What About the Kids?

20140601_152504I overheard this question again today as the boys and I were enjoying a morning breeze and Social Studies discussion at our campsite picnic table. Matthew was making conversation with the campground hosts, talking about where they were from, why they like to host and what they most liked about this park, and we were “doing school” (as we like to call our homeschool/roadschool time each day). And then it came ~ Matthew telling them how much we love what we do, traveling, meeting new people, experiencing new parts of the country, sharing our lives with different people every few weeks, etc. and their kindhearted response, “What about the kids? How do they feel about it?”

I think most people generally believe kids are happiest when they have a house with a backyard, a hometown, a school, a consistent group of friends, and a stable routine from day to day and week to week. After all, that’s how we grew up, and I studied Child Development – I know this is what the text book says. However, for whatever reason, this has never been an option for our family, and we see our kids thriving.

20140601_142336Over the past decade, we tried so many times to settle down – really we did. Over and over again we talked and prayed about where we needed to plant ourselves, found jobs and a home, moved in, made friends, plugged into ministry opportunities and social events, and found a rhythm. Then, each time, an indescribable knowing would come to both Matthew and myself saying, “Boom! It’s time to step up into a new season – This one’s over. Time to move on.” I won’t go into every story, but my favorite one is the story of one of the first times it happened. In 2006 I was out running and listening to music, and I came in the door and told Matthew that I had just heard the strangest thing in my heart and I felt like it was from God. He looked at me and said he actually had something similar to tell me and he hoped it was the same for both of us. Thankfully it was, and 6 months later we sold everything and moved over 9,000 miles to Sydney, Australia to study at Hillsong College. Another time that I believe is worth mentioning here is what happened to me early one morning in May of 2013. As I was reading my Bible, sipping my coffee, and minding my own business, I was overwhelmed by the feeling, “What if it’s time to give up your career? What if your ‘for such a time as this’ is over for this season?” Shocked, I closed my Bible and walked away from the conversation and towards my day. Thankfully, this turned out to be something I couldn’t walk away from, and I realized it was the voice of God for our lives again letting me know that we had accomplished what we were meant to accomplish in the current season and it was time to step into something new (although He didn’t say what at the time – that took another 5 months of discussion, prayer, and research).

So, after so many attempts at normal life, we have finally given in to the nomadic missionary life, and I can’t describe how good it feels to embrace something that has been chasing us for years. Now we can confidently say, “We move around – we meet and connect with people – we speak life into people’s situations – we show the love of Jesus to hurting people – that’s what we do, and now we have a home that will move with us as often as we need to. And our two boys (9 and 6 at the moment) are loving every single moment.”

Yes, we homeschool, but no, not a one of us are agoraphobic, socially awkward or nerdy. (And yes, we have always homeschooled (currently in our 6th year); we always comply with our state’s regulations; we incorporate common core and best practice; we use a real curriculum or 5 every year; and we test each kid at least annually, appreciating the feedback that these structures give us.)

Yes, we leave friends and family for months at the time physically, but no, we don’t abandon them or lose touch with them. (Actually, many of these relationships are stronger because of the distance requiring conscious commitment to our relationships.)

Yes, we church-hop, but no, it’s not because we’re always wanting to be visitors with no responsibilities, nor are we looking for the perfect church. We see the global Church as something far bigger than the four walls of a church building, and we look for opportunities to strengthen this large Church inside local churches and outside them, with them and independent of them.

Yes, we live in a home of only 200 or so square feet, but we spend most of our days outside where the square footage is immeasurable.

Yes, our storage is very small, and there’s absolutely no room for clutter or extra anything, but who ever ends up using all that clutter and extra stuff anyway?

Yes, we spend our money primarily on transportation, fuel and phone/internet service, but our view is constantly changing, and adventure is in no short supply.

So, back to the question: What about the kids? How do they like living on the road? Are they really okay? How do you know?

If you ask them, our boys will both say they love living on the road. They love meeting new kids every week, experiencing sights and restaurants they’ve never seen before, exploring new state and national parks, getting to experience so many different churches, seeing this country’s history, wildlife and geography rather than just reading about it. They smile a lot. They laugh even more. They talk to us – their parents – and we pray they always will. They have so many questions about life, and we get to be the ones who either answer them or lead them to the One who can. They imagine. They run. They play. They ride their bikes. They learn new things – constantly. They learn to navigate new cities, states, and cultures.

So, every time we as travelers, missionaries, and parents get a bit overwhelmed by the task at hand, the daily challenges, or the amount of work still to be done in this thing called parenting (especially parenting on the road – getting the kids enough social time with their peers, finding team sports for homeschoolers, teaching values and character traits, giving clarity to something someone said when they didn’t know little ears were listening, etc. etc. etc.), this quote comes to my mind and gives me strength:

“So, it is to no one’s advantage (especially my family’s) for me to frown, pout, snarl, whine, complain, make everyone’s life miserable, behave like a ‘dripping tap,’ and then collapse in a heap because I cannot negotiate the pace. If the pace belongs with the process, then there has to be an answer. I have to rethink, reevaluate, rediscipline, perhaps redefine, and work smarter.”  – Bobbie Houston

At the end of the day, we pray and ask God that our kids will be better for this journey. We try our best to be honest with them at all times (that includes makebelieve characters who have never left a gift at our house), to remain the same person inside the camper as we are outside on the streets and on stage, to teach them by example, to apologize when we make mistakes, and above all else, to show them more love today than we did yesterday through time spent together, cuddles, kisses, eye contact, attention given, and hard conversations. And when they snuggle into their little Airstream bunk beds at night, and we retreat to our own little bedroom at the other end of the camper, I hold on to God’s promise in James 1: “If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help.” because in the end only the Father of all of us can truly help us parent and live a life worth living.

 

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