“I hate living in this RV.”
I am ashamed of how many times I’ve said those words in the last six months. Once, I was the girl who cultivated contentment in any circumstances, who cheerfully made a place for herself wherever she was. And when I felt unhappy or deprived, at least I kept my complaints to myself.
Throughout my engagement, I had plenty of time to prepare for life in a smaller space, but I didn’t trouble myself much about it: after all, I’d lived in tiny dorm rooms, garage apartments, guest bedrooms, and little apartments for most of my twenties. An RV couldn’t be so very different, I thought.
Perhaps if I’d gone straight from one of those tiny garrets to the RV, I wouldn’t have minded so much. Instead, I came from a house that I loved, and my grief for that beautiful building poisoned my efforts to set up housekeeping here. Hardwood floors, nearly a century old, high windows and ancient trees — this was my “Beth-Haven” cottage, and I cherished it.
Three years ago, I was just days away from making a bid on that house, and in preparation for that enormous choice, I made a list of my “dreams of home.” These dreams included prayers of blessing, dancing, keeping Sabbaths with others, a thriving garden, practicing traditional skills and crafts with others, and celebrating holidays. God answered those prayers for Beth-Haven through the wonderful friends, neighbors, and students he brought me there.
Rather than renewing grief, reading through the list convicted me for my attitude toward our little home-on-wheels. All those dreams have been true here, too — in fact, being married to a loving, silly, wise farmer-man, I’ve done a great deal more dancing and gardening than I ever did in Alabama.
God gave me the home I prayed for three years ago. In truth, he’s enlarged it, first by giving me a husband, and then by settling us here at the Community First! Village. However, I let our RV become an emblem for all that frightened me in this new life: my fears of instability, my anxiety about the future of my vocation, about my family’s judgement of my decision, about the ability of Steven and me to live into a common work and calling, and even the inevitable loneliness and bewilderment of coming to a new city.
That sour symbolism has made me blind to so much that is good and beautiful, not just at the Village, but within our very walls. I’ve missed what a light-filled place it is, full of windows, with high, bright ceiling to give a sense of space and rest. I’ve ignored the happy rug, the snug armchair, and the many household gifts we received for our wedding. I’ve missed the ingenious cupboards and clever nooks, the open floor plan that makes it possible to cook and talk with guests at the same time. I’ve failed to give thanks for the screen door and the ash juniper that fills our western windows, for the pretty floors and the amazing bed — so deep and soft I sleep well every night.
This RV is my home: in it I’ve spent the first months of my marriage; I’ve celebrated Saint Nicholas Day with friends and neighbors; I’ve had friends come to tea; I’ve sewn church vestments and woven kitchen towels; I’ve written stories and read holy words; I’ve prayed in the morning and danced in the afternoon. I’ve cooked so many meals with food from our garden, meat from nearby farms. I’ve sung along to Johnny Cash’s hymns, looked up to see my husband grinning at me and singing along. From this place, I’ve walked to worship and work with the others God has called here. In these rooms, I’ve dreamed of herbs and flowers, of children, and students, and building a long, fruitful life.
As it so often happens, love, and patience, and beauty are teaching me to repent. I have said that I hate living in this RV, but I was lying to myself and slandering what God has provided. For He has given, as he always does, a home.