YOLO or YOLOL ~ A Post for the New Year

I admit it. I had to Google YOLO to find out what it means. (I guess I really am almost 40.)

YOLO: You Only Live Once.

True enough. I really don’t want to debate reincarnation in this post, so let’s leave it at that for now.

You Only Live Once. Like many catch phrases, YOLO can inspire us.

Of course, some people just use it as an excuse to act like an idiot.

That’s the way with words. They’re powerful, but the direction of that power depends on the meaning we give them.

After reading the Facebook debates about YOLO – is it about getting drunk or skydiving, making your life count or experiencing everything possible – I began to wonder…is there a better motto to live by? One that captures the essence of YOLO but with more lasting impact?

Not that I’m a big “motto to live by” person. Because, really, most mottos are formulas and most formulas don’t survive the tests of life. If we had formulas, we wouldn’t need God.

Anyway…I was mulling it over (yes, I said “mulling”) and here’s what I got – I mean it literally popped into my head:

YOLOL. You Only Leave One Legacy.

Isn’t that a better perspective? If you’re really going to make this life count, forget about living for the moment, feeding your selfish desires, amassing a fortune or making a name for yourself. And consider your legacy.

I believe that as a culture we’re in danger of forgetting what it means to leave a legacy. We live selfishly, haphazardly blazing a trail that future generations will have to navigate. What are we leaving them? What will be their inheritance?

We spend money in the hopes of getting through the week, the month or the next debt ceiling increase.

We spend time – on the computer, the TV, at the amusement park (umm…guilty!) – because we’re tired and just want a little something for ourselves…right now.

We spend energy, talent and gifts and when we don’t see results, we get discouraged. Because that track plays over and over again in our minds: You’re wasting your time! Life is short! You Only Live Once!

But the thing is, making a difference takes time. Often more time than this life offers us. And that’s where the legacy part comes in.

Our family just spent a week in Disney World.

Have you any idea of the reach, influence and extent of Walt Disney’s legacy? From animation to movies to music to clothing to Broadway to amusement parks to agriculture to technology to philanthropy to I don’t even know what else, Disney is doing it and they’re doing it all over the world.

Walt Disney started out with nothing and every time he found success, he leveraged it to try something new. For a wealthy man, he sure was broke a lot – mortgaging everything he and his family members had multiple times. He could have left his success in the bank, put up his feet and enjoyed the good life. But Walt never stopped dreaming, because he never stopped thinking about the future…and the generations to come.

In 1966, before construction began on Walt Disney World Resort, Walt died. He only lived once. But just look at his legacy.

Recently, a missionary visited our church. He and his family serve a people who are very “closed” to the gospel. And naturally, this family often feels discouraged. They live in a hut in Africa, walk to a well for water, grow vegetables, dig latrines, fight malaria, parasites, cultural challenges and spiritual battles. All for what? The villagers still practice Islam and witchcraft and polygamy and spousal abuse.

But they found encouragement in the sacrifices of other missionaries. Missionaries with stories like Nate Saint, who, in the beginning of his mission to the Waodani people of Ecuador, was brutally murdered by the very ones he longed to reach with the gospel of Christ.

To some, Nate’s life and death may appear futile. But just look at his legacy: Despite their grief, Nate’s family stayed in Ecuador and today, approximately one in six Waodani are believers. Nate’s son, Steve, considers the Waodani his family.

Jesus lived a mere 30 something years on Earth. He was conceived out of wedlock, poor and nothing special to look at. He was tortured, nailed to a tree and mocked by those He came to save. He suffered the agony wrought by all humanity’s sin, endured the rejection of his Father and paid a penalty undeserved. He died a criminal’s death and was buried in a borrowed tomb.

He left behind a handful of confused followers including His mother, a formerly demon-possessed woman and some guys who were so freaked out for their own safety, they locked themselves away in the second floor of someone’s home.

At first glance this doesn’t look like a successful approach to the whole YOLO thing.

But just look at His legacy.

YOLOL.

What’s yours going to be?

A Day in the Life

The day we left. Look at those shirts we found the day before we left!

