Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Naples, FL

Happy New Year! We are still here in Naples and so grateful for warm weather. The RV park we're at has a lake with a two mile road/sidewalk all the way around, so Macie is loving those nice long walks in the mornings.

In case you are curious...it's official...I finally drove this beast. Ok, so I drove it around the RV park once - for 5 minutes - and nearly hit a parked car going around a corner. Everyone keeps assuring me I'd get used to it, and I'm sure I would, but I think I'll keep my co-pilot job for now. Rich is happy about that too.

Oh, and here's some useless trivia. Anyone want to guess how much we weigh while we are barreling down the road towing a minivan? Our total weight is 34,180 lbs.

We visited
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary - walked on a 2 mile long boardwalk through a swamp. We saw birds, frogs, spiders, butterfies, and a glimpse of an alligator.

We also checked out the beach on Sanibel Island for a couple hours while the RV was in the shop. Actually, most of our week was spent on RV maintenance. The boys washed the RV and we got our slide fixed. We feel like we're living in a palace now with all this extra space! We also tried to get an oil change that day which is when they discovered a leak in our oil pan. This required a visit to the Cummins engine shop which we did on Tuesday. They were very kind to stay late to finish the job so we could have our house back for the night. Unfortunately, they didn't quite get all the air out of the coolant lines before they sent us on our way. It wasn't long before Rich saw a big bold message screaming "STOP ENGINE NOW!"

So he pulled off the freeway and we put more coolant in and tried it again. He made it another five miles to a rest area before the lights came on again. So we called the engine people. They offered to come out that night, but we decided to wait until morning which meant we spent the night boondocking in the rest area. Rich didn't sleep too well which explains why he is already fast asleep tonight - long before the ball dropped. The engine guys took care of the problem the next morning. Which made me think about how grateful I am for people who know how to fix engines and such.

We are very excited to have my mom joining us on the next leg of our journey. She flies in on the 1st and then we are driving through the Everglades and out to the Keys. How can you drive to an island 113 miles out in the ocean? I'll let you know next week.

Oh, and one last thing...as you can imagine, this journey we are on is much bigger than an exercise in RV travel and sightseeing. It's also a journey of the heart. With that in mind, I decided to share what I'm pondering and contemplating along with way. And I'd love to hear your thoughts too. The Bendickson Family blog will continue to update you on our travels. If you want to read about what is rolling around for me from a heart perspective, head over to
http://conniebendickson.blogspot.com/ I put a little test message out there today.

Wishing you a happy and healthy new year!


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas

Joy to the world...the Lord is come! We had a wonderful little Christmas here in Naples, FL. For those of you who worried we might have a ba-humbug holiday (after my post on Christmas presents vs. presence), I want to assure you that there was joy in our world as we celebrated the birth of Jesus!

We had lots of "presence" as we decorated our Jessie Tree, played games, baked cookies, etc. And, have no fear, we also had presents. We had a great time one afternoon picking out a few little treasures for each other. We wrapped them in newspaper and put them under the Jessie Tree - which was supposed to hang on the back of the drivers seat...but our slide got stuck in (that's a whole other story), so we had a really cozy Christmas with the slide in all week. (We're getting it repaired on Friday).

We are also celebrating Hanukkah this year remembering the miracle when the Maccabees defeated the Syrians (who desecrated the temple) and rededicated the temple to God with festivities that lasted eight days. When the Jews cleaned the temple, they only found enough oil to light the menorah for one day, but miraculously the menorah burned for eight days straight! Our God is a God of miracles! Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord. (Zechariah 4:6) With Him all things are possible!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tampa, FL

Merry Christmas from Tampa, FL! We didn't travel far this week, and we didn't do much sightseeing either. We spent the week at the Lazy Days Rally Park next to the "World's Largest RV Dealership." We had beautiful weather and the kids really enjoyed the pool. We played a heated game of shuffleboard - the boys came out on top - two games to one.

We also did some "normal" things this week...Rich met with a client in Tampa, the boys got haircuts, and I went to the dentist to have a crown glued back on after it fell off last week while I was eating a rice bowl at Pei Wei.

We spent some time working on our
Jessie Tree. About five years ago I bought a kit to make this felt tree and all the trimmings, but it never made it to the top of our "to do" list. When I was cleaning out the house before we left MN, I came across the kit and thought it would be perfect for our simple, homemade Christmas this year. Basically, it's a walk through the Old Testament scriptures that reveal the coming of Messiah. Each ornament we place on the tree tells the story of Jesus' heritage and reminds us again of how God's plan of salvation has been unfolding since creation. We're a little behind in decorating the tree - it's supposed to be a daily event to put one ornament on and read the corresponding scripture - but we finished the ornaments now so we'll start decorating this week.

Oh, and we enjoyed having lunch at
The Grass Root - a funky little organic vegetarian restaurant in Lakeland, FL. (They also have a location in Tampa.) We met the owners, enjoyed the healthy fare, and topped it off with a slice of vegan key lime pie - yummy :-)

We met an intersting lady with a cockateal bird named Trinket. She got the bird to have a "trinket" to make some noise after her husband passed away from cancer five years ago. Now the bird goes everywhere with her and they visit hospice patients together. To make sure nobody gets pooped on, Trinket wears a little outfit with a mini diaper to catch the do-do. The bird has over 100 outfits and was all dressed up for Christmas the day we met.

