Why going to Kenya doesn’t make me brave

If you haven’t heard by now, we’re going to Kenya, my  husband and me. We leave today, actually. And because of team policies and unpredictable WiFi and the desperate need we all have to disconnect, I won’t be around much on the blog, e-mail or social media. So, don’t worry if I go silent. You probably won’t even miss me. If you’re on Facebook and want a few updates on what our team is doing, you can “like” our church’s page. We’ll be posting some updates there.

Otherwise, anything you see from me online this week is most likely scheduled ahead of time. (The wonder of the Internet!)

So, we’re packing up and heading out on this wild and wonderful trip. Two weeks ago, I was a mess of emotions when I realized how little I’d be in contact in with my kids combined with all the other normal anxiety about traveling to a different continent and experiencing so many new things in a short amount of time.

I almost wanted to back out of the whole trip. I’m sorry. I was wrong. What was I thinking? I can’t go to AFRICA!?!? 

I’m grateful that God continues to show me He’s in this all the way. Donations keep pouring in from surprising sources. When we set a goal in January of raising $30,000 for the team of 15, I know I thought it was nearly impossible. Now, as of this writing, we’re within hundreds of dollars of that goal.

This trip will be my first time out of the country on a mission trip. In college, I spent a semester in England. And later I participated in two mission trips within the States, but never have I combined the two, and never have I been to Africa.

I want you to know a couple of things, in case I forget to say them when we get back. I’m expecting Africa to give me a lot to write about and think about, so I want you to hear this now.

Going to Africa doesn’t make me a brave person.

I struggle with anxiety in new situations, and I have control issues. Africa is going to challenge me on both of those fronts. We won’t have a lot of access to our kids while we’re gone, and I spent two days in an emotional tailspin over this.

I am not going to Africa because I’m so brave and adventurous.

Honestly, I’m not actually sure why I’m going to Africa. Except that God opened the door in a very specific way. And despite various trying circumstances over the last 7 to 8 months, He has continued to show His approval.

Africaobedience

Going to Africa is not an act of bravery; it is an act of obedience.

Sometimes I think that I first have to be brave in order to follow God’s lead. But more often than not, I think following God first, even if I’m scared, can lead to bravery.

And maybe the people we think are brave are really just obedient.

I don’t know about you, but when I see someone doing something I don’t think I could do, I label them as “brave” so that I can put them in a category that doesn’t include me. That person is so brave. I could never do that. And then it’s easy for me to stay comfortable and not think about what God might be wanting me to do.

We call other people brave so we don’t have to consider what it would be like to follow God like that.

But obedience isn’t only for the brave people. Anyone can follow God, brave or not. Even you. Even me.

Trust me, if I can do it, so can you.

Will you remember that the next time you’re presented with the chance to follow God into some unknown place, whether it’s physical or spiritual or emotional or circumstantial? You don’t have to be brave first to follow where He leads. You can be afraid, uncertain, anxious or overwhelmed and still say “Yes. I’ll do that.”

Don’t wait until you feel brave. Don’t count yourself out because you’re not adventurous. Don’t beat yourself up that you aren’t like those other people who are doing the hard/scary/fun thing.

You can do it, too. Even if you have to do it afraid.

So, maybe God won’t lead you on a trip to Kenya, but maybe He’ll lead you somewhere else. When you hear about what we’re doing and experiencing over the next 10 days, just remember that some of us are trembling as we trek.

See you in a few weeks!

Summer Fun Week 4

A month of summer already? And now it’s July? True on both accounts.

Last week, I left you hanging with a teaser about an adventure we were taking on Sunday. So, let me relieve your agony from the anticipation.

wpid-20150628_103831.jpgThe Tall Ships Festival in Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey, took place last weekend, and we decided to take our family out for the day. (We skipped church because I needed a break, which is probably another blog post I could write, but no one had official duties and that hasn’t happened in months. Family time it was!) One of the ticket options was just for entrance onto the waterfronts on both sides of the Delaware River, but that included access to the ferry. Since we’re newbies to the tall ships world, and we didn’t have an entire day to spend there, we took this option. wpid-20150628_124424.jpg Packed a lunch, paid for parking and wandered around on a beautiful day. (With about a billion other people. Lots of people everywhere. And we spent a lot of time standing in line.)

