Shaping Family Culture on a Road Trip

I can’t remember the last time I took two weeks off from writing here at the blog. It was an unplanned, but lovely break, but I am eager to give a quick update on what we’ve been up to. 

We spent the last month working diligently around the clock to get our house back on the market…this time, more intentionally, and listed with an agent. It is such a difficult decision to finally take the plunge and commit to moving from your home of 10 years, a home that you have loved and grown from a family of 3 to a family of 8. 

And so, to give our best effort in staging and presenting a home for sale, we moved our boys out of the master bedroom boys bunk room, remodeled the master bathroom, and moved no less than half of our belongings and furnishings out of the house. (You may remember the Christmas home tour here, as well, for reference.) 

And that’s where we’ve been for the last month. 

On Father’s Day weekend, we touched up the last of the paint, packed up all the kids, and headed out on a three day drive + 2 week road trip to Orlando, Florida for an ACCS conference for our school board. 

A ton of you, who follow me on Instagram, gave me amazing travel tips and game ideas for a cross-country road trip with kids. I had great intentions to use all the ideas and to even blog about them….and with the chaos of preparing to travel and to list the house, I didn’t implement even one. 

But amazingly, we not only survived the three day road trip…we loved it.

Enjoying the hospitality of friends and meeting each other’s families was definitely the highlight. I love that the boys longed to spend more time with both families we stayed with. They spoke so highly of our new friends and cherished the memories made with them both…

The conference proved to be a blessing, and while I missed that continuing education I usually enjoy for myself, I was grateful for extended time alone with the boys by the pool. Half of my boys are non-swimmers, so that time by the pool each day was a little less than relaxing…but even so, I knew to soak up the blessing of vacation and time away.

Any family of any size in the same room, vehicle or space for days…is a perfect context for learning humility, patience, service, and forebearance. We never set out to purposely learn these things as reason for a trip, but somehow, the blessing of sanctification and growing as a family always comes as a byproduct, whether we’ve asked for it or not. And, I’m always grateful that the Lord knows what I need without my asking…

And from Orlando, we headed to Cocoa Beach, where our friends invited us to stay with their family at their home along the Banana River. I’m looking out on to the water right now, as I write, and recognize, this is just what our family needed. We chose simple pleasures for this trip. There’s no shortage of amazing, entertaining, wonderful things to do in the Orlando area; but for us, this time–with our family culture goals in mind– decided to draw the kids’ affections toward things of nature of wildlife, of family and friends…of slowness and simplicity.

When 8 imperfect, sinful, broken human beings make up a family…and go on vacation…you realize that family vacations are less about experiencing culture around one another; but rather, it’s forming your very own family culture together with purpose. 

The home we are staying in belongs to the parents of my friend, Leah. (It’s a wonderful 3 bedroom home with a pool and a private dock…And, it’s one of the few of it’s kind available for rent in Cocoa Beach on VRBO!) While the home and the environment has been idyllic, the most significant part of our stay has been the deliberate investment Leah’s dad has made to teach my children (and Troy and me!) everything he knows about this area, the history, about kayaking, fishing, wildlife, and of enjoying the Lord’s presence in nature. I think Troy and I have felt that the relationships and the memories made through special people in our lives truly make a trip like this more than a vacation, but a shaping of our family culture.

Shaping of our family is our ultimate goal for any and every opportunity to travel and step outside of our everyday lives.

No amount of fun, entertainment, luxury, or time away can “fix” messy circumstances, mend broken hearts, or change an outlook…unless it is a change of heart. I’m grateful that there has been some true rest of heart and a fulfilling of goals in our family culture and values on this trip. I’m grateful that we have been more than able to reflect and receive the wonder of God’s glory as we gaze upon his creation and enjoy the fellowship that He has provided. For these, I am forever grateful…as they have given our weary bodies and minds fuel for the road ahead.

I invite you to follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook for all the behind the scenes photos and posts of our trip. Thank you for joining me here. I’m honored to be a part of your life…

Because of grace,

I’m so honored that you are here. If you enjoy this blog and would like new posts to come directly to your inbox, I invite you to subscribe to GraceLaced by email.


P.S. Friends, thank you for your orders from the shoppe! I look forward to completing your custom orders and fulfilling your print orders as soon as we return back home! Thank you!

Up In The High Country {Durango Trip 2013, Pt. 2}

We’ve just returned from our six days of being in the Durango area for our family vacation. I shared a little about our time in town at the beginning of the week, and look forward to posting the remainder of our trip today, and next week. After spending a few days shopping, eating out, playing in the river, and hanging out at the Durango Recreation Center, we made out way to Red Mountain Pass, between Silverton and Ouray, Colorado. We’ve long admired this gorgeous basin as we’ve driven along this pass, and this year, we decided to explore it.

Up In The High Country

Thanks to a four-wheel drive SUV that seats all 8 of us, we simply got off the main highway, and began following the jeep trail.
Up In The High Country

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Troy is most in his element in the mountains, whether four-wheeling or on foot. He’s training our man cubs to be mountain goats as well.

