Thursday, December 24, 2009

Bradenton & Naples, FL - Playing the drums for Him

Last summer we were blessed to spend a week at Strawberry Lake Christian Retreat in Northern MN – which is why we were so excited to visit their southern location in Bradenton, FL. What a great community of people making a difference in the world.

We were also blessed to reconnect with an old friend we haven’t seen in over ten years. Marie recently moved back to the states from Bermuda with her husband and three-year-old daughter, Sienna. We spent a day with them catching up, kayaking, and checking out the manatees. Looking forward to seeing them again soon.

Next we headed a couple hours south to Naples and were so happy to see more familiar faces! Our dear friends, the Perrins, flew in from MN. They are here for a couple of weeks so we’re spending Christmas with them at Janet’s mom’s place.

Praying your Christmas is filled with the love, peace, joy, and hope that Jesus came to bring. We had a blast playing our drums for Him in the slideshow…Merry Christmas from the Bendicksons!

PS...The last blog about Tampa was from last year...sorry...I was messing around with the blog and somehow it sent it out...technology...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Orlando, FL - What Matters Most

We had a quiet week at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground. Rich flew to Minneapolis for a few days while the kids and I decorated the RV with our homemade Christmas crafts. I think we left the campground once… to stock up at Whole Foods, but other than that we spent the week reading, biking, playing tennis, decorating, and sending a few Christmas cards.

Jake finally got his birthday present – a LEGO Mindstorm – which is a LEGO robot that you build and then program to do different things. He was up at the crack of dawn building – his happy zone. He’s really excited that Dad is back to help him get creative with the programming part.

We didn’t do any Disney parks, but the kids took an archery class at the campground. This was their first experience with a bow and arrow and they had a blast perfecting their aim. The campground, by the way, is very interesting at this time of year. It is packed full of campers who take holiday lights to a whole new level. Many set up displays that make us wonder how they could possibly plug it all in without blowing every fuse in the place!

Our Christmas seasons have definitely changed since we hit the road. December was always a rat-race with so many good things vying for a spot on our overbooked calendar. There was always more to do than could be done. Unfortunately, what matters most usually fell by the wayside. It was exhausting. And often frustrating and disappointing. We definitley miss spending time with family and friends. But overall, we feel very blessed to enjoy a much slower pace of life these days. We’ve been journeying through the scriptures with our Jesse Tree, watching history unfold, and looking forward to the birth of Jesus. We are grateful to have enough margin in our days to stop and smell the roses once in awhile – to watch a deer in the woods - or an armadillo foraging for insects. Less is definitely more. More peace. More joy. More time for what matters most.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Williston and Titusville, FL

After Destin, we headed to Williston, FL, near Ocala in Florida horse country. We spent a few days at Williston Crossings over Thanksgiving and had an opportunity to visit the Parelli ranch. This is a working ranch where horse lovers from around the world come to learn “Parelli” horse techniques. You might remember we traveled to Kansas City last summer to attend a Parelli horse conference. Ashley’s horse instructor is a Parelli trainer – so needless to say, it was a highlight to visit headquarters and see the facilities.

Next stop was Titusville, FL, on the space coast. We enjoyed the nature trails and wildlife at the Great Outdoors RV Nature and Golf Resort. God really drew our attention to the heavens last week. First, we watched two incredible space-related DVDs: The Privileged Planet and Star of Bethlehem – both of which brought us to a place of awe and wonder about the Creator of the universe and tremendously strengthened our faith. Second, our memory verses for this week just happened to be from Psalm 19 – all about the heavens declaring the glory of God. To top it off, we visited Kennedy Space Center and spent the day pondering life from a very different perspective.

It is deeply moving to glimpse the complexity, enormity, and synchrony that God set in motion when He created the heavens and the earth. And is it not amazing that He created us in such a way that we can discover and begin to understand it? How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Lord!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Destin, FL (Topsail State Park)

After Arkansas, we drove like crazy (11 hours – way too far for one day) all the way to Topsail State Park in Destin, Florida – one of our favorite spots from last year. It’s a beautiful park with a private walking/biking trail to the beach. The kids enjoyed designing and building a variety of sand castles.

One of the highlights of the week was meeting Kelly and Jared at Amore Pizzeria in Santa Rosa Beach. We biked to their lovely cafĂ© one afternoon for lunch and after tasting their excellent pizza we asked if they would be willing to teach us how they make pizza crust. What a huge blessing to learn this culinary art from such a gifted baker and teacher! Jared showed us each step and the kids got to get their hands in the dough and make pizzas from start to finish. There is a lot more to gourmet pizza crust than meets the eye. We are so grateful for Kelly and Jared’s generous hearts and their willingness to share their expertise with us. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to stop by for the best pizza ever!

We also visited another state park called Eden Gardens where we toured a southern mansion and enjoyed the live oak trees and beautiful gardens. And then it was out for dinner to celebrate another Bendickson birthday…we are always busy blowing out candles this time of year.

This week we were reminded of the forming, transforming, and conforming that God does with us when we allow Him to work in our lives. Nothing gets transformed without going through a process that often includes stirring, waiting, kneading, pressing, stretching – and a certain amount of heat. It’s true for pizza and it’s true for us. Thank you, Jesus, for the work you are doing to refine us so our lives can more accurately reflect who You are.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Star of Bethlehem

It's hard to believe we are once again standing on the doorstep of Christmas.  Like many of you, our hearts desire is to slow down and truly savor the mystery of Christmas.  Last year, we watched a DVD that was a huge blessing to our family. It’s called The Star of Bethlehem.  This documentary-style video drew us into deep appreciation for the incredible lengths God went to when He orchestrated the heavens to coincide perfectly with His Word. What Rick Larson uncovers and shares in this video is simply astounding. One cannot watch and not be moved to worship! This is now one of our Christmas traditions. Here’s a link to the video at Amazon if you want to read the reviews &/or order it.  You may also be able to rent it at your local video store.

