Recently, we moved across the country, from the majestic mountains of Oregon to the green valleys of Tennessee. While many families cringe at the idea of a road trip, desperately relying on television and every distraction possible in order to maintain the silence and mood on the road, we actually enjoy the solitude, somewhat frequent change of scenery, obvious differing practices of growing food and keeping animals, and generally relish our time and adventure together.
However, this road trip was a bit different, being that it was our third cross country move in less than two years. Our lives, ordinarily very calm and consistent, were being uprooted.
Uprooted: the state in which we felt like we had been living for some time, although our outward circumstances did not exemplify it. The majority of our lives had been spent in the heart of the city, in Phoenix, Arizona. We attended the same church for over ten years, had our first three children in the same home and my husband worked a wonderful job which, by the grace of God, offered increasing responsibility and advancement.
We often daydreamed of moving out of the city to the desert, caring for land and animals and growing our own food. Yes, in the desert, while raising our children in a environment where they could roam in nature and be uninhibited by the daily rush and fast pace of concrete laden city life. We longed to place them within the seasons of the desert, a place where they could rise to the sun on one side of the horizon, and wonder at warm colors filling the mountainous horizon in the evening, amongst the slowly appearing starlight.
This dream became a reality in the summer of 2010. My husband was offered a promotion and new position, which gave us the opportunity to move North of the city into the desert solitude. While we longed for acreage, the reality of affording much of it was another question. So, a few weeks after our third child, Ruth, was born, we packed up a U-Haul, said goodbye to our sweet home, and 6000 square foot city lot, and said hello to an amazing adobe abode on… an acre and a quarter. We were beyond thankful. I was in love with the kitchen: my double wall ovens, and palatial counter space. By the grace of God, we slowly settled in.
As all things in life tend to have benefits and drawbacks, we quickly discovered what they were in our new life circumstances. Homeschooling, somewhat Charlotte Mason style, was incredible with abundant nature at our doorstep. We spent many days in discovery: picnicking in the shady courtyard while observing large desert ants carrying away our crumbs; finding a tarantula in our playhouse; watching the buds on the saguaro slowly emerge, peek out, and then miraculously blossom; observing the moods of the paint and mini horses across the wash, hearing the “whoo” of an owl and then finding his eyes gleaming into ours, smelling the creosote amidst the desert air on a wet day; to be honest, the list could go on and on — our days were blessed.
However, one important thing was missing: Dad. My husband found himself gone from 7:30 in the morning till after 5:30 most evenings. While this may be normal for many families, it was not normal for our family.
I would like to say that I bemoaned the reality of our situation, but I did not. Initially, that is. I thought this was the lot before our family. After all, it was the American lot of the hardworking, providing father to be at the office for many hours a day in order to provide a good home, company health insurance, retirement, and a steady income for his family. At a relatively early age, we had achieved the American dream. Now was our time to enjoy it. Or so we thought.
Outwardly, we were living in all of the comforts and luxuries of this dream. Inwardly, we were not. Many famous phrases began flooding my thoughts, particularly: “Be careful of what you wish for or you just might get it” or “the grass is always greener on the other side”. The repercussions of having dad gone for so long during the day meant me doing my part-time online work later into the evening. It meant less time for us as a family in the afternoons to water the garden together, go for a walk, or just enjoy the kids playing with the animals while we partook of adult conversation.
Our dream was slowly becoming one that we longed to wake up from.
Though my husband had little free time aside from work, he was committed to keeping a garden — and a wonderful one I might add. We lived in the desert, but still wanted to do our best to grow sustainably in such a dry climate. During my husband’s fall break (a perk of working under a school calendar) we planned a farm visit to pick pumpkins and corn, etc… Ironically, in the desert, the farm visit was rained out. By the providence of God, we found another farm to visit the next day, a small farm of a family who left the city in order to live a sustainable, slower life.
We arrived, three kids in tow, the quintessential picture of city folk entering a world they dreamed of living. Our arrival was welcomed in the warmest possible way. Our children spent the day on that farm: milking goats, riding a horse, scooping manure to add to a garden, feeding animals, and exploring in the workings of a CSA garden. We ate fresh food, and for the first time, sipped on milk only minutes old. We left refreshed, tired, and silent.
While the kids napped on the way home, my husband and I sat inches apart, but said few words, muted by the realization of what we truly wanted for our family — a life not normal, not following the schedules of the standardized working world, but rather adhering to the clock of nature and togetherness. The reality of our situation, though, was stifling. We had a family and three children; yet we lacked the liquid means to pack up and start something from nothing, and something that we knew little about. How could we balance reality with our desires?
Well, we did not do a good job, at first. We fought. I fought the desire to avoid abandoning all the earthly comforts and extravagances that surrounded me, as I knew a change in the way of living would force me to give up, sad to say, my very nice kitchen and serene desert setting. My husband fought the desire to want to provide for his family with benefits, good insurance, and so on, in order to get his hands off of an office desk and into the dirt, providing for his family by the work of his own labor.
We fought the desire to be together, to raise and educate our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. We fought the idea of what was “normal”, and all of the perils that would follow if we abandoned everything for which we worked so hard. Plain and simple, we fought ourselves, we fought each other, and we both cried out to our Lord, confused and uncertain.
All we had worked for had become a reality, or so we thought — but it was not the reality that we had hoped it would be and our convictions could not allow us to maintain this American dream.