My trip so far has been wonderful and intense at the same time! I am behind on keeping up on my writings mostly because of the wifi situation so I will tell you about days 2 and 3 on my great adventure so far.
They were totally opposite experiences but I learned a lot through each one.
On day 2 I traveled from Indianapolis into West Virginia which was super exciting for me because it was the first new state for me on this trip so far. It was everything I expected it to be and the dense tree covered Appalachian Mountains were stunning. They were so different from the ones I am used to in Montana; not as rugged and regal but had softness and a lushness to them that I appreciated.
I then crossed the line into Virginia which was also exciting and another new state. I love how my GPS welcomes me to each state and I politely say a very grateful "thank you" back to her. Ok, with traveling by myself I don't have a lot of people to talk to so even the GPS lady is a little comforting!
My campsite in Virginia was beautiful and I was thankful that I flagged down a staff person to help me find my camp site with those blasted maps they leave me since I seem to always miss the check-in deadline.
As I caught up on my reading, fireflies were sparkling all around me like they were welcoming me to their home. What a creative God we have that He wanted to enrich our lives by making bugs that actually light up like little fireworks! I need to google how that works!
The next morning I found a lovely place to hike around the campground and praised God for all of the beauty and calm around me. It gave me a chance to regroup before I had to hit the road again and the silence and lack of traffic was a treat. It also gave me a chance to thank God for all He has done for me on this trip so far and pray for those He has put on my heart during this extended time of separation from eveything that normally distracts me.
My next destination was Virginia Beach, which was what I had looked the most forward to for some reason. Maybe because it has been my targeted furthest destination on the map and was the culmination of my trip's goal. I was also super excited to put my feet into the ocean opposite of my familiar territory. A giddiness rose up in me as I thought how we had recently traveled to Idaho to see family and took a day trip to Washington State. Reaching the East coast meant that I have traveled from the furthest state on the west coast to the furthest on the east coast this summer which fills my traveling heart with great joy! I am definitely my mother's daughter as she was my model for my sense of adventure. Thanks mom!!
I checked into the campground at Virginia Beach, was led to my little spot for the night and then "luckily" discussed with my official KOA guide where the best place was to put my tent. I went on to explain that I am not sleeping in a tent but in the backseat of my truck because I felt safer traveling alone that way. That's when things took a sad turn.
He went on to explain that Virginia Beach had an ordinance in place that did not allow people to sleep in their vehicles so what I was planning to do was simply not an option. I was ready with all of the rational arguments swirling in my head, such as that I had paid for a site so it shouldn't matter how I use it, how my pickup isn't any different than a VW camper van, etc. But he was having none of it. I was simply out of luck. I'm guessing the surge of spring breakers they have flock to the area has ruined some things for the rest of us. Dang!! The only option was to rent one of their cabins which was twice as much money as I would pay for a motel room so they generously refunded my money and I was sent off down the road to who knew where.
So, I dived into problem solving mode and prayed for an easy solution. I got online and found a "cheap" hotel room by Virginia Beach standards and I use the word cheap in a wide variety of ways. Let's just say I wouldn't have wanted to have a black light along with me. But I was close to the beach and could see a sliver of it from outside my door (which did open onto a balcony that I was hoping would support my weight).
I got my chance to walk along the beach and to put my feet into the tumbling ocean waves. The sun was starting to set and it was beautiful, but the serene experience I had created in my head suddenly crumbled. The Virginia Beach party scene started to take off and I felt like I was on the Vegas strip lined with sand and lapping ocean water.
I finally admitted to myself that I am just not a beach person. I've discovered a lot of things about myself on this trip and have found I'm much more drawn to mountains and forests. I can have fun on the beach and have, but my vacation of choice involves pines trees. Good to know.
As I settled into my motel room, I laid down on my very hard mattress and startled to giggle to myself. I actually missed my leaking rumpled air mattress in the back seat of my pickup. It's been there that I have felt the most safe after long days of pushing myself outside of many comfort zones. It's been there that I felt the presence of God like never before as He reassured me that He loves me, is with me and will protect me.
As I thought about my travels so far I realized that this trip has been exactly what I have needed in order to find refreshment, focus and realignment. John Piper encourages us to take time at least once a year to spend time away from the usual pressures of life in order to read God's Word, pray, reflect on areas we need to seek repentance and submission to God, and to pray for His vision as we move forward to accomplish the assignment He has for us.
He suggests going away to a cabin, a hotel room, anywhere where we can disconnect. I have been wanting to do that but thought that I would love to totally disconnect--for about a day. Maybe a day and a half and then I would go stir crazy. If I could be at a cabin where I could also hike, kayak, and explore I think I could do it, but I couldn't just close myself up in a hotel room or a retreat center. I get bored way too easy and I need to keep doing something.