Up In The High Country {Durango Trip 2013, Pt. 3}

_DSC0217Perhaps one of the best motivations to stay in shape and healthy is so that all your senses can access God’s creation up close and personal. Some of the most amazing places are ones very few know about, and many may not attempt to discover.
Up In The High Country

Here, no one asks for iPads, nobody answers emails, phone calls, or the tyranny of commercialism. God does such a glorious job magnifying himself. He lets you know that you really need no other…that Jesus is enough.

Up In The High Country

Here, even if you might find yourself struggling to breathe real air –not the thick atmosphere of comparison, success, pressure, and expectations– you can’t help but draw deeply, and discover a greater capacity to breathe than you might have thought possible.

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Little ones marvel at God’s craftsmanship, and moms and dads remember they are small in the breathtaking beauty of his handiwork.

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It always takes me a little time before I warm up to the idea of taking the family off-road through unknown paths and bumpy roads. But this city girl has learned a few lessons through following her husband’s love affair with roads less traveled…

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The thing I’ve learned to love about jeeping is that you MUST SLOW DOWN…

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…and that you can’t hardly miss the forest for the trees because God seems to bellow through the whispering leaves…
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…and, because no matter how narrow or how challenging the path you are on,

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 …you can always turn and look back to see where you’ve been and how far you’ve come.

12 Things To Remember When Spending Time With Family

12 Things To Remember When Spending Time With Family | gracelaced.comThe older you get, the more you appreciate family.
I only get to spend about one week each year with my parents and my brother and his family. We were altogether for 3 of those days this year. For those of you who do not have regular or weekly opportunities to spend time with family, you know what it’s like to store up expectations for connecting and being together, just to feel overwhelmed by all that you desire for such a short amount of time. There is a delicate art to family reunions and vacations. I’m no pro; I’m a perpetual pupil. Nevertheless, here are some notes I’ve jotted down in reflection of my weekend with those that I see so little, but love so much.

12 Things To Remember When Spending Time With Family | gracelaced.com

1. Be flexible. Spending time together is more important than how perfectly orchestrated that time turns out to be.

2. There’s a right time to say everything. Think before speaking your mind, no matter how true or pure of heart you think you are.

3. Your family members aren’t always who they used to be. You aren’t either.

4. Keep short accounts.

5. Some of the best memories you’ll ever make will be recounting the best memories of the past.

6. Wonderful time can be shared in silence with those you love.

7. It’s okay to break tradition in order to form new ones.

8. Everyone is going through something they’d love to share with someone willing to listen.

9. Relationships either grow or wane; they don’t stay the same. You are either working towards one or the other.

10. Ten years from now, no one will remember what you said, but how you said it.

11. The gospel covers with grace the wounds that threaten to resurface again and again.

12. A better family begins with you loving Christ more, and loving yourself less.

What would you add to this list? What are some key things you focus your heart on when spending time with family?

12 Things To Remember When Spending Time With Family | gracelaced.com

12 Things To Remember When Spending Time With Family | gracelaced.com

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Linking up in community…

Welcome to GraceLaced Mondays, a link up dedicated to sharing any and all blog posts by like-minded lovers of grace–God’s grace! Grace is found in the everyday when you are intentional about taking note of it…and I invite you to share your story, great or small, of how everyday moments are full of Grace.

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*Add your link anytime this week!

GraceLaced Mondays
GraceLaced Mondays

 

In Praise of the Road Trip

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When I was a kid, my parents would take my brother and me on long road trips. It was the 80s, minivans were hot, and seat belt laws were not. My little brother and I would roll around in blankets on the floor of the car, eating snacks, taking naps, and passing the hours with our imagination, since no portable DVDs or iPads were conceived of yet. We loved the Disney trip, we loved the national park — but if you asked either of us today, we’d cite the silly songs sung, the favorite stories told, and the seemingly endless hours spent bonding on our way somewhere, as the best memories of road-tripping.

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Fast forward 30 years, and I now have five young boys (plus one due in April!) Though we used to take one or two children frequently on planes — even overseas — we simply have no other option but to road trip now that we have a large family of seven. Our road trips have, by necessity, focused our resources and our energies on our greatest priorities: trips that maximize memories and minimize cost. For our family, some of those road trip destinations have been fishing holes, off-roading trails, and the most beautiful mountains in Western Colorado. We spend money eating some special meals out, hitting some relaxing hot springs, and sometimes touring a museum or enjoying a day alpine sliding, but one of our favorite things to do in Colorado costs nothing but gas and time.

In Praise of the Road Trip | gracelaced.com

We love to listen to audio books, especially the dramatic production of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, on disc while exploring the roads of the the Rocky Mountains. The jeeping trails in that part of the country take you to places most uf us rarely see: waterfalls, streams, and fields of wildflowers. It’s a beauty that often leaves a trip to the movie theater feeling dull and unexciting. We listen and laugh, and sometimes tear up, as we listen to meaningful stories told to us in the context of God’s creation, so effortlessly maintained. At the end of the day, we go on trips as families because we truly desire to experience something out of the ordinary. We want to be with the ones we love outside the normal context, against the backdrop of something extraordinary.

