Over 7 weeks ago our family of 9 launched out on the first leg of an amazing adventure of living in full reliance on God. Blessed with the generosity of dear friend, we packed a few earthly belongings, left our family homestead in the care of another family, loaded up a 31 ft motorhome and a mini van and headed southwest to Phoenix, AZ. After 5 days of driving, slowly escaping the grip of winter, we arrived in the driveway of our mission leaders that would be our home base for the next six weeks.
This blog could also be entitled 40 days in the desert…
Unlike fish in a pond, which will only grow so big in limited space, we feel our family really blossomed and grew in remarkable ways through these experiences. Here are ten memorable ways God blessed our family as we trust Him on the journey!
10. The Glory of God’s creation! The kids had amazing opportunities to experience the vast, majestic and varied topography and creatures throughout the traveling days. Within an hour one morning crossing New Mexico, we saw a bald eagle fly over us, hundreds of pronghorns, a coyote, prairie dogs, and deer. Other animal highlights included a 6 ft rattle snake that was encountered by Josh and then the rest of the boys and Dad, on the path at Signal Rock in the Saguaro National Park near Tuscon, AZ and herds of elk grazing along the road into the Grand Canyon. Rusty and the five older boys had two days of hiking in the Grand Canyon, our family walked down into Carlsbad Caverns in southern New Mexico and we enjoyed a family hiking day at the Saguaro National Park as well as many “small groups” of various kids hiking to explore the peaks around Phoenix and near Tucson. On the way home we had a fun day in Kansas with big sister Beth at the Milford Nature Center. The take away is that God’s creation in the US is diverse and beautiful—from desert to mountains, to canyons and buttes, to prairies and farm land! All creation does glorify the Creator God!
9. Less is more! (Subtitle… “Well, well, well…”) In packing up for the trip we limited everyone with the number of clothes, shoes, toys and entertainment they could bring. While laundry for 9 is still a pretty regular occurrence, it was nice to not have so many things to pile up. Dishes need washed right away or they won’t be clean for the next meal. Sweeping and vacuuming only takes a few minutes and dusting, which I hadn’t even anticipated needing to do but discovered is the biggest household battle in the desert, only takes a few minutes too when your living space is 300 sq feet. You can only clean the toilet if you are kneeling in the hallway. You can’t get out of bed, unless the person you are sleeping with gets out first. One child can be in the way of the other getting to the bathroom, just by being in his own “room.” The fear was all the family togetherness would wear on our patience with each other, but instead we found the close proximity lent itself to deeper conversations and richer moments of family bonding. That’s not to say that there were never moments of frustrations— like the morning Rusty and I woke to find Matthew in our bed saying, “Well, well, well… I see what happened here,” as he discovered he had wet our bed and both Matthew and I needed a shower! Or the night that Luke yelled that he was cold until someone got up to get him a blanket or Matthew called out that he was thirsty until someone got him a drink. (Three guesses on who “someone” was in both of those incidents). Yes, some members of this family really get stinky feet and other people have really loud gas in the morning, but overall we really did discover, in very special ways, the value family togetherness.
8. God’s provision is often more generous than we could ever imagine. We brought some food for the journey, but one concern I had was the cost of living in a large city like Phoenix. Content to live on beans and rice and other low budget food options, we set out to trust Him as our provider God. Much to our surprise and complete delight, God had much bigger plans for our family. On Monday of our first week of training a delivery of excess food, donated by local ministries who partner with grocery stores to supply food banks in the greater Phoenix area, blessed our family with more than we could ever ask or imagine! There was ground beef, chicken, fresh veggies, cheese, crackers and snacks. God provided lamb to grill for our family’s annual Valentine’s Day dinner. He sent Kristin’s favorite cheese (brie) and Rusty’s favorite snack (avocados). The kids were treated with Oreo’s and a box of corn chips and other “special treats” that we almost never buy! The donations came every Monday and we were always so blessed by the variety of food God sent to us. We ended up having to spend almost nothing on food for our entire stay in Phoenix and we were able to eat like Kings! Praise God for this sweet expression of his love, care and provision for our family!
—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:17b-21 ESV emphasis mine.
7. Passionate Jesus-Followers come from all types of backgrounds. Our experiences in Phoenix exposed us to a much broader dynamic of people than we’re used to in small town Pennsylvania. Not only is Phoenix racially and ethnically diverse, we were exposed to Christian unity expressed by people from a wide variety of Christian traditions. It was refreshing and inspiring to interact with believers who worship in Anglican, Baptist, Non-Denominational and other varieties of Christian churches. It was stirring to sense the bond of Christ that unites us beyond our differences in tradition, practice or even minor theological variations. We agree on more than we disagree on. And the power of love and unity of Jesus followers is a far more powerful witness to a watching world than polarity and competition.
6. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but closeness makes a marriage stronger! There’s a distinct lack of privacy that comes with sharing a small space with a lot of people. And we have found that changes in residency and work, along with the natural transition period that goes with any change will either draw you closer together or drive a wedge in the marital relationship. After all, our spouse is the easiest person to “unload” on when the stresses start to build up. However, having your best friend share the good, bad, and blessed experiences with you can actually be the most beneficial part of any family upheaval. A good friend, who’s walked the missional path with her family, once gave us the soundest advice we’ve ever been given as a couple; “No matter what happens, never let anything, any situation, any circumstance or anyone come between you. You must commit daily to keeping your marriage strong. Never neglect it, never ignore it, and never let it take the backseat to the mission work or even your children. A strong marriage is the most important thing you take to the field and you must intentionally fight to keep it that way.”
Check back soon to for the next 5 things we learned
and experienced on this amazing journey– including the life altering #1.
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