the fall of 11

It is the fall of 2011. I am 29 and our family has just spent the last year in an RV, traveling the country to give to others.

the fall of 11 1

Every morning, I wake up and blink, half-uncertain where we are. Sometimes in a Walmart parking lot; sometimes at a campground. Squished in between two tiny girls (a preschooler and a toddler), I wake up to take a fast shower before the warm water runs out.

We pile into the truck and go places to serve. The girls hold our hands at veteran's hospitals, food banks, and crumbling neighborhoods. Old women with wrinkled cheeks and missing teeth laugh the smoker's laugh and bless us.

We play at parks where our white faces stand out. We pray with people in dirty downtowns and around campfires. We don't buy a single piece of clothing the entire year. We understand anew what it means to give until it hurts, not just figuratively, but financially and emotionally.

Every small kindness by strangers and friends along the way is tucked away into our hearts. Although we have incredible travel experiences, we are very alone.

A long-distance friend emails to ask, "Would you do it all over again?" I feel guilty about how quickly the answer forms in my heart, "No. Never. (At least not in the same way)."

When we finally return to our house in safe suburbia, I sit on the tile and almost cry from the sheer joy of having an ice maker and bedrooms and a house with actual walls.

* My husband and I spent 2011 traveling the country in an RV with our two little girls (then, 1 and 4). We volunteered for 150 days and interviewed over 40 non-profit executive directors.

THIS IS PART 2 OF A 3-PART SERIES. Read Part I and Part III.

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20 comments on “the fall of 11”

  1. I'm glad to hear you talk about this so honestly. Roots are so important when you have small children, I'm sure that they will appreciate the experience all their lives.

  2. You know what you are awesome no matter how you feel about doing it all over again or not. It was a huge sacrifice for you and your family. You did wonderful things to help so many people. I am also glad that I got to meet you on your journey.

  3. oooh, I can't wait for part 3! You have such honesty in you're writing, thank you for sharing your heart with us.

  4. I have to admit, it's very refreshing to hear you write so honestly about this. It's easy to avoid saying you wouldn't ever do something again so as not to give the impression that you made a mistake. But I know that's not what you mean at all. I, like Darcie, look forward to you writing more about this.

    Question: Knowing what you know now, would you have done it at all? What are the top things you would have done differently?

    1. Well, for starters, we would not have gone away for an entire year. Much too long to be without family/friends and community! The loneliness took its toll.

  5. It seems to be the hardest things that grow us the most, right? I'm glad you've found your voice on this topic. I'm looking forward to reading more snippets of your experience as you feel inclined to share.

    1. Yes. You said it exactly right. Suffering often is a part of growth. In fact, I just read a quote about that:

      "The period of greatest gain in knowledge and experience is the most difficult period in one's life." -Dalai Lama

  6. I do have to admit that when you were on this trip I wasn't sure I could have done it. :) I'm SUCH a pack rat that I don't know what I'll do if we ever decide to actually move overseas. I will have to stop trying to keep all my memories... ;)
    And living in such a small space would have felt hard for me too I think, but maybe that's because we're larger people and living in a motor home would not be pleasant! ;)

    1. Are you considering a move overseas? I'd like to hear more about that.

      Living in SUCH a small space did have its challenges, especially when Tim or I had to get a bit of work done (write a post, call a non-profit, pay bills, talk business, etc). There wasn't exactly a quiet space for optimal concentration and productivity. ;)

      1. Before I went back to grad school and met my husband yes, I was planning to go work with a missionary I know in Tanzania as a teacher. Looking back I'm not sure how well that would have turned out with all my "expectation" issues!

        Things changed and I'm so glad that we ended up here near my parents because my dad was diagnosed with Parkinsons the year after we got married and while I was pregnant with Cory. Having his grandkids around has been a major mood helper for him. And I know that people can die at any time, but this definitely means that he won't be around as long so I'm glad that we are here.

        Plus, I'm not so keen on giving birth or having newborns in 3rd world countries...

        However, yes, we're working on our debt (not quite Ramsey style, but some!) and eventually we may go teach professionally overseas to pay off the rest and then go work with my friend. His organization is called Village Schools International and it's awesome!

        My husband is a third culture kid, having grown up in Saudi Arabia, so he's definitely itching to move somewhere, but we are where we are for a reason right now and someday if it's in God's plan I'm sure we'll get there! :) They now have a teacher college being built there and since both of us have master's in teaching we could probably be more effective there than even in the high school classrooms they currently have (something like 22 schools and counting in 7 years!).

        Oh, and I have a feeling our house is going to feel really small here soon... but not quite as small as a motorhome! ;)

    2. I too find it difficult to give up a physical "thing" that represents a good memory. One tip that has helped me is to take a photo of that object - maybe write a small passage about why that object is special to you. Then, let the object go, but still keep your memory. Technology these days makes it simple and cheap to store photos digitally so you can take them with you wherever you go.

      We're a military family that has moved several times with several more in the future before we're done. This technique has helped me let go of childhood "things" that I truly didn't have room for but needed to somehow keep the happy memory.

      1. Ha ha, if you only knew how many photos I take... ;) Finding that memory again would be impossible! (I'm a semi-pro photographer)

        But I'm just getting better at getting rid of stuff, with help from my husband who is pretty much the opposite and has one (yes, just one!) shoe box of memories!

        And I'm actually looking forward to getting rid of ALL the baby paraphenalia and then I'm sure I won't feel so overwhelmed!

        1. I definitely fall in the "shoe box" category. Sometimes I wonder if I'll regret being so quick to throw away/give away things...but not yet. ;)

          Oh, one exception: Everyone started pinning this idea of having your daughter dress up in your wedding gown for photos - and I thought, "Bummer. I should have done that before giving away my dress to charity."

          1. I've seen that... I'm keeping my dress because it was made with fabric my dad brought back from Hong Kong (for his sister, but she never used it) while he was serving in Vietnam. I only used about half of it to make the dress and it could possibly be reused, especially with the other half unused. It takes creative sewing since the fabric was only 25 inches wide though! Now that I have 2 girls... perhaps one of them will want to use it. :)

            I also find the time helps me throw things away so I've gotten rid of a lot of things from high school that were stored at my parents until recently. I guess that's also why it's easier for me to scrapbook being 8 years behind, makes it easier to really only keep the good photos! ;) Oh, and my scrapbooking supplies take up waaaaay too much space! ;)

    1. Oh, I missed my bed too - mostly just having a bed that didn't move!

      Also - I missed:
      * having a reliable internet connection (or an internet connection at all).
      * being able to get a cold glass of clean water from the fridge dispenser.
      * being able to take showers and do laundry at the same time.
      * having access to quality grocery stores and fresh produce.
      * having a stable monthly paycheck.
      * knowing where to go for medical/dental concerns.

      ...so, so much more!

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