Our slideshow is short this time since we had such a low key week. Blessings to you as you prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior - Jesus.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Orlando, FL

We'll, here we are again in a place we hadn't intended to be. It's not that we don't like Orlando - it's just that we did the Disney thing last April. But the inevitable happened...Rich had to fly to Seattle for business which meant we needed a decent airport and a place for the kids and I to feel safe. Orlando was a short drive from Hilton Head so we spent the week at Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground.

We decided to do the Magic Kingdom since we didn't go there in April. We enjoyed the day including a boat ride to and from the park. Disney was fun, but the highlight of our week was something much less expensive, much less hectic, and much more meaningful. On Thursday night the kids and I spent the evening making Christmas decorations out of construction paper and glitter glue! I cannot tell you how much fun we had - and how much creativity flowed from all three of us! This is not the norm for us at all. Ask my friends - "artsy craftsy" is not my middle name. But this was AWESOME. In past years we've never taken the time to do this. Why? That's the question I'm pondering this week...

On Friday we visited
The Holy Land Experience which was another highlight. We saw musical dramas on everything from Hanukkah to the Passion of Christ to the Tabernacle to Christmas. Talk about the Bible coming to life! It was a glorious day spent immersing ourselves in the Reason for the season. I am so grateful for a place that exists to glorify God in this way. Oh, and we even learned two Hebrew phrases: Shalom (which means peace &/or wholeness) and yom tov (meaning good day).

Rich arrived home on Saturday morning after a very long red-eye flight from Seattle. We are very happy to have him home - and he's even happier to be here!

Which brings us to the video. As we spent time crafting our Christmas decor, we listened to a variety of Christmas music. This song by Go Fish grabbed my attention every time I heard it and it spoke even more deeply to my heart after seeing the passion play at the Holy Land on Friday. The line that really hits me is:


"It's about every drop of blood that flowed from Him when it should have been me."

Christmas is not just about a baby in a manger. It's about Jesus paying for my life with His. It's about the cross.

God's love for us a radical! Thank you, Jesus!! And Happy Birthday!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Hilton Head Island

Greetings from Hilton Head Island! We only planned to be here for one week, but we liked it so much we stayed for two. These two weeks were different than past weeks. We didn't do as much sight seeing, but we did a lot of biking here. Hilton Head is a bikers paradise with trails everywhere and it is so cool - you can bike on the beach! The sand is hard packed and it's just like riding on pavement - for miles! We took Macie in the bike trailer again. It's not her favorite thing, but I think she thought it was worth it once she got to the beach.

We also played a lot of tennis. The kids are really improving. We always play girls vs. boys and its pretty evenly matched. We all give it our best shot and we usually go three sets every time we play.

I think I mentioned awhile back that neither Rich or I were ever big on camping. We did it once a year with our college friends, but it was never our cup of tea. Let me tell you - we have found a campground (if you can call it that), that we could live in! In fact, some people do. Ok, well, it's really not a campground...it's more like a ... resort. Ok, the truth is they deliver the USA Today to our motorhome every morning and there's a tennis pro on staff. I had no idea there even were such places! If you ever get to Hilton Head Island, we highly recommend
Hilton Head Island Motorcoach Resort. It is beautiful!

We enjoyed Thanksgiving here with our usual feast of Mashed Potatoes, Stuffing, Stuffed Squash, and Broccoli Stuff. Speaking of food - we found a delicious Thai place this week called Ruan Thai. We were very excited because we haven't had Thai food since we left MN - and we used to eat it once a week. Rich always says he could eat it every night, he loves it so much.

We did a day trip to Savannah, GA, this week which is only about 45 minutes from Hilton Head. We took a horse-drawn carriage tour of the city which is laid out in a grid fashion around a number of squares with with live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. Very beautiful and the squares give the town a real feeling of community.

Oh, and we saw a 12 foot alligator along the road making its way into a pond as we were driving around exploring the island. We've seen the signs around about not feeding the alligators, but this is the first time we've seen one. We also saw a baby alligator in the same area.

Stay tuned...we're moving to sunny Florida on Sunday...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

You're invited...

It's Thanksgiving Eve as I write this, but my thoughts are going to Christmas. The truth is I've struggled with Christmas for quite a few years. I grieve deeply that what should be a sacred season set apart for remembering the birth of Jesus and worshipping Him, has turned into a religious ritual of buying stuff nobody needs or wants.

Why do we do it? How did we get so far from the true meaning of Christmas? Wouldn't it be incredible to slow down, ponder the birth of our Savior, spend time with each other, and serve people like Jesus did?

Take a moment to ponder with us...






As you can imagine, our life has changed dramatically over the last six weeks. And Christmas will be different too. Yes, we will miss our family and some of the traditions we have enjoyed. But this year is an incredible opportunity to take a step back, to re-evaluate - and to do something different.

