The fear that almost kept us from RVing

Is fear ever truly healthy? If so, how do you decipher if the fear gnawing in the pit of your stomach needs to be fed or starved?

That is the question I was staring at two years ago. I was wrestling with the unknown. My required response was either flee my fear or face it. Facing my fear may seem like the desired logical, brave, big-girl reaction. However, I wasn’t just scared to talk to a homeless man or visit Florida. This fear was fueled by the desire to keep my children safe from unknown predators.

Let me take you back to the beginning

A few years ago, after a period of intense heart stirring, my husband and I began tiptoeing down a new path of surrender. We felt the Lord nudging us toward lightening our load in preparation for an unconfirmed future. We sold things, we downsized and we began considering things that we’d never considered before. The further down the road we walked, the more curious we became—where was God leading us? Soon we approached a bend in the road, a place where we could not see around the corner. We believed that selling our home was probably our next step of faith. However, we had no clarity for what would come after or where we would live. Once again, we returned to prayer and asked God to lead us into the unknown.

The offer

At this time we received a unique offer to move a few hours away and help oversee an RV campground. In exchange for our time, we would be compensated with free housing and food. There were many aspects to this proposition that appealed to us. We could be free of our mortgage while we continued to seek wisdom for our next step. Our efforts to downsize would be rewarded in a smaller living space. We would be stepping out in faith toward something new.

The offer is considered

In order to gain clarity and better understand the possible situation in which we would be moving into, our family drove a few hours to visit the RV park. Throughout the duration of our stay we experienced several unique confirmations that pointed us in the direction of wanting to accept the offer and move forward.

On the last morning of our visit, our kids were outside riding their bikes. When they returned to the house, our daughter had a look of concern clouding her face. “Mom, there was a man in one of the cabins who was yelling at us out his window and he made me feel really uncomfortable,” she confided. At that moment it felt as though the air was being sucked out of the room. Suddenly my confidence shattered and wondered how I ever thought this arrangement could work.

The offer is poison

During our drive home my mind was racing faster than the car. Who tries to raise their kids in an RV park? What kind of mom would I be to bring my children into an environment teeming with strangers–not just strangers: transient strangers! How could I ever live with myself if something happened to them just because we decided that an unconventional living arrangement was a good idea? Later, after discussing these concerns with Trent, we both agreed that it was not wise to move forward unless we both felt peace. I certainly didn’t have peace so I set my mind toward accepting the hard truth that seemed to be staring me in the face: we were not going to move after all.

Days passed and I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling in my heart. My lack of peace, which I had previously decided was brought on by divine discernment, caused me to feel restless and agitated. How was it possible that everything had pointed so clearly in one direction only to have it sharply U-turn unexpectedly? Wasn’t this feeling of unease from God as well? Wasn’t it? Somehow I couldn’t reconcile the two extremes.

Contemplative reflection

I found myself in contemplative reflection as I remembered previous times in my life in which the Lord had clearly directed my steps. In an attempt to gain more clarity into those situations, I pulled out old journals and sought to retrace those moments of clear conviction. I read about occasions when I had stood at the crossroads of decision and God brought a confident answer through a time of prayer and fasting.

That next day I determined to beseech wisdom from God and set aside an agenda of food in exchange for focused time in prayer and reading the Bible. That afternoon I sat down on my bed and opened my heart asking God to help me know His will. I asked for confidence in how to decipher the feelings of anxiety I felt over the safety of my children. Finally, I asked for peace in whatever decision He was leading us into. I opened my bible and began to read from the book of Psalms. When I reached the third chapter, I felt as though the blinds had been pulled back from my eyes and the light of truth was pouring into the dark room. In this chapter David has fled from his son Absalom who was seeking to harm him. He exclaims,

O Lord, how my adversaries have increased! Many are rising up against me. Many are saying of my soul, there is no deliverance for him in God.

But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head. I was crying to the Lord with my voice, And He answered me from His holy mountain. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustains me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me round about.

