if you don’t like your view, just wait a day or two

I’ve visited places where the locals say, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes.” In other words, if you can be a little bit patient, change is sure to come. I’ve been thinking about this concept of frequent change as it has a strong application to our lives right now.

We are winding down toward Tennessee in a rather quick fashion hoping to meet the fall colors in the Smokey Mountains sometime in mid-October. Currently, we are in St. Louis, Missouri. The last two weeks have seen the bulk of our forward movement–every few days moving another few hundred miles.

Making decisions about where we will park the RV while in-route has been interesting. While the Internet often has a wealth of information to offer, (spoiler alert) it’s not always accurate. A few days ago we were parked in New Salem, IL as the only RV in a cul-de-sac type row surrounded by trees and quiet beauty. While we didn’t have an electric hookup, we were close enough to connect to water and the $10/night price was just right.

Upon arriving to the St. Louis RV park we’d planned to stay in, we discovered that Google had neglected to mention that they were closed for the season. A quick internet search and a few phone calls later, we decided to stay at the only place we could find with full-hookups that wasn’t in the $50/night range. Plus the online reviews stated things like, “The new owners are really great” “So clean and peaceful. . . we will make this a yearly tradition” “Safe, clean and family friendly” and “Very clean and close to town” so we entered the address into our phones and off we went to Trail’s End.

google

Now let me preface all that I am about to say with this: I am not an RV park snob. As long as we feel safe, I have no problem staying in ‘cheep’ establishments in order to save some money. However, based on the nightly price and many 5 star reviews, I honestly had a different expectation set in my mind than what I saw when we pulled into Trail’s End RV park. “Oh my” is all that came out of my mouth. Someone was clearly tickling the online reviews for this place.

trails-end

Thankfully, my husband is becoming a master at backing into tight spaces because there was no room for error. I was hardly much help in directing him because the neighbor lady had my full attention. She was yelling and shouting at her kids and the closest nearby adults. I am pretty sure she was yelling at me at one point in which I simply responded, “I don’t work here.” Despite my husbands fantastic rear navigation, the sites are so short that there is hardly any room to park our car and truck without jutting out into the circular dive area of the park. This should be fine provided no one needs to drive by pulling anything long while needing to turn. . . Once we were situated, I began to open up the 5th wheel by extending the slideouts. At first we were a little concerned if we would have room to do this without hitting our truck which was wedged between our RV and the next one over, but all was fine. However, the weather was pretty warm so I decided to extend our awning to provide some shade. Oh, there’s the neighbor’s side right there. . . never mind about the awning. We also step carefully as we walk to our vehicles (which are parked conveniently close) as to not trip over our neighbor’s sewer hose.

Tonight it became apparent that there was some sort of motor raceway located nearby as a sound like that of a swarm of bees swept over the campground ebbing and flowing throughout the evening. Trent and I keep exchanging looks and teasing comments. Its comical especially given the stark contrast to our little New Salem spot just a few nights ago.

trails-end2
Notice the sewer hose?

As I lay in bed with the unique hum of engines revving outside my window, I am reminded that we always have something to be thankful for. Here I have electricity, which means I can freely run my washing machine as well as the air conditioning and microwave (all at the same time if desired) without overloading our batteries or generator. Here it is still $20/night cheaper than the other options in the area that offer full hookups. Here there is no hurricane hurling toward us with powerful destructive intent. Here is only “here” for a little longer and then we will shake the dust of this place off our feet and march forward to something new. In our family, “if you don’t like your view, just wait a day or two.”

getting to know Abe

“Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.” ~Abraham Lincoln

You can’t even cross into the border of Illinois without becoming immediately aware that Lincoln is a pretty big deal here. “Land of Lincoln” is proudly declared from every license plate, while cities and streets claim his name and murals of his liking adorn the side of buildings. As Idahoans I must confess that our knowledge of Abe was sparse at best briefly bolstered by the fact that we had a recent reintroduction in South Dakota upon seeing his likeness carved into Mount Rushmore. We are no longer ignorant. Our hearts and minds are now bursting with a love and deep respect for this man who shouldered more in his lifetime than most can ever imagine.