Here at the Bendickson Bus, we've been talking about Christmas for the last week or so - all four of us, that is. It's interesting how living in a small space helps to change our perspective. We all agree - we don't need more stuff (and we don't have room for it). So what about Christmas gifts?



We would like to invite you to participate with us in celebrating Christmas a little differently this year. First, we're going to give each other presence instead of presents. We're going to get creative! Second, we are taking the money we would normally spend on gifts for each other and giving it to people who really need it. There are many wonderful places to give - we had a hard time choosing where to help. But we have narrowed it down to three organizations.


One is a Minnesota-based organization called Feed My Starving Children. Volunteers assemble food packets which are then shipped overseas to hungry people. Our family has packed meals as volunteers at the Brooklyn Park facility two or three times and were very blessed to be part of this ministry. It costs 17 cents for one meal which means $30 can feed six children for a month. $62 will feed one child for an entire year! And the food is really good - we've tasted it!


We also want to help support a village in Haiti called Lougou where our dear friends, Tim and Michelle, recently visited. They saw for themselves the incredible need - but also the incredible hope that is prevalent in this village. The ministry we are supporting is called COFHED and their unique approach is to come alongside the community to empower them to find a sustainable path to poverty alleviation. When change comes from within, it gets rooted and established and it lasts.

And we will also participate in funding clean water through Living Water International. Nearly half of all people living in developing countries suffer from water-related health issues. Can you imagine not having access to clean water? We take it for granted here in the U.S., but it's a huge problem for people around the world. Just $10 can provide one person with a lifetime supply of clean water.

We are so excited how this has come together! We didn't plan it this way, but there is a theme running through all three organizations: Haiti. If you look at the websites, they all have a special section on Haiti. It is a country in great need and all three organizations are helping in different ways.


Would you like to celebrate CHRISTmas with us this year? Our hope is that you will ponder and pray about how you and your family might take one step toward more presence and less presents.

Please leave us a comment and let us know how God is leading you to make this Christmas special.

P.S. For more ideas, please visit www.adventconspiracy.org

Monday, November 24, 2008

It's a ... Kidney Stone!

The Bendicksons are proud to announce the arrival of a long awaited ... kidney stone! It made it's grand entrance into the world today around 2:00 pm to a very relieved man who will be sleeping much better from now on. It was quite uneventful really (thankfully). Just a routine trip to the bathroom and it was out in no time. No epidural, no pain killers - just an all natural simple home birth. Here's a picture of the proud papa with the new arrival...



Just kidding...it wasn't really that big...but big enough! Amazing that something this small can cause so much pain.
Thank you to everyone who was praying for Rich over the last couple of weeks. We are very happy to have this behind us.

On a side note, we moved to paradise over the weekend...I'm serious...we are spending this week on Hilton Head Island and it is BEAUTIFUL! We played some tennis this morning and had lunch on the patio. And...for the first time in weeks, I am not wearing polar fleece!

Blessings to each of you this week as you celebrate Thanksgiving and enjoy a day set aside to remember the many ways God has blessed you this year.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Charleston, SC

The night before we left Asheville, we took a vote: Go to DC where the weather looked cold and rainy - or head south in hopes of warm sun. Warm won and so here we are in Charleston, SC. It was sunny, but not quite as warm as we'd hoped. They tell us their having a cold spell - it was pretty much the 50's all week. Given the fact that it's snowing in MN, we're more than happy. But we are looking forward to giving the polar fleece a rest. The kids did manage to swim in the heated outdoor pool - for about 30 minutes before their lips turned blue and they had to head for the hot showers.

Charleston is rich with American history being the city where the civil war began. We visited
Boone Hall Plantation which has an incredible tree lined driveway of live oak trees planted in 1743 that form a canopy over the road. It also has quite a few slave cabins still intact where we toured and learned about this sad reality of our history. We also stopped at the Charles Pinkney National Historic site - the home of one of the original signers of the U.S. Constitution.

Thursday we celebrated my (Connie) birthday. The kids gave me the best gifts ever. Ashley made me a beautiful bookmark and Jake hand-crafted a precious birthday banner - you'll see it in the slideshow. I got to sleep in and pick our spot for lunch. I chose
Tasi which turned out to be fabulous! It's an upbeat, colorful oasis where we had fresh, delicious wraps and smoothies. Then Mark, the owner, taught us how to grow wheatgrass! What a treat to learn how to grow this incredibly nutrient-dense superfood. What made this even more exciting was the fact that just the night before we had been talking with some friends about this very thing. Then, out of the blue, God provides someone to teach us when we least expected it. We all tasted a sample and the next day I stopped back in to ask a couple more questions. Mark was so kind to give me a couple of trays so we can start experimenting with growing our own wheatgrass in the RV - should be interesting! Stay tuned for that.

Next we headed down to
Fort Sumter (where the Civil War began in 1861), but we were too late to take the ferry. So we picked up the Junior Ranger booklets and spent some time at the exhibits. Then we decided to check out the Old Exchange Building where George Washington is said to have danced with over 200 women when he visited Charleston in 1791. The building also housed the jail - which was really a dungeon - very interesting tour.