Arise, O Lord, save me, O my God! For you have smitten all my enemies on the cheek; You have shattered the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the Lord; Your blessing be upon Your people!

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; be gracious to me and hear my prayer.

In that moment I understood that David was able to exclaim confidently “You, O Lord are a shield about me…I will not be afraid…You have relieved me in my distress…hear my prayer” despite the fact that he was being hotly pursued by thousands because he understood that the Lord was his protector. I saw that David cried out to the Lord and the Lord answered him with a confident assurance.

Untangling the lies

I now realized that the deceiver had woven lies, whispered fears and I had quickly cultivated them in my heart. I knew that God had used this particular passage of scripture to remind me that He alone is our true shield and protection. My desire to keep my children safe is no reason to refuse to walk the path that the Lord places before me. Once I uncovered the truth, my fear fell away. In its place came a peace that allowed us to peek around the corner at the next step in our path: listing our home for sale.

Finding the truth

As I reflect now on our year and a half living as managers in that campground before launching out on our RV traveling adventure, I am reminded of the crippling effect that fear can cause. The entire course of our family stood in the balance over one fear craftily woven. The ironic truth is that our family loved that year and a half. The transient strangers that I feared never materialized and instead we were blessed with unique friendships and community.

It causes me to stop and wonder, are there any fears that I am currently cultivating? What move of God might those fears be preventing? As I continue to lean into this theme of pursuing fearlessness won’t you lean with me?

overcoming my unfounded Florida fears

I spent most of my childhood growing up on a fruit orchard on the Columbia River in Washington State. Our white two-story farmhouse was perched on a small hill, nestled within the protective arms of a pine tree covered hillside. If I tilted my head just right, I could see a sliver of placid blue water through the distant trees beyond my living room window. Our summers were hot and dry and the winters were cold and white. Although my family made many trips to Southern California to visit family, that was the extent of my travels and for all I knew the rest of the world looked a lot like the west coast of the United States of America.

First taste of freedom

In 1993 I turned 15 and my parents offered me my first chance to step outside my comfort zone and see well beyond my living room window. A pamphlet from Teen Missions International based in Merritt Island, Florida beckoned offered a travel experience like no other: two weeks in Florida for boot camp and then on to diverse international locations such as Mozambique, Papa New Guinea or Brazil. I scoured the brochure attempting to select the most ideal location like a discerning shopper looking through a fashion catalog. Dog-eared and worn, I poured over my printed options with vigor, circling those that seemed most promising and adding stars to the ones that seemed extra romantic. In the end, France captured my teenage heart and I submitted my application for adventure.

What the brochure failed to mention however, was the fact that no geographically informed individual would consider traveling to Florida in the height of summer. I was, up to this time in my life, grossly uninformed and blissfully naive to matters of humidity, chiggers and mid-summer mosquitoes. I was also somewhat self-absorbed and walking that difficult road of confident ignorance. (If you are over the age of 25, I trust I’m not alone in recalling memories from this period of time with embarrassing clarity.)

Reality check

What greeted me that July as I stepped off the airplane in Orlando, was a wash of reality served fresh on a plate of heavy humidity mixed with intense heat. Arriving late in the evening, I traveled under the cloak of night by bus to the boot camp location. Because of my late arrival, I was treated to a night on the floor in my sleeping bag in an air-conditioned building. This would be the last comfortable night of sleep I would experience in Florida.

For the next two weeks, my sleeping bag rested inside a small pup tent amid the forest floor. I learned to wash my clothes by hand and forgo the expectation that they would dry in the moist air before I needed to wear them again. My only comfort was that I was not alone. My team of 32 other teens had signed up for this self-inflicted experience as well.

Because there were thousands of teens representing countless teams traveling all over the globe, our conditions were set up to mimic those of the most primitive team. Every aspect of our boot camp adventure was designed to mimic conditions on the mission field and help us overcome culture shock before we left the United Sates to our varied international destinations. This included our dress code of jeans and combat boots despite the sweltering summer weather. Team building opportunities included classing in construction, puppets, drama and survival skills and a morning obstacle course through the jungle complete with a rope swing over a muddy slough and scaling a 12 foot wall.