Speaking of stars...if you haven't seen Indescribable by Louie Giglio, I invite you to check this out too. You can watch it in five segments on YouTube (or you can buy the DVD at Amazon). Here's the first segment. I'll put links for the other four below.

May you be blessed as you stand in awe of our Creator who designed and built the incredible universe in which we live.  He truly is ... indescribable! 



Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPybgiX9J60
Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiI5gb6ZR04
Part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CetMLmH_b6Q
Part 5: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viUwtv27Pec

Friday, November 13, 2009

Village Creek State Park, Arkansas

After bustling, busy Branson, we settled into a quiet peaceful week at Village Creek State Park near Wynne, Arkansas. We felt like we were living in a panoramic picture of beautiful fall colors on a peninsula overlooking a serene lake. We more/less had this sanctuary all to ourselves and every day we woke to the sounds of birds singing, squirrels foraging through crunchy, fallen leaves, and the sun rising across the pristine lake.  We were so content we never even ventured out of the park all week!  It is truly one of the most awe-inspiring places we have ever been.

We celebrated Jake’s 10th birthday in traditional fashion with cake, presents, - and flag football. I knew Ashley and I were in trouble when, on the initial play, I was running full speed ahead carrying the ball toward the end zone when Rich clipped my heal and we both went flying and tumbled to the ground. Those boys take this game seriously! We kept up with them pretty well – at first – but eventually their expertise paid off and they won the game 20-11.

This week we had an incredible opportunity to learn about the Trail of Tears - when thousands of Native Americans were forced from their land in the Southeast and moved to Oklahoma in the 1830’s. We watched a very moving video depicting this tragedy and then actually got to walk on a one-mile stretch of the trail which runs through this state park. Our hearts were drawn to a place of deep repentance for the ways in which our Europeon ancestors played a part this incredible injustice.

It is impossible not to stand in awe of our Creator in a place brimming with so much natural beauty. God, we praise you and we thank you for how You created our environment to sustain itself and us. So often we take things for granted – like the simple act of trees taking in carbon dioxide and giving off oxygen so we can breathe. Yet even this is a testimony to Your love and care for us. Your creativity is beyond compare. You are God alone!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Oklahoma, Fort Rock, Branson

Howdy – how y’all doing? We’ve been in the south for a few weeks now and thought we’d give y’all a shout:-) I just love those southern accents! We hit the road and headed out of MN on October 18th which means it’s now official: We’ve been living in the RV for over a year now. The weird thing is that it seems completely normal. More on that another time…

For those of you who have spent a night in our little humble abode, you will be happy to know that we got our toilet fixed in Kansas City and it no longer sounds like a jet engine! After a few days in KC, we headed south to spend a week at my aunt & uncles house in Oklahoma where they have 40 acres and full hookups. For you non-campers, that means water, electricity, and sewer. Ashley celebrated her 13th birthday while we were there and Aunt Annabelle baked her a beautiful chocolate cake. Oh, and the kids got to drive Uncle Jim’s tractor!

We also took a field trip to
Fort Rock Family Camp in NW Arkansas. It was an incredible blessing to meet Terry and hear how he went from being a work-a-holic real estate agent to building a camp and homeschooling his kids. What a blessing to hear his story and see how the Lord is using this family to restore other families. The camp looks like an 1800’s town set in the backdrop of the Ozark Mountains complete with a diner, a trading post, horses – and the longest zip line in the state of Arkansas! Did we climb to the platform and take a leap of faith hanging from nothing but a wire tied to two trees? (Remember my fear of heights?) You’ll have to watch the video to find out!

After picking up Grandma Carole at the airport and saying farewell to my aunt and uncle, we headed to Branson, MO, to check out this musical city. We saw a couple of great shows:
Pierce Arrow and The Haygoods. The kids got their picture taken with one of the Pierce Arrow guys who holds the Guiness Book of World Records for having the lowest voice and the widest range. Rich and I compare Branson to the Wisconsin Dells…small towns that have a point of interest. For Branson it’s all about shows. For the Dells, it’s all about water parks.

What’s it all about for us? That is a question we are pondering these days on the Bendickson bus.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Summer 2009

Where do I begin? It’s been nearly four months since our last update. This summer flew by and the leaves are falling again (and so are the temperatures)! We are quickly approaching our one year anniversary (Oct. 16) since we set sail into the great unknown. When we hit the road last year, we all thought we would return to MN, sell our house, and find land. Well, we returned and we sold our house…but we didn’t buy land which means our traveling days are not yet over. Our home base campground closes October 15th – so we are hitting the road again in just a few short days.

We feel like the Israelites wandering in the desert following the cloud by day and the fire by night. We know God is leading us to land, we just have no idea what route we are taking to get there and how long it’s going to be before we arrive! I guess that’s where the walking by faith part comes in. We don’t have a clue where we’re headed, but we know God has a plan. So we’re choosing to trust Him.

