All or nothing. That's me. If I am passionate and excited about something, I jump in and do it without looking back. But even with my personality as it is, the journey that I am on has taken time. All of the changes in my life did not happen overnight. I took one step at a time and eventually it came to equal big changes. I thought it would be fun and encouraging to hear about everyone's journey toward simpler and/or green living. You can write your story in the comments, or write your own blog entry and just leave a comment with the link. I'll kick it off with my own story.
In 2002, I was in Barnes and Noble and came across Mothering Magazine. I was enthralled with everything they said and was excited to get home and check out their online forums. Once I got there, I was hooked. I spent hours on there researching and learning and getting excited about "natural living". This was still two years before I was pregnant with Bella...but I loved reading in the cloth diaper forum :) I knew, even then, that I would use cloth, that I wanted a midwife and homebirth, and that I loved those cool slings. Most of my reading focused on attachment parenting, and natural baby products. I continued to explore all of these things and when I had Bella, I was finally able to put my natural parenting/birth ideas into action. Once I started down that path...I became increasingly more interested in using natural beauty & cleaning products. Research led to more research...and like my friends and I always say, "it's a slippery slope!".
In the Fall of 2004, I was getting increasingly frustrated because we just couldn't afford organic meat. But, I didn't want to buy non-organic meat. So, I just stopped buying meat altogether...and that was the beginning of my vegetarianism. My initial motivator soon morphed into other things, like being appalled at the way animals were treated at factory farms, the pollution from conventional farms, the studies showing how much healthier your body was by consuming less meat. At that same time, I just happened to run into a mom at the farmer's market who had just had a homebirth, was a vegetarian and had all of the same interests as I did. We hit it off and she was kind of my vegetarian "mentor". Denise and I are still close friends today, even though we live far apart! Matt was and always has been supportive of my decision. We don't have meat at home, but he regularly eat meats when we are out. I will occasionally buy him some organic turkey breast or organic beef jerky as a treat at home. :) I'm very blessed to have a flexible husband who loves my cooking. He says as long as he's full...that's all that matters! Eventually, I went fully vegan (no eggs, dairy or any animal product)...although I am not now. And I had a short stint where I ate 100% raw food.
When I started hanging around online with vegans and vegetarians...I learned about so many other things. Most vegetarians tend to be activist minded, thinking kind of people. They are questioning the norm...making a decision to go against the flow. I started to question everything that I thought was "normal" and I made sure that what I was doing aligned with my values. My interest in living a more earth-friendly lifestyle is rooted in my faith. I believe that those who follow Jesus should be the most outspoken environmentalists there are! Christians talk so much about being good stewards of their money, their time, or their body...but being a good steward of the earth He has entrusted to us is just as important. God cannot be pleased when he sees excessive waste, excessive chemicals being poured out into the waters, and excessively nonchalant attitudes among His people. You don't have to be a radical tree hugger to take care of creation. It's just part of stewardship.
In the Summer of 2005, we were staying in a hotel for 4 weeks for business. We had a small suite that had a bedroom and a little kitchen. I realized while we were there that I was EXTREMELY HAPPY living in a smaller space. I liked knowing where Bella was at all times without searching. I liked that cleaning up only took a few minutes instead of an entire afternoon. It just clicked. Matt and I talked about that for a long time and when we returned from our trip, we decided to sell our house (that we had just purchased a few months before)...and downsize everything. We spent entire weekends cleaning out our basement, selling things on eBay and Craigslist. Slowly, we came out from under our self-imposed weight of possessions. In that time, we also had a strict budget and paid off all of our consumer debt (credit cards, cars, etc). It took one year...but by the end of that year, we had paid the debt, sold our house, and moved into a smaller apartment. It was during that time that I discovered the Compact and also many blogs that were discussing simpler/greener living. I loved the freedom I felt in giving things away, helping others, and feeling the wonderful "light" feeling that comes with getting rid of things that you don't need. The group of friends I had in Des Moines were also instrumental in my journey...so many wonderful, thoughtful mamas, encouraging each other to make slow changes.
The jobs that we had during that time (working for my family) were great for the pocketbook, but not so great for keeping sanity. We made the hard decision to resign, move to Bozeman, MT and seek out a slower pace of life. It's been a great time of reflection, rejuvenation, and searching out what God has for our lives.
Before we sold our house, we had purchased a gorgeous VW Westy and we had planned on traveling the country in it. Circumstances arose and we ended up selling it before we moved to Bozeman...but the traveling lifestyle was still calling to us. We were always talking about how we wished that we would have just done it. We decided to follow our hearts. What is the worst that could happen by pursuing our dreams? Failure? No big deal...at least we can say we tried! And in the end, we'll have no regrets.
So, here we are today. We know that God has called us to downsize once again and travel...at least for awhile. He has graciously opened doors and provided wonderful opportunities for us to share our passion about living small and sustainably and sharing our love of Christ. We have dreams of starting our own ministry in the next couple of years, recruiting other young families, and traveling around the U.S...stopping at different camps to do work projects (1-2 months at a time). Matt would love to start doing work related to his true passion, which is leading worship. We hope to incorporate that into our traveling ministry.
So, that's the story. We have taken one step at a time; sometimes they are baby steps...sometimes they are huge leaps of faith. But wherever the road leads, we know that God has our future planned, they are good plans...full of hope! :)
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -Jeremiah 29:11