rest of us enjoying our evening story together.
Grandma, Grandpa and the rest of us enjoying our evening story together.

Last on my list was writing time. I didn’t have a specific goal (such as to write everyday) because I knew that probably wasn’t realistic for this period of time in my life. However, I did decide that I needed to grant myself the freedom to write for the sake of writing and not “save up” my writing for special times of deep internal processing. In the past I’ve allowed a lot of “white space” to develop on my writing canvas. Unless something profound was stirring me, I kept mostly silent. While this is effective for processing sake, it isn’t realistic for writing sake. While I do have lots of thoughts, not all of them are deep and profound or worth flushing out publicly. I decided I’d rather continue to share those deeper thoughts as God lays them on my heart, but feel free to share our lighthearted adventures in the meantime. Therefore, as you may have noticed in the past few months, my writing will be more frequent, but not always serious or “spiritual” in nature.

What about you? Do you have areas of your life that are important but not necessarily implemented into your routine? Do you struggle in this area as well? I’m saying a prayer for you now as I write this that if there are areas that you want to change, God will give you not only the clarity to identify them, but also the courage and ability to enforce them. Today we hit the road to begin a few weeks of fairly consistent travel from Minnesota to Tennessee. Perhaps you can say a prayer for me as well that these goals that have been developed and practiced will not fall by the wayside in the new changing routine. Thanks.

When a RV fire is fun

Maybe you remember that time I recently stepped outside the RV and was met with the sight of a blazing fire licking the sky from the rooftop of a neighboring motorhome.

I rushed over to assess the situation and offered a consoling hug to the lady dressed in a teal robe who had just exited her flaming fortress. While we stood together in the dark evening, faces illuminated by the glow of her burning rig, all I could do was whisper, “I am so very sorry” over and over to her. It was a crazy, crazy thing to witness and it has been permanently burned into my memory.

Later that evening, after the firetrucks had come and gone and we were tucking our kids back into their beds, I thought to myself, “We need to plan a day to have a RV fire drill.”

Kids going out the exit windowThis week was the week for said drill. If you could have sat with us in the RV while we talked about how to safely exit the RV in the event of a fire, you would have felt the excitement. When we closed all the window shades and told the kids to crawl into their beds and pretend to go to sleep, they were giddy with anticipation. After they each had a turn to exit the escape windows and pretend to be the fire and mimic using the fire extinguisher, I was stifling giggles at how much fun the kids were having. I literally heard our youngest say that he wished we could have a real fire so we could have more fun like this again. Aaaaand that’s when I feared he’d somehow missed the entire point.

RV fire drill

Grocery store surprises

Moving regularly inherently requires a frequent reorientation of basic necessities. If visiting a new grocery store on a regular basis does not sound appealing, I’m in agreement. Rediscovering new store layouts as well as changing brands and prices has its distinct drawbacks. However, it also can be a little like a treasure hunt–mommy style. This week I discovered grass-fed organic yogurt and cashew milk (something not perviously available in my local grocery store) as well as eggs for just $0.77 a dozen. (I decided not to dwell on the fact that I am no longer getting deliveries of fresh farm eggs or raw milk and instead celebrate my new discoveries.)

Also, because our internet speed is not strong enough to stream movies, I had the opportunity to visit the video rental section of the store in preparation for our grandma/mother/daughter “girls movie night”. I was both shocked and saddened when I asked the young curly-haired employee to direct me to “Anne of Green Gables” and was met with a blank stare preceding the question, “Is that like an old movie?” “No, it’s more like a classic,” I replied.

Despite the fact that they lacked a certain quality of movie title selection, I was pleased that I could rent three videos for 7 days for just $1.04!  However, problem number two arose when I realized that they wanted an in-state drivers license to check out the movies. Thankfully, they were willing to work around this since I was visiting family who lived in the area. Phew, crisis averted.

Isn’t this an ever-changing adventure? Who knew the grocery store could be so exciting!