Our summer was full of friends, family, sports and road trips. I won’t bore you with every detail, but here are a few highlights:

Ashley played another undefeated soccer season with Lindsey and Emily. Jake played baseball (pitcher and various other positions) and was chosen to represent his team in the 9-year-old All-Star Game. Ashley leased a horse named Autumn and rode in her first fun show this fall. Jake went to horse camp at Roselawn Stables with his friend Drake. We picked and dehydrated thirty pounds of strawberries. Ashley got pierced ears and braces on her teeth. We went to Thief River Falls to visit family; Wisconsin to look at land; Burnsville for a family reunion including my 97 year old grandmother; Father Hennepin State Park with friends doing Praise MN;. Kansas City, MO, with friends to attend a horse conference, Royals game, and water park; Strawberry Lake Christian Retreat Camp – what a blessing! Baker Park with college friends; The Stones came to visit us; Grand Forks, ND, for a wedding on Rich’s side.

And finally, the grand finale – a weekend at Tettagouche State Park on the North Shore of Lake Superior which included touring
Round River Farm (awesome!), taking fourth place (out of four 4:-) in a whiffle ball tournament, and meeting some wonderful new friends – David and Lise.

As I write and remember the last few months, it brings me to a place of deep gratitude. We have so much to be thankful for. The North Shore inspired the music for this slideshow because He makes everything glorious!



Friday, June 19, 2009

Moving

We’ve been back in MN for two months now and so much has happened in eight short weeks. First, in case you haven’t heard yet - we sold our house – and closed this week! We feel very blessed to be passing our home to a sweet family with two young children. And we are so grateful for God’s timing. Having to come back during our trip to pack up the house in the middle of winter would have been a big bummer now that we know how much work it really was. It is amazing how much time and energy it takes to pack up a house! We honestly thought we had the bulk of it behind us before we left. But cleaning out the nooks and crannies and putting everything in storage is simply not that simple. It takes a lot of patience and endurance – and friends with time, energy, and pick-up trucks! To our dear friends - thank you all so much!!! We couldn’t have done it without you!

God has been orchestrating some really amazing things the last few weeks. First, when we left MN last fall, we gave Rich’s car to a friend in need. Needless to say, when we arrived back this spring, we only had one vehicle. While it was somewhat inconvenient to coordinate schedules, we were making due and we were so busy we didn’t have time to figure out buying another car. But God knows our needs! About three weeks ago a friend of a friend (Dorothy) bought a new car and this time we were humbled and blessed to be on the receiving end of a car give-away! Dorothy generously gave us her 1999 Honda Civic. The kids think it’s really cool to have windows with roll down handles:-) We are excited to have another car and to someday pass it on to someone else in need.

But that’s not the end of the story! After Dorothy transferred her car to us, she and our mutual friend went out for lunch. As they were driving along, Dorothy (a recent widow) mentioned how she would love to have a piano. She had no idea that we had a baby grand piano that was scheduled to be moved into storage in just three days. Now we have Dorothy’s old car – and she has our baby grand! She gets to enjoy the piano and see if she really wants to invest in buying one – and we get free storage and the joy of knowing our piano is blessing someone else! Isn’t God’s timing amazing?!

What else? So many things…but here’s a few more tidbits of how the Lord has been moving in the midst of our move: We had Smart Boxes delivered to our house, but we never got organized enough to ask anyone to help us move all our stuff into these storage pods – yet we had three couples plus my mom show up throughout the day to help – one couple we had never met before (that’s a whole other cool story!) Thank you Scott, Suzanne, Andrew, Janet, Peter, and Susan – for all your back-breaking work!


A few days later our friend Ellen came over and cleaned the entire house – what a blessing! And then Robin called and offered to haul stuff so off we went to Goodwill (again…) and the recycling center. Janet provided every box we used – and probably packed most of them too. Thank you!! Oh, and three weeks ago, we decided to have a spur of the moment garage sale – on Memorial Weekend – to try to get rid of some big items. We listed the sale on Craig’s List on Friday, stuck the furniture in the driveway on Saturday – and sold everything! Praise God!

In the midst of normal life God reveals Himself and builds our faith as we notice all the incredible ways He orchestrates what we could never do on our own. To Him be the glory! Here are few pictures from the last few weeks along with a toe-tapping tune that has been on my heart. God is good – all the time!



Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Maple Grove, MN

Greetings! It’s been two weeks since we arrived back home in Maple Grove, MN, and set up camp just 6 miles from our house. We were so blessed to be welcomed home with a beautiful banner and balloons from the Martins and Frasers! Thank you so much!!


It’s been a whirlwind the last couple of weeks with Rich traveling for work, catching up with friends, and just generally trying to settle back into life. Our house has been on the market since we left last October – and this week an offer came in – and we accepted! If all goes well, we will close June 15th. Next step is to move our stuff into storage.

And now for the question of the day: Do you know where you’re going yet? Nope. We have no clue. But we have a God who promises He has a plan for us (Jeremiah 29:11). So we’re trusting Him, leaning not on our own understanding, and believing that His word is true – He will make our path straight (Proverbs 3:5-6). We’ll keep you posted as the journey continues…

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Today is the day!

If you haven’t noticed already, we are heading north. We left Kansas City on Sunday and after a short stay in Des Moines, IA, our next stop is home sweet home - Maple Grove, MN!

I have to say it is bittersweet. On one hand, we are very excited to reconnect with those we have missed so much in the past six months. On the other hand, there is a part of us that doesn’t want this to end. We have had an amazing time and have been so incredibly blessed along the way that it’s hard to imagine this season coming to an end.


And then there is the question everyone is asking: What next? The truth is we are wondering the same thing! Our house is still for sale. And though we believe we are moving to a place with land, we don’t know when. And we don’t know where. This is the part of walking by faith that isn’t so easy. Being willing to wait without trying to figure it out and make something happen is hard. Living in the unknown is unusual for us. We’re planners. We like our ducks in a row. We are accountants and this doesn’t balance!