We didn’t tour any ships this time but it was fun to see the artistry of the boats and learn a little bit about their history. While waiting in line for the ferry the first time, we learned that the U.S. Coast Guard boat that was there was a confiscated German boat from World War II and that the French boat Hermione was an exact replica of Lafayette’s boat.

The closest we ever got to it was on the return trip on the ferry. Still, it was a magnificent boat that sets my writer’s imagination running wild and free. (The costumed people walking around did as well. At times, I felt like I could jump into a story from the past if I wanted to!) Maybe it seems like a bit of a letdown that we couldn’t wander all over the ships or even get close, but for me, this was great. When else do you get to see sights like this? (The next day, friends of ours vacationing in Cape May saw the boats sailing on their way to New York City, which is another sight I’d love to see!)

wpid-20150628_155418.jpgIn-person adventures always make me more interested in the history of those events and places, so I’m adding to my to-read list. (And we have more places to add to our must-visit list.) The Battleship New Jersey “lives” on the Delaware River in Camden, and we’d love to go back sometime and take a tour.

wpid-20150628_124640.jpgOur kids love adventure, and we decided to not tell them where we were going right wpid-20150628_162311.jpgaway. We drove past the church and asked if they wanted any clues. After a few, they wanted to know what we were doing, so we told them.

It was a tiring day of walking and we had a few moments where we might have regretted our decision (standing in line for the ferry for 45 minutes on the return trip was one) but we know the kids had fun when they played ships and Coast Guard for the next two days.

One attraction at the festival was the world’s largest rubber duckie that stands more than six stories tall. But it had some issues over the weekend and never was able to be inflated. We heard a lot of people complaining about that, and though we were a bit disappointed, the ships made up for it. (A couple of women dressed as pirates engaged Izzy in conversation calling her the “dread pirate Izzy.” I think she’s still beaming from this moniker.)

That was our big highlight of the week.

We also managed to make it to two parks this week, despite the threat of rain. wpid-20150630_091938.jpg

We had a super fun playdate on Wednesday in the city. (And because it was so fun, I have no pictures!) And we went to two library programs: one about reptiles and one about insects. Fun times! The kids didn’t get close enough to touch or hold either one, but both programs were informative and fun.

Another part of our week was a rally night at Chick-fil-a for our Kenya team fundraiser. The kids totally stole the show, running the spinning wheel and instructing people on their winnings. As the trip draws closer (almost three weeks now!) our summer plans are dropping off a bit as we try to keep up with housework and packing for our various travels. (The kids to Illinois; the hubs and I to Kenya.)

Not every day or week has to be jam-packed full of fun, but we’re hoping to make a few more memories together in the coming weeks before the school year is upon us again.

How’s your summer going?

 

When going to Kenya doesn’t make sense

In less than a month, we’ll be on our way to Kenya, and that scares and thrills and excites and terrifies me. wpid-img_20150507_163444.jpg

We’ve been dreaming and planning and thinking about this for about a year and nothing about this trip makes sense. Not really.

15 people taking almost two weeks out of their summer to travel halfway around the world to a continent that is not exactly safe and is certainly foreign in every sense of the word to visit missionaries and serve the students at a school is madness really. It would be so much easier to go to the beach.

If you’ve known Phil and I for any length of time, it won’t surprise you that we do things that don’t make sense.

If we did, then we would have turned around and went home when I wrecked his parents’ car on the way to Pennsylvania the first time, when we were searching for clarity of Phil’s call to ministry, before we were even engaged. We would have gotten married before he deployed to Iraq with the Army. We would have stayed in northern Illinois after we got married so Phil could finish his undergrad and maybe looked at seminaries in the Chicago area. We definitely wouldn’t have moved to Pennsylvania without a guarantee of a place to live. We might have waited to have kids until we were “financially secure.” We might not still be married. We probably would have moved home after seminary when we had no job prospects in Pennsylvania.

