RoadTrip Europe… an Epic Adventure and Epiphany

We long to leave our ‘mark’ on our kids. To transfer some of the essential threads of wisdom and knowledge acquired from our travels… a communication of our heart to theirs.

For my wife Paige and I… this was the trip to do it.

The sobriety of seeing our lives racing into middle age and the growing, stark, shadows of mortality… led us to take the plunge as parents. To invest in one last-epic-roadtrip, an adventure to share as a family before everyone scattered.We could see our lives forever changing with marriages and in-laws, grandbabies and graduations. All of what has been would end… and what will be was about to begin.

A rite of passage from following our lead… to blazing their own path. A time to expand their lives from what they knew to what ‘could – be’. As the saying goes, “it was time to make old ceilings into new floors!” 

After a careful scrutiny of our schedules… it was quickly determined we only had one week to make a European roadtrip a reality. Christmas day to New Year’s day. Seven days to hit the road and rails, to fly over the big pond and back. Literally, we had only one week out of a year when all five of us could travel freely and still satisfy our work, education, and ministry commitments.

So… Christmas being our ‘favorite’ time of year… we determined to surprise them by planning the entire trip without telling them where or when we would be… just letting them know they would need a passport, 1 backpack for clothes and a pair of good walking shoes.

Three days into the planning we were exhausted. Coordinating flights, train schedules, hotels in foreign countries and sightseeing tours was intensely complicated and very difficult to sort out the ‘good’ from the ‘hype’.

As an experienced domestic and Canadian traveller, I used Southwest Airlines, my mobile Marriot app and the popular Trip Advisor website for 90% of my own booking. For a European trip… this was a whole different ball-game.

Try booking rail tickets 2 months in advance for five from Zurich to Rome and see how complicated things get with Google? 

Long story short… we discovered a very simple, and very helpful social media site known as “Thumbtack“. A professional services finder, this app / site is an amazing and simple way to get Travel agencies to bid on your trip. You can give them a basic budget, dates, preferred countries to visit and personal preferences for hotels and travel and zing-zap, they get you up to five bids from different agencies to compare. It saved us thousands of dollars and took the hassle out of planning such a major trip. Highly recommended.

In a few days we had chosen our agency, locked in a budget, purchased airfare, rail tickets, hotels, sightseeing tours and had an itinerary to follow from day one to seven. A wonderful experience for us, the agency we settled on was out of San Francisco, and did a tremendous and economical job of getting us the best hotel locations, train seats, and tours we could afford. Their familiarity with the european world and specific cities we wanted to visit was so helpful and so much better than trying to figure it all out piece by piece from various websites, reviews, and articles. (Terra Travel Group link)

So how did this ‘Epic” trip go?

Tune in later to find out… let’s just say it didn’t disappoint. ( this is one of 3 blog posts to detail out our European adventure)

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St. Peter’s Square – Dec ’16

Our next seven days would become a reference point from which all of our family history could be considered. The passion and excitement of new discoveries would be forever shared between us… an epic treasure of sight and sound, flavors and feelings… an awesome and unforgettable gift for the senses and spirit to touch and absorb.

An “Epiphany” of sorts…

It reminded me of the “fullness” of God’s love for us… His desire in wanting us to experience His world with all of it’s richness and beauty, to explore and expand on our knowledge of what is good, and true, and right in life.

St. Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus says it like this… “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every familyin heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 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, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV) Biblegateway source. 

Day 4… Road Trip Revival. #iShineontheroad “Attitude at Altitude!”

Rolled into Dubois WY… snagging the last 2 rooms at the local Super 8. Dusty, dry and breezy. Temps in July were pushing 100F as we drove the 2 lane ribbon across the hazy, flat, high plains of eastern Wyoming. The sun lingered slow and low in the horizon… seven, eight… almost nine pm before we saw it start to slip over the distant ridge.

The Mountains!

The Mountains!

