Rocky Mountain High

Despite the rapid exodus detailed in our previous blog post, we had an absolutely wonderful, beautiful, warm and sunny time in Colorado.  Staying at my Aunt Joanne and Uncle Raj’s house, we had the luxury of escaping the small confines of our motor home to spread out and take over the two bedroom, one bath downstairs of their house in Castle Rock, CO.  We spent 5 nights there, enjoying their company as they pampered us and spoiled our children.  Like some posts in the past, I believe this one will best be communicated under the idea that “a picture is worth a thousand words”.   The pictures below, then, embody tens of thousands of words worth of descriptions:

Hiking as a family:

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Garden of the Gods National Heritage Site:

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Hanging with the Family:

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Breakfast with the Family:

Natural Beauty:

Arts and Crafts:

Playing with Legos:

Speaking tens of thousands of words through pictures, it is clear to see the beauty, fun and quality family time we enjoyed during our week long trip to Colorado.  Thanks again, Aunt Joanne and Uncle Raj.  We were privileged to get to know you guys more and blessed by you two with your love, hospitality and  generosity.

Fleeing from Nature

Up until this point in our trip, we have spent considerable time and effort traveling to and enjoying the amazing displays of nature hidden throughout our country.  These spectacles include but are not limited to Yellowstone, Glacier, Tetons, Niagara Falls, the Great Lakes, the Smoky Mountains, and the Everglades, just to name a few.  So now, I feel a slight irony, as we flee from a mighty showcase of nature’s power and wonder.  Our week long stay in Castle Rock, CO with my Aunt Joanne and Uncle Raj (blog post with amazing pictures soon to come), came to an abrupt and early end.  Thankfully, our trip was only shortened by one day, and our ability to be flexible and mobilize quickly paid off in ways never before seen on this trip.

Last Tuesday night, as we attentively watched the national and local weather, it become evident that it would be necessary to leave Castle Rock early in order to avoid a massive spring blizzard.  We prepared ourselves mentally and emotionally for the next day ahead of us.  Waking up the following morning, there was an electrifying energy in the air which motivated every member of our family to stay on task, quickly pack up our RV and promptly leave.  The news reports were continually increasing their predictions of force and severity of the eminent threat.  The local governments offices had declared a mandatory closure at 2 pm that afternoon to assist workers to get home before the storm.  In record time, we sped away from my family’s home at 10 am Wednesday morning.

The air was heavy and the feeling of snow hung dense around us.  The force of the wind pushed against our motor home so much so that one might have mistaken me for flying a giant kite, not driving an automobile.  As soon as we began to drive, the rains began to fall, and and temperatures began to drop.  Traveling towards the freeway, I felt like the child in the “Never Ending Story” fleeing from “the Nothing.”  The weather report from CNN news, as we continued to race away, was “Another ‘bomb cyclone’ is hitting the Rockies and the Plains with blizzard conditions”(https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/10/us/blizzard-severe-storms-wednesday-wxc/index.html).

We drove for six hours that day, heading further and further south away from weather that would surely be disastrous to our motor home.  We made it into New Mexico, and though the wind continued to be fierce, the sun was shining brightly, making it difficult to believe we had, just hours earlier, escaped blizzard like conditions.  But the evidence was clear as we looked at our weather app.  As the evening went on we continued to look at the app, amazed at what we saw.  Just the day before it was 70 degrees and sunny.

Traveling further south, we camped at an RV park in Amarillo, TX.  I was filled with an energetic joy, the kind of feeling I would imagine one might feel who tempted death yet escaped alive.  We had made it away and hadn’t suffered any damage from the storm!  The excitement of the day lasted all night long.  In the morning, my Aunt texted us pictures of the carnage which we had barely avoided.  So, all that to say, we have now, for the first time on our trip, fled nature instead of embraced it.  Some experiences, I believe, are better left untouched.

When Children Become Angels

From time to time, our children exhibit uncommon displays of divine behavior.  When ever such a rare and treasured event occurs, it becomes a noteworthy spectacle, worthy of a blog post.  Such an experience happened to us one evening at a campground we were staying at a few weeks ago while traveling from Kansas City to Waco.  What seemed like any other ordinary evening, Mel and I went on a walk together while our children were playing at a playground near our RV.  As it was approaching dinner time, we asked our children to be ready to come in and help with dinner when we got back from our walk.  We had planned on making tacos and everyone in our family is required to contribute in its preparation.  Without our knowing, the kids conspired together and left the playground early.  When we came back to the RV we noticed that the kids were not playing at the playground and that the door to our RV was locked.  Knocking on the door, the children exclaimed from the other side that we were not allowed in at this time.  They had a surprise for us and we had to sit outside in the “waiting room” (a picnic table).  So Mel and I enjoy another 20 minutes to ourselves, when suddenly the RV door flew open, and we were graciously invited into the private kitchen of the “Master Chefs” who had prepared a private table for two just for us.  We sat down at a tastefully decorated table and, with (absurdly) french accents, the master chefs asked if we would like a glass of water (in a plastic wine glass).

