Home Again, Home Again…Not SO Much (RV Series #21)

(Our family is on a five month RV trip. We are journeying West from Dallas, TX and making our way up the Western coastline finishing in Washington state before we streamline our way back to CO for the summer.)

Our unfinished Ranch House

Our unfinished Ranch House

Within an hour of porting back in Seattle, we nearly ran off of the Alaskan cruise ship, picked up the dogs from boarding, and hit the highway bound for Colorado. We’d originally talked about taking our time and staying at several RV parks on our journey home, but excitement took the wheel. Home was calling.

We decided to split the trip up into just two long days of driving. We traced our finger along the driving route on the Atlas and picked a spot 12 hours down the road.

Aleyna rode with John in the truck pulling the fifth-wheel. Alek rode with me in the SUV. I set my navigation system, put in a worship CD, and bawled my eyes out for the better part of the day.

Alek, engrossed in a book in the third row with the dogs, was unaware that his mom was having a mini meltdown. At the time I didn’t know exactly why I was so upset.

I did know that we’d set out on this RV journey some five months ago hoping Continue reading

Kennewick Compass Shift (RV Series #16)

(Our family is on a five month RV trip. We are journeying West from Dallas, TX and making our way up the Western coastline finishing in Washington state before we streamline our way back to CO for the summer.)

We built our RV travel itinerary around two factors: the northern pacific thaw and an Alaskan cruise departing at the end of May from Seattle, WA. We kept a close eye on the weather forecasts and drove north maintaining steady daytime temperatures around 72 degrees.

We’d originally scheduled two weeks in the Portland area but my teens’ rebellion combined with the never-ending drizzle was like Chinese water torture. I needed out. Continue reading

Oregon (RV Series #15)

(Our family is on a five month RV trip. We are journeying West from Dallas, TX and making our way up the Western coastline finishing in Washington state before we streamline our way back to CO for the summer.)

I say Oregon, you say _________. Oregon, ________. Oregon, ________. Did you say rain? Ducks? Weird? Bridges? Beautiful? Scratch ‘n Dent? Any or all fit the bill and all are reasons to visit:

• Rain. Crossing the border into Oregon from California, we officially traded our beach towels for umbrellas. Continue reading

Bird Attack Detours us to CO (RV Series #6)

(Our family is on a five month RV trip. We are journeying West from Dallas, TX and making our way up the Western coastline finishing in Washington state before we streamline our way back to CO for the summer.)

After a great week in Las Vegas, we moved out of the hotel and drove back to the Phoenix RV Park having devised a plan to retrieve my vehicle from Denver. We considered shipping it via long-haul truck but opted, instead, to fly out ourselves and drive it back.

The trip to Colorado would also give us a chance to check on our house remodel at the ranch thus killing two birds with one stone. Now, with the burst water pipe and ensuing floodwaters at our South Denver suburban home, we had another remodeling project on our hands. This stone had better be big, as we need to kill many more than two birds during our brief visit.

Continue reading

A Toolbox for Christmas

I eased up on the gas pedal as I approached the stoplight. A choice lay before me. Turn left and drive north toward the airport where I could board a flight to anywhere. Turn right and follow my husband and son south toward home where I’d be forced to deal with the horrors dealt to me.

Her words were grinding in my head like oil and vinegar swirling about in a food processor, mixing together but not blending, and separating again due to their inability to stay conjoined. It’s December twenty-third and Christmas shopping isn’t on the agenda today. Or wasn’t until the doctor suggested it while sitting on the bench outside the elevators.

She spoke matter-of–fact after the grueling six-hour mental health evaluation, “On your way home today, stop by the department store and buy one of those heavy-duty, red, metal toolboxes. Keep it on your kitchen counter. Lock up everything you consider a weapon. Wear the key on a long string around your neck twenty-four hours a day so you can control its access.”

Gripped in fear, I clung to the steering wheel, systematically considering the weapons in our home. Continue reading

Learning Connection

We began homeschooling, or as I like to think, learning at home, one year ago today. We skied Beaver Creek during Spring break last year, came home, unpacked, and went to bed unsure of what our first morning learning together would look like. I, the fearful teacher, only had two and a half weeks to prepare the curriculum and the classroom for my two students, 11 and 12.

A classroom. We needed one. My husband and I walked around the house looking for a room that met the specifications: sunlight, shelves, and silence. We found it. His poker room was the one room in our home that fit the bill. Nice round table. Comfy, height-adjustable chairs. Fireplace. Shelving for books. Sunlight peeking in through the garden level window. Silently tucked away in a cozy, basement corner.

Our basement poker/game room. To make it feel super cozy, we wallpapered the walls and ceiling.