But above all else, our heart’s desire is to live a life of faith - trusting and depending on God to lead the way. He is faithful, and though it feels uncomfortable, we really do believe that
all He has in store for us is good.

I can’t think of a better way to convey where we are at than this song. No pictures of us this time…just Lincoln Brewster pouring out his heart singing words we are claiming as our own. Today is the day!

On a side note, yesterday I was pondering life from a different perspective…you can read more at http://conniebendickson.blogspot.com/

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Kansas City, MO

After Albuquerque, we headed out on a two-day driving extravaganza all the way to Kansas City, MO, with an overnight stop in Oklahoma City. We spent the week freezing our butts off and wondering why we decided to go north before June. :-) We got our furnace fixed again…for the third time…BUT, we couldn’t use it because we were out of propane. It has been a good lesson for us to understand, ever so slightly, what is a daily reality for many. We think the furnace really is working now…they replaced the motor and – praise God – it was under warranty!

We had a very nice week camped at a quiet serene place - Longview Campground. We enjoyed
Waldo Pizza - you gotta love a place that has soy cheese on the menu! We celebrated Passover remembering how God led His people out of Egypt (slavery) and into the Promised Land (freedom) – and how He does the same for us. (No, we aren't converting to Judaism...we have just find it meaningful to celebrate the same festivals that Jesus did when He walked on this earth). We were also blessed to visit the International House of Prayer over Easter weekend and were grateful to be reminded once again that “Jesus paid it all – all to Him I owe…my sin had left a crimson stain...but He washed it white as snow.”

Father, thank you for loving us so much that you sacrificed Your only Son to pay for our sin. Thank you, Jesus, for going to the cross so that we can be forgiven and have abundant lifenow and forever. Your love is amazing! Help us to be more like you, Jesus.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Grand Canyon & Albuquerque, NM

After Phoenix we headed north into the mountains near Flagstaff, to a small town on Route 66 - Williams, AZ, where we spent two nights at the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park. The kids enjoyed the indoor pool and we had to get used to weather that was much cooler than Phoenix! We saw a Wild West Shootout before boarding the train that took us to the Grand Canyon. There were some interesting entertainment and on the way back we were held up by a band of train robbers on horseback. It was a two hours and 15 minutes each way and Rich really appreciated not having to drive.

If you’ve ever been to the Grand Canyon then you know what I’m about to say is true: It is absolutely “indescribable”!! It is a magnificent work of art – a masterpiece - sculpted and painted by the Creator of the universe. There are no words to adequately describe it and pictures do not even come close to doing it justice. If this canyon isn’t convincing evidence for a God who loves beauty and goes to great lengths to reveal Himself to us, I don’t know what is. If you want to understand what I’m talking about, you have to see it for yourself. There is no other way to take it in.

After marveling at the canyon, it was time for my mom to fly back to MN so we made our way to Albuquerque, NM. As we pulled into
American RV Park, Ashley noticed that the ARK (Acts of Random Kindness) family was parked there. They are a family of six living life on the road and doing acts of random kindness wherever they go. We emailed with them a few months ago, but we had no idea they were in our neck of the woods. We had a great afternoon getting to know them and hearing about how God is leading their journey. And we had the privilege of taking their kids hiking with us at Petroglyph National Monument. They are an amazing family dedicated to serving the Lord and we sincerely hope our paths cross again soon. You can read more about them at: www.thearktour.org

Next stop…stay tuned…we’re back in the central time zone!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Tucson, Minneapolis, Phoenix

After leaving Chinle, we headed south to Tucson, AZ, to visit my cousin, Lisa, who I haven’t seen for 17 years! She and her husband have been living full-time in their motorhome for 14 years now (I guess it runs in the family). We were blessed to be able to park right next to them at Voyager RV Park where they are work-camping for the season. And we were doubly blessed with my mom flying in to visit us again. She was more than happy to escape the long, cold MN winter – and we were so happy to see her! This worked out beautifully as Rich had to fly to Minneapolis for two business meetings. And, since my mom was there and my cousin was next door, I got to hop on a plane and head to MN to attend a conference with a group of dear friends. I told you it has been a whirlwind lately…now you know why our blog hasn’t been up to date for awhile!

While I was gone, my cousin took everyone to
Saguaro National Park to see an incredible array of cacti. It is such a unique landscape in the desert and there is more life there than I imagined. We really enjoyed our morning desert walks with my cousin. She even taught the kids the names of all the different cacti species. We also visited San Xavier del Bac Mission which was built in the late 1700’s and is under constant restoration to preserve this historic building.

Oh, remember that incident with the rock that nearly damaged the radiator? Well, as it turns out, the van was not as fortunate as the RV after being dragged over the rock. We ended up having to stay an extra day in Tucson to get the suspension and tie rod repaired. Honestly, I think God did some kind of miracle because we drove the van for quite a few days before it started acting up. It was perfectly fine until Rich picked me up at the airport and the steering started locking up and making an awful squealing noise. We took it in for repairs and were happy to have extra time with my cousin while the van was getting fixed up.

Next we went to Phoenix to visit Bob and Doris – Rich’s great aunt and uncle. They have a beautiful place in Apache Junction and we had a great time dining with them at Los Gringos Locos.

