I love a road trip. I love planning it, studying maps and guidebooks, reading about travelers who have gone before me, looking for the fastest routes to the most intriguing views. I love the anticipation phase, packing suitcases, trying to calculate every situation that may arise and every change of clothing I may need when I get there. I love hitting the road with excitement and hopefulness, watching the scenery shift and expand outside the car windows, asking “Are we there yet?” at every crossroads, and the rewarding moment when the road signs finally respond, “Only one more mile.”

My first books were Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series. I loved following the Ingalls family on the adventures of their permanent road trip. I envied their family togetherness and their willingness to encounter miles of totally unexplored countryside.

A road trip is a good metaphor for life, I think. We have to have faith that whatever lies beyond our current field of vision is worth the effort and the risk it takes to get there. It is only when we venture beyond the places that are comfortable and constricting that we learn more about the world and grow from our experience. When we have the courage to step away from the stories we have been told, we return home with new wisdom and insights worth sharing.

This spring I have been traveling. I have spent many hours seated in a car to finally walk through ocean waves. So far I have learned that God is able to take us anywhere; but we have to be prepared to take many rest stops along the way, adjust routes and schedules around unforeseen detours, and appreciate that our companions through life are what make the road worth traveling.

Today my bookshelves hold many volumes that inspire me. The book She Explores by Gale Straub reminds me that women are brave travelers who are free to follow their individual paths to adventure. (You may order it from Amazon here, though I’m not affiliated, just sharing a book I enjoy and value.)

This summer I will be writing more about the roads I have traveled and the lessons I have gathered on the way. I have another road trip to take in July. My route is planned, my bags are already, partially packed, and I’m looking forward to bringing back new insights to share with the people who travel the road with me. I pray you embark on many journeys and find many new and exciting stories of your own. Where are your travels taking you this summer? What do you anticipate learning on the road?

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As a working single mom, while others joked about the terrors of tax season, I looked forward to the refund I received every year in the spring. The windfall gave me extra space to breathe and allowed me to have a little fun after the long austerity of winter. Over the years, I learned to plan carefully and spend my refund in ways that would most benefit my household. The following are a few ways I invested that money to take care of our needs.

Save cash for an emergency fund. Stashing a few hundred dollars gave me peace of mind and helped me feel ready to face the inevitable crises that would arise throughout the year.

Payoff credit cards and small debts. One less debt is one less thing to worry about, so paying off credit cards gave me a clean slate feeling to the year ahead.  

Save for Christmas shopping. Yes, in the spring, Christmas looks far away; but the holiday arrives at the same time every year, so we might as well be ready for it. I also shopped clearance shelves throughout the year for gifts and toys that could be hidden away for the next holiday season.

Put new tires on the car, schedule an oil change, and arrange for any necessary vehicle repairs. We depended on the car to get us to work and school, so every act of maintenance I could muster gave us more reliable transportation.  

Schedule doctor appointments and dental checkups. I never enjoyed them, but they had to be done.

Buy something for home. New towels or bedding made our apartment more comfortable and homelike.  

Enroll in a class or a workshop. Education is never wasted, and I am always happy to improve my skillset.

Get a good haircut. For most of the year I got trims at the discount place, but once and a while it felt good to have a luxurious haircut with the full salon treatment.   

Invest in a professional outfit and a nice pair of shoes. A few new clothes gave me more confidence at work and job interviews.

Buy kids’ clothes on winter clearance. Depending on what kind of growth spurt my daughter was going through; I bought coats, snowpants, boots, hats, and gloves at the after-season clearance sales and stashed them away for the next winter snows.

Let the kids shop. Sometimes I gave my daughter a small amount and let her buy something she had been wanting.

Have some fun, already. Every year I tried to plan something fun to do with my daughter. An afternoon at the movies, the zoo, the aquarium, or indoor waterpark makes memories of the time your family shares together.  

Remember to be grateful and give thanks for the abundance God sends our way each day throughout the year.

How are you looking forward to using your spring tax refund? How do you plan to invest in fun with your family?

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