Monday, March 28, 2011, the students and I met in my husband’s basement poker room and learned together. We met in the sunny, shelved, silent room each morning for a series of days, weeks, months until I realized what was missing from our learning room. We were missing sounds, a connection to the rest of the house, the world around us. Sounds.

No poker room is complete without 2 mounted tv’s and 2 refreshment fridges to satisfy the sight and palette.

With good intention, I sought a room offering silence but this quiet was deafening at times. Continue reading

Robed Greetings

In full Southern fashion, I grew up with the women in my life wearing robes, or housecoats. In case you’re not familiar with the housecoat, let me enlighten you. It’s made of lightweight cotton fabric, unstructured, knee-length, usually short-sleeved, brightly patterned or striped, with buttons or a zipper right down the front. When purchased in the correct size, it doesn’t touch any part of the body except the shoulders, suitable for the Texas summer heat.

Growing up in Dallas, we’d often visit my parents’ extended families in the Texas Panhandle to escape the nine months of summer heat. The state of Texas is so large that we could drive seven hours north of Dallas to the Panhandle to escape the heat and humidity. Evenings up north cool off and humidity levels are less suffocating. In case you’re not familiar with Dallas heat and summer humidity, let me enlighten you. A shower is the only time your skin is intentionally wet. You spend the rest of the day toweling off. Even in the Panhandle, daytime temperatures are warm and air conditioning wasn’t common in the homes we visited.

Mom’s side of the family didn’t wear pants, for religious reasons, making the housecoat an invaluable wardrobe asset. It was bad enough getting out of the shower in the summer and putting on anything with a waistband, but imagine pulling on a fitted, belted dress to tackle the days’ chores. My maw-maw, aunts, and cousins cooked three meals a day using fresh ingredients from their gardens. Everything cooked or baked from scratch. Pie crusts, bread, berry fillings, jams and jellies, gravy, all southern-style meals homemade with love. Cooking, gardening, canning, and cleaning house in their fitted dresses wasn’t practical. So each morning, these women would bathe, put on their undergarments, and don a housecoat. It was their house-dress. They would’ve never worn their housecoat to the grocery store, but they welcomed neighbors’ visits unashamed. For me, the housecoat has always been a symbol of home, comfort, and modesty.

My weekend mornings, as an adult, have always included wearing a robe. I no longer suffer from the stifling Texas heat and humidity, but I prefer the modesty of a robe while cooking breakfast and sipping coffee. I like the soft cotton, unstructured ease it offers after a shower. Two years ago, my husband replaced my robe for Christmas, even including a fresh tissue in each front pocket, just the way he remembered his grandmother wearing and using her robe. Yes, he was mocking me but all in good fun. The following picture isn’t me, but an idea of what he bought me.

Since buying the ranch in Steamboat Springs, we’ve spent a fair amount of time up there with an unscheduled routine. We’re often up early in the morning, but I prefer milling around in my robe and not getting dressed for the day right away. After all, we’re 25 minutes away from the closest ski run and don’t know anyone. Or didn’t. We have welcomed more drop-in visitors on the ranch than I’ve experienced at the doorstep of our city dwelling in the past 19 years. And yes, you guessed it, I’ve answered the door in my robe each time. Who knew that I should get showered and dressed everyday at our getaway ranch? But each knock at the door has brought wonderful, new friends and comfort to my soul.

But how do they know when to visit. No one knows we’re coming. We don’t even schedule our visits. Last Friday morning, my husband’s schedule included picking up his brand-spanking new truck, as every ranch owner must drive a truck. He was bouncing off the walls with excitement to drive the vehicle and suggested we drive three and a half hours up to the ranch for a spontaneous overnight visit. I succumbed. We arrived around dinner time on Friday night. We went to bed early and awoke Saturday morning when our bodies alerted us that ten hours was enough sleep.

Heaven, right? It gets better. John decided to take the kids snowshoeing to the back of the property where it joins the national forest. He wanted to situate his new infrared cameras amidst the trees to capture unique photos of moose, elk, deer, fox, and other wildlife wandering near the camera lens. That left me, alone in the house, drinking coffee in bed, no agenda for the morning. I know better, uh-huh, a knock at the door. I slipped my arms into the dark red sleeves of my robe and zipped it up the middle. Thirteen stair steps down and I answered my front door, in my robe. A young couple in their 30’s stood before me, smiling, hands extended to welcome me to Routt County, referring to our off-the-beaten path area.

As the three of us stood in the modest foyer, I in my robe, they told me how she’d been the head wrangler of this previously-run guest ranch and the two of them had met at a mutual friend’s wedding at the ranch. Her beloved sheep-herding dog was even buried on our newly acquired property. Their memories were heart-felt and sincere. I apologized for answering the door in my robe, having not gotten ready for my surprise visitors. They didn’t seem to mind and I wasn’t ashamed. I was glad for my lazy morning interruption and introduction to more friends, more shared memories and history of the landmark guest ranch. I was glad I answered the door. In my robe.