Before digging into a day in our cross country lives, let me share the how’s and why’s of our general traveling approach. When finally deciding to drive cross country we considered many options – camping, renting an RV, renting a car or driving our own car. After realizing that we would only be spending one or two nights in each location, I took camping off the table. We don’t own a camper and I refused to set up camp every other night. The astronomical cost of renting an RV, gassing up every few miles and paying nightly for a place to park, eliminated that option. In the end, we chose to take our own car; our Toyota Avalon possesses a sizable trunk, offers plenty of leg room and doesn’t hurt my back on long trips.

With camping officially out of the question, we needed lodging. How in the world could afford four weeks of hotel rooms? I began imagining us sleeping in our car at rest areas along the way. However, God would save us from this peril. You see, this is where Doug’s economical skill and determination really shine! Through travel miles accrued on business trips, credit card rewards and hotel memberships, Doug arranged for 24 free nights of lodging. Out of 31 overnight stays, we only paid for seven! Another money-saver: our hotels have provided free breakfast on 22 days and free dinner on two nights throughout our trip.

This is our luggage on a light day...there's actually some still in the car!

So now that you have a general idea of our traveling system, how about a taste of life on the road with the Perreault’s. More than half of our days are real “on the road” days, meaning we pack up all of our bags and load them in the car. This includes a suitcase for each of us, toiletries, a traveling medicine cabinet, bag of shoes, laptop, various other electronics, my pillow, personal bags for the car (with books, activities, stuffed animals, etc.), souvenirs, a snack bag and more! Doug uses his gifting for geometric and spatial strategy to pack the trunk in such a way that everything fits and we can still reach the lap-top, water, sun-block and umbrella.

Then we either head for our free breakfast or hit the highway. Days without a free breakfast are especially interesting; one morning we didn’t have breakfast until about 12:30 p.m. and all we could find was a cupcake bakery. So guess what? Cupcakes for breakfast!

Overall, we are pretty good car travelers. Doug and I both like driving and riding in cars, though Doug prefers driving. In fact, he has probably driven 90% of this trip, while Jacquelyn and I share the other 10%. Thanks to an ipod adapter, we can listen to our various ipods in the car. We even compiled a cross country play-list. Some of our favorites are “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Life is a Highway” by Rascal Flatts, “I Ain’t in Checotah Anymore” by Carrie Underwood, “Mountain Music” by Alabama, “Walkin’ in Memphis” by Marc Cohn and “America” by Chris Tomlin. Major bonus: as country music fans, we are almost always able to find a radio station that we like; and we especially enjoy all the contemporary Christian music stations – something we don’t have at home.

Jacquelyn and Christina keep busy reading, coloring, texting friends, using the laptop and Nintendo DS (thanks Grandma!), or playing car games and chatting with us. They have both previously experienced multiple road trips, even as young children. In fact Christina went on her first non-stop road trip to Florida at 3 months old in a van with 7 other passengers. (How that happened is a long story for another time!) You will not be surprised that Christina acts as our game coordinator, though she has a penchant for changing the rules mid-way through a game. Formerly inclined to motion sickness, she has adapted well and has even tolerated reading over winding mountain passes! Everyone knows when she has been in the car too long because she gets as silly as we have ever seen her. Then we all share some good laughs. Jacquelyn is a great big sister, playing with Christina and helping out as much as she can. More often than not, she prefers to sleep in the car, but that is not always so easy. I know she anxiously awaits a night in her own room and a chance to sleep all day!

We typically need stop every two hours or so for a restroom and/or gas. We had a whole conversation the other day about all the various restrooms we have experienced. They range from the large, clean, automated bathrooms in rest areas along I-80 in the Great Lakes area, to the small, unmanned rest areas with no soap (weird), to the adventurous gas station bathrooms, to national park outhouses, to a 2 ½’ X 4’restroom fitted with a mini sink and toilet at Dirty Sally’s in Ten Sleep, WY, that we like to call the “Alice in Wonderland Bathroom”. And that is just a few – I could go on, but I’ll spare you!

Eating is a little different every day, but in an effort to save money and time we try to combine lunch and dinner. This means lots of snacking and we’ve probably had ice cream for lunch more times than I would like to admit. Before our trip, we cashed in credit card rewards for $500 in dining gift cards, which also helps us save on meal costs; even still, food is probably our biggest expense.

