Souvenirs for the Soul: Never Judge a Four-Room Motel by Its Size

Talk about last minute.

In three days, Bob and I discussed, decided, and departed on a 4,000 mile trip. We hadn’t planned to go to my niece’s wedding. The distance and cost seemed prohibitive. But my sister-in-law was in her final days of life* so we made an impromptu decision and headed west.

Last minute airfare was too expensive. So we drove most of the 1900 miles in two long days. Needing low-budget accommodations, we chose to spend the second night about 150 miles from the wedding venue, in the small town where my husband had lived most of the first nine years of his life.

Silver Lake, Oregon

Silver Lake is in the middle of high desert, where its lake had dried up long before my husband lived there in the nineteen-sixties. The town itself sits at an elevation of 4345 feet, encompasses a whopping one-and-a-third square miles of land, and boasts a booming population of fifty. The night we drove into town, we’d traversed hundreds of miles in desolate darkness, dodging thousands of little jack rabbits. Sadly, we weren’t able to dodge all of them. (Oh, the things we remember!)

July 10 Oregon High Desert

Despite its remoteness, Silver Lake does offer a four-room motel that sits about fifteen feet south of the highway that runs through town. You know, the kind of motel where your double-sized bed is a mere eight steps from your car door. And if you take an additional six steps, you’ll step out the bathroom window. It’s more like a concrete tent, but with actual beds (yes, there was also a single bed in the same 12 x 12 enclosure), and an in-room bathroom.

It’s a good thing we liked adventures, especially those that hold a touch of nostalgia.

But you know what we discovered that night (or rather in the wee hours of the morning) when showering the highway grime off our weary bodies? This itty-bitty, hole-in-the-desert motel had the best towels ever. Big, soft, and absorbent. They were even better than the towels from the Hilton Hotels my husband frequents for business travel. Who would have thought?! And the next morning we got to stop at the general store next door and help ourselves to a free cup of coffee and friendly conversation.

Souvenir for the Soul:

Never judge a motel by it’s size. You never know what little comforts await you.

Isn’t this true of life? Where the experiences, especially from our childhood, that really stick out in our minds are the simplest of things? They cost little, if no, money. They involved laughter and usually other people. They may have required some imagination and creativity. And they were likely something hands-on and multi-sensory.

Like playing in the rain, making turtles out of walnut shells, mimicking Dad with his tools or Mom in the kitchen. It didn’t involve a trip to Hawaii. And even if we’d gone to Hawaii, we’d probably most remember something like eating fresh pineapple around a kitchen table in a rented room.

My most poignant memory of my own childhood travels from Missouri to Arizona is of long hours in the back of a hot station wagon, eating Snack Pack pudding. Seriously! My mom was from Arizona and we were traveling there to spend time with family. But had that not been the reason for our travel, my parents could have easily thrown us all in the car, driven an hour down the road, and fed us individual cans of sweetness to create the same feeling. Right?

July 10 The Simplest Things

You see, we may think we’re small and have little to offer. But we never know when some little thing we do, ministers welcome and comfort to a weary soul. We all have those special little touches we like to extend to others. Itsy-bitsy extra miles we like to go. We need to quit downplaying these. They matters. They make a difference. They spark a smile and invite pleasant conversation. Those that partake of our simple offerings may scoot on down the highway in short order, but chances are, we probably touched their lives in ways we’ve never dreamed.

And if you’re feeling guilty about your minimal vacation this year? Don’t. Engage those little things you specialize in and I think you just might be surprised at the baskets-full of leftover memories you’ll create.

“Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’ So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets …”
(John 6:11-13, NIV)

Do you have any simple childhood pleasures that are fun to recall? Are there ways you’ve created similar memories for your family? Would you honor us by sharing them in the comments below?

*In case it sounded like it, this sister-in-law (Jane) was not the mother of the bride. Jane got to meet Jesus face-to-face the day we started our impromptu journey. We were sad to not get to say good-bye but know we’ll see her again someday. Driving to Oregon allowed us the opportunity to spend a couple weeks there and so we were able to attend Jane’s inspiring memorial service.

