Broken down, sifting through boxes that had been packed, making decisions on what to keep and what to donate, headed to an off-grid cabin I begin to think to myself, “Did I just step back in time?”
Years ago, when we first moved to our little cabin in the woods I found myself relating to the pioneers as a result of no electricity, having to haul water, and just the simpler lifestyle. Today, I was having a whole different understanding – one that I didn’t particularly want or ask to understand. We were on a journey to move from Mexico back to our home state of Washington. After a month of planning and packing, and goodbyes had been said, we were finally on the road.
It was late at night, and we made a stop north of Los Angeles to stretch our legs and use the restroom. We had taken all three of our vehicles and a utility trailer with us. Mark and I were in one car, Storm and her dog, Koda, were in the big truck, and our daughter, Sarah, and her husband were in our little Nissan truck. After our restroom break we were all set. “Head ’em up, move ’em out!” My husband called out. We began to pull forward when we noticed the Nissan not moving. We had walkie talkies in each vehicle as a way of communicating. Suddenly we heard Cole over the speaker say the truck wasn’t starting. No big deal. We have had that happen in the past and even had a few mechanics look at the problem and thought the last mechanic had fixed it. After a few more tries – still nothing. We even tried to push start it as its a manual transmission. Still no luck. We were definitely stuck. After trying to push start the truck it ended up at the far end of the Walmart parking lot where we parked it and we all gathered around going over our options.
We finally decided to go to an auto parts store and buy an inexpensive part that we thought may fix the problem. Mark and I left to search out this store, in an unknown area, at 10:00 at night. What parts store is open that late at night? Thank goodness we found one. (Is this the city that never sleeps?) Our other travelers were left behind to watch over the vehicles and our belongings. When we arrived back at the broken down truck, we were all hopeful that this $18.99 part would fix our problem and we would be on our way north. We all prayed before we put the new part in. My husband easily took out the old relay switch and put the new one in (in the past this had fixed the problem). We all kept our fingers crossed. Cole jumped into the driver’s seat to try and start the little truck…nothing. The engine didn’t turn over. Nada.
With deflated hopes we gathered around again and began to discuss more options. This truck was full of our things. Even if we had the truck towed to a junk yard, what would we do with all of our belongings? We thought maybe getting a U Haul trailer would be the best option, so we sought out the cost of renting one. Whoa, too much money! Another option was getting a motel room, finding a mechanic in the morning, and seeing how much it would cost to fix the Nissan. If they had the part and could fix it that would put us a day or two behind our schedule. More ideas were discussed. When finally my husband said, “I’m going to call our Pastor in Mexico and see if he wants the truck.” We all agreed that was a viable option. We knew it was probably an easy fix and it could be a blessing to anyone if they could just get it started. The phone call was made and things were talked about. It was all set. Some men would be by in the morning to come pick it up.
Now we had a truckload of things deal with. What should we keep and what should be donated? Our other two vehicles and our utility trailer were packed pretty tight, so we didn’t have much room to add more things inside of them. By then it was about midnight and we were sifting through boxes, bags, and vehicles to try to decide what to keep or toss. I was exhausted. Moving is never fun and I just wanted to rest. Rest wasn’t an option right now, so we pressed on. Looking inside boxes I had tea cups, curriculum that I had used to teach not only my own children, but the students in Mexico, shoes, clothes, pots and pans, etc. One by one deciding to get rid of what was not a necessity, I began to think to myself, “Is this a taste of what it was like for those families traveling on the prairie?” We hear stories of how things were left behind – boxes of books, sewing machines, pianos, family heirlooms that had to be tossed to the side because it was too much weight for the rocky hills.
I began to cry silently to myself, thinking its dark, no one will see me. When a moment later my daughter, Sarah, put her arms around me and just stood next to me. No words were spoken. She just rested her arm around me with her hand on my shoulder and everything stopped at that moment. I knew it would be okay. Its just stuff. It can be replaced. How many times have I started over in my life leaving behind everything to start something new? For me, many times. I looked around and saw my family – all willing to help, willing to get rid of their things as well. It wasn’t just my stuff that had to be left behind. Storm left things. Mark left things. They were so willing to make the sacrifice with a joyful heart. God. My family. I love them and they are what’s truly important to me.
Realizing all of these “things” will one day burn made the decision making process much easier. I began willingly getting rid of the things that I thought meant so much to me. Cole and Mark worked hard that night and unpacked and repacked the cars and when it was all finished we were able to fit what we “needed” into the two vehicles and trailer. When it was all said and done, I thought, “Wow. We could have saved ourselves a whole lot of packing if we would have donated this stuff in Mexico.”
My heart has always loved stories about the Oregon Trail. After living in the mountains in a hunter’s cabin I feel even more drawn to the pioneers that settled in the West. Now, more than ever, I have a heart for those men and women who made sacrifices in hopes of making a better life for their family. Many suffered and died along the way. I have no doubt the survivors learned lessons that stuck with them their whole life. My hope is that I will not forget those hard lessons that I have had to learn in life. Today my lesson is not taking for granted each day that I have with my family. I want to keep loving on them, keeping the relationships growing and maturing into something beautiful because soon some of our family members won’t be around. Cole and Sarah will be flying back to Mexico and I don’t know when I will see them again. Our parents are getting older and I need to spend as much time as I can with them. They have wisdom and insight that I want to glean from them. What is truly important? Time. You can’t get one second back. Make it count. Love the one in front of you!
A verse that kept coming back to me is Matthew 6:19-24 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Father, thank you for your goodness. Please forgive me when I doubt and things don’t go the way I had planned. I know that all things work together for good for those that are in you. When things get difficult and trials come, I know that you are working toward something greater than I could ever imagine. I pray that I will always trust and rest in you. Amen.
Below is a link to a song that I love called Pioneer by Nancy Honeytree. I came across it years ago just before we moved to our cabin. It helped me when loneliness and doubt crept in our first year of living off-grid. I thought it was fitting for this blog post.
Nancy Honeytree song Pioneer