Sweaty, tired and butt numb we felt the miles. Wall SD to Dubois WY is only about 600 miles with a short detour to Mt.Rushmore NP, but it’s a good long 12 hours of travel. We crashed early and didn’t really notice the clear cool night emerging outside our windows.

We awoke to winter.

42F at 6:30am. My breath fogging the inside of our SUV. My naked legs one giant goose-bump of frigid skin.I had to dig out one of my light fleece pull-over’s to give my body some chance at finding warmth. The shock was complete. We had gone from the blazing heat of high summer sun to COLD.

A sixty degree temperature swing in 8 hours.

We were in the mountains and I couldn’t be happier. The cool / cold morning was such a relief. Felt like a peppermint patty embrace to my summer sweat soaked brain. No humidity, No sweating, No bugs. AWESOME !

As I look around to find someone else to share my jubilant happiness with… I only saw heaps of blankets and fetal postured freezing teens huddled in the back. Chattering teeth and groans quickly deflated me.

I confidently proclaimed the cold wouldn’t last! In fact, for sure by noon it would be bright and warm again, at least 80F with gorgeous mountain summer light. We were heading up the Wind River Valley to clip the edge of Grand Teton NP and push into Yellowstone! The grandest of them all. I had no idea it would turn out to be one of the coldest days possible for July. Snow flurries and sleet would be settled in by noon and would never allow temps to rise higher than 55F.

Tough Day

Tough Day

This led to some complaint and grumbling… but no one could deny the beauty of the mountain scenes before us and we toured the iconic spaces and places (Old Faithful, Yellowstone Falls, Buffalo on the plains etc…)of our oldest and grandest NP (in lower 48) with layers of shirts and jackets wrapping our unprepared limbs. As our altitude rose over 10,000 feet, our attitudes grew a bit short and over the long day of driving and stopping, shooting selfies, and dodging the hordes of tourists… some of us got very crabby 🙂

When we drove up and over the highest pass back to our cozy Super 8 rooms…. it began to snow big time. 3-4 Inches would pile up overnight. I shivered in my hiking shorts as we drove on. Smiling at the irony of it all.

I was the only one smiling. 

Tomorrow our days adventures would change the girls forever. But before the hope of dawn… we had to get through a very dark night.

By God’s grace…. we made it. But it was a tough road to ride.

Day 5 tomorrow; a BRAND NEW DAY.

Mt. Rushmore Here we Come… RoadTrip Revival #2

Too much fun to share with just words…. so here is what it all looked and sounded like this summer!

Stay tuned for more 🙂

Coming of Age… are we celebrating tweens like we should ?

It’s weird really.

Of all the culture morphing changes we see in the Christian world currently, one of the most enduring and essential traditions of our forefathers has almost completely been lost in the modern era. Rites of Passage for our kids.

Coming of Age

Coming of Age

Coming of Age.

For generations, families have been celebrating and marking the transition from childhood to adult. These rites of passage are geographically unique, beautiful and often dangerous. Coming of Age as a specific event in one’s life, is an established and respected milestone for most societies and have served nations for millennia as THE foundational cornerstone of passing one’s heritage to the next generation.

These traditions are powerful, inspirational and reverently experienced by the initiates and the parents, often elaborate and carefully planned ceremonies designed to confirm and release each child into maturity.

For many, these rites of passage serve as a legitimate way to protect and preserve their cultural traditions & values. Effective in raising up each generation of adults regardless of the often dramatic changes of government, education and pop culture around them. These coming of age milestones have powerful historical connections between generations that have been maintained for thousands of years.. except for the modern Christian Evangelical world.

Why is that ?

I think in part its a side effect of our RUSHED lives and the shifting societal perspective on all things “ancient” and or “traditional”.

In our rush to move forward we may have left behind some rather critical traditions for the effective raising up and releasing of our kids into adulthood. I think it’s also in part due to the epidemic of single parent families out there. The celebration of adulthood and the conferring of a life blessing to our children has been replaced by a rushed meet and greet party with some money and a nice set off luggage… But can’t we do something more meaningful than that ?