As we were driving back to the campground and wondering what we should have for dinner, Rich caught a glimpse of Whole Foods! Let me tell you, this was the icing on my birthday cake! I LOVE shopping at places where I don't have to scrutinize every label and search through the aisles for healthy food. We ended up with a cart full of groceries, dinner to go, and a birthday treat to boot.

Friday morning was a first. It was the first day in five weeks that I spent more than five minutes alone. Can you even imagine that? For the last five straight weeks, the four of us have spent every waking moment - together! And it's actually been wonderful. I'm pleasantly surprised. Why? Because I honestly really need alone time. I'm an introvert meaning I recharge when I have alone time. I love nothing more than to be alone with my Bible, my journal and a hot cup of tea - for hours on end. But that doesn't happen anymore - not with this lifestyle. And so I really thought by now I would have been intensely craving some alone time. But that's really not the case. Yes, I enjoyed my morning out getting a massage and doing a few errands, but I find it interesting that I'm not going nuts without more time to myself. Either my occasional late night blog writing is satisfying my alone-time need, or God is giving me the grace to live without it for a season.

Jake loves Legos. He agonized over leaving 90% of his collection behind. We've been so busy that the Legos have been on the back burner since we left. But this week, Jake had some time to build quite a few different things from plantation houses to ships. He was very creative!

Ashley made a beautiful loaf of
challah bread this week for our sabbath dinner on Friday evening. This is the first time we've made challah, but it won't be the last. This braided bread was wonderful - perfect with the Caesar Salads we had for dinner.

On Saturday we took Macie on her first bike ride. I pulled her behind in a trailer. Unfortunately, she didn't seem as thrilled about it as we were. She whimpered along the first mile or two, but settled down for a while after that. Hopefully it will grow on her...

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we want to tell each of you how grateful we are for you. We are very blessed to have such wonderful friends and family. Have a great Thanksgiving remembering and celebrating the blessings God has given you.

Oh, and in case you are wondering about Rich...he's still waiting. No pain and no stone...yet...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The RV

Some of you visited us in the RV before we left MN, but many of you are probably wondering just exactly what we are living in. We may have downsized, but we don't feel deprived what so ever. We are very blessed to be traveling in a beautiful 2007 Newmar All Star that we purchased from the wonderful people at Howard RV in Wilmington, NC. It is 42 feet long plus we are towing our minivan. We have one slide - which means the wall slides out to make it bigger while we are parked. The booth and the couch are on the slide - so it's basically the entire length of our living space.

This is our kitchen area complete with a double sink, filtered water, 3-burner propane stove, double sided refrigerator with ice maker, and a microwave/convection oven. The rectangular area on the floor is the trap door to the engine...it's a mid-engine diesel. We now have a rug covering that area.



Here's where we eat our meals and do our school work. Ashley and Jake each have a drawer under the booth seat to keep their books and school supplies.



This is our living room with our new storage ottoman which makes it nice to put our feet up and read. The couch also makes into a bed. We keep all our current week information in the seat pocket on the driver's seat.


The kids ride here while we are traveling. When we're parked, this turns into Rich's office.



The kids each have their own bunk and three drawers. They use one drawer each for clothes so they have two drawers for books, craft projects, etc...




This is our cozy little bedroom. We have lots of storage for books and there is a flip-down TV on the ceiling where we (all four of us plus Macie) snuggle up to watch movies. Right outside the bedroom across from the bunks, we have a closet and six deep drawers which is more than enough space for our clothes, vacuum, files, etc. We also have another hall closet that has a combination washer/dryer and room for jackets.



Our tiny little bathroom with everything we need - a sink, shower, and toilet.


Outside we also have a lot of storage areas. Some of the items we keep in our "basement" include sports stuff - tennis rackets, balls, etc.; Rich and Connie's bikes; laundry baskets, outdoor chairs, sewing machine, and a few other items. The kids' bikes travel in the back of the minivan.
One thing we are really enjoying about living in a smaller space is how much less time it takes to clean. We don't have much stuff, so it doesn't take long to put it away. We don't have much space, so everything has to have a place. And we don't have very many square feet so we can vacuum the whole house in five minutes. So far...we give it the thumbs up!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Nashville, TN --- Asheville, NC

It's been a couple of weeks since I've written about where we are and what we're doing. After Lexington, KY, we headed south to Nashville, TN where we took in a 50's show called Kenny and the Krooners. My mom would have loved it! We spent a day wandering around downtown Nashville where we stumbled upon an old church with beautiful stained glass windows. The church secretary took time to give us a tour and tell us about the history of the church. We also saw a fort, peered across the river at the pro football stadium, and walked through the park reading about the history of Tennessee engraved in a long marble wall.

Rich will no doubt remember Nashville as the city where he ended up in the emergency room enduring the excruciating pain of a kidney stone. It was an unplanned three hour field trip in the middle of the night. We are thankful for a GPS system! (Rich, by the way, has been pain-free since that night and is still waiting for that nasty stone to make a long-awaited appearance.)

We headed off to
Cowboy Church on Sunday morning where Johnny Cash's sister and her husband pastor a church that ministers to those traveling through music city. No trip to Nashville is complete without a stop at the Opreyland Hotel - it's incredible and very pretty at this time of year all dressed up for Christmas.

