Seventy two hours. It’s a huge number, especially when those hours involve a road trip, when they mark the time spent in a minivan.
Thirteen movies. Some watched more than once. Because who can resist a cute little two year old when she says, “Watch a wovie?”.
Forty eight state, two Indian nation, five Canadian province and one District of Columbia license plates. We were hopeful that we would see Hawaii, but it didn’t happen. And apparently, no one lives in Wyoming (or at the very least, they weren’t driving where we were)!
Fifteen meals at restaurants in two weeks (3 of those were at Chick-fil-A. Of course!). I ate some of the best food I have ever eaten in my life. My son tried alligator and it was actually quite good. But bring on the salads and home cooked meals! My stomach was in an uproar!
Sixteen different states. The kids enjoyed filling in their passport books and we saw parts of the country that were completely new to us. I loved the swamps of Louisiana. We were surprised by the beauty of Oklahoma. The Flint Hills region in Kansas was one of the most astounding places I have ever driven through. The diversity of our country is quite amazing and it has only increased my desire to see it all!
Four thousand three hundred some miles. For those who want to know, that is the distance from sea to shining sea and half way back again. And that is why this journey earned the hashtag #epicroadtrip !!!
Fourteen memorable animal sightings. The most surprising was a dead black bear on our way to Virginia. We saw a flock of gorgeous pink birds in Louisiana. The Longhorns in Texas and bison in Ohio were both fantastic. Our two year old said “cow” and “horse” repeatedly. (Also, “Nar-nar” and “Dumpy Dog”, but that’s a story for another day!). Armadillos and a road runner were pretty cool to see too. Two of my children claimed they saw an alligator. Driving from Texas to Kansas was one ranch after another and I loved every single one!
Five different beds. Our families were all so very generous to us and we all slept comfortably except for the first and last nights of our trip. The first night, our two year old would not stay in her Pack-n-Play. So she kept us awake until 3 AM at which point, I took her and we shared her Pack-n-Play mattress on the floor. The last night, we went against our better judgment and shared the beds with our older two. They are not used to sharing a bed. Enough said.
Three epic meltdowns. Based on all of the previous numbers this number might surprise you. But what might surprise you more is who had those meltdowns.
I kicked things off on our journey from Alabama to Texas. My husband was in charge of navigating our trip and so when he said that we would be driving through New Orleans, I was super excited. The closer we got to the city, the more my excitement grew. I wanted to drive over Lake Pontchartrain. I wanted to have beignets in the French quarter. I wanted to see the homes with the double balconies. I wanted to hear a jazz band playing on a street corner.
But as I watched our route taking shape, I realized that we were not going to go through the city like my husband had said. My disappointment was acute. We were so close and we drove right on by. My disappointment moved quickly to anger. You said we were going through New Orleans!!, I spat out at my sweet husband who quickly grew irritated with me. I thought we were, but I was wrong. And we are not driving an hour out of our way on a 12 hour road trip!, the reasonableness of his response only frustrating me more.
I huffed and I puffed and realized that I needed some time away from my husband. But how does one do that on a road trip in an enclosed space?!! So, I crawled back with my boys and watched a movie. By the time it was over, everything was back in perspective and I was able to apologize and be grateful for my husband once again. The rest of Louisiana and Baton Rogue made up for what I felt like I was missing by not seeing New Orleans.
I share this part of the story, because there is freedom in admitting my imperfections. I respond badly at times. Actually a lot of the time. I had expectations and I wanted what I wanted. The result of my selfishness was that I lashed out at my husband who takes such good care of our family, who loves me beyond reason, who patiently deals with my topsy-turvyness.
Most of the time, my kids don’t see their parents upset with one another. The truth is we have a pretty great relationship. But sometimes our kids need to see that we mess up too and we desperately need Jesus to be at work in our lives. We need grace and that was completely evident in my epic meltdown moment. I pray that they will remember how we resolved it and how their parents love each other, not because we are easy to love, but because we will always fight for each other and work to love one another even through difficult times.
The other meltdowns are not my story to tell, but in both of the other cases, we saw lessons learned, we saw forgiveness take place and we saw grace poured out on our family. It makes me wonder why we try so hard to hide our imperfections, our messes and yes, our sin, when it is really in and through these very things that Christ’s power is truly made perfect. I don’t want my kids growing up thinking that their parents have it all together and miss out on the fact that we are constantly thrown at the throne of God’s grace.
Not surprising to me was that there seemed to be a theme to the songs that came on the radio station that we listened to when we weren’t listening to movies. Over and over we heard the reminder that God takes our brokenness and our mess and he makes it beautiful. But if we never admit that we have any brokenness, how can he make it beautiful?
It’s in the admittance of sin and the submitting to God’s authority in our lives that he does something extraordinary in us.
