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2016 Christmas Reflections: Our Year In Review

Dear Friends & Family,

Whew! 2016 has flown by so quickly we are happy to take this pause to write to you and catch our breath! It feels like the new year has just just come and gone, but now here we are, coming to the close of yet another year. I think it is true that the older we get, time seems to speed up. But as the hours and minutes have flown by us all too quickly, we hope that in the midst of every day life, this year has been filled with more wonderful moments than you can count.

Every year seems to bring with it new types of seasons and change for us all, and this was truly a year of a new season of change for our family. As many of you know, our family lived/traveled full-time in an RV for the past few years with Anthony as his  job moved him around. However, this year he settled into a bit of a more permanent position with his work, which keeps him stationary for most of the year. With that, our family has settled back down as well, only not at our previous home of Wilmington, NC where we both grew up, but in a quant little South Carolina town just outside of Charlotte, NC.

When we moved away from “home” and everything we had ever known three years ago, we could never have imagined where that leap of faith would take us. We just knew we were just along for the journey…wherever that may lead us!

In the early part of this year we stumbled upon an 1873 victorian farmhouse on Main Street in a little town most people have never heard of; and after a lengthy process to acquire it, by July of this year this fixer-up was ours!

This old house is a jewel, we are grateful and in love, but like anything that is old and worth keeping, it is work…lots and lots of work. But we are up for the task and excited to see what she will become with time, a whole lotta’ hard work, and a little love! {Feel free to scroll below in our blog to read all about that journey!}

Olivia is almost 12 and is in the 6th grade. She is true pre-teen, southern girl in every sense of the word and is full of spunk and energy and keeps mom on her toes! Her best/favorite subjects are math & animal science, which is helpful as she has wanted to be veterinarian for as long we can remember and she hasn’t changed her mind yet! She loves to write, is involved in equestrian 4-H, choir, and is always singing. She enjoys sewing, is obsessed with animals and Carrie Underwood, and is currently working to save up enough money to have her very own horse. The picture below was taken on the day her daddy surprised her with a date to her very first Carrie Underwood concert back in October. She said this was the highlight of her entire year…right next to getting her own room again and not having to share space with Jackson. 😉

 

Jackson is 10 and is in the 4th grade. He loves Minecraft, building Star Wars Lego anything, and reading…that boy devours books, which makes mom oh so happy! He enjoys rip-sticking, singing, choir, and is currently asking to take drum & piano lessons…we’ll see how that goes. 😉 His favorite subjects are reading comprehension, history, and geography.  He asked to fix up his room in an American history theme, so we’re working on that! Unlike his big sis, Jackson isn’t exactly the country kid type, but she roped him into this outfit on Halloween by telling him no one would give him candy if he didn’t have a costume. And that was the end of that.  😉

We are halfway through our 5th year homeschooling and though it is hard work, and we certainly have our challenging days, we are loving it and it continues to serve us well. I am still dabbling in a bit of writing here and there for various online publications and personally as well, and am currently in school working on a psychology degree with plans to continue on for a Master’s degree in a mental health counseling field. There is always a lot of learning of some kind going on in our home, which we are so grateful and fortunate to have.

There has been a few bumps in the road, but mostly it’s been a sweet year for our family, which was a welcomed reprieve after a challenging 2015. But life is just that way isn’t it? We never know from year to year what life will throw our way. But for now, we are just savoring life together, and the smallest moments as they all too quickly turn into years and change comes for us again.

If you are reading this now, that means that you are a part of or have touched our lives in a tangible way at some point in time and are the reason we feel blessed far beyond words. Our wish for us all this Christmas season and the new year is that we will find the very best of life in relationships and experiences more than in accomplishments and monetary gain, that we will find great joy in the simplest moments, and experience the richness of life in the love that we have to give away to one another, and in the warmth of Jesus Christ who is love and from whom every good and wonderful thing comes.

Christmas blessings to your and yours, and well wishes for your 2017, from our family to yours.

With Love,

The Rowell Family

2016

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10 Reasons A Simpler Life Can Equal A Fuller Life

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When I started this blog back in 2013 for the purpose of documenting our journey with full time RV life, I made the decision right then that I never wanted sharing our lives with others to get in the way of living our lives with each other. There have been seasons in which it was more practical to write regularly, and post articles that many of you have found helpful and informational. But over the course of this past year, the momentum of our lives changed quite a bit and it just hasn’t lent itself to writing much. And so needless to say, I haven’t posted on The Light Life Blog lately and I really can’t apologize because we’ve been, well…LIVING the light life!

