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


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).

making a corn cob doll


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.