This is freedom.
And all this from 72 hours of an epic road trip.
It’s a question that has been thrown around a lot lately. What side are you on? When this line of picking sides is drawn in the sand it separates people so fully. Anger and mistrust lie on both sides resulting in attacks and behavior that is demeaning.
These lines are drawn over so many issues- racism, same sex marriage, political affiliation, socio-economic status, even denominations- and while I think discussions and challenges on these issues are good and can be effective, too often these discussions result in further divisions and deeper chasms.
When Jesus drew lines in the sand, it was to challenge the crowd to consider this- “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” ~John 8:7 (speaking of the woman caught in adultery).
The beauty of Jesus’s approach is that one by one the crowd disperesed without one stone being thrown. Some will say that the message of Jesus here is that no one should judge another unless they are without sin. And this is true. When we truly understand that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), we are able to move from judging others in their sin to recognizing the grace that we have received in Christ when we have accepted his gift of salvation.
I believe that one of the reasons we are so quick to judge another’s sin is that we don’t truly understand the meaning of sin. We categorize sin- my pride and my greed are not nearly as deplorable as your theft and murder- but we need to understand that God does not categorize sin. In God’s eyes, sin is rebellion against Himself. It is anything that puts our own way first. It is intentionally OR unintentionally removing God from the throne of our lives and putting anything else in that place.
We judge someone else’s sin until we realize that if we are honest with ourselves, we are simply sinners saved by grace. If my sins were dragged out into a public square, the situation would be just as dire as the woman caught in adultery.
But the message of Jesus here is not simply to not judge others in their sin. Jesus goes on to say one of the most profound statements in scripture- “Women, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord”.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and from now on sin no more.”
This statement is so beautiful to me, because the truth is Jesus COULD have condemned her. He was without sin. He was free to judge. But he could see her heart and he knew the repentance that was inside of her. And then he told her to go and sin no more.
Jesus could say these things because He was fully God. Too often as Christians, we can begin to think too highly of ourselves. We puff ourselves up with knowledge and we can debate and argue with the best of them. We hide behind standing up for truth and we forget that WE ARE NOT GOD. We cannot see into someone’s heart and we cannot change their heart. But Jesus can.
And so, I am drawing a new line in the sand, a new side, because I believe that Jesus came and sacrificed his life to save us from our sins, NOT so that we would yell at each other from our own soap boxes. That is the side that I want to be on.
I believe in a BIG God, One who is capable of changing any heart where it needs to be changed. I believe that He loves even the worst of sinners, but he loves them too much to leave them in their sin. He WILL change any heart that humbly comes to him, seeking to be changed by Him.
By the way, we all need this change in our lives. Until we die, we should be seeking Christ to change us, to make us more like Himself.
Because I believe in a big God, I am convinced that my role in life is to point others to Him. I do not know a single person who has been shamed into a change of heart, but I know plenty who have discovered the love of God that brings peace, hope and joy beyond human explanation.
I can’t condemn anyone, because I am a sinner. But I believe in a God who doesn’t know any sinner He can’t change. And so my feet are firmly planted on His side and my prayer is that I would faithfully point others to Him.
The hardest part of writing letters to you is the knowledge that you will not read my words and there will be no response. I miss you every day, but some days are particularly difficult. Yesterday, Father’s Day, was one of those days.
And yet, there is joy in the midst of the mourning. Joy, because your beautiful legacy lives on. Every time I talk to your grandkids about Jesus, you are present. Every time I sing a song of praise to God, I can hear you singing and I imagine my voice harmonizing with yours. Whenever I pour cereal from a commemorative box, I think of you. When I drink coffee, read my Bible, get excited over a passage of scripture, I think of you. And when my husband preaches, I hear your heart.
What a gift your life has been and continues to be to me. I am the richest of girls, blessed beyond measure, because of your humble faithfulness to the Word of God, because of your unending love for Jesus, and because of the way you loved your 3 girls and your devoted wife.
The kids and I put together a Father’s Day centerpiece for their Daddy, but it made me smile, because it was for you too. The books were yours (although I discovered this morning that the Bible was mom’s!) and my husband likes coffee just as much as you do (although I think he might like it even a little more!). The Sharpie was from Ethan who added it because our love for his Daddy is permanent. This sentiment is truly brilliant. It’s how I feel about you, Daddy. Even though I can no longer call you up and hear your voice, even though I don’t get to see you and kiss your cheek when I visit Kansas this summer, even though we will never again walk the hills in Pitman together, my love for you has no end.
There is no last in loving you.
And so, I find joy in the midst of mourning. I grieve, but oh, there is hope in my grieving! We sang “Revelation Song” as we ended our service yesterday and every time, I imagine singing by your side in the new heavens and the new earth…
Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come.
