Coast to Coast – Summer with the Stenbergs

It’s half way through summer, and I really can’t believe it. I have spent the past couple weeks catching up on being away from home during the whole month of June.

We had the opportunity to drive back to the West Coast this summer. That drive! I’m still recovering! Nothing reminds me of how big or diverse our country is like driving coast to coast…and then doing it all over again!

It was quite an experience, packing the seven of us, including our dog, into a minivan and driving for over 40 hours one way.

Looking back on our vacation adventures I realized that “It’s not a vacation with the Stenbergs without”:

– A ridiculously long road trip… Seriously Elijah started thinking the car was his baby prison. And Caleb still pipes up at gas stations “I have to use the bathroom!”. Come on man! We just left home 2 minutes ago!!!! You don’t have to use the bathroom at every stop anymore!

– All the energy drinks… Keeps Daniel driving and driving on the road.

– A noise complaint within the first 15 minutes of being in a hotel. I mean really people?! It’s before 8:00pm and my kids have been in a car for 13 hours. At least let us have a chance to get settled before phoning in the noise complaint!

– Being stopped in pretty much every public place by people who would like to talk with me about my family. My kids make me feel a little famous! Haha! Although the reactions range from, “Wow you have such a beautiful family!” To the gal at Walmart eyeing Daniel and kids with distaste and then, after seeing the Bible verse on Daniel’s shirt, commenting: “Well at least you’re going to the right place” … hmm I’m still not sure what to make of that…

– All the snacks… Ones that don’t melt or crumble into all the crevices of the van are best. But at some point, you just stop caring.

– Usually this is where I would mention someone puking…but we made it through the whole vacation this time without any of us getting sick! Woohoo!!

– Starbucks! (Ok, I do miss having a mom and pop coffee stand within 5 min of everywhere. In my opinion they usually have the best coffee for cheaper.) However now that I don’t live in the Pacific Northwest, Starbucks totally hits the spot! And it’s just the best on vacation.

– Silas getting naked at parties… I mean really, using the bathroom while you are playing with friends or cousins is overrated.

– Being creative with eating out.  When you realize your boys are already getting bigger and eating more than you expect. I tried to have stuff for peanut butter and Jelly in the car. But somehow the bread kept getting squished and becoming inedible. So…eating out on a budget it is!

– Being told there is a bear and her cub that live very close to where you are hiking and to not let the kids or dog chase it or try to pet it. Yep… think we will make sure that doesn’t happen, and while we are at it, find a new place to hike!!

– Making use of peeing in a bottle. (Advantage to having only boys.)

– Your kids giving one of your best friends dating advice: “You just need to go on a date with all the single men in Seattle.” (Side note: My boys better not take their own advice!)

– Great Bible teaching! I’m so thankful for all of the people that volunteered to run the kids programs at camp. It really is the best when you can drop off your kids at someplace fun and just sit down and enjoy hearing the message from Gods Word without all the distractions.

– Awesome friends!

– Amazing family!

– All the laughter!!

The kids actually did great, I really can’t complain. Elijah was pretty frustrated at times. Seriously though, he’s one and a half and the whole “being strapped into something where he can’t move” is pretty much the worst form of torture to him right now. So, for that being the case he did really well.

We had a great trip, so good to see family and friends that live so far away, but after a month on the road, it was so nice to get back home to Jersey. Nothing beats sleeping in your own bed after being gone for weeks!

Our journeys, being separated from loved ones and thinking of all those who mean so much to us and are spread out all over this country I am reminded of Philippians 1:3-6.

Philippians 1:3-6

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Paul often starts his letters off thanking God and praying for the people and church he is writing to.

There is longing in his tone about his desire to see them again. And an excitement about how God is at work in their lives.

When our family travels to visit family and friends, I am reminded of how Paul feels as he starts off these letters.

There is such a thankfulness for them, a joy in their friendship. They have partnership in the gospel, and a longing to see each other again.

When we are together with friends we haven’t seen for a long time, or meeting family after a year of time passing. There are some great things that happen. We start sharing about how things are going, and how God has been at work. We hear about how God is at work in our friends and families lives and in their church’s. We joyfully reminisce about God’s faithfulness.

When I start sharing the stories of what God has been up to in my life, my family, and my church family, I am reminded and encouraged again, as I recall God’s faithfulness in those life events that have happened since I last talked to that person.

It leads me to think we should be recounting the faithfulness and blessings of our Lord more often than we do.

We also share about the struggles and hard things in our lives. When we are being real and honest about our hardships, praying over each other naturally follows. There is so much encouragement in praying over each other in our struggles.

All of this pushes me to praise God! He is at work. He is worthy of praise in the blessings. He is worthy of praise in the struggle.

I love, love, love having the family of God extend out so far. To be encouraged and to encourage as we travel the length and breadth of this country.

I love hearing about what God is up to all over the place.

Having all these conversations also reminds me to get excited and share about what God is up to with the people that I get to see all the time. It can be so easy to get distracted and not share what you are excited about or encouraged by to the people around you. But man, it is so important to cheer on and share with the people that you are living life with in the everyday struggle.

It was so sweet to get home. To pull in and smell the air and think: “It smells like Jersey. It smells like home.” I continue to be filled with hope and anticipation at what God is up to here.

God has filled my life with so many amazing people wherever we go.

What a blessing that month of travel was to me and my family. But what a greater blessing we have in what God is doing in our country, from sea to sea.

Let us be encouraged and let us encourage. Let us remember each other, take joy in the memory, and pray.

God is at work!

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