Then we were off to Sun City to visit my aunt Marvel, my cousin Penny, and her husband Jim. We enjoyed spending the afternoon visiting with them. And we were so excited to go home with a trunk full of oranges and grapefruits that we got to pick ourselves in their back yard! I cannot believe how sweet grapefruit is when it is allowed to ripen on the tree. We are still enjoying that beautiful fruit!

Time is flying and it’s hard to believe we’ve been gone nearly six months. Life on the road has been very busy the last few weeks and we are happy to be settling into a healthy rhythm again this week. Lessons from the desert: The whole earth is filled with Your glory, Lord!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Santa Fe, NM & Chinle, AZ

Greetings! It’s been awhile since we’ve had time to update the blog - it’s been a whirlwind the last few weeks. After our overnight in Amarillo, we made our way to Santa Fe, NM – including a little off-roading along the way. It seems that “road construction” in the state of New Mexico literally means they are constructing a road…and you drive on gravel while they are working on putting in the pavement. After waiting in a long line of stopped cars for twenty minutes or so (and meeting a great couple from Iowa in the process), we proceeded to follow the cars in front of us through a maze of cones, trucks, and heavy equipment. We got a little nervous when the sign said “pavement ends”, but Rich did a great job four-wheeling us through the construction zone.

We were very excited to get to Santa Fe because our dear friends Tim and Michelle and their three children flew in to spend a few days with us. We spent one night at Bishop’s Lodge where the girls got to hang out with horses. We took a beautiful hike in the mountains, ate at a great little organic restaurant called The Treehouse, and wandered around Old Town admiring the Navajo art and jewelry. Michelle’s parents met up with us and we had a blast entertaining eleven people for dinner in the RV for four glorious days.

After Santa Fe, we all hit the road and drove to Chinle, AZ, to see Canyon De Chelly (pronounced Du Shay) which is in the northeast corner of Arizona on the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation. As we pulled into the campground praying for site long enough for our RV, our prayers were answered. However, in our excitement, we turned too quickly and hit a big rock that tore off part of a plastic grate that protects the radiator. Rich was not a happy camper. Fortunately, Michelle’s dad checked everything out and said it all looked fine. It really could have been a lot worse. Damaging the radiator would have been the worst case scenario, but we could have also easily ripped off the sewage pipe which would have really stunk :-) I’ll tell you about the van later…

Horseback riding is mandatory when you have three horse-crazy girls, so Michelle, Tim, I, and the girls, set out on an adventure of a lifetime exploring the canyon with our Navajo guide, John. He did an excellent job showing us around this beautiful land and sharing stories of his people and their connection to the canyon. It was an amazing blessing to be a guest in a place so rich in history and natural beauty. Words are completely inadequate, so I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

We are continually blessed us as we travel through each unique corner of creation. God’s handiwork is nothing short of spectacular and the variety of people He created in His image is magnificent . The earth is truly filled with His glory!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dallas, TX

Last week was a whirlwind! Our rhythm of staying a week or two in one place is out the window for awhile. We left San Antonio and drove to Canton, TX, which is about an hour east of Dallas, and stayed at a beautiful brand new RV park called Mill Creek Ranch RV Park and Cottage Resort. We loved this place! It was inspiring to us to see a raw piece of land being developed slowly and carefully and with such attention to detail. We enjoyed walking around the property and just being outside in the nice warmer-than-normal weather. We were also blessed to attend a small church gathering that meets at the campground lodge. What a beautiful bunch of warm, welcoming people at Millcreek Fellowship.

On Sunday we headed into the Dallas area and spent three nights at Hickory Creek Campground. It was a nice place – close to the city, but yet we felt like we were out in the woods. Rich spent two days teaching a class at a client site so the kids and I had a couple of quiet days. It was so weird without Rich there. We have become so accustomed to all of us being together all day – everyday - that it felt like we were missing something…someone.

We’re on our way to New Mexico now and we stopped overnight in Amarillo, TX, at a wonderful spot called
Oasis RV Resort. When we checked in we actually got a refund because they have a "stimulus package" going on now. Then we had planned to do our laundry at this stop and discovered they have free laundry rooms! What a blessing! And, they even called a local mobile RV repair shop for us and we got our furnace fixed – just in time for the 20’s.

The guys from G’s Mobile RV Service replaced our limit switch, but ended up having to come back again a couple hours later. As it turned out, we had a
mud dauber nest in our furnace motor which became an interesting science investigation. Once they got that cleaned out, we were back in business. Thanks George and George!

Short video this time...

Friday, March 6, 2009

Austin & San Antonio, TX

Howdy Partner! We are now enjoying the great BIG state of Texas. We spent a few days near Austin at Bastrop RV Park complete with miniature horses and donkeys. The kids and I enjoyed talking with Barb and learning a bit about her mini animals. And, of course, no trip would be complete without a trip to Whole Foods. We hit the jackpot this time stumbling upon their world headquarters in Austin where they have an incredible flagship store. Austin is a vibrant city and the best Whole Foods store hands down.

We spent an afternoon hiking at
Bastrop State Park which was really fun. What we thought would take an hour turned into a three hour tour. We got lost a few times and had to back track, but we didn’t mind and Macie had a blast outside with us in the forest.

Then we headed a couple hours south to Blazing Star Luxury RV Resort in San Antonio. It was just around the corner from SeaWorld so we decided to pay our first ever visit to a Shamu – which was a great show. We also enjoyed the antics of the sea lions and feeding the dolphins. And we were reminded once again to bring our own lunch. Places like this drive me nuts because they have zero healthy food options other than a plain boring salad that you pay through the nose for. We ended up with four lame-o salads (hold the chicken), a couple slices of watermelon, one pickle, and two iced teas for $43.49. We should know better by now… We also got to see the Budweiser Clydesdale’s which live right there at Sea World – very cool.