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After the formalities one would expect from a fine dinning experience, the chefs presented dinner to us, which they had prepared, without our assistance.  Though the menu option came as no surprise (tacos), I must admit that we experienced a universal law that I will describe as “food prepared by someone else in a display of loving kindness always tastes better than food prepared for by oneself.”  Our hearts were filled with gladness and joy and I came to believe, if only for a moment, that we may be making progress in our struggle to be good parents.

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And what meal, from such a fine dining establishment, would be complete without a gourmet specialty desert such as the one we had?  Tortilla chips covered with clementine oranges and dried dates (creativity at it’s best when our cupboards are bare of cookies and candy, except for a couple little Twix bars).

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A unique experience that can never be planned or expected, only treasured and cherished when it occurs.

ERs and Heart Monitors and Root Canals, Oh My!

After going to the ER twice, heart doctor twice, and wearing a heart monitor for 30 days, Mel wasn’t finished with her medical emergencies.  On a Friday evening, Mel’s upper left back teeth began to hurt, and by Saturday, we changed our plans to travel to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico so she could go the the dentist on Monday morning.  After a 10 am appointment with a recommended dentist in TX, Mel was sent to a dental specialist for emergency root canal surgery on two teeth.  Because of a bacterial infection, she was put on antibiotics and had to wait until Tuesday morning to have the surgery performed.  Thankfully, after the dental work was completed, Mel’s tooth pain has been alleviated and she is back to normal once again.  Our prayer is that we have completed our rounds of medical procedures required for our trip.  Though it delayed our traveling plans by 3 days and cost several thousands of dollars we are once again grateful for God’s provision.  The time delay gave us reasonable excuse to extend our stay at the Homestead Heritage from 6 days to 9 days.  We all found joy in that.  And, though, I have not blogged much about money the second half of our trip, God continues to provide for our needs financially so that we can complete the full 10 months of this trip we originally planned on.  As with any adventure, we had anticipated unknown surprises along the way, and this is just one more example of that.  Though challenging at times, I must admit that I am learning to more fully trust the faithful provision and direction of God, as we live this life of adventure he has put us on.

More Homestead Adventures

This blog post, being the 4th or 5th one to mention our time at the Homestead Heritage, may lead the reader to believe that of all the places we have visited in the last 8 months, this one must be our favorite.  If this thought has crossed your mind, than I will give you confident assurance that you are correct.  Of all the places we have visited in this vast and beautiful country we live in, this one place, the Heritage Homestead, has stood out to us among them all.  It is difficult to articulate all the reasons why (see former blog post), so I will attempt to communicate experience through pictures in this post.  Though I will describe little in this blog post in regards to our inner-experience, I hope that the following pictures will give the reader a visual expression of all that we have experienced in the past week at the Homestead.

What is life like on the Homestead?  Here are a few of the many pictures of what we have been doing:

Herding cattle;

Milking cows;

Working in the butcher shop;

Gardening;

Digging;

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Electrical work;

Homeschooling;

Music;

Milling;

Baking;

Crafting;

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Eating at the Saturday farmer’s market;

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and, playing with baby farm animals.

With all this and more, it is easy to imagine why this place has been our favorite.  We have thoroughly enjoyed our time here and hope these pictures fill your hearts with joy to the smallest degree in which our our hearts have been filled to overflowing.

Knowledge and Experience

When I was preparing to go on my week long wilderness survival camp (which I had to reschedule for November because of Mel’s unexpected trip to the hospital) I noticed something interesting about the response I received from those I know and love whom I told about this upcoming event.  Most everyone said to me two things.  1.) They saw a TV show about people surviving in the woods and 2.) They thought I was crazy and they would never do anything like that.  Because I received this response so consistently, I found it hard not to reflect on it.  This reflection will be the theme of this blog post.