Occasionally, I would peer into the night sky and see the blinking lights of an airplane. I’d stand in awe that somewhere in the stratosphere people were sitting comfortably in an air-conditioned cabin drinking soda with ice cubes clinking in their plastic cups watching an in-flight movie. How I wished I could be among them! As sweat dripped between my shoulder blades in the heat of the night, I made myself a promise: never again would I be dumb enough to visit Florida.

Lasting impact

Twenty-three years later I was staring hard into that promise as our family began charting our RV travel route. Logically and logistically wintering in Florida was the best choice.

For a lunatic, I reasoned.

We wanted to visit the states we’d never been to as a family. We wanted to travel up the east coast in the spring. Florida made perfect sense.

If you want to be an idiot.

Let’s set aside the humidity and the insects and pretend those are inconsequential. How can we ignore the alligators?

People say they are “everywhere.”

What about the hurricanes?

We are traveling in an RV for Pete sake, we’d likely blow right out to sea!

That’s not even taking into account red tide, sinkholes or the Zika Virus!

I might as well call CPS and report myself if I think it’s safe to subject my children to the dangers of Florida.

Facing unfounded fear head-on

unfounded fears

In my first post of 2017, I addressed the topic of fear. Please understand that was not written from a hypothetical or metaphorical standpoint. I’ve met fear face-to-face on many occasions and in varying degrees of circumstances or intensities. This time was guilty of nursing a twenty-three year old memory well past the weaning stage. I’d let the news, social media and those around me feed that fear. It’s embarrassing to admit but over time my fear became bigger than my God and my faith was in the words of those confirming my doubts. If you are looking for a good place to get lost in insecurity, turn inward and wrap yourself in a blanket of anxious thoughts. It’s awfully lonely, but at least you will be warm.

Choosing to winter in Florida this year was a deliberate move to throw off the anxiety blanket and step boldly toward fearlessness; away from hypothetical “what ifs?” and unfounded fears and toward more calculated curiosity and logical reasoning. What I have discovered after a month in the Sunshine Sate has been surprisingly straightforward: yes there are unpleasantries in Florida. It’s humid. It’s buggy. There are alligators, crocodiles, snakes and panthers. Hurricanes are possible and sinkholes occur. But that is only the view through one lens. Realistically speaking, the Northwest, where I call home has bears, cougars, moose, and poisonous spiders. The winters are cold and summer brings the treat of wildfire. Despite all of those perceived dangers, I’ve never questioned my sanity or well being living there. Have you noticed how relaxed we can become inside our zones of comfort?

I could have so easily missed out

Here is what it comes down to: my fear of the unknown is often deeply rooted in just that–the unknown. Becoming familiar with something new is often not only the antidote to fear, but also a close-minded outlook. My fear faded as my education grew. I learned that hurricanes more or less follow a predictable schedule and just like in Idaho, the wildlife prefers to keep to itself. Once I was willing to use a different lens, I saw that manatees were swimming in the same waters as the crocodile and shark teeth could be found on the opposite shore of the lazy alligator. Beauty and wonder co-existed with my misplaced fears. I could so easily have missed out.

Those Blue Angels that flew over our heads on the beach in perfect formation…
That spontaneous Dominion game night with three other couples…
The decadent Key Lime Pie purchased in Key West…
Standing on the southernmost tip of our continent…
Seeing a sea turtle both in the wild as well in a rehabilitation hospital…

Spotting stingrays…
Discovering shark teeth in a riverbed…
Sitting inches away from wild manatee…
Trying Cuban coffee…
Attempting to see the sunset while a cruise ship moved in to block the view…
Picking strawberries in January…

 Making new friends…
Biking through the Everglades…
Eyeing crocodiles sunning themselves on the riverbank…
Canoeing through mangrove forests while gliding silently past submerged alligators…
Watching dolphins swim in the Gulf of Mexico…

I could have missed it all.