Food for Kidz & food for thought

We’ve now been stationary for over a week and it has been wonderful to settle briefly into a routine before we begin traveling again next week. I anticipate that there will be a continual ebb and flow between consistency and chaos in the months ahead. For now, this is perfect. Thankfully, new opportunities continue to find us. One of the highlights for our family this past week was serving together to package emergency relief food packets for the non-profit organization Food for Kidz.

Food for Kidz

Does helping actually hurt?

The mission of Food for Kidz is to “bring awareness to hunger issues in the world by involving others in the participation of packing a nutritional meal supplement for distribution and also involve them in sustainability building to facilitate change”. I like the heart behind their mission (awareness, involvement, sustainability, change). It struck a chord in a melody that I’ve been replaying in my mind recently.

Before we left Idaho, Trent was reading the book “When Helping Hurts” which has spurred some good discussion relating to the concept of how to help others most effectively. It’s a challenging concept and one that unfortunately we as Americans often unknowingly get wrong. Among the many themes covered in the book, a few common problems with the typical models of service included:

  • We introduce dependency.
  • We step in and offer “solutions” that are not sustainable.
  • We fail to really find out where the true needs are.
  • We neglect to involve those who need help to be a part of the process of restoration.
  • We step in and out too quickly, leaving those we are seeking to bless worse off while we leave feeling good about ourselves.

That said, the Bible clearly states that we are to love our neighbors, feed the poor and to take care of orphans and widows. And as long as there continue to be natural disasters, emergency aid will continue to be necessary. I want to love effectively, but I also don’t want to get so caught up in the “right” way to love that I miss it altogether.

Packaging food with Food for Kidz

Where do we go from here?

Recently, I developed a two-step plan to help me assess and act when appropriate.

  • First, I am actively praying that God will open opportunities for us to serve and show love.
  • Secondly, I am striving to anticipate that prayer being answered and being ready to respond.

Simple right? Turns out God is terribly uncomplicated about matters of love.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. Mark 12:30-31

Food for Kidz food prep

What might that look like in practical terms?

I began to pray this prayer while we were recently driving through Montana. That afternoon we pulled over at a gas station for a potty break and as I got out of the car I saw a young woman laying on her back in the parking lot. I hurried over to see if help was needed. The mother, shaken, explained that her daughter had briefly passed out and had been dealing with sickness but that she didn’t wish for help to be called. I sensed that here was a place where I could show love and I asked if it would be okay for me to pray for her. They said yes. I offered a simple prayer and then realized my children were slowly migrating into the traffic of the parking lot. I departed quickly, saved my children from danger, visited the bathrooms and headed out. It was fast, but it was what was put in my path.

We are each on a path and I have to believe that what is put in front of us is intentional. We simply need to be ready and willing to respond. So simple in concept, yet so challenging to do in reality. My most difficult barrier is often busyness and distraction. It takes clear focus to truly see what God has put in place around me.

measuring food for kidzMost recently what was put in front of us was a chance to participate in packaging emergency food portions to send overseas. My heart could have burst at seeing the excitement that this opportunity stirred up in the hearts of our kids. They loved being actively involved and a necessary part of the team. When the evening started to wind down and it was time to head home, they were truly disappointed that we had to leave. Isn’t that the beauty that we are after? Hearts that ache to serve? Won’t you join me in praying into that desire? I know it’s a prayer that our Heavenly Father longs to fulfill.

What about you? Do you struggle to know how to help others? Have you seen examples of service that failed to meet the mark or been blessed to see truly effective ministry? Leave a comment and let me know, I’d love to hear about it!

how our day ended listening to an armless man play guitar

Remember when I said that visiting the Ingalls Homestead was was one of my favorite days? Well I’d only told you the first 2/3 of that day, here is the rest of the story. . .