“The promise being made, must be kept.” ~Abraham Lincoln

newsalem

Our visit began in New Salem, Illinois at the state historic site where we strolled the streets of the recreated 1830’s town that Lincoln lived in as a young adult. It was here that we discovered how lye is made, saw the kind of boat Lincoln floated down the Mississippi River in and stood in front of the store he once owned. It was also here that we learned of several early failures that he experienced such as lost elections and failed businesses. I love living examples of perseverance. The peaceful atmosphere as we meandered the streets allowed our minds to wander and imagine what it would have been like to live in that time. I was struck by the fact that women routinely gave birth to 10-12 children and most commonly died of childbirth, infection from a fireplace burn or fatigue (in that order). It was also not uncommon for those who lived outside of town to go years without seeing another woman. How much I take for granted in this time of information, travel and communication.

“To be fruitful in invention, it is indispensable to have a habit of observation and reflection.” ~Abraham Lincoln

lincolnsstore

The next day we drove into Springfield where the kids earned their Jr. Ranger badges as we toured the home that Abe and Mary Lincoln lived in before Abe was elected president.

springfieldhouse

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
~Abraham Lincoln

The decor replicated what it looked like in 1840’s thanks to photographs that had been taken and many pieces of furniture were originals. I was amused by the whimsical wallpaper and astonished at the ornate carpets found throughout the home considering the muddy streets that would have been right outside their front door. One story our tour guide told that I especially loved was that of a eleven-year-old girl named Grace Bedell who wrote Mr. Lincoln suggesting that he grow a beard. He took her advice and later met Grace in person and asked how she liked his new look.

lincolnsbedroom

I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. ~Abraham Lincoln

That afternoon we drove to the site of his tomb where we were able to walk around inside and see the place where he was buried next to his wife and three of his sons (two of which died before his assassination). His fourth son is buried in the Arlington Cemetery.

lincolnstomb

“Unless the great God, who assisted him [George Washington] shall be with and aid me, I must fail. But if the omniscient mind and the same almighty arm that directed and protected him shall guide and support me, I shall not fail–I shall succeed.” ~Abraham Lincoln

The following day we returned to Springfield and spent over four hours at the Lincoln Presidential Museum.  The caliber of interactive displays was astounding and the two hologram movies that they showed truly amazed us (some of us even opted to watch one of them a second time). A highlight was seeing one of the three remaining hats that Lincoln owned on display. The brim was worn thin in two distinct places where his fingers gripped it to tip to passers by and the inner band was stretched (mostly likely from storing speeches and notes inside). Many things were new to me as we toured the museum. I was shocked to learn that Lincoln let his kids run amuck playing games with the ink wells and stacking books into towers before playing atop them while he sat idly by. Outside of the White House, I never realized the amount of mixed support and outright opposition that Abe was up against during his time in office especially from the media. Most felt he was either not doing enough to end slavery or pushing the issue of emancipation too far, too fast. It was not until after his assassination that people truly came together in support and admiration of his leadership. Also new to me was the realization that his second son to die did so while Abe was living in the White House, one year after the Civil War began. I cannot fathom the weight of grief that laid upon Abraham at this time in his life. That said, the number of tragedies that Mary, his wife endured was beyond imaginable. After losing two of her sons, her husband was shot and six years later a third son died. It’s quite honestly beyond my comprehension.

journal

Before coming to Illinois, I purchased a small pocket sketchbook for myself and each of our kids with the idea that we could jot down info we may wish to remember from what we see. I’ve never used a tool like this before. However, I found it to be so useful to keep record of some of my favorite bits of information. One area I used for quotes that spoke to me and on another page I created a timeline of Lincoln’s life. As we visited different areas and learned more I simply added additional details. Now I have a personal record of our time here that I can reference and add to later but because I wrote it down with my hand, I am of course more likely to remember it in my heart. Which happens to remind me of one of the quotes I recorded today which said, “Writing is the great invention of the world. . . ~Abe Lincoln” 

Should you ever find yourself in Illinois, I encourage you to take some time getting to know Abe. I think you will find it worth your time. For the rest of you looking to dig a little deeper into the life of Lincoln, I can recommend two wonderful living books to check out from your library or purchase to own. The first, Abe Lincoln Grows Up, is well suited for middle school through adult ages. This is one we plan to read together later this year. The second, Abraham Lincoln by Ingri & Edgar Parin d’Aulaire is a 1940 Caldecott Award winner and for good reason. I LOVE the illustrations in this book but the words are also dripping with beauty. Although it is considered a picture book the length (64 pages) makes it perfect for a multi-sitting read.

