Here is an article I wrote for our church newsletter.  It was quite an exercise to condense down our trip to about 500 words:

A LIFE HALFTIME:   Our “Field Trip USA”, a Kirkwood Family Sabbatical

Football has halftime; baseball has the seventh inning stretch.  Our Field Trip USA adventure, traveling around the US last school year, provided a similar breather for us.  Our halftime was a break in the fragmented craziness of raising a family in today’s fast-paced game of life.

Sure, traveling around the 48 contiguous states was exciting!  We visited almost sixty national parks.  The natural ones wowed us with oceans, volcanoes, glaciers, dunes, deserts, bayous, everglades, canyons, caves, and mountains.  The historical parks brought the past few centuries to life in Jamestown, Boston’s Freedom Trail, Philadelphia’s Independence Square, Lewis and Clark’s expedition, Indian life on the Plains, the Oregon Trail, Gettysburg, the westward expansion by rail and wagon, the explosion of immigration through Ellis Island, and the first flight at Kittyhawk. 

We stomped our feet up the cobbled roads of San Francisco’s hills, and stomped grapes at a desert vineyard in Washington.  We slept in the Big Apple and along a desolate California coastline.  We biked around the National Mall in DC and on carriage roads through Maine’s pristine Acadia.  We tasted chowder in Seattle and alligator in Louisiana.  We rode subways and Segways; took ferries and cog railways. 

We enjoyed God’s creation through sunsets, wildlife, mountain haze, and crashing waves.  We saw His creativity through man in factory tours around the country including the manufacture of motorhomes, jelly beans, breakfast cereal, guitars, Tabasco, coins, crayons, baseball bats, ice cream, microchips, pianos, petroleum and more. 

BUT… all of this was just the icing on the cake of the adventure.  The trip provided us a respite in the “game” that allowed us to grow as a family in ways that we could never have imagined. 

Disconnection-  The trip disconnected us from our Minnetonka life  so we could be together as a family with the kids at perfect ages.  The separation helped us break out of behavioral ruts, escape the frazzled schedules, and focus our positive influence as parents on the kids for an extended and uninterrupted period. 

Teamwork-  We found that working together as a team on our goal of hitting all of the states had deep impact.  We grew in responsibility, relationships, and perseverance together through challenges that often resulted in special blessings and experiences. 

Spiritual Growth-  We daily relied on God’s protection, direction, and provision on the trip.  In the familiar surroundings of our home routine, it is much easier to feel like we control our lives.  We also experienced the brotherhood and sisterhood of believers through the thirty-five churches we joined in worship during our travels.  We took advantage of many opportunities for family spiritual discussions as experiences and questions arose along the way.  

Worldview-  We have come home with a broader perspective after experiencing such a diversity of people and places.  We found wonderful people everywhere and built friendships with folks “different” from us.  While we sometimes can be made to feel apologetic to be Americans, our family saw first-hand that our country is the greatest democracy in history! 

As we enjoyed a small town Memorial Day parade on our last day on the road, we emotionally looked on as a closer family with a profoundly deepened appreciation of this blessed, free country!