We celebrated Rich’s 41st birthday visiting the Alamo and the Riverwalk. Unfortunately we arrived too late in the day to take the Alamo audio tour, but we did get to poke around and read a bit about the event. We sat outside by the river and enjoyed a Mexican dinner where Rich was serenaded by a mariachi band! We also took a 30 minute boat cruise tour through the river walk. It really is a unique and beautiful city.

We recently had two exciting opportunities to witness God’s provision for us. One has to do with a harrowing adventure through the city of Houston. If you want to hear the story, I wrote about it on my personal blog so click here to read more.

The other story is about our dear little Macie who lost a front tooth. As we were packing up to leave San Antonio, I was making a mental note that we would need to find a vet and get her mouth checked at our next stop. So…we were hooking up the van behind the RV when out of nowhere a lady walks up and strikes up a conversation with Rich and Ashley. I was sitting in the van at the time, but I could see her clipboard and she had business cards that said “Pet Express Mobile Vet”. Praise God!! I asked her if she would mind taking a look at Macie’s mouth and she was more than happy to help us out. Thank you, Heather! Macie is just fine…one less tooth, but there is no infection and nothing to worry about. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The cost of a kidney stone...

Remember that little kidney stone incident – way back in Nashville – in November? The night we spent two hours in the ER. Does anyone want to guess how much it costs to find out you have a kidney stone? Well, we finally got the bill and we are still trying figure out how it could possible cost $5,965.84 for a CT scan and a couple shots of morphine!

Perhaps the hospital was erroneously informed that we still have insurance that pays such ridiculous sums – and that we don’t pay any attention to the numbers because somebody else is paying for it. Unfortunately that’s not the case. We now have a $10,000 deductible which means we’ll be footing the bill. Which is really just fine – if it didn’t seem like highway robbery. We took out a high deductible policy because we rarely go to a doctor and didn’t want to pay high premiums for something we rarely use. We figured if we ever did need to see a doctor, the money we saved on premiums would cover the cost. And it would, I think, as long as you don’t get any pictures taken. The CT scan alone was $5,156.75.

The interesting thing is…the guy sitting at the front desk knew it was a kidney stone the minute he saw Rich doing the “kidney stone shuffle” on the way in the door. But, one does not question things when in a state of excruciating pain. If someone says you need a CT scan, then a CT scan it is.

I wonder, however, what would have happened if they’d given Rich the morphine and then shown us a menu of options – with the prices included. Perhaps front desk guy could have thrown his 2 cents into the mix and we could have saved ourselves enough money to pay for all the gas for our entire trip – twice!

Live and learn…

Friday, February 20, 2009

Gulf Shores, AL

Hello from Gulf Shores, Alabama! We spent two weeks at a brand new RV resort called Bella Terra just north of Gulf Shores near Foley, AL. The RV resort is a place like we stayed at in Hilton Head and Naples where people buy the individual lots. This is a brand new place and it is really going to be beautiful in a few years once the landscaping is established and has time to grow. Right now, it's a bit of a parking lot, but nevertheless we enjoyed our time here. The people here are absolutely wonderful and the clubhouse and facilities are top notch.

What have we been doing? Well, not much - at least not much that can be put into pictures. On the other hand, there has been alot going on at a deeper level. We had some opportunities last week to really pull together as a family. It felt like something very significant was happening to unite us together. We are really grateful for this development.

Rich spent this past week in Seattle on business so it was just the kids and I for a week. I'm noticing that we are all content most of the time to just do life right here in the RV. We did, however, drive to Pensacola, FL (about 50 minutes) to the
National Naval Aviation Museum. It's a free museum on the Naval base and filled with so many airplanes from WW1, WW2, Korea, and Vietnam. We had an incredible tour guide who shared the stories behind the aircraft and made it all come to life.

We also saw two IMAX movies - one called
The Magic of Flight where we learned about the history of flight and about the Blue Angels which are a group of Navy pilots who travel the country doing air shows. The other movie was Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk . This movie highlighted the water shortage that is a growing concern especially in the southwest. The water levels in the Colorado River, as well as Lake Mead and Lake Powell, are not what they once were. There was an important message about water conservation woven into the amazing scenery of the Grand Canyon and a trip down the Colorado River.

We are learning to bake bread from a new book called
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and our wheatgrass experiment continues. Our second tray looks better than our first attempt, but its still not looking like the trays the smoothie guy had in Charleston. We use the same seed - wheatberries - to either grind into flour to make bread or to sprout into wheatgrass. I grind the wheatberries in our Vita-Mix to make the flour. We can whip up banana bread (click here for recipe) from freshly ground wheatberries in no time. We're still perfecting our bread recipe. It doesn't rise high enough for sandwhichs, but this crusty whole wheat loaf is absolutely delicious. And we found a way to use our new wheatgrass juicer until such time as we actually have wheatgrass to juice. We ran frozen strawberries and frozen bananas through it and it came out like softserve ice cream! It was a fun treat and the kids enjoyed cranking the handle of the juicer.

All through the south we keep seeing these little tiny restaurants called Waffle House. You might remember the night of the kidney stone we stopped there to ask directions. After we picked up Rich at the Pensacola airport on Friday, we decided to see what the deal is with all these Waffle Houses so we stopped. They are little diners with a counter and cook and a couple waitresses that serve, you guessed it - waffles...and eggs and hashbrowns - and grits...we're in the south you know! No...we didn't try the grits, but the waffles were pretty good. And you can't beat the price...Jake had a waffle for $1.