I recently connected with a important and growing ministry based out of the Nashville TN area that is working to help change that pattern in our modern evangelical circles. ABBA’S WAY is working with fathers and their sons / daughters to change this trend. They run summer weekend events, day camps and celebrations year around to help dads connect with and celebrate their kids “Coming of Age” years.

They have programs for sons (Fathers Heart)  and daughters (Fathers Delight) and are now offering RTP /iShine subscribers a significant discount for both of their 2014 programs for this summer.

Father's Delight

Father’s Delight

I would urge any parent of a pre-teen son or daughter to seriously consider starting some NEW traditions in your families.

Rites of passage for coming of age are a lost treasure for many Americans and I would love to see that “forgotten” celebration return as a beautiful and life-long affirmation of our kids during their most influential ages.

I believe that God is always working to help families of faith and particularly us parents! He is raising up new and insightful family ministries with powerful and effective help for us to learn new ways to share our faith and our hearts with each of our kids… gifts that we can give them that will shape their self-esteem, values and core identity for a lifetime.

Check out Abba’s Way online to find out more and discover for yourself the value of blessing your kids on their journey from adolescent to adult.

Peace out, Pastor B.

Coming of Age… evidence of Faith

This weekend my daughter Bethany turned eighteen… This weekend my little girl, Munchkinaroo… became an adult? WHAT!!!

How did that happen so quick?

I can still “feel” her little tiny arms around my neck as I carried her from the couch to her bedroom as a little girl. I can see her running around the house, little legs and arms peeking out of her diaper, one hand holding her blankie up. A slobbered Nuk jammed in her mouth and the other hand grasping for a snack.

Bethany, - Caleb - Jessica

Bethany, – Caleb – Jessica

I can see the ghosts of their toddler selves everywhere I look. Sometimes, I almost believe that things haven’t changed, I’ll just blink a few times to clear my eyes and the girls will snap back into focus and climb up onto my lap excitedly jabbering about their latest discovery at the grocery store or the latest stuffed teddy that lost an eye. Somberly asking if it was “o.k.” if a teddy bear only had one eyeball or not?

Instead when I blink rapidly I just feel warm tears in the folds of my eyes… blurring the view of the spectacular beauty staring back at me from across the table, a woman with strong faith and tenacious intelligence and the young guy sitting next to her looks suspiciously like a boyfriend…

What the HECK !

Now I’m rubbing my eyes furiously with both of my hands, palms digging deeper into my salty stinging eyes as I desperately try to clear my vision. It can’t be, it couldn’t have been eighteen years already !

Could it?

The answer is yes.

My Little Girls!

My Little Girls!

A definite yes. I remember the little girl who I called “munchkinaroo” and I remember the preteen who smiled with flashes of steel and braces, awkwardly crossing over into young “woman” status and then POOF! %#* and I’m seeing this grown lady with no hint of the little baby or pre-teen left smiling confidently back at me, saying… quietly and lovingly, “I Love You Daddy”.

I’m not gonna tell you about all of the wonderful-painful-triumphant-agonizing moments in-between, those are treasures to keep a bit longer, but I will tell you that each moment along the way was a testament to God’s faithfulness. My daughter is a monument to HIS character and strength and enduring love… a modern-day miracle of faith all my own.

Paige and Bethany - April 2013

Paige and Bethany – April 2013

I write these words, not to brag or boast or even call attention to my amazing daughter or family. Instead, I write these words to share with someone who is struggling as a parent right now. Wondering, what went so wrong. Desperate to find a solution, a direction to take in their parenting nightmare of crisis and conflict and frustration.

My strong encouragement is this… stay the course.

Hold true to the values and beliefs that God has placed in your heart and when that fades, cling to the promises of scripture and wait. Stay put, don’t move an inch. God is coming.