Jake celebrated his 9th birthday on November 10th with a game of boys vs. girls in flag football. Yes, the boys won again.

Our last stop in Nashville was a visit to Andrew Jackson's home called
The Hermitage. He was our 7th president and had a huge plantation near Nashville.

After 10 days, we dropped the "N" from Nashville and found ourselves in Asheville, NC for a few days. We dined a wonderful little vegetarain restaurant called
The Laughing Seed Cafe. It's not often you find a gem like this with an entire menu filled with so many items its tough to choose. If you're ever in Asheville, this is the place to eat!

Of course, we visited the incredible
Biltmore House which is the largest privately owned home in the United States built in the late 1800's by George Vanderbilt. I am very thankful I don't have to clean 175,00 square feet including 43 bathrooms! The land surrounding the estate was absolutely amazing and we also enjoyed visiting the winery, the blacksmith shop, and the farmyard.

Where to next? It's been exactly one month since we set out on this journey and we've noticed something: We never end up where we think will. So who knows...stay tuned and we'll keep you posted. Blessings to all of you who are reading our blog and praying for us. We deeply appreciate you!

And now - the slideshow for Nashville and Asheville...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Stones

I usually blog about where we've been as we're moving to the next destination. But we're not moving just yet. We planned to head out early Saturday morning to drive like crazy all the way to New York. We were excited to meet up with our friends - the Stones. They drove their motorhome to NY for a wedding and we were going to spend a couple days together checking out New York City. But a "stone" has interfered with our plans with the Stones.

It all started Friday night when Rich came to bed about 12:30 am with a severe pain in his lower back that had him twisting and turning and dry heaving. It wasn't pretty. So at 1 am, we climbed into the minivan, turned on the GPS and typed in "HOSPITAL". By the time we got to the freeway the thing still said "searching for satellite". What? We don't have time for this! So I stopped at The Waffle House to ask directions. Some guy at the counter along with the waffle cook were trying to give me directions when Jake burst into the door saying the GPS was now working. So off we went - 2.4 miles to the nearest emergency room.

I dropped Rich off at the door and as he hobbled into the ER the guy behind the desk yelled, "You ever had a kidney stone?" Not until now I guess. We barely got into the room when Jake said, "I don't feel so good"...and proceeded to throw up. Good grief! What next?


After a CT scan and two shots of morphine, we learned Rich has a 5-6 mm kidney stone. It should hopefully pass in "a few hours...or days". So we're staying put here in Nashville, TN, brushing up on our waiting skills. Please pray for Rich over the next few days. He's out of the hospital and had no pain on Saturday. We'll keep you posted...

Laughter is good medicine and we've been watching some outstanding stand-up comedy DVDs. Today Jake remembered a section from a Brian Regan show that pretty much sums up our last 24 hours. Take a look - it's hilarious!


Thursday, November 6, 2008

How we ended up in an RV

Why did a middle class family of four living the American dream decide to sell their house, buy an RV, and drive away from the life they've always known and worked so hard to attain?

First, let me say that a year ago, this wasn't even on our radar – though I do remember reading a few blogs last fall about families traveling in RV’s and being intrigued. In reality we've never been campers unless you count one weekend a year with our college friends who brought all the stuff and we just showed up. We were perfectly happy with life. Not looking to make any major changes. So, leaving our life behind to hit the camping scene is not something we’ve been yearning to do.

The past year has been a season of waiting. “Everlasting God” by Lincoln Brewster became our theme song and we listened to it all the way to Seattle, Washington and back on our August 2007 road trip. It was the first time we’d ever taken the scenic route so to speak. Our typical vacations involve non-stop airplanes and rental cars. But somehow we ended up driving our minivan to Seattle last summer and we loved the open road and the slower pace. We had a blast. I can see now that it was a taste of things to come. Another way that God was preparing us for the lifestyle we are now living.

Last spring, after much prayer and with fear and trembling, we did not re-enroll at Hand In Hand (the homeschool academy our children attended). This was a big step of faith for us. We loved this place and we were so incredibly blessed to be there for six wonderful years. Saying goodbye was one of the hardest things we've ever done. Yet we knew it was what we needed to do - even though we did not yet know we'd be traveling the country in an RV come fall.

During this time, we were also noticing a few other things. It seemed liked our anchors were being untied. Leaving Hand In Hand was a big one, but there were others. I couldn’t commit to anything people invited us to do in the fall. Friends asked us to buy concert tickets, join a homeschool co-op, get together on a regular basis. But I had a knowing within me that we wouldn’t be around to do any of it. I also had a deep inner conviction to purge the nooks and crannies of our house. Now we know why.

We have felt for awhile that we will be moving from suburbia to a place with more land. We’ve even looked at a few properties over the last year, but the timing was not right. These were all pieces of a puzzle that would later fit together to form a clearer picture. We did not yet see the bigger picture – we were just noticing and responding to what we knew at the time - one step at a time.