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Souvenirs for the Soul: A Glass of Ice-Cold Water

It started as a tiny drug store in a prairie town of 326 people. The new owners took possession in 1931, serving the community which had been devastated by the Great Depression and was just entering the dust bowl years. The owners lived in a small space in the back of the store, separated only by a blanket suspended from the ceiling.

After four-and-a-half years of hardly a customer, they considered selling and moving on to better opportunities. But one smoldering summer day, the wife had a Divine inspiration.

“The people in those cars going up and down the highway must surely be thirsty. What if we put up signs offering a free glass of ice water?” Before they’d finished setting up the signs people were already stopping by for water (and ice cream).

2017 June 19 Hot Traveling

Photo courtesy of Pablo Garcia Saldana @ Unsplash

Handing out free, ice-cold water changed the owners’ lives.

Wall Drug Store in Wall, SD now occupies an entire block, and hosts as many as 20,000 visitors a day. Our family stops there every time we travel down Interstate 90. We just can’t resist a place that has experienced God’s blessings by doing things God’s way. Well, truth be told, I guess we can’t resist their ice cream either.

Once he’d earned enough money to begin traveling, Wall Drug founder, Ted Hustead, had another brilliant idea. While on vacation in London, he hung a huge sign on a wall in a subway station. It humorously informed the locals that Wall Drug was only 5,160 miles away. The sign then offered free information about South Dakota to anyone who wrote them. In short order they began receiving 15-20 letters a day.

Signs began appearing all over the world—sometimes only as large as a road sign—with an arrow pointing in the direction of Wall, SD, and listing the distance to the store. They’ve shown up in places like Paris, Kenya, and even Antarctica. My husband saw one for the first time while touring Greece. It was these signs that drew us to make our first stop while on vacation with our children in 2001.

Since we homeschooled we had decided to take a month-long vacation that September. Temps would be cooler and crowds would be much lighter than traveling during the summer months. As their teacher, I wanted to make every day a learning opportunity. So, in researching our route, I discovered Wall Drug was only a few blocks off the interstate.

When we got there we all made a beeline for that promised free glass of water. We simply had to have a taste of history. Of course, the cooler of water was placed right inside the ice cream parlor where we discovered something even more inviting.

When planning for this trip, I decided to adopt an activity my father had conducted during one of our summer vacations. To minimize teenage sibling arguments, he prepared daily devotions. I did the same, by writing devotions that had to do with what we’d be visiting each day. Well, you might guess what Scripture I used for us to meditate on the day we visited Wall Drug. Yes, Matthew 10:42

“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. … And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward”

(Matthew 10:40 and 42, NASB).

Souvenir for the Soul

When we do the simplest of things, meeting the most basic of needs, as representatives of Jesus’ compassion for the vulnerable, we are promised great reward.

Ted Hustead, in telling the story of Wall Drug’s history, said,

Free Ice Water. It brought us Husteads a long way and it taught me my greatest lesson, and that’s that there’s absolutely no place on God’s earth that’s Godforsaken. No matter where you live, you can succeed, because wherever you are, you can reach out to other people with something that they need!

Sometimes we think we’ll make the biggest impact by doing big things. Well the story of Wall Drug begs to differ. Jesus begs to differ. It’s such a relief to know our greatest impact is made when doing the small things.

June 19 Cup of Cold Water

So maybe that’s the way we can break through the big walls our “unattached” kids have erected. We don’t have to knock down those walls.

We simply need to stand on our tip toes, extend a hand over, and offer a cup of water.

Something as simple as a smile, a light touch to a shoulder, a few words of encouragement (like “I believe in you.”), a moment to listen (with mouth closed while looking straight into their eyes). These refreshing gestures, will go along way in softening their hearts. You may not notice what happens on the other side of those walls, but in years to come you just might get to hear them tell of the little ways you quenched their thirst.

How to See the World More Clearly

Once again I have the privilege to introduce you to another dear mama blogger: Lea Turner. Once again I have to say I love her message! Lea is a mother of five—two of which are nonbio—and one of which is brand new. If anyone can address the topic here today, she can.

In the midst of busy, busy, busy, how do you see clear enough to make an impact on the future? You might be surprised at Lea’s answer. 


What would you want your life to look like in 20 years?

At the beginning of 2017, our pastor asked that question.