Our 2014/2015 school year is coming to a close and I’ve been looking back over the last 10 months or so of our lives realizing just how fast it’s gone by and just how full our lives have been! We’ve been busy roadschooling, taking trips, enjoying the outdoors, hiking, running 1/2 marathons, participating in a homeschool co-op, spending LOTS of time with family as we are currently just 5 hours from our hometown of Wilmington, NC, and I started back to school full-time as well…which is where a great chunk of my time and brain space has disappeared to.   😉

Looking back is always a treat. It reminds me again why we made the decision to scale back our lives two years ago. And how much that decision to live this lighter, simpler life has not detracted from the fullness of our lives one tiny bit. In fact, quite the opposite.

So what have these past two years of full-time RV life taught us? Here’s just 10 things for starters.

  1. Things can be bought with money, time cannot.
  2. Life doesn’t have to be complex or expensive to be full and good.
  3. Quality trumps quantity. Every. single. time.
  4. Kids would rather have your time than your things.
  5. Education means a whole lot more than textbooks and the 3 Rs.
  6. Freeing up your time allows you to educate the WHOLE child. Mind, body, and spirit.
  7. We should spend less time building retirement accounts and more time building relationships. Because in the end, we don’t get to keep the stuff anyways.
  8. That whole American dream thing? Doesn’t necessarily have to rule our lives, or be our dream at all.
  9. And when you don’t love the direction your life is taking, it’s okay to reinvent yourself and re-write your story.
  10. Not everyone will understand your journey, and that’s OK. It’s YOUR journey, not theirs.

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Holiday Recap. Moving & Finding Contentment In The Mud

The Christmas holiday back at home in North Carolina was lovely. Honestly, at one point Anthony and I looked at each other and agreed that it had been the best Christmas we’ve ever had together. How odd it was that Christmas could be so different and yet still so wonderful. We are grateful for the small moments and the memories of yummy food, lights, gifts, holiday parties and faces we love most.

Rving After about a month long break from normal life on the road, I can honestly say our family was so excited to get back to the the new normal of life as we know it – together. We pulled out of Ruskin, Florida as Anthony’s job had ended there, and headed to Front Royal, Virginia for several months.

For the past few days we’ve been busy settling in and getting rested up. We already love this place! It still has the feel we love of a quant, old mountain town, while still having many of the usual stores and conveniences we’ve grown fond of. Kind of like the best of both worlds in many ways!

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I do not generally love frigid temperatures….can you tell? And although Florida wasn’t my favorite, it has been rather odd to go from sunny and 82 most days to, dreary, rainy and anywhere from 10-50 degrees in our new spot. But the changes of all kinds are what makes this life on the road interesting and fun! Lucky for me I sort of adore change, and Anthony and I both have adventurous spirits, so we are able to go with the flow and not completely lose our minds in the process of all the change that life on the road brings with it.

snow, cold, childrenThis was the kids about .025 seconds after we had stepped out of the car at our new campground in Virginia. There was only small, and I do mean the most minute patches of snow left over from an arctic blast earlier in the week. (That we are so grateful we missed.) But that didn’t matter to two kids who grew up at the beach and have apparently been severely snow deprived all of their lives! They immediately went to throwing snow balls (with no gloves on) and making teeny tiny snowmen from what little bit off dirty snow left to get their hands on.

mud, muddy rvAnd then there is this.

Snow is so much prettier before it melts and leaves behind a slushy cleaning nightmare situation for any human being….especially those who live in 300 square feet of muddy campsite. As I watched our second born fall flat into the mud with all his snow clothes on, wondering where IN THE HECK is the closest laundromat? I stood at the steps leading into our tiny home on wheels imagining my pledge to stop yelling at my kids going right out the RV window as they inevitably begin to track this horrible mess into what little bit of clean, warm, sacred space we do have.

After watching my husband scramble to get us all hooked up in the freezing cold before the night set in so our pipes wouldn’t freeze (and helping where I could in between jumping back in the car to thaw out.) As I stood there at the bottom of the three steps that lead into our small home, staring at the mud and the muck that surrounded it on every side, I literally rehearsed over and over to myself, “In every circumstance, in every circumstance, in EVERY circumstance….I CAN know what it means to be truly –  deeply content.”

Even in the midst of constant change

and frigid temperatures

little boys falling flat in the slush

the inevitable frozen pipes to come

and yes, even in the mud.

This simple life we’ve chosen to lead teaches us more than ever before, the art of being truly satisfied with less.

To truly be content in every situation.

This is the kind of life we desire most.

