There’s a lyric in a song I love from Manchester Orchestra, “You made a pact with God: if you don’t move I swear I’m gonna make ya.”
It’s been a wild ride this past decade, working primarily out of empty space above a two-car garage in Vermont while doing the Philly/Vermont commute after launching Nature Calls. It involved lugging “agony art” up a steep, rickety ladder that my dad so kindly tried to repair multiple times after I repeatedly tested the weight limit before they agreed to me acquiring the lower level two-car garage as business grew and I took on larger projects. SO thankful for the chance to create different spaces in various states with a small piece of myself etched in each project, all with the intent of someone else enjoying the space (if not myself) while avoiding working the traditional 9-5. I realized while trying to fit a square peg into a round hole for years that I’m not built for that. Whether a cozy bar area in a backyard, a set on a stage, a tiny house, or a basement remodel, it can be a refuge. A refuge IS a refuge, even if just to a party of one. And I’m a big believer that whatever you do with your life, no matter the season or the calling, it has purpose. It all has value. Just do it to the best of your God-given ability.
My mom put this sign in my shop when I first started out a decade ago.
Stepping outside my comfort zone in a place that, out of the all the places around the world that I lived or visited in 40 years, felt like home, I finally found healing and began to hope and dream once again for the future after starting to tentatively trust the recovery process. And I learned a great deal about myself.
I need the sea as much as I need the mountains.
I need community as much as I need isolation.
Vermont opened my eyes wide to a variety of hard life decisions: dealing with the consequences of your actions and the impact of others’, each opportunity taken or missed, every choice you made, every path you followed, your past failures, deep fears, and where you place your hope. It brought healing and hurt. It tore down and rebuilt. It was a place of sheer joy and complete terror, a rock-bottom with the Lord that I hated immensely and often angrily voiced to him but clung to as a lifeline all at the same time. Yet at that very moment, when I couldn’t stand the sight of myself and couldn’t claw my way out even if I wanted to, I encountered an even deeper level of suffering that I never expected to experience in all of my life, no matter what I believed, questioned, or renounced. Still. He sought and found me. Me. I NEEDED to be in that place. It led to such a beautiful, stripped-down version of unconditional love and profound relationship that I had would have never known otherwise. There is deep remorse for what led to that rock bottom, but holy crap. The level of love. That LOVE in THAT place. You can’t measure that. You can’t explain it. And very few understand it, especially without judgement, no matter what you believe. But that level of brokenness and experience was worth. It. All. There is NO other love like that. All of that…just to know that kind of personal love from my Lord.
So here I am, so extremely uncomfortably raw in my new skin, wondering what the heck is next.
The tiny house movement took on a whole new meaning as I helped build my first TH while managing a larger home and renting it out successfully via AirBnB. The experiences building in VT over a decade helped me realize so much about myself, others, what I want and need, and why people downsize.
While on the tiny house job, I became a total minimalist. Donated most of my possessions, burned a lot of old stuff, regretting at least one fire, and only “attached” to a few things that I could pack up in my truck and drive away with – and that was even after selling my 5×8 trailer. In turn, it forced me to take a hard look at my co-dependency tendencies, abandonment issues, the people I had put my trust in, and why I had done so.
I also came to a quick realization that tiny homes are freaking incredible. I am hooked. I totally get why people downsize, especially after only temporarily living in a small section of the cabin for a few years. I want to be around for more things with my family. Continue to have this deep relationship with my Lord. Be present in the lives of the amazing family and friends who loved me through this season with accountability but also without casting judgement. Just simply loved.
You can have a home of any square footage, but if that home is not filled with love and laughter, you will eventually, most likely, want to downsize. At that point, you just want/need a place to dwell. A reliable roof over your head. You will live, love and laugh outside those walls. So you do what you have to do, to make a home a house that will someday be a home again — but for someone else.
Not only is the tiny house property for sale, but the cabin has been as well. It was time. I did an overhaul on the decor and design, and it’s being sold fully furnished with the hopes that someone will want the ease of moving into a minimalistic, modernly-designed home without having to deal with the headache of getting furniture that fits the style here. Been there, done that. But that means that I’ve been quasi-residing in a house that was completely emptied of personal belongings except for everything that would be sold with it, furnished with most of my remaining artwork minus my overnight bag and tools. This has been my life for over four months now as I waited for a contract to come in. It, in turn, resulted in me somehow choosing to completely check out of life. It’s been maddening, waiting on God in a vacant home.
The first deal fell through due to the buyer’s financial state, and it left me frustrated but not broken. Then the second contract just fell through last week due to a medical situation in the buyer’s family, and it left me floundering. Back on the market.
Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely loved running a BnB. It had been a dream of mine for a decade, and Airbnb made that possible on a scale that I was ok with. I have enjoyed being able to manage a space solely for couples instead of dealing with running an entire inn, even with the frustrations that came with running this “small” place alone. It has been booked solid since launching it almost two years ago and I thankful beyond words. It’s an incredibly property to live in, entertain, or rent. But it’s not my calling. I needed to move here to see that Vermont is NOT my permanent home (at least at this time in my life), to understand that the idyllic 40-year old dream was only a dream, and that reality was much different, and that it was ok. It served its purpose. Our family loved here. We made countless memories here with family and friends. We evolved here in a town that’s been part of the heartbeat of our family since the beginning. I grew up here in so many ways. I have come to Arlington for 40 years: it’s in my blood, and I’m leaving before I get to the point where it loses its magic for me. I knew I needed to say goodbye to this place for a long time now, but one of my major flaws is that I tend to hold onto things tightly when the Lord says to release. It’s time. I let go. If you don’t move, I swear I’m gonna make ya.
I’m intentionally not on social media much anymore, and keeping up with a blog seems just as self-indulgent right now, so I haven’t been on here much either. Maybe one day I’ll find a passion to write again. But with all of the flowing opinions out there and the pressure to write or post or share to gain followers for a book deal instead of just writing because you love writing and the drama that comes with having a social media presence, I’m content keeping my thoughts close and not being a part of that. So, for now, I’m living beyond the pages and posts.
Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Put down your phone. Be present. Enjoy the moment. Make it a priority to make amends if there is anything unresolved. Live in peace. Forgive, even if someone doesn’t ask for forgiveness. Say you’re sorry. Don’t hold onto things that were meant to be let go. Appreciate the seasons in nature and in relationships. Examine the toxic parts of your own soul and focus on that kind of cleanse. And then move on. Don’t be afraid to trust God. All words I’m writing because I need that reminder right now.
I’m a huge fan of the TV show “Alone” on the History Channel. My parents introduced me to it last year, and I recently finished season 2, where the winner, a former missionary who happened to be from the area I lived in for 14 years, survived for 66 days on Vancouver Island alone. As he was leaving the island, he reflected on his time there. It sums up my time in Vermont.
“I do have a love-hate relationship with this place. You get up in the morning and you confront the realities of your situation. Some days it’s great, some days it’s horrible. But suffering has value. We avoid it at all costs. We would never want to go back and repeat it but it has value. It’s a part of life and nobody gets through life without suffering, nobody.
The question is: what do you allow it to do in you. You can allow that suffering to make you bitter, angry, just a wretched person. You know, you can allow that suffering to eat away at your soul, turn it on itself and just chew you apart or you can look for the deeper meaning it.
My philosophy on suffering is that God is trying to teach me something and I know that, I know that in the end, I get to keep those lessons and the pain goes away.”