With all creation I sing, Praise to the King of Kings,
You are my everything and I will adore You.
I can’t wait for that day, Daddy! But until then, I want to live well and honor your beautiful life. I read this verse the other day and I have shared it with many people, but every time I do, I am reminded that I want to share it with you.
For before he (Enoch) was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. ~ Hebrews 11:5
Daddy- thank you for living your life as one who pleased God. Thank you for seeking His glory in all things. When I am tempted to seek my own glory, your example flashes before me. And you know something else I have come to realize? I chose my husband well, because you led your life well. He had to be a man who loved God, who studied the scriptures, who sought wisdom and humility. He had to be. He’s not quite as goofy as you were Daddy and he doesn’t make up as many silly songs for our kids. However, he does play video games with the kids and he pretty much knows how to figure out everything which makes him infinitely cooler than their Mommy (and this is the part where I wish we were having this conversation in person, so you could see the twinkle in my eye and the smile on my face, because I absolutely love that your grandkids adore their Daddy).
Ah, Daddy! I love you so very much. Thank you for being you. I miss you so much that I ache. But I wouldn’t want it any other way, because that simply means that I pretty much had the best Daddy in the world.
Happy Father’s Day.
Your girl, forever and always,
My girls are a decade apart in age, but they have a sweet little bond. As I watched my girls playing with their Christmas gifts (Snow Whites Cottage and Ever After High dolls), it hit me that it would be fun to do a combined birthday party for my girls this year- my girls who were born a decade and a week apart. And so we did!
My nearly 12 year old wanted to make her own creative invitations and we ordered adorable invitations for Ainsley from Green Melon Studios. While Lindsay loves everything about Ever After High (which began with a love for the books written by her favorite author!), we decided to focus on Apple White, the daughter of Snow White.
I baked apple pies for both girls with their names made out of dough, just like Snow White made a pie for Grumpy in the Disney animated movie. The Snow White portion of the party was all about blues, yellows and reds. The Apple White portion of the party was red and gold.
Ainsley received a Snow White doll and dress before the party started and Lindsay received a dozen roses (appropriate for a girl turning 12, don’t you think?!) as well as the opportunity to pick out her own Apple White outfit with accessories.
Ainsley’s friends began to arrive for her party dressed as their favorite princess. They played in Ainsley’s cottage, with dolls and toys and spent some time coloring (Ainsley’s favorite activity). Then it was time for cake. I made Snow White colored bibs for all the girls and some of them liked them and others (including the birthday girl!) wanted nothing to do with them. But they were very cute! The girls had apple juice with their bananas, strawberries and blueberries (yellow, red and blue) and then we sang to Ainsley and let her blow out candles. I had fun making her Snow White dress pull apart cupcakes.
After cake, the birthday girl opened presents and then she was given a sweet surprise. Anna and Elsa showed up! Ainsley enjoyed getting her picture taken with them, but one of her friends who is a little bit older LOVED them and kept asking questions like “Where’s Olaf?” and “Was it really cold?” So fun!
Lindsay’s friends started arriving just before Anna and Elsa came. I posted a schedule for the party on a bulletin board with pictures of Lindsay and her friends at different events through the years. The first item on the schedule was watching Ever After High Episodes in “Throneroom” (homeroom). Next was an apple nacho bar in the “Castleteria” and after that was games in the “Grimmnasium”. They played a game that involved passing a princess wand around a circle using their knees only. Their laughter was the very best. They also played the game “Truth or Lie” in honor of Cedar Wood, Pinnochio’s daughter who is unable to lie.
After games, the girls had a chance to sign “The Storybook of Legends”. In the Ever After High stories, the children of fairy tale characters have to sign the Legends book agreeing to carrying out their parent’s destiny. The girls were hoping for some not so great destinies, but I wrote only good, kind, inspiring destinies for all of the girls. They had to each come to the book and pull out their own destiny and sign it. This was one of my favorite parts of the party!
After destinies were signed, it was time for dinner and cake. I had planned to make super cute apple cupcakes, but I ran out of time. Instead, we made cupcakes with little apple molds on them and then put them in the shape of a 12.
After cake, it was time to open gifts. There were many Ever After High dolls, creative art projects, books and other fabulous gifts. The birthday girl was thrilled!
Both of my girls enjoyed their parties and I enjoyed planning and executing them. As friends left, the girls gave them goody bags filled with bubbles and applesauce or charm necklaces and Ever After High cootie catchers depending on their age.
While combined parties with such diverse ages and different themes might seem like a crazy decision, it worked splendidly. This is partially due to the fact that my girls adore each other. I am so grateful for this.
Happy birthday, my sweet girls!
The end is just the beginning.