As the summer continued, Rich and I both kept wondering…are we doing this RV thing…or not? At the end of July we celebrated our 20 year anniversary with a week together at the North Shore of Lake Superior. As we contemplated life for the upcoming year, we came away believing that we would probably do it.

Then one night as we casually looked for RV’s on-line, we came across one that we were instantly drawn to. There was just one problem…well, maybe two. First, the RV was marked as “sale pending”. And secondly, it was located in North Carolina – not exactly close to Minnesota. When we contacted the dealer, she informed us that someone else had money down on it, but if anything fell through, she would let us know. Two hours later, we found out the RV was now available. The buyer just learned he was being transferred to Hawaii with the military.

So, we used some frequent flyer tickets and headed to North Carolina to take a look. We loved it, but decided to sleep on it a few days. The next week we put in an offer and the rest is history. The four of us drove our minivan to North Carolina over Labor Day weekend. We spent a couple of days learning how to operate our new rolling house, had a tow bar installed on our van, and drove back to MN to pack up our house and get it on the market.

We left Minnesota on October 16th, 2008, embarking on a journey that we believe will unite us together as a family and prepare us for what lies ahead. Stay tuned as the adventure continues…

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Lexington, KY

Greetings from the great state of Kentucky!

We left South Bend, IN, last week intending to visit the
Creation Museum which is near the border of Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. We’ve wanted to see this museum since we heard about it over a year ago. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to browse through a museum where you don’t have to constantly refute the theory of evolution? How great would it be to look at displays that speak truth about how life came to be! We were very excited to see it. But, we got redirected by the Creator . After spending two nights at a campground in southern Indiana, we were “uncomfortable.” The campground was nice enough – even had concrete pads for the RV. But it wasn’t right. Two nights in a row I woke up with a sense that we needed to get out of there. Rich agreed. So did the kids. So we packed up and moved to Kentucky.

We ended up at The Kentucky Horse Park Campground which was wonderful! It’s right next door to
The Kentucky Horse Park near Lexington. This was the perfect place for us this week. We even had a tennis court in our backyard where we played a heated match - boys vs. girls. It went three sets and extra innings, but when it was all said and done, the boys won 4-6, 6-3, 9-7. After our grueling match, we went back to the RV for Ashley’s birthday dinner (she turned 12 on the 29th) – Tortilla Pie and birthday cake.

Ashley was in horse heaven on Thursday. We spent the day at the horse park watching two breed shows, learning at the museum, and riding on trail. I had a horse named Art – an ex-race horse who started trotting without my approval. I am definitely not as comfortable on a horse as Ashley!

We found a couple interesting cafes this week:
Lock and Key in Georgetown, KY, was a cute boutique cafe in an old bank building serving hummus wraps, etc. Lori was wonderful and we enjoyed talking with her. The other is Natasha’s in downtown Lexington. It was an eclectic mix. We ordered a Mediterranean plate with hummus, baba ghanouj, and mushroom spread. And then we split three entrees – Thai Peanut Stir-Fry with Tofu, Pesto Basilico Pasta, and a Potato Mushroom Pot Pie. Yummy!

The highlight was an incredible bike ride around the horse park. We went on Saturday night and liked it so much we did it again on Sunday morning. It was absolutely BEAUTIFUL pedaling through rolling hills with horses all about and the leaves in fall colors. It felt like we were riding through a picture book!

We are certainly on a great adventure! And we're learning that if we take a detour, God will show us the way back. He has many surprises in store for us - and for you - if we are willing to follow Him into the glorious unknown. Interested in a journey beyond your wildest dreams? Saddle up your horses, we've got a trail to blaze...

Enjoy the show!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

South Bend, IN

Greetings from...South Bend, Indiana!

Well, we survived our first full week on the road - thanks to a heater and tank full of propane :-) We arrived at the KOA in Granger, IN, and pulled into our home for the week among the beautiful tall pine trees. We spent the first few days getting into the swing of homeschool. Then on Wednesday we ventured out to the
RV Museum where we learned about the history of the RV industry. Did you know 50% of all RV's are made right here in northern Indiana? We toured four new models and then looked through quite a few models from days gone by. We used to go through model homes and come home feeling dissatisfied with our house. We should have toured old, run down houses instead because we were very happy to get back to our home on wheels after seeing what early RVer's had to deal with!

The campground here had a great playground with an obstacle course for the kids and Macie appreciated her own doggie play area where she could run off leash.

On Thursday we took a tour of the
Newmar factory in Nappanee where our RV was built. We really enjoyed seeing RV's in different stages of development, but we were sad to learn that the factory was closed for the week due to financial issues. They currently have about 500 employees, down from 1,000 at full capacity. It takes 18 days to build Newmar motorhome. They currently have four roll off the line each day - they finished 20 each day when times were better. With some of their competition now out of business, they will hopefully come through the slower winter season and thrive in the spring. 75% of their workforce are Amish people with incredible work ethics and craftsmanship skills. The short video you'll see in the slide show is our tour guide demonstrating how they move an RV to the next station in the factory. It's like a giant air hockey game. They use air pressure to lift the whole thing up and then they can push it with one finger! Very cool.

