Before we started this adventure, we did a lot of research on ways we could save money on the road. Remember, we knew NOTHING about RV life and had only been “camping” twice before. Both times consisted of pitching a tent in our front yard. Both times ended in almost all of us making our way back to the house before the sun came up. So, we decided to buy a membership to Thousand Trails (more on that later) and to Harvest Host… something that, as the months would go on, proved to be a good financial investment for our family and for the kingdom.
I’ve talked about Harvest Host in an earlier post, but for those who missed it, the concept is quite genius. Your membership, which costs around $75, grants you access to businesses all across the country that allow you to park your RV in their parking lot, if you agree to support their business. The downside: You’re boon-docking, which means no electrical, water, or sewer hookups. The upside: the OVERWHELMING majority of these businesses are breweries and wineries. This means Jamie and I can still have “date night” and not feel guilty about the money we’re spending on ourselves.
In our life before RVing, we had the luxury of “date night” every week, sometimes twice a week. We didn’t give a second thought when it came to going out to a nice restaurant. Portland, Maine is known for them… and spending $200 on drinks, a meal and a tip (which sometimes was more than the meal!) But, those days are LONG gone. Even when this trip is done and we’re back to the “real” world… those days are probably LONG gone.
Our second Harvest Host destination was Crown Winery. Pulling off the highway, it’s hard to believe a winery would be located in what seems like the middle of nowhere. But, soon we found ourselves in a place that reminds me of Tuscany: a large stucco house, the rolling hills, and the endless grapes. They even have a fountain in front of the building. We happened to be there on a night when the winery was hosting a sorority function, which also meant live music to make the experience complete.
Once we got the kids settled in, Jamie and I headed over to the main building for a wine tasting. For a small fee you could sample a selection of wines made on site. Essentially, you learn about the grapes and the processes they use to make the wine as you enjoy the finished product. By the end of the night, we spent about $60 (because we bought two bottles of wine for the road), which was actually less than our average nightly lodging expenses thus far on the trip. (Remember, we were novices. It took us a while to learn the tricks of the trade!) Yet, despite the thrill of spending less to stay the night at a winery AND having a few hours away from the kids, Harvest Host brought something better into our lives: People. We wanted this trip to have eternal purpose, and while I could argue that Be The Change Youth Initiative was providing that as well…. It’s been our conversations over a glass of wine, or a bottle of beer, that have shaped this journey and given us direction. They have given us new purpose. In these conversations, with complete strangers, we have talked about brokenness and heartache, as well as hope and restoration. We have met so many people who possess a belief in God, but want absolutely nothing to do with the church. Hypocrisy is a word we’ve heard a lot. I’ve also shared the gospel more in the last six months than I have in my entire life. And I’ve talked more about my love for the church and the importance (and purpose) of the church… the REAL church.
At this winery, we met Savannah. She’s a single mom of the MOST adorable little girl I have ever seen. Our conversation with Savannah was so good that she forgot to pick up her sweet girl from the sitter, which thankfully was a friend. Savannah talked openly about her association with church. She didn’t have anything against it. But she didn’t understand the judgment and condemnation that flowed so easily from people who called themselves Christians. She talked about how people would act one way in front of others, but behind closed doors they were pretty quick to tell you what they really thought. As she poured the next wine tasting in my glass, she said, “They know that’s gossip, right?”
When Savannah ran out to pick up her daughter, one of the owners, Dawn, came over to fill in for her. In what would become another “theme” of our trip, I made my first Noonday Collection Connection. Noonday Collection is a company I used to work for. It’s a fair trade business that quite literally changed my life. The women I met during my time with Noonday Collection have made the past two years possible. Dawn used to be an Ambassador. (I asked because she was wearing the Crescent Moon Earrings.) The Noonday Sisterhood is small, so when you find a fellow Ambassador, past or present, you immediately find a sister. I think it’s because you know they are a kindred spirit. Noonday Ambassadors are fierce advocates for other women. They fight for impoverished women (and men) to have a better life. Honestly, most of the women I know fight for everyone to have a better life and they have been our church over the past 6 months.
I quickly found out that Dawn was Catholic. She talked about her love for her church, specifically the liturgy. This was also a common theme we would hear on the road. Most people couldn’t tell you much about the hundreds of Catechisms, but they could go on and on about their love for the holiness of their rites and rituals. Dawn talked about raising her kids in the church and the importance of them having some understanding of faith because it creates purpose and meaning, a sense of right and wrong. Something I agree with, but at the same time, there was something missing in her assessment.
As the months went on, I’ve gone back to this a lot. Across the theological spectrum, there’s this belief, sometimes overtly stated, but more often, loosely implied, that Christianity, at the end of the day, is about teaching our kids morals (i.e., how to be a good person)… in the name of Jesus, of course. It seems harsh to say, but when I look at my own family, we’re also guilty of this. Comfort is hardly sacrificed. We give out of our abundance. We want our kids to be good people. But we also want them to have “good lives”… whatever that even means.
Recently, things started coming into focus. When I go into a Catholic Church, I’m reminded so much of the Old Testament. It could be the ornate buildings where everything seems to be adorned in gold leaf. Or maybe it’s the emphasis on ceremony and all the incense… I’m not a fan of incense. Or maybe it’s the works mentality… in order to receive the merits/deposits of God’s grace, you have do certain things. It makes me thing of the Tabernacle and the temple. It makes me think about all the laws and how the Israelites must have been consumed with either keeping themselves from becoming unclean or doing the work necessary to make themselves clean.
Christianity is about Holy Spirit transformation, not morality driven behavior modification. (But, the Catholic faith is by no means the only offender. My Southern Baptist roots were steeped in it!) I feel like God just opened up a 5000 piece puzzle and dumped all the pieces in front of me. Right now, we were just turning over the pieces.