Initially, we had intended to leave De Smet, SD on Saturday afternoon after a few hours on the homestead and head on to our Minnesota destination (Trent’s hometown) to visit his family for a few weeks.  Once we decided to stay for one more night, we were faced with an open evening as well as dinner decisions. Our fridge was getting sparse so we figured we needed to find a grocery store or go to a restaurant. In the end we didn’t do either of those options. Instead, we discovered that a Catholic church located on the other side of the park where we were staying was having a free-will offering dinner–excellent. Following this dinner a free concert was planned–bonus. The concert performer was a man named Tony Melendez who happens to play the guitar with his feet because he was born without arms. No arms? Plays the guitar? Loves Jesus? We’re in!

Turns out that the Catholic church knows how to put on a meal. We filled our bellies to overflowing (thanks to the lady who kept coming around and practically forcing us to take 2nd and 3rd helpings of dessert because no one wanted leftovers). Afterwards, we moved upstairs and sat down for a feast of the ears. Tony not only has a beautiful voice and a talent for the guitar, but he also has a beautiful story of God’s pursuit for his heart how God is using him just. as. he. is. I captured about a half a minute of one of his songs on video. Click here to see Tony in action.

That evening, I found myself overwhelmed by the way God provided not only for our needs but for our wants as well. Just that morning I had prayed and asked the Lord to help me have wisdom on how to encourage one of my children who was struggling with self-confidence. What better teacher could be provided than someone like Tony who has been willing to overcome his fears and boldly use what God has given him to serve and encourage others?

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20

why visiting the Ingalls Homestead is now a favorite memory

Last Saturday was a perfect day. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it was one of my favorite days.

We awoke at our leisure and took our time moving through our morning routines. Outside the RV new views greeted us through our tinted windows–this time a city park complete with playground equipment anxiously awaiting our children’s giggles and grins. After packing our lunches we piled into the van and took the short drive to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead in the town of De Smet, SD (which was the setting of her books By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years and The First Four Years). We arrived around noon and began exploring the quarter section of land which is privately owned and operated as a hands-on living history experience.

sod homeStepping into a sod house and shanty we were able to learn about the differences in how or why these two homes were built as well as the pros and cons of each.

driving the horses

From there the kids took turns driving a covered wagon and visiting a one-room school house where a teacher gave us a feel for a some of the history and examples of lessons and activities.

bad boy in class
Trent demonstrating how children might be disciplined for bad behavior

one-room-schoolhouse

Afterward, the kids each took turns riding a horse or pony before seeing a demonstration of how hay was twisted into sticks for fuel to burn (as told in The Long Winter).

pony ride on the ingalls homestead

Next, the kids were able to use a hand-held wheat grinder to grind wheat into flour, shell an ear of corn with an old fashioned corn sheller and use fabric to turn their corn husk into a corn cob doll (just like Laura once had).

corn-cob-doll
making a corn cob doll

cob-doll-book

A homemade jumprope made from bailing twine was constructed by each child using a hand crank machine used at the end of the 20th century.

making a homemade jump rope
making a homemade jump rope

Need to go potty? An outhouse with side-by-side seats is available. One of my children decided to make use of this opportunity and said the door was almost fully closed when latched. No sooner had he sat down, when visitors came by to see the authentic little john. “Occupied!” he hollered hoping no one would be able to see through the crack in the door.

Ingalls Homestead washing clothes

Nearby a washboard, rinse station, and wringer awaited my children’s curiosity and soon they were practicing washing hand towels and hanging them to dry on the line. After they had perfected their technique, Hunter asked if he could wash is own shirt. “Why not?” I responded. Soon, all three boys were grinning, shirtless and elbow-deep in wash water.

Once their clothing was flapping in the breeze on the clothes line they discovered the water pump. This provided more timeless entertainment and gayety.

Ingalls Homestead Water Pump fun

We had intended to leave by mid-afternoon however, around wash time we realized that the fun had only just begun and decided to cancel our travel plans for the day and just be.

ingalls homestead water pump

It was at that moment that the day became my favorite. A perfect combination of adventure, new experiences, learning, curiosity and fun minus a rushed schedule. This was when I first tasted the freedom of this new lifestyle. Granted, we always have the power to take control of our day but how often do we let our day control us? On September 10th we controlled our schedule and I’ll remember the image of my kids pumping water while Trent and Hunter laid on the grass looking at the clouds for a long time to come.