God is coming for you, your children and your family. He has come, He is coming and He will come. He’s timeless, ageless and perfect in the way that he will orchestrate a redemptive end to your dilemma. I don’t care what you feel like, how it looks or how bad it seems to be getting. God will not mock you. He will not forget to show up and he desperately cares about the outcome of your own personal assignment of parenting a soul into adulthood.

Senior Year !

Senior Year !

I know because He came for me, my daughter Bethany and my marriage. He keeps coming for us and I know he will never ever stop coming for us. He can’t help himself.

So take heart, be encouraged… there is a hero to your story. He will come into your life in the least likely way, and when you least expect it. But don’t doubt it… He IS coming.

My prayer for you struggling parent, “Hang tough, Remember God and Remember His faithful ways in your life already, trust in the test-a-mony of my life and know HOPE.”

Peace out and Happy B-Day to my “munchkinaroo”! Daddy will always Love You.

b.

PS – June (2013) RTP has a release of our first book, “RoadTrip to Redemption”  – with Tyndale / Momentum Publishers.

The surprising struggle for maturity

Maturity takes time.

Watching as our kids grow up right in front of our eyes, is one of the most profoundly wonderful and painful experiences a parent can ever have. It’s especially true when your kids step from the dependence of their junior high years into the new and expanding world of High School.

In the early years… our kids still really need us. As pre-teens and young teens, they may be growing an attitude to match their body changes…but after all the bluster, they still can’t drive,  can’t really do stuff or buy things without our permission or the needed cash “donated” for their purchases or activities. In short, they are dependent on our regular interaction and support to pursue their own wants and desires.

As they grow and gain some normal young-adult confidence and experience, they transition rapidly once they get that driver’s license and a sudden expanded menu of social items to pick from… in which we (the parents) are no longer essential for their participation. Often they also get a part – time job and build their own nest eggs. With the accumulation of their own savings and initial financial resources, they further distance us from the equation. We slowly lose our immediate influence on their daily activities and choices as they gain greater independence. As it should be.

Herein lies the challenge

It’s so hard to find the balance between freedom and reasonable accountability for our maturing young-adults. The process it seems is an elusive and ever – shifting endeavor for any parent to endure. There is a surprising struggle that occurs from junior high up until the college years in which we watch our kids morph into adults and the resultant often awkward & painful struggle for maturity is a vital one. We want to really offer them the chance to “choose”, to discover some of the truth’s we’ve taught them for themselves, but we want to protect them in the process.

It’s a nerve rattling experience to watch your sixteen year old drive off for the first time alone to a home football game…all the while anxiously considering sneaking out to “tail” them, just to be sure they come back safe. (not saying I ever did that 🙂

But seriously…I’m learing one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids, is not only the earned trust  and respect of becoming a young adult, but a growing understanding of how they can actually learn from Jesus directly. To re-direct them from just following us or modeling our behaviors to seek out answers on their own. To grow independent spiritually like they are financially and socially and help them begin to value their own times of personal prayer and reading in the pursuit of answering life’s questions.

If we teach them how to lay a firm foundation to launch from on their own spiritual journey, we will have helped them immensely in finding their identity and purpose as being more than just our kids. Watching proudly as they learn to grow beyond just the goal of gaining our “approval” in their life choices…but of “pleasing” their heavenly father as well…then I believe we will have served them well. Of course we can expect to see them have a few life stumbles and even a  fall along the way. But in the end, I believe by the grace of God, they will get up and stay up and become exactly who God created them to be, maybe even despite of us… 🙂

“Maturity is a psychological term used to indicate how a person responds to the circumstances or environment in an appropriate manner. This response is generally learned rather than instinctive, and is not determined by one’s age. Maturity also encompasses being aware of the correct time and place to behave and knowing when to act appropriately, according to the situation and the culture of the society one lives in.