The list could probably be longer but I don’t want you to think we’ve totally lost it. Maybe it’s too late for that. Following God’s lead looks foolish sometimes.

But back to Kenya.

I won’t go into all the details, but in a lot of ways, it doesn’t make sense for Phil and I to go to Kenya. We don’t have loads of vacation time to spare. Or tons of extra money lying around. We barely know the missionaries we’re going to visit. And it’s been a long time since either of us has left the country. We have young children we’re leaving behind in the competent care of their grandparents. (But I’m still worried about their health and safety.)

It wasn’t a no-brainer decision for us, but it was something we couldn’t let go.

I was sure that God would close the door anyway when we needed money for the deposit by the end of last year. I gave Him a specific challenge for answering that need, which seemed nearly impossible at the time. And He met it. Exactly as I asked.

That was pretty clear to me.

We couldn’t ignore the nudges we were getting from God. Despite our hesitations and excuses.

There are days I still think this is not a good idea. What were we thinking agreeing to this? (Pictures like this remind me that risks are worth the reward. We’re not just going to see beautiful scenery, but that is one bonus.)

The view from where we'll be | Photo by Alyssa Stoltzfus

The view from where we’ll be | Photo by Alyssa Stoltzfus

And yet, God continues to provide and confirm. He is showing us, at least weekly, that He is in this. He brings donors out of the shadows of our lives–people I would never think of to ask for money are giving generously and sacrificially. Our kids are excited for us and eager to tell others about our upcoming trip. Sometimes I think our daughter wishes she could go. Maybe next time. She’s only 7.

We have a cadre of prayer supporters and while I can’t speak for anyone else on the team, I feel like we’re going to need them. Since we signed up for this trip, we’ve had more troubles in our life than I expected from this year. I try not to blame Satan for every bad thing that happens, but in this case, I’m wondering if there’s an element of spiritual warfare to our fears and discouragements and problems. It could be coincidence, but I’m not sure I believe very firmly in that either.

I wish I could tell you exactly why we’re going to Kenya. Maybe it will be clearer when we’re back. Maybe I’ll never be 100 percent sure. All I know is we couldn’t ignore this press from the Lord and when we stepped out in the uncertain places, He made it more certain.

We will work at the school, assisting with buildings and grounds projects while the students are away. We will support these students whose families give them into the care of the boarding school while they serve the Lord in other parts of Africa. We will visit and encourage and enjoy this missionary family (and we will bring their daughter/sister to them). We will meet Kenyans and worship with them, the same God on a different continent. And we will see things we can only imagine–the beauty of a land half a world away.

If it was up to me, we’d go to the beach for a week. Or rent a cabin in the woods. Or take a week to spend with family back home. We could have made any of those decisions for our summer. But it wasn’t what we were meant to do.

For some reason unknown to us, we’re meant to go to Kenya this year.

If you want to find out more along with us, you can sign up for our monthly newsletter here. No purchase or promise necessary. And if you’d like to be on our support team, for prayer or financially, you can e-mail me at lmbartelt (at) gmail (dot) com for more information.

July 2015 seemed so far away  when we turned in our deposits. And now it’s almost here.

Let the journey begin!

What happens when you’re not the one in control {Part 2}

Looking for part 1 of the story? Click here. Then read on for more stories about my recent travels.

I was not near the front of the plane, and I was in a window seat. But my seatmates, the cruise couple, graciously let me out with my carry-on bag, and the flight attendants asked nicely that anyone who didn’t have a connecting flight stay seated and let others off the plane who needed to make a connection. I held my phone and checked the clock numerous times. Theoretically, I should make it.

The aisle cleared and I thanked the crew, who had professionally and graciously handled a plane full of grumblers, and I quickly scanned the terminal for directions to my gate. A friend who travels frequently told me the Charlotte airport is bigger than it needs to be, and his assessment was not wrong.

