Chicago to Chattanooga, via Louisville and Nashville. And back up that very straight road, all the way home. In the space of five days.
For us, as maybe for many of you, these familiar place names don’t offer much geographical bearing in this enormous country. And we definitely leap-frogged over any map perusal as we embraced the family road trip down south for the sake of book-selling, but also valuable time with precious people. We were a little surprised by how long it all took!
Anticipating many hours in the van, I had done my best to gather necessary – and seemingly unnecessary – entertainment and snacks to help the hours canter along rather than slow-step. From Dollar Tree delights to Julia Donaldson’s Troll story on repeat to envelopes and post-it notes, my bag was overflowing with what I hoped were time-filling possibilities for two little boys (who sadly don’t do colouring!).
There were some successes – who knew envelope filling was so thrilling? And some failures with felt-tips being applied everywhere but the paper. And a fair amount of frustration at being in the van yet again.
But, at the cost of some painful moments trying to placate, and reason with, frustrated children, the trip was a success.
Success because of time spent face-to-face with people we love, sharks in a tank and with each other (oh and many books going out!).
Renewing and deepening friendships with people who are precious to us – people who allow us to fill their homes, and take an interest in our boys, and are thoughtful and kind and loving towards us as a family.
Wowed by sharks, sting-rays and alligators at the Chattanooga Aquarium, amazed by turtles, penguins and otters…and fuelled for numerous imaginary games as the sofa becomes the pirate ship (captained by little Carswells) that is in pursuit of a giant octopus, amongst other sea creatures.
And thankful for having done the trip together. Despite moments when we almost wished we had left our little passengers at the last stop!
Getting books out far and wide means that Jonathan is often on the road (or a plane), and it is a challenge for us as a family. Whenever possible, we try and do it together. While it sometimes feels like it would have been easier to stay at home (especially when I’m solo parenting in an unfamiliar town), we’ve found the value of being in it together means its worth doing again and again. Serving together, talking together, sharing with our children the gospel heart of what we are doing, and where Daddy goes, partnering, supporting, encouraging…and enjoying the adventure, complete with the highs and lows.