A Country Wide Trip with TEENAGERS

Last summer we made a coast to coast trip with our 6 children (and a 7th on the way) that was amazing. Our 18,000 mile trip had many high points…and some low points where we all got on each others’ nerves. There were days where one (or all of us) had had enough and we were ready to quit. There were meltdowns (the kids had some, too) and a few tantrums, but overall it was a great time for our family.

Here are takeaways for every member of our family.

1. Enjoy the Journey.
When you have another 5 hour drive to get to the next city where you will set up the same stuff you tore down yesterday, listen to your father give the talk for the 42nd time and then head off to stay in another home of strangers…you have to enjoy the journey.

We found markers to help along the way such as National Parks and special treats…but overall we were learning together that while the journey is not always easy, we still can enjoy the ride.

2. Iron sharpens Iron.
There’s nothing like being cooped up together in the same vehicle for 90 days straight to bring out your own character flaws. Again and again we got to learn the value of civility and the power of forgiveness. We were rude toward each other at times…and then we got to practice what it means to work through difficult relationships toward reconciliation.

And then we got to practice again the next day on how to better relate the first time around.

3. God Surprised Us.
We set out with a huge amount of support to raise. But with excitement our kids would get in the van and say, “Dad, guess what! Those people really love what we do.” Or, “Mom and Dad, we got families sponsored tonight!” Again and again we saw God’s provision in the big ways.

But we also saw it in the smaller ways, too. We stayed with people who had access to swimming pools or boats or bikes or hiking trails. We had people treat us to ice cream and others take us out for a special Ethiopian meal or make one of our favorites. And our kids saw Our Good Father’s provision for us as He surprised us again and again.

4. Stay Engaged.
We declared our van to be an electronics free zone for most of the journey. So, no games, no screens, no videos and no headphones. It forced us to interact as a family. We listened to music and sang along. At other times most everyone took a nap. We had multiple conversations going on at one time…and other times it was dead quiet.

But the desire was for us to try to stay engaged. We did not have an option to check out on the journey, but rather we would stay engaged as a family sojourning together.

5. Informal Conversations are the best.

Our kids found themselves in the best conversations along the way. There was no way to plan meeting a stranger and finding something in common. However, again and again we found ourselves in informal conversations with folks we barely knew…and it went deeper from there. We found out that in God’s Kingdom there’s no such thing as strangers when it comes to believers. Rather, who we have in common greatly outweighs what we have in difference again and again.

I am so proud of our tribe. This was a monumental feat and we all came out of it changed people. We were happy to get off the road and to sleep in the same bed for a few nights, but I believe God did something special in each one of us. He knit us together in new ways – ways that He will use for the rest of our lives for His glory.

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