Adult development and maturity theories include the purpose in life concept, in which maturity emphasizes a clear comprehension of life’s purpose, directedness, and intentionality which, contributes to the feeling that life is meaningful.” (Source – Wikepedia)

 

Funny, Absurd, Brilliant and Annoying… celebrating FAMILY

Our oldest daughter just jumped out of High School into adulthood… and what a wild and wonderful weekend of family fun we had! Surrounded by our loved ones for Jessica’s milestone moment. Our family came from everywhere to share the day with us. It was AWESOME!!!

Some of the Crazies – Graduation Weekend May 2012

As my wife and I reflected on the weekend, a few moments stood out… but not the ones you might have guessed. It was so exciting to watch our 18-year-old honored as an outstanding student, her multiple cords of distinction bright against her graduation gown as she proudly took her diploma and posed for pictures. We laughed with her as we watched her throw her cap and rejoice with her friends in the moment… finding satisfaction together in the sheer joy of finishing well and moving on. Those were expected, and loved and cherished and to be kept forever.

But there was a weekend of wonderful and un-expected family surprises ahead…

Like my Nephew David cheerfully jumping in to do dishes,  the trash and to help carry whatever Aunt Paige or his mom asked…  No complaints, no irritations…just waiting quietly in the wings. Ready to serve. He was telling Jessica, and us how much he loved us.

Or my sis-in-law, Liza… who cheerfully volunteered to sleep on the couch! We awoke each morning to find the kitchen cleaned, dishes done and on monday  before she left our house she cleaned my wifes car inside-out… No fanfare, no public “thank you”, just a desire to help where she could… didn’t wait to be asked, just jumped in. She was telling Jessica and us… how much she loved us.

Or my Brother and His wife who drove from North Carolina with their three grown college age kids, packing it all up for a 10 hour road trip to join us in celebrating Jessica’s life-moment. They put their Holiday Weekend plans on hold for us, helping to set up, take down and sweat for three days.. helping us clean up after the seventy plus visitors we had tramping through the house on Sunday. No complaints, no problem. They were telling Jessica and us… how much they loved us.

My in-laws Vince (Papa) and Sally (Nona) along with Jessica’s uncle Jason and aunt Leah, drove four hours from Memphis TN to our cul-de-sac, to serve Slaw Dog’s  in sweltering heat and never waivered to make our celebration a party to remember for a lifetime. They were serving up hotdogs and catering food for our family and guests.., all in an effort to express to Jessica how much they really loved her.

Jason and Nona – Showing their Love

 

The cumulative effect of the weekend was this… It became clear to me, that with a Family, all of us are needed to raise a girl up into a woman. Sure the parents get to sit in the front row of this ride, but it’s the entire momentum of the family around them that carries the day. It’s the faithful support, the love and the strength that comes from a commitment, a life- bond that’s greater than distance or age or opinion. It’s the power of Love and the presence of Family that really impacted us last weekend. Don’t get me wrong!  My daughter is awesome, I love her… I’m proud of her… but my favorite memories from this weekend point to our  Funny, Absurd, Brilliant and Annoying Family who made it all possible!

In the midst of the family we shared by the genetic’s of our parents and grand-parents… we were also surrounded by our faith family. An ever present and comforting, community of faith… made up of neighbors, co-workers, church friends, school-mates and life-long comrades. Connected by the blood we share in Jesus, this family of faith supports the foundation for all the rest to anchor to.

It’s important to understand that this beautiful treasure of Faith and Family are not reserved for just those among us who happen to enjoy an “intact” parenting unit in their home, or were born into a life with a dozen brothers and sisters or some great ethnic background. Family is for all of us.

You just have to allow yourself to find and be found by either your natural or faith family…or in our case both! Then make the extra effort to show them how much you love them…precisely when they need you the most…. The way our family showed us. Of course they will annoy, frustrate and irritate you along the way….but in the end, it’s their love that will shine the brightest in your darkest day!

Peace out to my extended RTP Family, that means YOU !

LOVE…brad.