Upon arrival at our hotel, we unpack the car once again and carry everything to our room. We use a luggage trolley, whenever available, to save time, energy and our backs. Once all the bags are in the room, we immediately begin searching for outlets in which to charge our laptop, three cell phones, three ipods, Nintendo DS and batteries for four cameras. Nope, this is not an “unplugged” vacation! Then we hang up bathing suits, still wet from swimming at the previous hotel and either flop into bed if it’s late, get ready for that evenings attractions or go for a swim.

Traveling out west, we gained an hour every other day or so, but now as we head home we are losing an hour every few stops. While no one likes losing time, being only one time zone away from EST makes calling home a lot easier.

The best news of all is that, so far, we haven’t killed one another. You may think that I am setting the bar too low, but don’t be so sure. Being stuck in a car for even a short road trip can bring many a family to the brink of all-out war. But 32 days, in such close proximity, without a break – even the mellowest of people might struggle – and we, my friends, are not mellow. Even amidst all the challenges, I believe our joy has outweighed our difficulties. Experiencing our nation and God’s creation together is a gift we will never forget!

Cross Country Day 23, 24 & 25 – Across the Heartland

This week we drove across the heartland of America, from Farmington, New Mexico through Texas, Oklahoma and into Arkansas. As we drove, we slowly descended back into the lowlands. If I didn’t know better, I would believe that the flat, high desert of New Mexico (el. 5,000 ft), the plains of Amarillo, Texas (el. 3,000 ft) and the prairie of Oklahoma (el. 1200 ft) all rest at an elevation lower than the rolling hills of Tariffville, Connecticut (el. 185 ft). Even the “valley” of Phoenix, AZ sits at 1100 feet above sea level! Another educational moment from this trip: we Farmington valley people are genuine lowlanders. 

Our stops across the heartland ranged from the silliness of the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, where we trudged through a field of ankle deep mud to spray paint cars stuck nose first into a grassy field, to the solemn Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial site where we quietly observed 168 chairs (19 of them child size) representing the lives lost in that tragedy, to the small town of Checotah, OK, home to country music star, Carrie Underwood.

We especially enjoyed our brief visit to Checotah, quintescential smalltown, middle America. We took plenty of pictures and ate at the Sonic she sings about in “I Ain’t in Checotah Anymore.” By the way, Sonics are everywhere out here. And I mean everywhere! It’s like there is some “Get a Zip Code & Get a Sonic” deal going on. In certain towns, I think the entire population could pull up and order dinner all at once, and a few stalls might still be empty.

With our sneakers still covered in mud, we decided to dig for diamonds at the Crater Diamond State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. We brought home a bag of rocks worth about 8 cents and that includes the value of the paper bag. The good news: we had fun and our sneakers are now clean thanks to high pressure rinse stations at the park. Soaking wet…but clean!

Driving across the country and back is quite the experience. One of these days I want to give you a little “day in the life” post; maybe tomorrow!  We were cautioned by many people to fly or to fly and then drive part way, but I really wanted to drive the WHOLE country. Sure there are some BORING sections. One of our theme songs for the road is Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'”; we sing at the top of our lungs when we get to the line “it goes on and on and on and on!” But the boring moments, the exciting moments, the frustrating, peaceful, hilarious, exhausting and exhilarating moments are all part of the experience. 

Belief and experience are two very different things. I have always believed America is big, but watching thousands upon thousands of miles zoom past my window, marvelling at the landscape’s diversity and then waiting and waiting and waiting for it to change, visiting so many amazing sites that we wear ourselves out and regretting the zillion more we don’t have time to see, this is experiencing America’s vastness. Before I believed but now I know. My faith has become sight.

I could write you a sermonette on how this relates to life and God – how this illustrates the difference between our belief in God’s love, mercy, grace, justice and faithfulnees and our experience of all these things. I could tell you that maybe…sometimes…God takes us on a long journeys so we can do more than just believe in Him, we can know Him. And I would encourage you to think about what this means to you and the road you’re travelling today. But I don’t want to get all preachy on you, so I won’t go there  😉