The challenge of this question is its demand to focus on what matters most. To scale back the fluff of life and ask what of today will matter tomorrow?

I take the challenge and write one evening what I want life to look like in twenty years:

Continue reading “How to See the World More Clearly”

One Word Holidays

I’ve never forgotten how her hands shook nervously as she opened gifts her first Christmas with us. I’ve always wondered what caused it. Was she afraid she would be disappointed with her gifts? Was she so overwhelmed that there were gifts just for her that she couldn’t contain her excitement? Did she feel undeserving? Did she feel the gifts would require a response she didn’t know how to give? Were all the lights and sounds and decorations and foods and pretty wrappings just too much stimuli for her system? She was eight years old and probably didn’t understand why herself. I don’t think she ever regretted the experience. I just know the holiday somehow overloaded her nervous system and her body had a hard time handling it all.

november-2016-christmas-hands

Just last week I had a conversation with another one of my (now adult) children about how the holidays always cause depression to the extent that he prefers to stay hidden away. This is not uncommon at all. Most SAFE families experience major behavioral issues during the holidays. I don’t know if it’s because somehow the family festivities remind them that they can’t experience this goodness with their birth families; if the holidays still feel a bit foreign and they just can’t find a way to feel at home with them—even though they long to; if they feel they don’t know how to celebrate as their new culture dictates; or if it shines too stark a light on lifestyle differences between them and their parents. For some reason, holidays are simply tough.

So if holidays are difficult at your house, welcome aboard. It’s normal. In fact, knowing this might help you anticipate difficulties and take steps to minimize the struggles. This may mean major changes are needed for your family. The following are some ideas that you might actually find fun to try.

• Keep things as simple as possible.

o Decorate lightly.
o *Buy only a few gifts.
o *Attend one (or no) holiday event.
o Celebrate each holiday only at home.
o Keep meals simple and include mostly foods your kids are comfortable with while introducing one or two holiday foods.

• Relocate holiday celebrations away from your home so your child can feel the needed stability in the sameness of their home environment.

o Celebrate only at an extended family member’s home.
o *Take decorations, gifts, foods, etc. to a nearby hotel for a fun overnight.
o *Celebrate the holiday at a recreational facility (indoor water park, amusement park, skiing, or vacation spot).
o Search your area for restaurants that are open that day and enjoy dinner there. Then return home and celebrate with familiar activities (movies, games, outside play, etc.)

• Start over from scratch and involve your kids in creating your own unique traditions. This gives them a sense of contribution and personal identity with the holidays.

o *Have them help bake cookies.
o Hand make decorations.
o Bring something from their original culture into the holiday.
o Share stories of memories from holidays with their families/countries of origin.

• Provide opportunities for them to focus on others and keep personal expectations to a minimum.

o Serve a meal at a local shelter.
o Deliver meals/gifts to needy families.
o Carol at assisted living centers or hospitals.
o *Work to earn money to buy gifts for family members.
o *Hand-make cards or gifts for family members.

We did very few of these things—only those marked with an *. Most of the above are just ideas off the top of my head to help get you started with your own ideas.

In our experience, we had more difficulties when the kids were older—when all were in their mid to late teens. I remember six tough Christmases in a row. In fact, the seventh Christmas, our kids were finally all adults, so Bob and I didn’t celebrate with them that year. We did things for them, and had short visits with some of them, but for the most part we avoided the anxieties that had become too routine. Now, I can happily say, we love celebrating with them again.

I know we parents get so excited to share our warm traditions with our children. But sometimes our children just can’t grasp the heart of it all. So, keep your traditions in a special place in your heart, while creating new ones for the family you’re becoming.

What if you …

november-2016-one-word-holidays

What would your word be for this upcoming Thanksgiving?

For those of you who’ve created manageable ways to enjoy holidays with your SAFE children, I’m sure other parents would love to glean from your insights and ideas. Would you mind sharing with us here?

As I write to you each week, I mostly try to keep the focus on practical spirituality rather than a how-to focus; but for some reason this week I felt led to share this with you. So is there a biblical principle to reinforce this idea? I think there is. How about Jesus’ words to Martha?

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.”

John 10:41-42 (NIV)