We also drove the Heritage Trail through Amish country. Ashley loved all the horse and buggies we passed along the way. We took a tour at Amish Acres and learned about the history of the Amish and their ways of life. There are certainly some appealing aspects to how they live. We could all take some lessons in how to live a simpler - though certainly not an easier - life.

It rained all day on Friday so we took the opportunity to snuggle up and watch a three hour movie. It was the story of
Abraham brought to life on a DVD. It was really incredible to ponder the faith it took for him to leave his family for a land he did not know.

We have been enjoying eating in all week, but tonight we ventured out and found an absolute treasure! It's probably a good thing we didn't find it earlier in the week or we may have blown the food budget. It's called Uptown Kitchen and it was fabulous! I wrote more about it on my
Healthy Moms blog, so check it out for more info.

A picture is worth a thousand words - so here's the week in pictures:

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hitting the Road

Well, we finally did it! We intended to hit the road on Tuesday, October 14th, but it didn't actually happen until Thursday. We chose the 14th because it is Sukkot - a Biblical holiday remembering the 40 year journey in which the children of Isreal lived in "temporary dwellings" called sukkahs during their travels in the desert. As it turns out, the Maple Grove KOA (where we were parked) closed on Wednesday the 15th - so we spent a night in our sukkah at the local Wal-Mart before heading out on Thursday.

So where did we go? Our first destination was...drum roll, please...MADISON, WI :-) It may not be the most exciting location, but it had a couple key things going for it. One, it was a managable drive for a family fatigued by weeks of purging, packing, sorting, and various other details required to put a house on the market. Two, it's on our way east. And...we stayed here on our way back from North Carolina so we knew how to get here!

Our first full day was spent getting into a healthier rhythm of life which is one of our top priorities. The kids did something other than Home Ec. for the first time in weeks. Rich had a full day of work, Macie found a sunny spot with a big window, and I got the kitchen organized. Check out my alphabetized spice drawer in the slideshow!

On Friday night we celebrated our sabbath evening with candles, wine, and homemade chili. Saturday we headed into Madison for the farmer's market near the capitol and we stopped at Whole Foods for lunch and supplies.

Here are some photos of our first few days on the road. You'll notice quite a few food pictures. It was just so much fun eating something other than Chipotle...and serving it on fun, colorful dishes! The music is by Cheri Keaggy. It's a song I've loved over the years, but it has new meaning for us now in this season.

Take me on a journey where my heart can grow, meet me in the middle of the narrow road. There's a world full of wonder we can walk in to. Take me on a journey with You.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bon Voyage Party!

What a glorious day! The forecast looked like rain, but our prayers were answered with a beautiful day for our bon voyage extravaganza. We feel very loved and blessed to have such an abundance of dear friends and family. Thank you to each and every one of you who came out to wish us well and to those who were not able to be with us. We love you and we'll miss you! Here's a little slide show from the party...and a reminder that you are being loved by us - and even more by a God who delights in you and rejoices over you with singing!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mirrors or Windshield?

One week from today (Tuesday) we will be living in a motor home - "full timing" as they say in the RV world. It's an odd thought - living in a motor home - given that we never go camping and the first time we ever rode in an RV was when we purchased one...a month ago. It's been a whirlwind ever since.

Taking off in an RV for a few months sounds exciting...and it is. But the reality of saying goodbye to life as we know it is not so easy. The fact is we love our house. We love our neighbors. We love living one mile from my mom. We love Maple Grove. We love having a library down the street. We love our friends. We've lived here for ten years and it's not easy to leave.

So why are we? Who in their right mind packs up and drives away from the American Dream? There are many people wondering what on earth we're thinking. I don't blame you if you're one of them because I've wondered it a few times myself! Here's the thing...and I have to keep reminding myself of this...we are leaving the life we've known, but we're heading toward what God has for us next.

Our choice comes down to this: Are we going to spend more time gazing into the rearview mirror or looking through the windshield? Mirrors are great for seeing where we've been. And it is good to remember. I recently spent some time finishing scrapbooks and getting our photos in order. It was good to ponder the sweet memories of days gone by. I also read my journals from the last few years and marveled at how God has been teaching me and preparing me for this next season long before I had any idea what He was up to. It is good to remember.
But if all we ever do is stare at the mirrors, we'll never enjoy the moment and never arrive at our destination. Living in the moment and heading in the right direction requires a willingness to spend more time looking ahead than behind.
Lord, help me to keep my eyes focused on You. Thank you for what You have done for me. I choose to remember that you gave Your life so I could live. And I choose to look forward to what lies ahead - looking through the windshield...and the mirrors, not so much.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Treasures in . . .

My how time flies when you're...purging, packing, and giving things away. Only 11 days to go! I've discovered something over the past few weeks - whatever space I have, I fill it up. I have so much stuff I rarely use, but I hang on to it because... I have room for it. Why do I hang on to so much unnecessary stuff when all it does is weigh me down?

What were we thinking stockpiling all these computers? As if we'd ever use them again? Too bad we didn't pass them to someone who could have used them. Instead they grew old, too old, wasting away in our crawl space for years on end and cluttering up our lives in the process.