I began to ask myself,  “Why would anyone want to merely “know about” surviving in the woods vicariously (watching a TV show, reading a book, etc.)  if there was an alternative of “experiencing” surviving in the woods as a first hand, real life opportunity?”  There could be many answers to this question with various levels of depth and insight, but here are a few that I thought summarized them.  1.) It is easy, comfortable and convenient to “know about” instead of “experience”.  2.) It costs very little in the way of time or money.  3.) The “knower” does not have to overcome challenges, both external (getting dirty, working hard, living with less) or internal (fear of the unknown, self preservation, humility, trust).

While we have been on this trip we watched the newly released Disney movie “Incredibles 2.”  In the movie, the “bad guy” (Screenslaver) has a quote that I believe is both profound and speaks directly to this “knowledge vs. experience” theme.  It is as follows:

“Don’t bother watching the rest.  Elastigirl (The heroine of the movie) doesn’t save the day; she only postpones her defeat.  And while she postpones her defeat, you eat chips and watch her confront problems that you are too lazy to deal with.  Superheroes are part of your brainless desire to replace true experience with stimulation.  You don’t talk, you watch talk shows.  You don’t play games, you watch game shows.  Travel, relationships, risk; every meaningful experience must be packaged and delivered to you to watch at a distance so that you can remain ever-sheltered, ever-passive, ever-ravenous consumers who can’t free themselves to rise from their couches to break a sweat, and participate in life.”

Now, I must apologize if this blog post is becoming offensive to anyone reading this.  Please know that my goal is not to speak against anyone here.  I am simply preparing a contrast to the difference of knowledge vs. experience that we ourselves are having on this trip.

After visiting Kansas City, MO and enjoying nearly two weeks with Mel’s brother Matt and his family, and seeing our friends in Oklahoma, Mel and I decided to drive back down to Texas to spend another week at the Homestead Heritage.  Why?  I hope the introduction to this blog post will assist me in my desire to accurately communicate what we have experienced.

Simply put, being at the Homestead Heritage, we have experienced something about life that, in the past, we have only understood (known about) intellectually.  These experiences include our relationship to God, church, community, people, raising children and lifestyle.  Even now, as I write this, I am forced to deal with the impossible task of communicating our experience, so that it can be known to you.  I will try my best.

At the Homestead, I have experienced the “Acts 2 church” for the first time in my life. In the past I have only read about this church, I have only known about it.  I’ve caught a glimpse here and there, but I have never fully experienced it.  Acts 2:42-47 reads, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…..All the believers were together and had everything in common.  They sold their possessions and goods and divided them among all, as anyone had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.”

In all my Christian life (20 years now) I have only read about this Acts 2 church.  I have understood it intellectually and have been taught that this is the example in which church is to be modeled.  I have been involved in church leadership and have attempted to help direct the churches I have been a part of towards this model.  But, I have never once experienced a church that has truly embraced this model until now.

It is difficult to fully articulate here what we have experienced.  A depth of relationship throughout a community that is unlike anything else we have ever experienced.  A body of Christian believers who are truly and actually united together to serve God, serve each other and meet the needs of those in their keep.  We ourselves have been on the receiving end of their hospitality which is unmatched by even the most expensive of resort hotels.  It is the difference between examining the fruit hanging from the tree of life and actually eating its fruit.

This community lives a lifestyle of faith each and every day.  Not a once a week, Sunday kind of faith, but a day by day, moment by moment reliance on God’s provision to guide their every step.  A community that doesn’t talk about cultivating relationships with each other, but demonstrates it in their everyday interactions with each other and us.  A community that prioritizes relationship over productivity and yet, at the same time, demonstrates hard work.  A people group that unites to become the body of Christ and worships the Lord deep within their hearts.

I could continue to use words to attempt to communicate our shared experience with this community.  But let me tell of one specific event that I experienced here that has touched me deeply.  On Wednesday evenings, the community hosts a worship meeting and teaching of the Bible.  Last Wednesday we attended.  A noticeable characteristic of the community is their commitment to excellence, which was in no way lacking that night as we listened to the instruments and voices lead the group into a time of honoring God with music.  I had come to the meeting with a feeling of awe and amazement, struggling to believe that a place as such as I was experiencing now could actually be real.  This feeling was leading me to tears of joy (which I commonly experience during times of sincere worship).  I, being situated in the middle of the building, in the center of the crowd of worshipers, I found myself moved by the beauty of what I heard, saw and felt.  Everyone around me was standing with arms raised high in gratitude as they sang.  I, too, stood.  I, too, raised my hands (which for me is mostly uncommon as I tend to enjoy being more contemplative and less demonstrative).  My tears of joy were increasing in intensity with the music until I found myself weeping and laughing out loud (at the same time, weird right?).  With arms fully extended I physically felt my heart becoming warm in a way I have never experienced before.  It was as if God was connecting with me in a new way, as if he was coming and touching my heart.  I was filled with a joy that was new to me and I felt a calm and gentle peace.  The rest of the evening was as I would have anticipated.  Good music, good teaching, and a good time of socializing afterwards.   But I came away from that meeting with a fresh experience of the love of God that I pray I will never forget.

