Lessons Learned from #theGreatMonsterRoadTrip

As I type this, there’s coffee and ice water in the cupholders, my husband at the wheel, three boys and a dog in the back, and a cooler and lots of sleeping bags in the carrier on top of our Mazda CX-9. Our vehicle probably smells like old Cheetos and baked sweet and sour sauce, but I am so used to it that I can’t be certain. It’s quiet right now because the boys are enjoying their screen time. The landscape out the windows is green and flat, sections of trees alternating with sections of cleared ranching land, dotted by buildings here and there. We are somewhere in Texas.

This is Day 25 of our road trip.  Yes, you read that right.  We left home 25 days ago, and we have been hanging out in places that aren’t like California at all. We attended a wedding in Indiana, cheered at a White Sox game in Chicago, caught fireflies near St. Louis, sat around a fire pit in central Missouri, went pond fishing near Tulsa, navigated the maze of highways in Dallas (to see friends and family), and went for walks after dark in Austin. 

I can’t even tell you how many members of our extended family we got to see.

I CAN tell you that we’ve put almost 5000 miles on our car, that we’ve gotten plenty of mosquito bites, that we’ve been annoyed with each other, that we’ve laughed together, that we’ve gone swimming as often as possible and that we’ve eaten ice cream just about every day.

It’s a funny thing being away from home for so long.  I have learned things about myself and about my boys. I have a new appreciation for all the work my husband does when we visit my side of the family. I have been amazed at the boys’ ability to be in different cities and homes and around different people, handling all the change with a tenacity that’s surprised me. I’ve learned that rest stops take longer with a dog, that KOA cabins do the trick for a quick overnight stop, that the audiobook of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is really fun, that 4-year-olds need more activities than you could possibly prepare for, and that a playful attitude is essential to sanity.

But as I sit down to write this today, the one idea that keeps floating to the top is not “baby wipe hacks” or a “best stops list.” It is a phrase I heard from an acquaintance named Tomas a few weeks ago:

“God sounds the same everywhere.”

Even though things are so different from our normal while we’ve been on vacation, I have loved seeing how God continues to make himself known to me, no matter where we are. 

His love is in the eyes of the least of these. It has been a great gift to me to be exposed to the idea of blessing bags. Our church sometimes puts these together to distribute to people who are homeless in our community. The bags are simple: bottled water, snacks, new socks, toothbrushes, and notes. We began our trip with four bags, which we gave away in our first few days on the road. When we arrived in Chicagoland, we realized that we needed more blessing bags, and went shopping for supplies to fill more bags. As we learn the names of these people—Terry, Emmanuel, Michael, and others—and as I looked into their eyes, I saw a depth of heart that I rarely saw otherwise. It was at once intimidating and comforting, and I often felt the presence of the Lord.

There is always room to grow in faith. Many times on this trip, we have faced [figurative] bumps in the road. And it seems with each one, from feeling carsick to being afraid of fireworks, my four-year-old Simon has suggested that we say a quick prayer. It seems to be one of his first lines of defense. And it always brings me to my knees, amazed that I have so much room to grow in my trust in the power and goodness of the Lord.

He hears our prayers. Simon gets carsick. Really carsick. We have asked people back home to be praying for Simon. We have been praying for Simon. And he’s only gotten sick once in these 5000 miles.  It is incredible. I have prayed about where to stop, and we have experienced the friendliest, most helpful people I’ve ever seen working in fast food or at gas stations. It is incredible. We have prayed for peace, love, joy, and we have looked back at our day and seen where there was peace, love, joy. It is incredible. We prayed for a place to stay in Chicago, and a friend in Chicago prayed for their house to be a blessing while they were on vacation. We were the answer to their prayer and they were the answer to ours. It is incredible. 

He is faithful and generous. I have seen his hand of provision in the homes of our family members. I have seen his love through the hospitality of friends. I have seen the way he has walked with my parents, my brothers, my nieces, my nephews, my sisters-in-law, through so many years and how he continues to provide for their every need (and give them sweet “bonus gifts” besides). He is so, so good.

Believe it or not, these are the same messages I had been hearing back in California, and God found a way to teach them to me again 2,000 miles from home.

God sounds the same everywhere. 

I encourage you to listen to him on your next trip, be it 3 days long… or 25.

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