 

 

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The One Thing I Would Change About Christmas

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Just as soon as we pulled up to our camp site from our trip back to NC for Thanksgiving, by the bright and cheery looks of our camper it was definitely officially the Christmas season! I have always loved this time of year. Everything just seems brighter and more joyful at Christmastime. Besides, I love anything that gives excuses to decorate, eat good food and hang out with those I love.

20131203-103715.jpgMaybe I’m a bit of a sap, but I’m definitely a sucker for all of the magic that the Christmas season brings! Hunting down the perfect tree, decorating, making salt dough ornaments and drinking hot chocolate with my kids while listening to Christmas music – I’m a huge fan of Christmastime!

All except for one thing…

20131203-103623.jpg The stuff.

Don’t get me wrong, who doesn’t enjoy the joy on their children’s faces as they frantically tear into carefully selected gifts on Christmas morning, believing Santa definitely came this year? I do too.

Even our kids got back to the camper and got straight to work making their lists to mail to the North Pole, still there is a silent part of me that wishes that none of it was about the gifts at all.

20131203-103654.jpgHow odd it is that the entire month following a day to be Thankful for all that we have is spent deliberating what more things we can buy. Over the past few days post Thanksgiving, I’ve found myself wishing we could just hang onto all that came with Thanksgiving and carry it straight into the Christmas holidays, adding nothing more than holiday music, trees and a few lights.

My side of the family decided not to exchange gifts at all this year. And honestly, I breathed a huge sigh of relief realizing I couldn’t be more excited about the freedom to get together for feasts with those I love without the complication and pressure on us all over “the stuff hunt”.

Sometimes gift giving feels more like a ridiculous form of money swap that threatens to take our attention off all the things that truly matter, giving it away to all of the plastic, shiny objects that will likely have been forgotten by next year and will surely never matter at all in the end.

I’ve had a few ask me what I would like for Christmas this year, and I have struggled to give an answer. Because I truly can’t think of one single thing that would add anything significant to my life.

If I could, if there is one thing I would change about Christmas, it is the unspoken loss we experience in our endless quest for gain.

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Call me a Scrooge or a Grinch – but it is no secret to those who know me well that it wouldn’t hurt my feelings one single bit if we all just did away with the whole gift giving thing completely.

But we don’t….because I think we all sort of unintentionally get sucked into the trap of  just doing what we’ve always done, or what we feel like we should because everyone else does.

What we don’t realize is that our culture has programmed our minds towards materialism, which oddly enough is the one thing that steals everything that is good from our lives.

We have exchanged financial freedom & the time to invest in our families for the stuff of landfills.

But I’m willing to bet that if most of us were completely honest, we would love to be free to imagine the possibility that this season could be a bit more simple and light. Less about material gain and more about all of the only things that ever really mattered in the first place.

This is the one thing I would change about the most perfectly wonderful holiday ever.

Own less, live fully, travel light.

 

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Life On The Road & Thanksgiving At Home

After being in Florida for about a month and a half, we were so excited to be able to go back to the North Carolina coast that will always be home to us, for the Thanksgiving holiday. The kids and I drove up about a week and a half prior to Thanksgiving day and daddy (Anthony) flew in early Thanksgiving morning to join us for the last 4 days of the holiday week! I have to say, it was pretty insane to go from the 80 something degree whether we gotten used to in Florida, to daily high averages in the 50’s & 60’s. It was just like stepping from summer straight into fall all over again!

But since Anthony and I had both spent our entire lives until this year in the same city with both sides of our families residing there, the holidays just wouldn’t be the same without going home! And as you can tell from the picture gallery below, we squeezed every bit of fun and family time in during our trip home. Although we truly enjoy being on the road and have gained so much we were missing out on before, we definitely miss our friends and family in North Carolina and had promised before we even left that we would always go home for the holidays whenever it is even remotely possible.

Our days were spent overflowing to brim with friends and family time. Coffee dates, shopping trips, lunches, dinners, oyster roasts and s’mores bonfires have been the magical stuff of the last two weeks.

I’m spending the last few hours in North Carolina sitting across from my sister in Starbucks as I type this post, and tomorrow the four of us will make the eleven hour drive back to Florida to finish out our last month or so of time there before moving onto the next place!

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Being on the road has it’s drawbacks and it’s perks just as we knew it would! But I can honestly say that the old saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” is something we’ve found to be true. There is something priceless that absence can teach us: It is the relationships we share with the people we love, and who love us that make life worth anything. Everything else, is just fluff.

During this trip home I found myself paying more attention than I used to – documenting in my mind all of the small moments so that I could carry them with me wherever we go and remember them over and over again. While it is true that the adventure of full time life on the road is something in which any place can be home, it is also true that no place on earth will ever feel quite as comforting and treasured as the sacred place our hearts knew first as “home.”

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