Samuel Sosina | Creative Commons | via unsplash

Samuel Sosina | Creative Commons | via unsplash

I did not run or sprint because I also hadn’t eaten anything more than my pastry from the early morning and a nutty Larabar (huge shoutout to Larabar! They sustained my hunger needs!) and I didn’t think passing out in the airport would aid my travel situation.

I weaved my way through travelers moving in all directions. I fast-walked on the moving sidewalk things to make my way to the farthest reaches of the farthest terminal. (Really?) I kept checking my clock and kept casting a quick glance at the posted schedules, worried that because the flight was already late that it might take off earlier than I was anticipating.

Sweating through my clothes, my calves screaming, (because it was also in the teens in Philadelphia and I was wearing layers and it was not that cold in Charlotte; also boots), I pulled up to the agent at the gate.

Breathless, I told him, “I just got an e-mail that told me I was on this flight.”

He took my name and looked it up.

“I’ve been waiting for you to check in.”

“I literally just got off the plane.”

“Oh, where’d you fly from?”

I couldn’t even answer his question.

“Philly?” he suggested.

“Yes,” I said.

And then I had a boarding ticket in hand for a flight that was just about to board. I could hardly contain my joy. I was hungry and tired but I would get to Memphis before dark, like I’d planned. Because I still had 2 1/2 hours of driving when I landed in Memphis and I wasn’t excited about driving through Arkansas and rural Missouri in the dark.

The flight to Memphis was uneventful, save for my seat mate who fell asleep and almost landed in my lap as her head drooped lower and lower. I had to tap her on the shoulder for our final descent so she could put her laptop away.

Once I’d left the plane in Memphis, it was another long walk to the rental car area. And part of that walk was outside, which probably isn’t a problem most of the time in Memphis, but it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 degrees. I had frozen fingers by the time I got into the rental.

With the keyless key to a Nissan Sentra in hand, I pulled out of the Memphis airport and cruised toward Missouri via Arkansas. I thought about stopping for a bite to eat, but I had the Larabars and a little bit of water and I wanted to get there. To see my family and just stop moving for a few minutes.

It was a long, straight drive through a state I can only assume is beautiful in another season. Brown stretches of land surrounded me, though its state motto boasted “the natural state.” My radio choices for much of the trip were “country” and “more country.” But I made do.

I pulled into the motel where my parents were staying at a little after 5:30 p.m. central time, a long day not over yet but the traveling part was done. I ate my fill of grief food at my grandma’s house and headed to bed earlier than usual. I had made it, and I’d had little to do with the timing.

Two days later when the time came to travel back, the weather threatened to disrupt my plans again. And not long after I woke up, my husband texted me asking what he needed to do to call our daughter off of school because she’d woke up puking. Talk about being not in control. I was hundreds of miles away and I couldn’t get home any faster to help out. Or so I thought. But we’ll get there.

I left my family at 7:30 a.m., giving myself plenty of time to get back to Memphis, to stop to fill the rental car with gas, to get through security and print my boarding pass, and maybe get a bite to eat before my 12:50 p.m. flight back to Charlotte.

The drive was not any more interesting the second time, though I did have to make two stops this time, which broke up the monotony some. And then there was the added weekday traffic.

I sighed with relief when I pulled the rental car into its spot. There’s something about completing the first leg of a journey that makes the rest of the journey seem possible.

Then it was back to the long walk to the terminal and a visit to the kiosk, which told me that I could not print my boarding pass because my flight had a delay. I hadn’t even had time to check because I was so early. I’d hoped to make it through security and grab some lunch. (Are you sensing a theme here?) The US Airways agent waved me over and asked for my name and flight. Then she said some magic words.

“I can get you on a direct flight to Philly, landing at 2:55, getcha home about 3 hours early.”

I paused before saying “yes” because in the original plan, my husband wouldn’t be able to leave to get me until after school, so I was calculating the number of hours I would have to sit in the Philly airport.

