Some people think our family is on an extended vacation. We most definitely are not. If we were, we’d be in Europe or Hawaii, not in a RV. We wouldn’t be taking showers in state parks with spiders the size of golf balls, praying the water is warm enough to stand under it for more than five seconds at a time. We wouldn’t be buying Ramen Noodles by the caseloads to help us save money, or spending hours at a laundromat every week. We most definitely wouldn’t have brought our dog.
Sydney said it so well the other day in a text message to one of our ministry partners: It’s like the Lord is just stripping everything away and it’s a pretty painful process. But, I would take it a step farther. I think He’s stripping everything away until there’s nothing left but a choice: Do you want to follow me?
I’ve said it hundreds of times on the road and probably a few dozen times already in this blog. We had NO CLUE what it meant to follow Jesus until starting this adventure. And the more I push into scripture and where the Lord has our family right now, the more convinced I am in one thing: The consumer driver church model, no matter how well meaning, has contributed, if not caused, the precipitous decline of TRUE Christianity in America. And I’ll even take it a step past that: Because we have turned Christianity into a buffet, allowing consumers to pick and choose theology based on preference and convenience; we have also helped create a political culture that feeds into our narcissism and capitalizes on our complacency. We have created a false manifestation of faith that relies on politicians and policies to change our country through laws, instead of the hands and feet of humble servants being used by God to change the hearts of man.
I’m getting ahead of myself with all of this, but I think it’s important for you to have a bigger picture of where we are now to truly appreciate the journey that led us here. Because what we have seen and experienced the past six months has forever changed how we see everything in life now. So, what does that mean for us: There’s no going back to the life we had before. And that’s a scary thought.
Our next stop after Tennessee was Mississippi. It also marked the first time on our trip where we woke up having absolutely no clue where we’d be spending the night. (It was the first time, but not the last. Not by a long shot.) Before we started this adventure, Jamie agreed to be in charge of all things dealing with travel. He has driven the RV this entire trip, plans the route and makes the reservations. But, he didn’t have many options for this night and for some ridiculous reason he assumed I would.
Assumptions have been our Achilles Heel.
Needless to say, I had nothing to offer Campsites, RV parks and boon-docking weren’t even on my radar. I was still trying to process all the things the Lord was showing me… on top of processing a crazy week in Nashviile with Sydney, following up with churches and contacts for upcoming shows and meetings, trying to figure out how we were going to raise $10,000 for Make-A-Wish, and doing everything possible to keep my family from staging a mutiny. We had been living in a 33ft box for almost a month. Just the psychological journey was enough to make us question every decision we had made up to this point.
I remember pulling into the welcome center right as we crossed over the Mississippi state line. I remember jumping out of the car right as Jamie pulled out the map to discuss our sleeping options for the night. I remember shouts of, “Mom, Mom… Maaaaaaaaaaaam” coming from the back of the RV as I closed the door. And I remember speed walking as fast as I could away from my family. Far, far, away.
This was my first emotional breakdown. And, you better believe it wasn’t my last.
I kept it together as I walked into the building. Immediately, I hear, “Hello, welcome to Mississippi. Help yourself to some coffee and please sign our registry book.” She had me at coffee, which happened to be the worst coffee I have ever had in my entire life. But, in that moment, it was the best coffee in the world because it was keeping me from thinking about our current predicament: having nowhere to sleep for the night. I think about Matthew 8:18-22.
We think a lot about Matthew 8 these days.
By this point, my kids had made their way into the welcome center, and their voices triggered something in me. (Honestly, I just needed to escape the noise and chaos. I love my kids, but sometimes you need a break. And guess what, you don’t get those in a RV.
The welcome center attendant made her way over to talk to me and by the time she was close enough to touch, I completely lost it. Tears were streaming down my face and she made the mistake of asking if I was okay. What followed was a brief synopsis of the past four months and ended with, “now we’re in Mississippi and have no clue where we’re going or what we’re doing.”
And I remember what happened next like it was yesterday. This sweet lady walked around the counter, without saying a word, and gave me the biggest hug I’d had in a very long time. I have no idea how long the hug lasted, but it was long enough for me to stop crying and catch my breath. When the hug was over, she looked me in the eyes and said, “The Lord sees what you’re doing and He’s in it. So there’s no need to fear.”
And just like that, everything seemed okay again. Not great… because our current predicament of needing a place to sleep hadn’t changed, but there was peace. And over the next six months, this would be a reoccurring pattern. Someone in our family would hit a breaking point. (The only one who hasn’t is Holden, and that’s because he’s Holden. That kid just rolls with everything.) Yet, every single time, the Lord would bring someone into our lives that would give us the encouragement we needed to continue on. Sometimes it would be a text, or a donation when we needed it the most. Sometimes it was a teen telling us how important this ministry is.
The Lord has always used His people to encourage us on this journey. One of the greatest lessons learned on this trip: be a person of encouragement. There’s a real lack of genuine encouragement in our society. And, ironically, it’s one of the characteristics most associated with the Christian life. Yet, it seems like we’re known more for our condemnation than anything else. Something we would see and experience first hand in the weeks and months to come.
Condemnation is in direct opposition of encouragement. It’s in direct opposition of Christ.