Again, I could go on and on, attempting to share stories and experiences of the unbelievable time we are sharing with this community of believers.  But I feel words are inadequate and experience is far to difficult to describe in the context of a blog post.  I will conclude by leaving you all with this.  I have experienced something that, in the past, was something I only knew about in my mind.  But now, for the first time, I have experienced it as something real, something actual, something that can be lived in and experienced.  I do not now know what this means for my life to come, only that I know I have much more to pray about and to search through as I look towards the future.

 

 

Oklahoma

After leaving Kansas City, MO, we drove south through the state of Kansas and, so we could say we “did something” in this state, we stopped at Peter Pan Park where the kids played, ate lunch, and I took a business call.

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The kids standing next to a metal statue of Peter Pan.

After Lunch we continued south where we visited our “new friends” Keith and Lacy and their two children Jeremiah (15)  and Judah (11) at their family’s farmland in Oklahoma.  Now, I must first talk about how we met our “new friends.”

Back in January, when we were camping in Orlando, FL, a couple with two children (the two mentioned above) parked their RV next to ours at a Thousand Trails camp site.  As kids usually do, they quickly befriended our “new neighbors,” and, not long afterwards, the adults began socializing with each other as well.  Our new neighbor’s names were Keith and Lacy Haugen and before long they invited our family to join there family at the community pool.  Enjoying their company and new found friendship, we hung out with them the next few days before we had to move on.  During that time we continued to hang out with them.  We frequented the pool, played miniature golf, and sealed our friendship with an evening family game of Settlers of Catan (our family and their family both own a copy of the game).  We said good-bye as we traveled to a different camp site in Florida, where we would be camped for two weeks while Mel and I went on our individual trips (me to California and Mel to Guatemala).

But we stayed in touch, and because our families connected, the Haugens decided to come and camp with us for a week.  After Mel got back from Guatemala, as we headed towards New Orleans, we stopped by to say hi to the Haugens at their next camping spot.

So, after 6 months of travelling our family had made friends with another RV family that we had no connection with before we left.  Though we have visited many family members and existing friends on this trip, this was the first time we had connected with a new family in which all members of our family enjoyed being together.  We have stayed connected with them and we share with each other where we are coming and going and try to find out when we will be able to connect together again.  Which leads us to Oklahoma.

While we where in Kansas City, we found out that Keith and Lacy were going to be at their family’s farm during the same time we were driving through Oklahoma, so they invited us to swing by and stay the night on their property.  During our 22 hour stay with them we learned the ins and outs of large scale cotton farming including;

Driving around in a commercial cotton picking tractor;

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Playing on yellow “cotton marshmallows;”

Hanging out;

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and watching an Oklahoma sunset.

And, of course, our time would not be complete without a game of Catan (sorry, no picture).  So, our “new friends” are now becoming our familiar friends.  We are in conversation with them to see when and where will be the next time we cross paths and will be able to share each other’s company.   Thank you Keith and Lacy for sharing your life and family with ours.

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As we reflect on the time we have spent with them and the relationship that has been forming between their family and ours, we have noticed something larger about our trip.  To start our trip, we left home and those we know and we journeyed across the country and saw many wonderful and amazing places.  As our journey has progressed, we have started to see a shift from visiting awe inspiring places, to the cultivation of relationships and community with others.  Where the start of our trip was highlighted by places such as Yellowstone, Lake Superior, Niagara Falls, Boston, New York & Washington D.C., the second half of our journey has been highlighted with extended times with families, friends, Child Ambassadors, new friendships, and intentional communities.  When we set out on this trip we did not “plan” for this to happen.  But now, as we see it happening, we realize that no matter where we are or what we are doing, the need for friendship and community never leaves us.  We are grateful and thankful for our friends and family back home, as well as the new relationships we are beginning to develop on this trip.  We miss everyone back home and look forward to seeing all you soon.