We are really happy to have Rich back home and looking forward to continuing the journey as we head further west...Texas, here we come!




Saturday, February 7, 2009

Destin, FL

Hello from the Florida panhandle! After a month in Naples, we headed 10 hours north. We stopped half way for an overnight at the Traveler's Campground before arriving at Topsail Hill State Park near Destin, FL. Wow! What a beautiful place. It's the nicest state park in Florida (according to our neighbor who seems to know). It was a private RV resort at one time. The campground has 3.2 miles of white sand beaches and at this time of the year (off season) we had the beach to ourselves. There are full hook-ups (rare in a state park) and paved roads with concrete pads (the place you park the RV).

The highlight of our stay was having our dear friend Molly Morton and her two girls fly down and spend five glorious days with us. As it turned out, Rich had to fly to Minneapolis for a business meeting so we dropped Rich off at the airport the same day we picked up the Mortons. The kids had a blast building sand castles and letting the waves get them way too wet for 55 degree weather. We hiked through sand dunes and took a 6+mile bike ride along the coast on a path that goes for over 20 miles. And of course, we indoctrinated our friends into the RV lifestyle by watching the Robin Williams movie -
RV. If you havn't seen it, think about renting it next time you need a good laugh. It actually has a redeeming message too.

It's been cooler here the last few days - like 40's. You would have thought it was 40 below watching the Florida state park workers go about their chores wearing full face ski masks! Perhaps they had the last laugh, however, when our furnace went out that night and we woke up to 30 degree temperatures - inside! Have no fear, we have plenty of blankets, the weather is warming up - and Target has space heaters on clearance:-)

We spent our last day in Destin enjoying that beautiful beach and then headed out for dinner at Carrabba's Italian Grill where we got to sit at the kitchen counter. It was an opportunity for the kids to witness first hand how hard restaurant cooks work. While we sat enjoying a nice meal, they were working at full speed the entire time. I think we all learned to appreciate what goes on in a busy restaurant kitchen.

Wheatgrass update: Well...it's definitly not as easy to grow wheatgrass as the smoothie guy made it look. Soaking and sprouting went great...but it was downhill from there. After I covered the tray, the sprouts just never really took off. The extra seeds sitting in the colander on the counter, however, did shoot up nice and green...so...back to the drawing board. If at first you don't succeed, try, try, again. Maybe Alabama will be more condusive to wheatgrass growing. Stay tuned...


Thursday, February 5, 2009

FAQs

We've had a few "Frequently Asked Questions" lately, so here are some answers...if you have more questions, just let us know!

How do you earn a living?
We are very fortunate that Rich can work from anywhere. He is a software developer and computer consultant with clients all over the U.S. All he needs is a laptop and a Verizon Aircard and he's ready to roll. He recently developed a software product that aids financial reporting and analysis for Lawson ERP. You can read more about Dashboard Gear on his website at:
www.dashboardgear.com/

What is your typical day/week like?
Establishing a healthy ryhthm of life is something we have been seeking long before we took off in an RV. It is still a work in progress and no two weeks are the same, but here's a taste of what life looks like for now:

Monday through Wednesday we usually stay around the RV park. Rich works and we go about our lifestyle of learning which means school-type stuff like reading, writing, and math, but it also means doing laundry, working out arguments, soaking in God's word, exploring creation, caring for Macie (our dog), pursuing what interests us, and taking advantage of whatever opportunities are set before us.

Thursday is our field trip day where we head out together as a family to investigate the area we are in. Friday we tidy up the RV, get groceries, and make challah bread for our Friday night sabbath dinner. Saturday we connect with our "church" via conference call and enjoy a day of rest - reading, biking, playing games, etc.

Sunday is our driving/relocation day. It's a great day to be on the road because there is less traffic.

How do you survive in such a small space?
I never would have believed it, but I can honestly say we are loving this small space! We have everything we need in the RV. I don't feel like we are merely surviving - I feel like we are thriving! We feel blessed to be free from the responsibilities that come with a large house and from all the unnecessary stuff that inevitably has to be cleaned, organized, maintained, etc. We are embracing this season of small space.

How do you cook in that tiny kitchen?
Well, I admit it would be nice to have a couple more feet of counter space, but it works. We had three friends stay with us for five days. We ate every meal in the RV except one and never had to run to the grocery store for anything. There is plenty of space for food,
Vita-Mix, food processor, crockpot, rice cooker, air popper, utensils, etc. We have a three burner propane stove and a combination microwave/convection oven. We don't use the microwave (not healthy), but the oven works great...we make pizza, bake bread, make cookies - all in that small oven.

How do you do school on the road?
Education is a subject I have been contemplating deeply for a couple of years. Suffice to say, my thoughts about what it means to be educated have been radically transformed as of late. The RV trip has been the perfect opportunity to put these new ideas into practice. The world is our classroom and we are enjoying a plethora of experiences that God has provided for us. What could be more educational than that?

Do the kids get bored?
No more than they did at home - which is not very often. There is always something to do. I think they are a lot more creative out here with less stuff. Jake has built some incredible Lego creations; Ashley designed and sewed a saddle. They both made bows and arrows out of hangers, straws, paperclips, paper, rubberbands, and whatever else we happened to have. We play a lot more games as a family and both kids are reading like crazy.

Do the kids miss their friends?
Yes - of course! And so do we. Thankfully we have email, a cell phone, and paper/pen to keep in touch.

When are you coming home?
Well, we think it will be April/May, but we are committed to following the Lord so we'll see if our timing matches His!