“You’ll be waiting for a ride?” she said. I nodded. “Well, at least you’ll be there.”

“Let’s do it,” I said.

Then she printed me a pass, and I looked at the time, and once again, I had about 30 minutes until boarding time and still needed to go through security. (An aside: going through security is not really as grueling a process as I imagine it is. It takes time, but it’s not awful.) I did, then I found my gate and maybe even pinched myself to make sure this was real. I was on a completely different flight leaving and arriving earlier than I’d thought. I texted my husband and my mom and then thought I better call my husband before I got on the plane because I wouldn’t be available for a couple of hours.

He was wrangling children at the grocery store buying supplies for a stomach bug: crackers and ginger ale and the like. He promised to get there as soon as they could.

I settled in for the flight. I had no seat mate but my Kindle, and I finished the book I’d started a few days before on the trip. It was a smooth and relaxing flight.

Until we landed.

Then we sat at the gate for 20 minutes waiting for I don’t know what. Something to do with the ground crew. Then we waited in the jetway for our larger carry-on bags (this was a small plane, only 13 rows of seats) for another 20 minutes because of a short-staffed airport crew or something. My plan to get something to eat while waiting for my family to arrive was again thwarted as they made it to the cell phone lot before I could leave with my bag.

So, hungry, tired and grateful to be home, I made my way through the terminals to the pick-up point and eased into the passenger seat of our van. I was home before I was supposed to leave Charlotte. It was daylight, and though my husband and I both showed signs of exhaustion, we were together and could help each other through till bedtime.

Before this trip, it had been a long time since I’d done something like this on my own. Probably 10 years or more ago. I think I found a part of myself again, and maybe those are thoughts for another post on another day.

I think I lost a little bit of myself, too. That part that says if I don’t plan everything out to the last detail, then it will all go wrong. That I don’t have to be in control of all the details. I learned, or re-learned, I can trust other people. I can trust God. (I’m not saying God showed me any more favor than any other traveler. I don’t think I’m that special. But I do know I can trust Him to work things out, even without my help.)

I found out that when I’m not in control, it’s not the end of the world.

It might even be a beginning.

What happens when you’re not the one in control {Part 1}

When you’re a writer and you set out on an unplanned adventure and then return to your regular life full of schedules and sickness and responsibilities, where do you even start with all the stories about what you saw and experienced?

This was my dilemma in the van on the way home from the airport. I’d talked to my husband by phone each day but I hadn’t told the kids much about my trip while I was on it. They sat in the back seats, one of them battling a stomach bug, the other one buzzing on a blue slushy high, and I asked if they wanted to hear stories of my trip. Of course, they said, “Yes!” because they love stories, both the telling and the hearing.

And I couldn’t decide where to start. (Also, I’m not a great “out loud” storyteller. I’m better with words on a page, or a screen.)

I had so many things to tell them. I have so many things to tell you. And to tell them all at once would be overwhelming, so we’ll take it one step at a time.

When I decided to take this trip to the Midwest to be with my grandma and family for my step-grandpa’s funeral, I thought it was because I wanted to do it for them. As it turns out, I needed this trip for me.

I suspected when I booked this trip that I would have little control over how it all worked out.

And if I hadn’t suspected it, the snow on Saturday would have confirmed it. The day before I was to leave, our area experienced a smallish snowstorm, but it was big enough to mess with a bunch of flights. I would discover this on Sunday when I arrived at the airport.

We woke up super early on Sunday morning. My flight still said it was scheduled on time and we didn’t know what the roads would be like, so we dragged our kids out of bed at 4 a.m., loaded up the car and began the slow journey to Philadelphia. The roads weren’t impassable, but they weren’t in good condition, so our trip took a bit longer than expected. We pulled up to the departures drop-off and I kissed my family good-bye while holding back tears. Because if I had started crying then, I might not have stopped.

I walked into the airport with purpose and some semblance of confidence though I think I was still shaking a little on the inside. There was no turning back, and I didn’t want to, so I spurred myself forward, first to the bathroom because you know, two-hour drive, and then up the stairs to the security line, the one place that makes me most anxious in an airport.