My Little House on the Prairie

In the summer of 2011, about four months into our homeschooling journey, I declared a thought aloud to my husband. “I think I’m ready for my little house on the prairie.” Yep, the one in your mind’s eye; where the land takes precedence over the understated house. He wasn’t surprised by my comment, but understand, we mostly gravitate to beach destinations. In fact, we had recently returned from Mexico, and were searching for a second home in Tybee Island, GA. But something was stirring inside of me and our internet house hunting search quickly changed to zip codes beginning with eight.

In the Fall of 2003, we set our sights on a storybook-esque, three-bedroom, rolled-log cabin set on 16 rolling acres just outside of Breckenridge, CO.

We envisioned weekends away from our primary residence in south Denver hunting, fishing, boating on the nearby lake, driving ATV’s or snowmobiles, and sitting out on the small deck basking in God’s creation. We thumbed through the novel-sized HOA regulations and all the aforementioned activities were illegal on the property except basking. Ugh. At the time we couldn’t afford more land and less rules, so we closed the storybook cover on the dream.

Shortly afterwards, God planted adoption into our hearts and we soon understood why He steered us away from the cabin in the woods.

Fast forward seven years, our thoughts turning back to that adorable cabin but hoping to find it on more land with no HOA and within driving distance from our primary residence. I’m still a beach girl at heart but, with no plans of buying a private jet, spontaneous weekends a car ride away fit the bill while keeping our home in the city, close to the mall.

After some day-long car trips, due diligence, and prayer, we signed the closing papers on my little house on the prairie. Well, little houses, plural. The previous owners ran a commercial guest ranch, but 16+ years of painstakingly hard work and the depressed economy forced their exit.

We fell in love with the land, 99 rolling acres 25 minutes outside of Steamboat Springs, CO, surrounded by 360 degree mountain peak views. Across the street, we can enjoy summer water sports on Steamboat Lake or ice fishing in the winter.

The main house, a three-bedroom, rough-sewn wood house is a simple abode, however, in addition to my little house, the purchase also included a rolled-log lodge complete with a commercial kitchen, a two-car detached garage, a tack shed and loafing shed for horses, and nine, yes nine, fully furnished cabins along with four apartments to house the ranch hands.

We have no intentions of operating a guest ranch but rather hosting family, friends and community events from time to time.

Freed by our homeschooling schedule, we’ve enjoyed a significant amount of time on the ranch after having just closed on it two months ago. Last weekend, we went for an overnight to check on the fireplace renovations in the main house. Saturday morning was perfect. Blue skies. Forty degrees. Snow covered ground. Perfect for my husband to take the kids on their first snowshoeing expedition. Perfect for me to drink coffee in bed while watching chef’s cook on TV. Perfect for praising God for his provisions, faithfulness, for keeping promises. He has repaid us for the years the locusts have eaten. (Joel 2:25)

Often times, I’ve resented the sacrifices we’ve made adopting/raising three kids. I’ve never sugar-coated the truth. It’s been hard. I recently shared coffee with a prospective adoptive mother and my advice to her: it’s the best thing if it’s God’s will for your life and you’re willing to yield yourself to Him daily. Yielding. That’s the hard work and sacrifice. I faced the fact that I’ve called myself a christian for years but didn’t walk my talk. I wanted a savior, not a Lord over my life.

In my selfishness, I considered the past seven years of our adoption journey as the years the locusts have eaten. But no. The years the locusts have eaten were, for me, the christian years spent with one foot in the world; missing out on the true freedom Jesus Christ offers. Since having adopted these kids, I’ve jumped into God’s arms with both feet. The trials, suffering, difficulties, valleys that made me seek Him alone; that’s the repayment, the grace, the mercy. Adoption is the vehicle that God has used to draw me to Him in intimate friendship. The work continues. Thankfully, I’m still making forward progress. He has my whole heart and I praise the name of the LORD my God (Joel 2:26), basking in His creation in my little house on the prairie, without rules or restrictions.

Great Crepe Caper

This past week, our house was filled with unfamiliar sights and sounds. Diapers, pacifiers, new-fangled bouncy seats, scampering feet beneath the eldest niece and nephews, ages 2, 3, and 5 and the giggles and coos from the youngest niece, four months. These adored and adorable, well-behaved children are happy, content beings teamed together with their cousins, my youngest two children, 11 and 12. Whether they’re hiding and seeking, building architectural LEGO marvels, competing on Wii sports, or scootering down the incline of the circle driveway, they’re happy. Yay, right? What else could mom and dad, aunt and uncle wish for?