A lot of you have commented that you admire what I'm doing but actually I am doing what John Piper recommended but in a difference form. It has been my desperate attempt to connect with God and to evaluate some things in my life, as well as take the time to listen to God's call in how He wants me to move forward in this second phase of life. I have learned that I do my best connecting with Him as I drive. I get away from my normal busyness, listen to worship music, sermon podcasts, pray and get the stimulation of moving forward at the same time. I guess we just have to figure out what works best for us and I've discovered traveling alone is my spiritual retreat. Another good thing to know.
Also as I have listed to the videos and have gone through the first series of the Propel Women curriculum I have learned a lot. Here is one take-away I have had from each of the six sessions in the first book that I hope blesses you as it has blessed me:
Session 1: The Myth of Having it All
*I have realized that I have had to re-define success. I chose to stay home with my kids for the most part and now that I have an empty nest, I have assumed it's time for me to be successful as a woman out in the world. I have discounted the success I feel I have had as a mother and am actually super proud of how my boys have all turned out. I've had to take a turn in my mindset. At this point, I define success as contributing to the world more than I'm consuming. That may mean it comes with a pay check or maybe not. That doesn't have anything to do with the level of my success. As long as I am positively inputting into people's lives I am doing what God has called me to do. God says that we are called to know Him and to make Him known and we will all take different paths to accomplish the same goal.
Session 2: Decision Making
*I am becoming convinced that God is calling me to shepherd hearts-especially women's hearts that have been broken in some way. I have not been able to be as affective as I would like to be because I have sabotaged by own healing that God has needed to do. All of my decisions need to be moving me forward in working out the grand purpose I feel called to-even if it means releasing some of my own strongholds that will lead to my own healing so that I can then help others. I was reminded to turn to God first when making decisions, to test them against God's Word and to trust a small tribe of trusted advisors for guidance.
Session 3: Communication
*Communication is key in shepherding hearts and in accomplishing both loving God and loving people. I have realized that I need to not only work on communicating my own thoughts more efficiently but I need to become a better listener. Sometimes the best communication is letting others share their own hearts without trying to throw out solutions. I need to journal more so I can learn to frame my thoughts and I need to ask more questions than try to give answers.
Session 4: Our Thoughts: Mindset
*The lesson book says "As women, we must first lead our inner life; and this starts with disciplining our thoughts according to God's word." The women on the panel talked about the difference between conviction and condemnation and how quick we are to condemn ourselves and others. Christine Cain says that "Our thoughts are like a train-they take us somewhere." If we want to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ we need to make sure we get on the right train. Our thoughts often deceive and are full of lies so it's imperative that we are in the Bible to learn God's thoughts which are full of truth. Then the tricky process of replacing the lies with the truth begins!
Session 5: Prayer Life
*The ladies on the video made the point that "every day you have an opportunity to tap into the power of God and build a relationship with Him through prayer." We have to realize that it's not about who's saying the prayer or what's being said, it's about Who's hearing it. Constant connection with God is crucial in knowing Him as it is in any of our other relationships.
Session 6: Self Care
*This is a tricky one for us. There is a constant tension between knowing what is healthy self-care and what is selfish self-focus. I think as women we tend to yield more toward neglecting our own needs to meet the needs of others since we tend to be natural nurturers. Lisa Harper made the great point that the idea of self care, or the Sabbath, started with God Himself before sin entered the world. God modeled rest because He knew we were designed to need it. It wasn't something to compensate for our fallen nature but was the plan from the beginning. It's important for us to discover what fills us and refreshes us so we can keep up the constant demands of giving out to others. This will vary for all of us and we need to have grace in understanding what works for us may be different than what works for someone else.
I know that this is a long post but I finally had time to stop at a Starbucks in Toledo, Ohio to get caught up! In my next post Ill share about days 4 and 5 and tell you about my crazy day in Philadelphia. It was surely an experience and God had a lot of opportunities to cover my back that day!!
I am currently off to my final destination, at least for a few days. After I stop at a public trail system to get in a much needed walk, I will head to Grand Rapids to meet up with my son Tanner. To say I'm excited is an understatement!! It will be great to have a few days there to see what life has been like for him this past year at Film School before he heads off to his next adventure in Montana. And I get to travel only 3 1/2 hours today, compared to the 8 hour days I've done in the past 5. I'm looking forward to stay in one place for a bit so I can catch up in my journal and process all God has taught me this past week while sitting on the shore of Lake Michigan. Sounds Heavenly!
Good bye from Toledo! (Never thought I would utter those words!)