Some of you know I've been on a mission to purge our house for about the last three years. However, now that we are actually selling our house and moving into a space 1/10th the size we live in now, I'm looking at things in a much different light. Suddenly, it seems ridiculous (and costly) to have so many things we rarely use. Yes, I believe we will one day have a house again - so I'm not getting rid of everything - but I'm definitely going through things with a "when in doubt, throw it out" mentality.

It's making me think hard about buying and accumulating anything else. How many things have I purchased over the years that I simply do not need? It takes time to organize the stuff. More time to pack all the stuff. And money to pay to store the stuff. I'm really interested to see if I miss any of the stuff while we are living without it for 6-9 months. I'll let you know...

In the meantime, I'm repenting... Lord, forgive me for the ways I've accumulated such excess when others are in need. Forgive me for filling my house with things I do not need when others do. Forgive me for my greed and my gluttony for the things of this world. Thank you, Lord, for helping me to see the error of my ways and for your grace and mercy and forgiveness. Help me to store up treasures in heaven from this day forward. I want to live a simpler life...with less stuff.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Nooks & Crannies

It's amazing what you come across as you purge the nooks and crannies of a house you've lived in for ten years. I've found lots of treasures including cards from the kids, love notes from Rich (from high school!), and last night I uncovered a reel-to-reel tape recorder from when I was a toddler. I'm pretty sure we'll be listening to Vickie and I singing something interesting once my mom gets the right batteries to make it run again.



I also came upon a box of crayons I've been collecting for many years. Somewhere along the way, I came across a wonderful place that recycles crayons. I tucked the name and address into the box and kept tossing in the crayons. Crayons left behind in a restaurant end up in a landfill, so I'd bring them home and toss them in the box which - as you can see - is now full and ready to be recycled.



If you are so inclined to do something earth-friendly, please consider collecting crayons and send them to The Crayon Recycling Program based right here in MN. It's a great service project for kids, it's easy, and it helps take care of this amazing planet.

P.S. If you aren't already aware, we are down to just 12 days until departure which is set for October 14th. Thank you for praying for us as we continue to prepare for this adventure!


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Crazy!

For those of you who haven't heard about the latest Bendickson adventure, allow me to share the news. God is up to some wild and crazy things in our life these days. Here's what He has us doing now.

Two weeks ago we arrived back in Minnesota after traveling to North Carolina to purchase our new home. No, we are not moving to North Carolina. We are moving around the U.S. - in a motor home - for the next 6-8 months. We will be traveling together as a family homeschooling and working along the way. We are downsizing our living space by 90% - from a 3,600 sq. foot two-story house





to a 360 square foot motor home!



As you can imagine, there is an incredible story of how we got here and I will share it with you as time goes on. For now, please take a few minutes to listen to this song by Steven Curtis Chapman. It has been one of our theme songs for the last few months and helps us remember that we are not the only ones who have been called to do something that looks "crazy"!


And it's crazy when love gets a hold of you.
And it's crazy things that love will make you do.
And it's crazy but it's true, you really don't know love at all, 'til it's making you do...
something crazy!

Noah spent 120 years building an ark in the middle of dry land. Abraham left his home for a land he did not know. The Israelites marched around the walls of Jericho for seven days, and the walls fell flat.
What crazy thing is He calling you to do?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Tow Truck Adventures

Yesterday was...interesting. We hit the road about 1 pm to drop the kids off with Grandpa and Grandma and all was well - until about 5 pm when a deer jumped out of the corn field right in front of us. Needless to say the deer went cartwheeling into the ditch on the other side of the road. We pulled over to check out the damage and though it took out a headlight, it didn't seem that bad. So we drove a few more miles until the temperature gage hit the red zone and steam started rising out of the hood. So we pulled over (in the middle of nowhere) and began formulating a plan. Ashley was thrilled to be parked by a pasture with grazing horses and hoped we could just ride bareback the 45 miles remaining to Grandpa's house.



Fortunately, we have AAA Premier. We joined for the first time ever about a year ago when we took our road trip out west. It includes towing for up to 200 miles. Ironically, we dropped our renewal payment in the mail on the way out of town yesterday.

While we were waiting for the tow truck, Grandpa Bob and Grandma Ginger arrived on the scene. They hung out with us for a couple hours and then they took the kids and went home to begin their week of fun one night early.





It took quite awhile - about 3 hours to be exact - before AAA found someone willing to drive 4 hours to the Cities on a moments notice. Shawn showed up from Detroit Lakes at about 9 pm with a flat bed truck. He loaded up the mini-van and Rich and I climbed in the cab and settled into a long, loud, bumpy ride on seats that felt like we were sitting on a plywood bench.





When we got back to the Twin Cities, Shawn was nice enough to swing by our house so we could pick up our car before heading to the Honda dealership to unload. Here was the scene at 2 am this morning:


All in all, we are grateful that the only damage was the front end - not the precious cargo. (And of course we feel terrible about the deer!) And we are grateful for Shawn who was very kind to drive us safely back home - which, by the way, was 200.5 miles.
Once we get all the insurance and body shop stuff sorted out, we'll be on our way again...the adventure continues!