It was a breeze, really. And before I knew it, I was rolling through the terminal, looking for my gate, then off to find coffee and breakfast. I was plenty early for my flight.

As boarding time drew near, there was little activity at the gate. I wasn’t in an extreme hurry, but I did have only an hour layover in Charlotte to catch a connecting flight to Memphis. And that was if everything ran on time. It soon became clear that we weren’t going to board on time. Eventually, we filled the plane and waited for the ground crew to remove some fuel from our airplane, which had been ready to fly to Denver the night before. While they were doing that, the flight attendants discovered that the bathrooms on the plane weren’t working, so we waited for someone to fix that. I settled in with my book because frankly, even if I didn’t make it to my destination, I was enjoying multiple hours in a row away from my house without responsibility to little people. I was already on vacation.

Chris Brignola | Creative Commons | via unsplash

Chris Brignola | Creative Commons | via unsplash

Unlike the couple next to me who were desperately trying to get to Florida to catch their cruise ship before it left port. They had already had a flight canceled the night before and they, too, had a tight connection in Charlotte.

The waiting dragged on. And then we were told that we were going to have to re-board on a different airplane because this one wasn’t ready to fly. Everyone off this plane, back out to the gate, line up at the gate next door and board a different plane. It was now almost two hours after our scheduled departure and we still hadn’t left the ground. I was going to miss my connecting flight. But there wasn’t much I could do about it, and I didn’t see the point of trying to call the airline. Everyone else on the plane was trying to do that and couldn’t get through.

I decided to wait. And trust. (Believe me when I say this is so unlike me.)

While we sat on the second plane waiting to be cleared for takeoff, I got an e-mail that said I’d been “re-accommodated” on a flight that would leave the next morning. No way was that accommodating for me, but I decided to wait till I got to Charlotte to talk to someone about finding another flight to the Midwest that would leave the same day.

Finally, we pushed away from the gate and headed to the de-icing pad.

Have you ever seen this before? I took a picture just to show my son. He would totally love this job. Someday. As a grownup.

deicer

And then we were airborne, on our way to Charlotte and beyond. Few of us on the plane knew what would be waiting for us in Charlotte. Another flight. Another delay. Another snag in the planning.

The couple next to me was upset. They’d paid for a week-long cruise. They were going to miss some of it, if not all of it. They wanted to get off the plane. They wanted to stay on. They had so many options and none of them were good. The male half of the couple described the last two days as “the worst two days of my life.” I thought maybe he’d had a pretty good life, then, if this was as bad as it ever got. I kept my mouth shut, though, because no one likes a smart aleck when they’re already stressed.

I almost felt guilty that I wasn’t as crazy stressed or complaining like the rest of the passengers. But, seriously, what could I do? I couldn’t control the weather or the ground crew’s efficiency or the safety of the plane. I couldn’t make it fly any faster, though our pilot assured us he had the airplane equivalent of the “pedal to the metal” to get us to Charlotte.

We landed, and immediately we all turned our phones back on. To my surprise, I had a new message from the airline telling me my flight out of Charlotte was delayed. A flight I had no idea I was even on. We had landed at just a few minutes before 1 p.m., about 2 1/2 hours after our scheduled arrival. The next flight out of Charlotte was scheduled for a 1:08 departure, now delayed until 1:38. I had roughly 40 minutes to get off this plane and make it to a gate two terminals away to catch an afternoon flight out of Charlotte.

Unaware that my flight plans had changed while I was in the air, I could have spent the time worrying or trying to figure out a solution. Instead, I let the airline do their job.

At a few minutes after 1 p.m., it was time for me to do my part. I had another plane to catch.

To be continued tomorrow.

When maybe my life is too safe

I didn’t plan it. I never do. Planning to do something spontaneous and out of my comfort zone is some kind of oxymoron, right? Is it even possible to plan to be spontaneous? Probably not.