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But regardless of how well you schedule your itinerary, plan out your snacks, or organize your activities, there will inevitably be the drama of family. I’ve learned to consider that a good thing. When we look back 30 years from now, my kids may or may not remember that exciting water park we went to, or the amazing funnel cake we ate. They will, however, remember the collective effort of a family that loved one another enough to spend time, cramped in a car, doing what they do best: Enjoying the journey of being a family unit.

 

A Big Family’s Guide To Managing A Road Trip

    • Make a snack schedule, i.e., pretzels and apples at 1p.m., fruit leathers at 2 p.m., etc.
    • Don’t offer unlimited drinks unless you want to have to stop on the side of the road
    • Purchase inexpensive disposable plastic cups for passing out bulk snacks
    • Make a schedule for general activities, i.e.. 9-11 a.m.: books, quiet reading, workbooks; 2-4 p.m.: movie, etc.
    • Get headsets for DVD system or for personal music/movie devices
    • Schedule video games and electronic entertainment for later in the day when kids are wearing thin
    • Give each child a small bin or backpack for his/her personal activities
    • Hang a tote from the back of the passenger seat with wet wipes, paper towels, tissues, and plastic bags for trash and potential carsickness episodes.
    • Rather than taking out all bags for each family member for each night/leg of the trip, consider packing all members of the family in one bag, per night/leg of the trip. That way, when you arrive at the cabin, rental, hotel, or campground, you can take out one large bag for that particular location, and repack dirty clothes in the same bag once that destination is over.
    • Pack toiletries, contacts/glasses, medications, and first aid for the family in one large carryall bag, so that it is always available and ready in any emergency situation.
    • If you plan to swim on your trip, consider packing a specific swim bag.
    • Give specific jobs to each child on a road trip: cleaning out trash in the car, checking lodging for left items before checkout, packing up dirty clothes, music DJ, snacks, etc.

 

What other ideas do you have? We’d love to hear them!

This post is part of BlogHer’s Family Fun on Four Wheels editorial series, made possible by Mazda CX-9.

Of Dim Sum and Family Reunions

Several weeks ago, we had an opportunity to make a last-minute trip to Colorado Springs to meet up with my parents who were going to be visiting. Driving 7 hours each way over the course of a weekend was more than worth it for the chance to reunite my parents with my family and my brother’s family…all in one place, at the same time…for a total of 24 hours.

We were so blessed and excited to all be together, we really could’ve done nothing at all but sit around and chat and we would have been happy. But no, we did not sit around. At the top of the list was a family dim sum lunch. Don’t know what it is? You really must find out. It’s like afternoon tea and tapas combined. It IS my love language. 🙂 It’s Chinese culture in a meal: hot tea, small morsels of intricate flavors that come by cart, boisterous conversations, and hours of slow savoring.

My mom, my niece, and Number 3. These two are three days apart!

And of course, there was the Auntie (me) taking pics of the adorable nephew (Shepherd). Yes, Gap-model baby…

Delicious. I could eat him…with or without whipped cream. Slurp. Chomp. Yum.

The rest of the family got snapped as well. I finally captured some of my super-active 1.5 yr. old Number 5. He’s a character. And completely edible as well. These photos are gold to me!

My parents with all 9 of their grandkids.

If you have family nearby, don’t forget to hug them soon and share meals frequently. What grace it is to have family…near or far. We can make the most of whatever time we have together–even when it’s only 24 hours!

If These Walls Could Speak

Our family’s been out of town for a few days, taking a little time to just be “us” at our favorite mountain town. We were so honored to be offered a house to stay at (all 7 of us!), free of charge. We don’t know the owner of the house personally, but we were told he had lost his wife, but was now re-married, and thus–the second home. What a blessing to be gifted with time away as a family.

You can learn a lot about someone by the books he reads and the photos on his walls. The house tells the story of a man of faith, a man with loving children and sweet grandchildren who are now teenagers. The pictures and decor speak of a life that has known the faithful love of a woman’s touch, and the rich heritage of multi-generations. This is a home that values experiences and relationships over perfection and advancement. In this home, comfort lies in the extra soft linens that have welcomed many a weary head…and not in technology (no internet, cable, or even a colored tv!) Instead of being “plugged in,” our time was spent outdoors, sipping on tea, and telling stories (The Preacher is an amazing story-teller!)

And yet, as I looked at the smiling faces of photos from decades gone by, I couldn’t help but consider the loss this family’s endured–the loss of a mother, a loving wife, a tender grandmother. Every home has a story to tell–all could speak of love and loss, trials and victory, joy and suffering.

I wonder what my home speaks of? as it is now? as it will be in years to come?

The start of the holiday season has a fascinating way of bringing all our memories, year after year, to the forefront of our minds. It’s almost like we experience a virtual scrapbook of our lives, or at least of the past year, as we celebrate and ring in the new. Whether we are deliberate about it or not, we are building something in each of our families–we are building memories, building a home, building the testimony of a life lived either for God, or for ourselves.

I can’t say I really know the owner of this charming house we’ve been guests of, but I can say that it has left us an impression of love, of family, of hope in God, of pressing on, of living forward while giving thanks for the past.

May your Thanksgiving be a time of that kind of home-building.