*Affiliate links were used for the Little House books on Amazon.

Montana, Mt. Rushmore & a mannequin in the outhouse

beginning our adventureIf the last 10 days were a dinner, than we have been dinning at an all-you-can-eat buffet, in fast forward. Its been amazing and exhausting.

We began our journey with a brief visit with family and friends in the Coeur d’Alene area. Parking our RV in the driveway of hospitable friends, we soaked up moments and meals with many people we love but have not seen much of since our move to Kamiah a year and a half ago.

boondocking at cabelasOn Labor Day we set out on the open road headed east traveling through Montana. Our first official public boondocking experience left me shocked and amazed. The Cabela’s parking lot in Billings had dog kennels, horse corrals and even a dumping station (a place where we could empty our black and grey tanks)! Waking up in the same bed in a new state and realizing that this was our new life was both surreal and exciting.

Custer State ParkFor the next three days we parked ourselves in the Black Hills of South Dakota next to some family that had come to enjoy a short camping trip with us. As a child, my husband often traveled to the Black Hills for family vacations. For him this stay was a bit nostalgic, for the rest of us it was excitingly new. We attended a ceremonial night blast at the Crazy Horse memorial, drove through Custer State Park, visited Jewel Cave National Monument and attended the night ceremony at Mount Rushmore National Monument. I highlighted details from each of these locations in the photos on my Instagram account so if you click through any of the links above you can be directed to those photos and details with ease.

sod homeAfter our whirlwind visit in the Black Hills, we set out once again in an easterly direction stopping briefly in Philip, South Dakota. Here Ashlyn and I dressed up in costume and our family traversed across the prairie visiting one of the last remaining sod houses in the state.

 

prairie girlsPrairie dogs peered out of their holes in the ground as the wind whipped at our dresses and bonnets. We stood amazed that settlers were able to withstand the harsh conditions of the barren land that stood before us. Between blizzards, floods, fires and pestilence, it seemed that all was against their success. Most surprising of all however was the mannequin sitting in the outhouse with his pants pulled down, he gave us a scare and a fit of giggles that we will not soon forget!

the beautiful intermission

final river runWe are now in countdown mode as our launch date approaches this coming week. The last _____ occur frequently. Today the kids swam in the pool for what might be the last time. Yesterday Hunter went to the river with a friend for perhaps the last time. Last week we floated the river for the last time. While there is sadness at the thinning time, there is also a thick sense of urgency pushing us forward in the direction that has been pulling on our heartstrings since we first began heading down this unusual path.

I watch online (via a private Facebook group called Fulltime Families) as others who have ventured out into the similar unknown sell their home and virtually jump directly into their RV while it is pulling out of the driveway. The speed at which they move from “sold” to “road” is often breakneck. In contract, it feels as though our process of leaving has been teasingly slow. Our home has now been sold for over a year and a half. We have been living in our RV for 4 months within walking distance of our storage unit allowing us to frequently make changes to what we wish to bring with. We’ve been essentially playing house and flirting with the idea of grown-up traveling.

Now as the days-to-departure dip below 4, we are getting the excited jitters of impending adventure. Ironically, the preparation that would typically accompany a large-scale travel itinerary is unnecessary. We are already packed. It’s so weird. I honestly keep getting confused by this simple reality.

This does not mean we haven’t had things to do. We have. Mail is now being forwarded to my sweet in-laws who have agreed to send it on to us as needed. Our travel plans for the next few months are being mapped out. Dental appointments are being squeezed into the last remaining hours. Our truck is in the shop getting a necessary repair before it can pull the RV (praying it is ready by our launch date). Our library loan number is quickly dropping as we push to finish the last few books we are borrowing (Number the Stars is almost complete). And just today the “check engine” light began flashing in our van. Clearly we have some remaining loose ends to tie up.