Tomorrow we head to St. Louis where we plan to stay for a few days before heading East to Kentucky.

Travel details:

Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site is open 7 days a week 9-5 with free parking and admission (suggested donation of $10 for a family). Plan on 1-3 hours depending on how much time you want to take reading about each house and the history who lived there. They also may have an interpretive costumed worker on site who can explain in more detail and answer questions you may have.

-We camped in their RV park for $10/night (no electricity). Water is not at every site but if you stay during the week you might have your pick of spots like we did and can position yourself right next to a water source. They do have a dump station on site. The grounds are quiet and beautiful. Sites with electricity are $20/night (prices are higher on holidays).

Lincoln’s tomb Free (Plan on at least 15-30 min to walk around both outside and inside).

Lincoln’s home was free to visit/tour. Parking was $2 and hour unless you have a National Park pass in which parking was $1 an hour. Plan for at least 1 hour (maybe more if you wish to have time for completing your Jr. Ranger booklet).

The Lincoln Presidential Museum  (Located just down the road from Lincoln’s home) We opted to purchase the annual family pass for $85 which will allow us to use the Time Travelers Passport granting a free or discounted admission to many other places we may visit as part of a reciprocal relationship. We parked in the library parking lot for $0.75/hour. Plan to stay at least 3-4 hours (we stayed about 4.5).

the grand show may be just around the corner

I hear periodic bursts of Canadian Geese honking as they begin their travels South. In my van I follow their cue. The mighty Mississippi River moves effortlessly beside the road winding its way southward as well. It stretches its banks grabbing the shores of Minnesota with one hand and Wisconsin with the other. In some places it seems to tug tight enough to flatten the horizon like a sheet laid out on a freshly made bed. In other areas, its grip is relaxed enough to allow some grand wrinkles in the landscape tapestry.

The Mississippi River
The Mississippi River

The almost-but-not-quite mountains in the wrinkled tapestry are dressed in an impressive showing of trees. They seem to be listening to a silent autumn countdown that hasn’t yet allowed their colors to change. A few impatient and over zealous leaves are early to arrive, but the grand show is still around the corner.

My eyes are thirsty and coming to the fountain to drink as I drive down the road seeing things I’ve previously only read about in books. A passing lock and dam belong on the pages of Paddle-to-the-Sea and Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn belong on a raft in the river. I feel privileged to step into the pages of time and space and link hands with others who have made their own relationship with these hills, waters and land.

One such place that unlocked time and space this week was Pepin, Wisconsin. It was here that Laura Ingalls Wilder was born and lived her early childhood days in her Little House in the Big Woods. What a treat it was to stop and stand on the same ground and watch my kids romp and play in the same yard that she once played. Isn’t it amazing to think of the layers of lives that intersect over the same land with the passage of time?

Playing in Laura's yard
Playing in Laura’s yard

After reflecting on the age that Laura was when she began her writing career (sixty-five), I was struck by the impact that might not have been made had she never shared her experiences as a child through story. I learned that Laura was surprised by the success of her first book and told an interviewer, “I thought that would end it. But what do you think? Children who read it wrote to me begging for more. I was amazed because I didn’t know how to write. I went to little red schoolhouses all over the West and I never was graduated from anything.” Did you catch that part where she said she “didn’t know how to write?” Yet she continued to do what she felt she was not particularly gifted to do because children were begging for more. Now we all receive the blessing.

hug-at-lauras-house

How many of us have been given a gift that we don’t feel equipped to properly use? This week Laura taught me that it is never too late to start something great–the grand show may be just around the corner. The children who wrote her begging for more taught me that even those who have extreme promise often require those around them to reflect encouragement and support to continue down their path. May we never shrink back from doing what God has put inside of us and may we never keep silent when we could instead speak life to those around us.

Starting down this traveling road excites me. There is so much to see and learn. My eyes are open and I’m anxious to write my own story on the landscape.

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!