But my grandma lost her husband, my stepgrandfather, this week, and I felt a restless stirring in my soul to try to go to her for the funeral. I searched travel websites for flights to all the major cities within a couple of hundred miles of her home in rural southern Missouri. It didn’t look like it would work. And then it did. A delay in funeral plans because of weather meant that our schedule would be a little freer and I could leave my family in Pennsylvania for a few days and go to my family in the Midwest.

The trip starts tomorrow, and I am part excited, part fearful. Adventure is not my middle name. Comfortable. Predictable. Safe. Those are more my style.

And yet something about the planning of this trip has reminded me that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Life comes with no guarantees, and a safe life is not immune to trouble or hardship. Nor is it a pathway to life.

“A ship in harbor is safe but that is not what ships are built for.” — John A. Shedd

Nick Diamantidis | Creative Commons | via unsplash

Nick Diamantidis | Creative Commons | via unsplash

“I am tired of living a safe and predictable life.”

I said those words. Out loud. To my husband. As if I needed to defend my decision to make this trip, which includes three airports, four airplanes, varying weather patterns, and 300 miles (round trip) of driving solo. He hardly blinked when I suggested the trip.

My mother, on the other hand, is understandably worried. Before I’d even hit “purchase” on the airplane tickets, she was asking me all the questions I’d asked myself. She’s my mother, and she worries about me. I worry about me, too.

But I’m learning to ask myself some different questions.

Like, “What is the goal of my life?” Is it to get out of here alive? Because I will fail at that. And if it’s to live as safe and comfortably as possible, I will die a premature death from trying to protect all the things and people I care about from harm. There are only so many burdens my shoulders can carry, only so many things I can control. (I do not live this out perfectly. I’m already preparing for the possibility of flight delays and missed connections.)

Leaving my household for a few days not only means disrupting my level of comfort but also puts me in an extreme position of trust. I cannot control the weather, the airplanes, the timing of flights. I cannot oversee my husband’s care of the children while I’m gone. I cannot ensure that everything runs smoothly while I’m gone. I can’t even guarantee I’ll make it to the funeral on Monday. But I’m sure going to try.

Does this leave me anxious?

Yes.

But sometimes so does going to the grocery store.

Living a safe life doesn’t give me life. Often the opposite is true. <Click to tweet>

The times I’ve felt most alive, most in tune with purpose and fulfillment, are the times I wouldn’t have chosen for myself, the times that forced me to learn and grow and fight.

Drifting wherever the current of my day leads may give me a false sense of security, the idea that everything is fine and always will be, that this is life. But the moment I have to paddle to keep from plunging over the waterfall, or kick with everything I have to swim for shore when my boat capsizes, that’s the moment I realize that I want to live.

Monika Majkowska | Creative Commons | via unsplash

Monika Majkowska | Creative Commons | via unsplash

Yes, the harbor is safe. It’s predictable (mostly). It’s protected.

The open sea is wild. Full of unknowns. And great beauty.

It’s okay to put out to sea once in a while. And it’s okay to come back to the harbor. I don’t think our lives can be lived all one way or the other. We need safe places of rest and recuperation. But we also need an adventure now and then. If for no other reason than to remind us of how much life we have in us.

So, my solo adventure awaits. It is small in comparison to others, but for me, it is big. And I’m of the mind that one small adventure leads to increasingly greater ones. (Have I mentioned that we’re going to Kenya later this year?)

One of my favorite quotes, of late, is this one from a book I recently read: “Fear does not start to fade until you take the step that you think you can’t.” So, until I step out of the car at Airport #1, I will have fear. And it won’t totally leave, I am sure, until I step back into my car a few days later.

Can you relate? What was the last adventurous thing you did? Is there a step you need to take for fear to fade? 

The two ways people react to our upcoming holiday plans

It all started with a death in the family. And a secret prayer to be able to spend more time with my extended relatives.