It is in these final days that I am reminded of the truth that found me last March when we were days away from moving from Athol to Kamiah:

It’s unfortunate, but often we reserve sharing the feelings hidden in the deep recesses of our hearts for times of departure. Sometimes we are better at living out intentional goodbyes than we are at living out our in-between days. …It reminded me that having a life isn’t nearly as significant as impacting one. Making an impact often requires making each moment count. After all, the moment, is the only place we really have impact anyway.

Local NewspaperThese last moments are precious and fleeting. We will cling to them so they do not slip needlessly away. I had the fun opportunity to write an article in our local paper this week about our upcoming adventure and the blessing we have received by living here for the past year and a half. Friends that we have made here have impacted us. Lessons we have learned here have changed us. We are better because of the in-between time that we had between our “sold” and “road”. It was indeed a beautiful, unexpected intermission. As we soon pull forward, we will do so with wonderful memories staring back at us in the rearview mirror.

RV catches on fire

If there is one thing I have learned to count on while living in an RV it is that no two days are ever the same.

Life around us is always introducing new experiences. Last night it was a RV that caught on fire.

Thankfully, it happened before the couple went to bed for the night.

Thankfully, they (and their dog) got out safely.

Thankfully, the fire didn’t spread to the neighboring RV (which got moved as soon as possible) or the nearby trees.

Thankfully, we have a close and responsive fire department.

RV catches on fire

However, no number of thankful things can erase the fact that this was a devastating situation for the owners of the motor home.

It is believed that there was some sort of electrical malfunction in the back of the diesel pushing rig. The owners were watching TV and felt a strange shaking almost like their dryer was running. Moments later there was a popping sound and a fire had started. They were able to escape with their little dog and the clothing on their backs.

RV after the fire
After the fire

You can be sure we will be reviewing our fire safety routines after this sad situation.

How to install a Maxxfan deluxe in your RV

 

Even though we purchased a new RV (click here for our video tour), there are still modifications we would like to do to make it even better.  We are upgrading the battery pack and installing an inverter so we can dry camp longer, adding a washer/dryer, beefing up the master bedroom closet, and upgrading the ventilation system. Today I’ll walk you through the changes we made with the ventilation system.

Why we decided to install a fan

Our Coachmen Brookstone 395RL RV came with a passive vent in the loft area. A passive vent is basically a screened hole in the roof that allows heat to escape. We wanted a vent/fan system that would move air in or out depending on our preference. After researching the options we choose to install a Maxxfan deluxe because it moves more air than the leading competitors and there’s a built-in rain cover so we can operate it while its raining (other fans require a separate rain cover to allow simultaneous operation).

Cute little helpers

The Maxxfan install process

I videoed the process of installing our fan in order to show you some of the steps that I felt were missing from some of the other videos I found online (such as how to find and connect to the 12v electrical system). I hope you will find it helpful if you decide to take on a similar project. I invite you to watch the video and if you have any questions feel free to post them here or on YouTube and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Note: At the beginning of the Maxxfan install video I talk about a few verses in Proverbs that encourage me. I am not a proponent of the prosperity gospel. I’m not saying that if you give, you will be wealthy monetarily. Giving is simply a response to what has already been given so abundantly to us. Even if you don’t feel rich or can barely make ends meet each month, look at your life through the lens of someone living on a few dollars a day. Its pretty easy to see how everyone living in a 1st world country can say they are “rich”.

Our thoughts on our fan now that we have used it

We have been using our Maxxfan for over a month now and have been completely pleased with the amount of air that we are able to move through our RV because of this one change. At this point in the year we are using it mostly at night to pull the cool evening air into the RV while we sleep and it has been highly effective. We have also found that it is very quiet (especially compared to the fan in our bathroom vent). This is appreciated especially given its proximity to two of our children who sleep in the loft where it was installed.

*There are affiliate links in this post.