How do you get any work done?
Thankfully, Rich has an amazing ability to work in the midst of life going on around him. Sometimes he heads to a coffee shop, or sometimes the kids and I go out and about and leave Rich at home - but more often than not we are one big happy family living, learning, and working together in our little abode.

Don’t you need any time to yourself?
Yes...I think we all do. But it's a lot less than we used to need for some reason. Either God is giving us an extra measure of grace to be able to survive with less alone time - or we just need less than we used to for some reason.

How do you get time together as a couple without the kids?
This is something we probably need to be more intentional about. Our time is usually after the kids go to bed. Even though the RV is small, it still has three areas separated by pocket doors...the main living area, the bunk area, and our bedroom.

How do you get your mail?
Our mail still goes to our house. My mom picks it up every day, throws it in a box, and sends it to us every week or two. I have to say it is really nice having her recycle all that junk mail before it gets to us. Thanks, Mom!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Naples, FL...again!

Hi Friends...we finally left Naples, FL after 4 weeks! Here's our top ten reasons for staying in so long:

1. The weather is awesome

2.
Crystal Lake RV Resort is beautiful and the people are friendly

3. We had a tennis court in our front yard

4. There is a brand new Whole Foods Market right down the street

5. Naples is really a beautiful town

6. The weather is awesome

7. We didn't have to be anywhere until January 25th

8. We liked the 2 mile walk around the lake

9. We felt like kids there...we were the youngest by far :-)

10. Did I mention that the weather is awesome?

Over the past couple weeks, we visited the Naples Zoo, played tennis, took two classes at Whole Foods (Cooking with Kids and a Raw Food class), watched a sunset at the Naples Pier, and held a lemonade stand. It was a bit too chilly that morning for lemonade slushies...we should have been selling hot chocolate - but hey, live and learn, right?

I am also very excited to report that our wheatgrass experiment is underway. If you remember, we learned how to grow it from the smoothie guy in
Charleston, SC, but up until now, we did not have a wheatgrass juicer. We finally ordered the juicer and the sprouting has begun...I'll report on our progress next week.

What else have we been up to? We were so blessed to meet up with some dear friends from MN last week - Michelle Thompson, her two girls, and her mom, Mrs. Lee. What a treat to spend some time with familiar faces! We took a nice long walk down the Fort Meyers Beach, saw pelicans on the pier, enjoyed some hot chocolate, took the trolley back to their condo, and then Mrs. Lee treated us to a delicious meal of Lentil Soup. Michelle is the founder of Hand In Hand - the homeschool academy where Ashley and Jake attended for six years. We miss you guys!!

We ended our stay with a visit to the winter homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. It was inspiring to all of us to think about the way Edison thought outside of the box in order to come up with the many inventions he is credited with.

We are now on the next leg of our journey making our way out west. First stop? The Florida panhandle near Destin, FL. God continues to refine us individually and as a family as we journey through our days. He is definitely more interested in our character than anything else and we have been talking lately about our deep desire for the fruits of the Spirit to be evident in our lives - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Thank you, Lord, for the opportunities You are giving us to be transformed to be more like You. Be glorified in us, Jesus! We pray that for each of you too.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Key West, FL

We can now attest to the fact that it really is possible to drive far enough out into the ocean that you’re closer to Cuba than Miami! My mom flew into Ft. Meyers on January 1st and then we drove from Naples to Bluewater Key on the 2nd where we spent a week 14 miles from the southernmost point in the USA – Key West. It took us seven hours to drive there (bad traffic) and only five hours to get back.

It was an interesting drive on Highway 41 through the Everglades. We saw hundreds of alligators along the way – or at least the kids did. They were better at spotting them than I was. These gators were a much darker shade of green (almost black) than what is portrayed in most pictures.

After the Everglades we hit Highway 1 and drove 117 miles over 42 bridges and numerous small islands (keys). It was different than what I expected. I envisioned much bigger, longer bridges. In reality, it felt more like driving on land (which it was) with short bridges linking the islands. There was only one really long bridge which was seven miles long.

We made a couple of trips in to Key West during the week. We took the
Conch Train Tour of the island and learned a lot about the history of Key West. It was originally reached by an overseas railway complete in 1912 that ran from the mainland to Key West. A hurricane destroyed much of it in 1935 and then the U.S. Government rebuilt it as a road in 1938 calling it the overseas highway. We also took a tour of the Curry Mansion – the home of Key West’s first millionaire which is now a bed and breakfast.

We ate at a very unique restaurant called
Blue Heaven. This place was really fun sitting outside on a wood mulch floor with chickens and cats roaming around the premises. This would never pass health inspection back in MN!

Overall, we had a very laid back week hanging out at
Bluewater Key RV Resort. The people were very friendly and we ended up playing Wii bowling with our neighbors from Chicago the first night we were there. We spent a lot of time reading, playing games, and enjoying the time with my mom. And we found out that Macie can swim! We took her down to the boat dock, put her in the water and she paddled her way to shore (though I don't think she liked it much). One day she saw a huge green iguana crawling up a palm tree right outside her window – she was ready to jump through the windshield to get it!

While we enjoyed the Keys and we’re glad we made the trip (Grandma included), we all agreed that it wasn’t our favorite spot. There was something about this place that did not sit right with us. We can’t put a finger on it at the moment, but we were unsettled there. That said, we are happy to back in Naples for a couple more weeks.

It's been nearly three months since we set sail on this journey. I'm posting more thoughts about this on my personal
blog today. In the future, if you want to get an email when I update that blog, click here.