Sometime around Thanksgiving every year, my husband and I sit down and think about our travel plans for Christmas. He works in a restaurant with limited time off and the rest of our family lives 800 miles away, so going home for Christmas is never a simple matter. As it was shaping up this year, we were going to get about five days in Illinois with our families. Enough time to drive for a whole day, celebrate some Christmases and drive for another whole day.

I’ve been missing my family, thus the secret prayer to find a way to spend more time with them. The kids have a long school break and my husband was the only one who needed to be back at a certain time. (It was a secret prayer because I don’t like sounding disappointed by our circumstances. After all, I married him with full knowledge that one day we would live in Pennsylvania. I just didn’t anticipate how hard it would be to be so far away from everyone else.)

Then my uncle, who lives in Colorado, died, and we started asking different questions.

Are we going to Colorado?

Who is going to Colorado?

When are we going to Colorado?

How are we getting there?

My uncle was the sort of person who didn’t want people to make a fuss, so he wanted no funeral service, only to be cremated and have his ashes scattered in the mountains (an impossibility in the winter months).

But the rest of us need closure and to be together, so the planning began. During the holiday break, when several family members have time off because they work for school districts, a trip to Colorado would happen.

The catch? Several of those family members do not like to fly, so this would be a road trip.

Unwilling to subject ourselves to a possible 16-hour drive with a day off followed by another possible 16-hour drive (did you know Denver is 1,500 miles from where we live in Pennsylvania?!?), my husband suggested something crazy. (At least it sounded crazy to me.)

“Why don’t we fly home?”

We have lived in Pennsylvania for more than six years and have never flown back to Illinois. Mainly because it’s expensive and not perfectly convenient. Since there are four of us, we still need a vehicle in Illinois, so loading up the van and driving for a day or overnight has always been the preferred option.

Until now.

After my initial shock and near-refusal, the idea grew on me. We would arrive in Illinois considerably fresher and certainly earlier than if we drove, and because we would only be in our hometown area for a few days, not having our own vehicle isn’t too much of an issue.

So plans came together. We booked tickets. We arranged flights and school and work schedules.

And that is only part of the adventure.

Forrest Cavale | Creative Commons | via unsplash

Forrest Cavale | Creative Commons | via unsplash

The second leg of our Christmas vacation involves four generations of family in an RV driving across the Midwest Plains to Denver for a long weekend of grieving, celebrating and being together. It also involves one of our particular foursome flying back to Pennsylvania from Denver so he can return to work and the rest of us spending a few extra days in Illinois with a yet-to-be-determined rendezvous somewhere between Illinois and Pennsylvania.

If you’re still with me, you’re probably thinking one of two things. I know this, not because I’m a mind reader, but because every person I’ve told this plan to has had one of these two reactions and nothing in-between.

One reaction is: “That’s awesome! You guys are going to have so much fun! What an adventure! I’ve always wanted to do that!”

The other is: “Wow. That sounds … interesting. I’ll pray for you.”

Honestly, I waver between both of those feelings–excitement and terror. Because, let’s face it, this could be the most awesome thing to ever happen to our family or it could be a total disaster. (In reality, it will probably have moments of both). Either way, this will be one of our most memorable holidays ever.

And that’s worth something.

So, I can’t promise you a bunch of blog posts from the road because I’m not exactly sure what all we’re taking with us. But, if you’re interested in following along the adventure on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram, I’m going to use the hashtag #XCountryXmas for all travel related posts. (You can find me on Goodreads to see all the books I read while we travel, too.) I will be writing down memorable quotes, journaling my thoughts and taking pictures along the way, hoping to bring you a share of our memories in the new year.

And just to give you a teaser, here’s the first memorable quote for the trip to come.

Me: Izzy, I e-mailed you teacher today and she said to have a good trip and that you were excited.

Izzy (the first-grader): Yeah, and I might even see the Platte River.

Me: How do you know about the Platte River?

Izzy: My teacher told me. It’s in Nebraska. I can’t wait to go through Nebraska.

Me: I think you’re going to be disappointed. (No offense to Nebraska.)

To epic road trips and beyond! (And Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and all that jazz!)