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!