Now certainly one could say that had we not been in Florida, different memories would have been made in another place. This is true and they could have been wonderful. However, in addition to all that we gained in friendships, memories and experiences, I can also add the lesson of facing my unfounded fear and realizing that the reality was much different than the expectation. Call me crazy but if I tilt my head just right, I just might see another Florida winter in our future.

the water

. . . the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary.  And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea.  When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke up to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”  Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”  And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind stopped.  And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”  Matthew 14:24-33

Peter and I have a thing going.  I read his story and I feel my eyebrows rise as he calls out to Jesus and steps out of the boat. My heart quickens as his feet first touch the water and the edges of my lips upturn as he takes his first faith-filled steps. When the wind begins to ripple his resolve and fear begins to swallow him, I relate to his situation and I take comfort in the way his story ends: with Jesus stretching out his hand and taking hold of him.

I am Peter.  I recognize Jesus in the storm.  I ask Him to call me to do things that are kind of crazy and when He does, I get out of the boat.  It’s an exhilarating feeling to stand strong when faith is the only foundation supporting you.  Yet that wind is a pesky problem, it stirs up trouble and I’m quickly distracted, vulnerable and scared.

Listing our home for sale was our recent step of faith: out of the safety of the boat into the unknown.  The wind started out as a whispering and over time has become more fierce.  “Why is this taking so long?  Maybe I shouldn’t have stepped out of the boat.  If this house doesn’t sell, it is going to make someone look silly–me or God, I hope He’s okay with that possibility.” It’s easy to become disoriented when your faith is tested.  All you have to do is take your eyes off of Jesus and you are lost. Continue reading “the water”

listening to lies

Welcome back!

If you read my last post and still want in, let’s do this.

I previously alluded to being “in hiding” this past year.  Hiding is my fancy way of describing fear.  It’s important that I start with this because I believe that for faith to grow, fear must be faced.
A year ago I stepped out of a role that I had filled for 10 years when I sold my online website Mom 4 Life.  At the time, I looked forward to the change of pace.  God had things on the horizon and as I began to see glimpses of His new plan unfolding, I longed to share my new discoveries and struggles through writing.  However, the “platform” from which I used to share was no longer mine.  I wanted to flush out my thoughts with words, but without readers to share them with, the purpose felt flat.  Or was it more than that?  I began to question: had my purpose been too tightly tied to “my platform” and “my readers”?  Why the desire to share with others rather than just journal for myself?  Perhaps it was all a fancy way of saying that I missed being on stage.  Was it all pride?  Self glorification?  I felt conflicted.  I wanted to bring God glory but perhaps that was getting muddled?  I couldn’t be sure and because of that, I couldn’t move forward with writing for an audience.  Doing something good for the wrong reasons felt worse than doing nothing at all.  The deceiver manipulated eloquently.  Fear crept in.  I set down my pen and closed the book.

 

Eric Liddell winning the Olympic gold metal in record time – Paris 1924

At the end of May, I began leading a small weekly bible study in my home. The study (Restless by Jennie Allen) focuses on the story of Joseph in the Old Testament and weaves in truths from his story into our own.  We have been identifying our natural and spiritual gifts and discovering how our pain and suffering is all closely connected to the unique way that we are made to fit into God’s story.  While examining the area of our gifts, we read about Eric Liddell who was born into the home of missionaries to the Chinese people in 1902.  As explained by author Jennie Allen, “His story is retold in the epic film Chariots of Fire.  Eric felt called to give his life to God and in that pursuit he trained and planned to become a missionary, like his parents.  But Eric had a gift.  He could run, and every door was opening for him to do it.  Doors opened all the way to the Olympics.  As the film portrays Eric processing his calling and his gifts with his sister, he said these famous words: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast.  And when I run I feel his pleasure.” Continue reading “listening to lies”