We felt the need to reduce our cabin fever and their happiness and loaded everyone into two cars and four car seats to experience our local county fair. I don’t recall attending many county fairs even though my high school sweetheart was in FFA and raised a pork product named, Bosephus, the nickname of famous country singer, Hank Williams, Jr. Nonetheless, we strapped the underlings into the limo-sized jogging stroller and were assigned the ‘Great Crepe Caper’ at the fair entrance. Each child’s keeper was given a plastic zipped baggie in which we were to gather contents for making crepes. The map designated the barns where each ingredient could be found in hopes of teaching the children that food doesn’t originate shrink-wrapped at the grocery store.

We scampered about, six children and baggies, from barn to barn gathering our ingredients, petting the barn animals, and sneezing along the way. My brother-in-love, former Ag student and rabbit breeder, took a teaching opportunity in the lamb barn while the FFA students busily prepared their lambs for the upcoming show ring. He asked one of the students to demonstrate how they make the lamb’s neck ‘press into’ the student’s upper thigh to flex the lamb’s muscles making its health more apparent to the judges. Most of these lambs were less than six months old and yet fully trusted their young trainer. Such a small gesture, pressing into, created a flex of the will to trust.

We exited our final stop, the cow barn, with our butter, the last ingredient for our crepes. As murphy would have it, thunderstorms broke overhead forcing us to head home before we could receive our delicious french reward for completing the caper. Instead, we opted to make pancakes, a thicker version of crepes, for dinner and collapsed afterward from fair exhaustion while the cousins returned to a state of bliss.

After the young cousins waved goodbye making their way back to the Dallas heat wave, I found some quiet time with God and began praying for the upcoming school year. I was reflecting on the previous week and our time in the lamb barn. “God, my shepherd, I want to press into you daily so as to flex my will to trust you in all circumstances. Not just in the show ring, judged. I want to be empty of self so I can be full of your spirit, fully flexed.” Finding God as I pass through the barns of life gathering together all ingredients necessary to fulfill His purpose. Now that’s a great caper.

This is the plan

three ring binder

Image via Wikipedia

“So, what’s the plan?” Most summer mornings begin with one of my children posing this question to me. I’ve trained them to think in terms of a plan. What is a plan? My definition: waking hours of the day broken down into increments of time spent fueling our body, mind, soul, and spirit to attain feelings of wholeness, fullness, satisfaction, and contentment in life’s journey.

Yes, I’m a planner. I have goals for my life: I want to intimately know Christ. I want to serve. I want to teach, coach, mentor. I want to have energy to accomplish these things. To reach these goals, I need a strategy. A plan. I plan to pray. I plan to read and study the Bible. I plan to shower and get dressed. I plan to take a walk each evening. I plan to blog. I plan to make dinner. I think about my days. I make a plan and, yes, I enter the plan into my Outlook calendar, complete with reminders.

I’m intentional about the way I spend my time even if my plan includes: watching a movie with my high school senior, reading a book alone, hanging out at the pool with the younger kids and their posse of peeps, enjoying coffee with a friend. Sometimes, on a Saturday morning, amidst the Golf Channel blaring on the television, Lego wars taking place in the hallway, and paper plates holding freshly baked blueberry muffins slathered with butter, I answer my kids’ question, “This is the plan.” Doesn’t seem to meet a goal or have any intention but it’s still a plan.

As a child of God, I pose this same question to Him, “So, what’s the plan?” I ask in the form of conversational prayer. I pose the question and then I wait as He speaks to me through His word, my family, friends, nature, the checker at the grocery store, His spirit that lives within me.

Lately, I’ve asked this question aloud, louder, almost screaming. My 14-year-old son was just found incompetent by our county’s juvenile court to stand trial for his criminal charges against his younger siblings. Due to a restraining order, and our family’s safety and protection, he cannot return home. At his social worker’s request, he will stay in the treatment program, status quo, even though his negative behavior reports outnumber his steps toward positive treatment progress. He needs help beyond our capabilities. His mind is that of an 8-year old and his mental health fails him. “God, what’s the plan?”

Amidst enough legal documents to fill a three-ring binder, therapy sessions to aid in the healing process, and frequent sleepless nights, God responded, “This is the plan.” Not exactly the answer I was hoping for. Doesn’t seem to meet a goal or have any intention. What I realized is that even if I don’t agree with the plan, it’s a plan all the same. It may not seem intentional. It may not fit one of my goals. It might not make me feel whole, full, content or satisfied but God has a sovereign plan.

God’s definition: to take me on the path that fosters a deeper relationship with Him. To strip from me any pride and create oneness with the Father. He wants me to desire Him more than heaven. God’s not as interested in mapping out the most convenient route for me as He is in cementing and growing our relationship. Peace. “This is the plan.”