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We Gave Up Everything and Somehow Gained Everything in Return

This morning I stood alongside my husband on the roof of our eight-year-old RV, and together we inspected the area of old caulk around the antenna. Somewhere around it was a leak, as evidenced by the water dripping in our bedroom during the last rainstorm. We bent down together and began applying sealant to the spots we thought looked iffy to us, and I surprised myself when I realized I wasn’t upset or anxious at the turn of events. This was our life now. It had its cons, but then it had those pros too.

A year ago we decided that the status quo wasn’t working for us. The American Dream, the National Norm, was missing the mark in our life. My husband owned a business, something that had once made me so proud of his standing in the community, but that had begun to only cause me sadness. He worked super-long days, and even on his rare off days he was working for his business. I watched my husband age prematurely as he dealt with the stress of owning a small business in a small town, and no matter what fun things it afforded me to do with our children, it just wasn’t as good since he couldn’t get away from work to be there with us. I missed him.
We had finally moved into our four bedroom, three full-bath, dream home on a gorgeous lot in an affluent neighborhood. Every time I pulled into the private drive in my new minivan (complete with all the bells and whistles) I would smile contentedly at my home, but I would also see the large lawn my husband had no time to mow, yet refused to pay someone else to tend. He wanted to do it; there just wasn’t time.

And that was the biggest factor of discontent for me. Time. There never seemed to be enough of it. My life revolved around an imaginary clock of my own making. I rushed to get my girls to dance lessons and softball games, all the while trying to keep up a home with too many trinkets to dust and finish the never-ending laundry pile. Our schedules were bursting at the seams, and our house was just as packed with stuff we didn’t need to be complete. We just thought we did.

I was overwhelmed on the home front, attempting to juggle motherhood, working part-time, and even trying to get a small business of my own off the ground to try and take some financial stress off our family. My husband was overwhelmed by a floundering business and his desire to still spend time with his quickly growing children. I think my children were overwhelmed also, in part because of my frequently frazzled moods, but also because of their full day for such small kids. They had more toys than they could play with or put away, and more clothes than they could even wear. The thing was, they didn’t care about the ruffle pants, frilly dresses, and name brands. I was doing that to them. Their closet floor was teeming with too many shoes, and the racks packed with jackets and coats for every occasion. It was all very unnecessary. When the time came to change out their seasonal wardrobe I was a first-world-problem mess.

A year ago we decided no more, and once God brought the idea to our minds we moved quite quickly. In hindsight, I’m glad we did. Had we not, I think fear of the unknown would have crippled me. Instead, in a matter of months, we emptied our large home of all its belongings. What we didn’t sell, we gave away, and we kept only a suitcase a piece, a few boxes, and a single container for each girl to keep their favorite toys. We kept enough to fill the back of a pickup truck, the one we had gotten after trading in two family vehicles, and it would be the one that would pull our traveling home as we journeyed across the country, wherever God led us.

This morning as I stood on the roof of our fifth wheel with my spouse, I surveyed the leaves just beginning to change. It was beautiful here in South Carolina, a different kind of beautiful compared to our home in Mississippi, and even different from our last temporary home in Florida. In a little over a month, we’d go somewhere else, but I had no idea where. I traveled as a nurse, and we usually didn’t know where we’d be going on assignment next until 2-3 weeks beforehand. I was fine with that. Another surprising feeling for me.

It’s funny how you have to be careful what you pray for, because God is bound to answer. In the time leading up to our unexpected decision to leave the life we had built and start another, my husband and I had both prayed for greater faith. We wanted to be used by God and to grow closer to Him. We just never knew He would change our perspectives on life to do that. I had always wanted the bigger house, more room, and I loved my many, materialistic possessions. Yet in my big life, I was unhappy. I mean, I loved my husband, children, and our life together, but something always seemed amiss.

I was a control-freak by nature, a woman fearful of change, and a perfecter of the ducks being in a neat, little row. Somehow God could work with that. He took my comfortable, yet overwhelming life, and He led me to one of full dependence on Him. Now I work temporary jobs with no benefits, no promise of the next position, and no familiarity at all. On one hand, it’s like a dream come true to those looking in. Winters in sunny Florida, summers in the mountains, choosing where you want to live based on what sights you want to see! Sounds fabulous, and it is. Yet it’s also uncertain. Finances can be tight when traveling across the country, with the next job unexpectedly delayed. But that is where God met me. Through this experience, my faith has grown exponentially as I trust Him for my bank account balance and where He would want us to live and work next. This has become not just a journey of focusing on what’s important, but one of growing trust and faith.

But it’s not just enhanced faith we have gained. We now spend more time together than we ever did before. I work three days a week, my husband homeschools our girls, and the rest of the time it’s like we’re on vacation. We are truly able to relax and enjoy our children while they are young. We’re not stressed about schedules, as we make our own. We’re not overwhelmed by the demands of daily life, as we offloaded most of what demanded of us. I’ve discovered that many of the things that cause us stress in life are of our own making.
We’re now on a journey to pay off debt, savor our time together, and trust the Lord for our next steps in life. Sometimes you can’t hear God because of all the noise. The devil works best by distraction, and in today’s fast-paced, WiFi life, it’s not hard for him to do just that. Actually, we make it pretty easy. We fill our days with to-do’s, our homes with more stuff, and our mailbox with credit card bills. We fill our time with social media, and our mind with concerns over what other people think of us. A selfie generation on self-destruct.

It’s not for everyone, I’ll admit, but for us, we had to give up everything to gain everything back. We gave up the things that we only thought were important, like social standing, a large house filled with stuff, and the familiarity of routine (albeit a packed one). In return, we gained more time together, financial freedom, an ability to focus on what’s important in life, and a deeper trust in God.
So we deal with things now like a leaky roof and flat tires, but it’s just pros and cons, you know? I figure I’ll take a truck tire blowout over a mental breakdown any day.

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