The Alternative

alternative: a chance to choose between two or more possibilities; one of the two or more possible choices.

Sometimes I forget that our little family is not normal. I forget that our life is a little on the "alternative" side...because it's just us. It's just life. But the more people I meet on the road...the more I realize just how different we are than the typical American family.

And yet, we are all so similar. Everyone longs to be free. Free from the burden of a mortgage. Free from the constraints of a nine to five job. Free from the pressure to conform. I see that longing in people's eyes and hear it in their words over and over again...and yet, comfort usually wins out. It's comfortable to be like everyone else. It's easier to give in to the pressure to live the "American Dream" because everyone else is doing it too. Everyone else is at the mall. Everyone else is buying a house and cars they can't afford. Everyone is charging it on their most recent 0% interest rate credit card. But I don't want to be like everyone else. I want to live in my own little alternative dream world. :)

Over the last couple of years, we've worked towards making our dream world a reality...and it has all come down to choices. We chose to sell our house and move to a smaller apartment so we could pay off debt faster. We chose to move West and simplify our life even more...with the goal of truly enjoying each day. We chose to go on the road full-time and explore the country while teaching others how to live green. We chose to give up the stability of a steady job in exchange for a wild journey of faith. Here are a few thoughts on the alternative parts of our life...and the variety of choices that are before us.

Employment One of the most common questions we get asked is "how do you make money?!". Most people are so accustomed to thinking about making money in the most traditional of making a living without a 9-5 job is a completely foreign and scary thought. The reason that it's so scary is that we are constantly told by the media (and sometimes our family/friends) that to be accepted, we must appear to be successful. We must own a house. We must own a new vehicle. We must have a job with a fancy title. None of these things are bad...but they really aren't necessary to have a happy life. When I started thinking about what was motivating us to have the big house, the car, the fancy job, etc...I realized that it was mostly driven by other people's expectations. So, we left the very nice steady job and now we make money doing lots of small jobs. And we couldn't be happier...because we are doing what we LOVE. Demos for the tour, photography, life coaching, handyman work, graphic design...everything adds up, and by the grace of God, we are able to pay bills and stay on the road! :) God has been so faithful throughout this journey and continues to amaze us with His provisions every day.

Housing If you browse around my blog a will quickly notice that I am WAY into alternative housing. Yurts, cob houses, earthships, tipis :) Anything that looks a little quirky and I'm all over it. So it wasn't a huge jump for us to move our entire life into a teeny box with wheels and hit the road. And we LOVE it. We love the smallness. We love having our home with us wherever the road leads. We couldn't imagine it any other way! When we do settle down again somewhere...I'll be checking one of my favorite books out from the library: Mortgage Free: Radical Strategies for Home Ownership. Love it.

Faith Relying on something other than yourself is a foreign concept in our culture. We are constantly bombarded with messages of self-sufficiency and using our own "power" to create a new reality. And while I agree that we have amazing power within...I believe that power comes from Christ. He alone gives us power to pursue those dreams and He opens doors and opportunities beyond our wildest dreams when we abide in Him. Living a life focused on Christ is not always a popular choice, but for's the only choice.

Parenting It's a crazy thing...this parenting job. We are trying to do the best that we can with the information that we have...and adding a whole bunch of love and kisses along the way :) We are a homebirthing, cloth diapering, non-vaxing, gentle disciplining, babywearing, co-sleeping, extended nursing family...whew! That's a lot of labels. :) I prefer to think of it as natural parenting. We believe that children are to be treated with respect and mercy. It's not an easy road and we're not perfect by any means...but we try to treat Bella the way we want her to treat others....with respect and kindness.

Education Another question that we get asked a lot is "...but what will you do when Bella needs to go to school?". And to that my response is "...she is already in school!". The school of life, that is :) Bella is learning new things every the last week we have learned about railroads, numbers, seasons, food, money, and more...just by living life. She is learning about the world around her in every interaction we have. She constantly asks questions and I do my best to teach her new things each day. We fall into the "unschooling" camp and it fits perfectly with our lifestyle and beliefs about how a child should learn. For some great reading on this is a great book to start with.

Food We definitely go against the flow when it comes to food...we've been vegetarian for almost 4 years and are most recently eating all raw vegan foods. We feel amazing and we're having a great time teaching others along the way!

Beauty To be considered beautiful in our culture, it might appear that one needs to be a size 2, have long flowing blonde hair, and wear designer clothing. These are all things that the fashion magazines tell us...and it's probably the most difficult thing for women especially to overcome. But for me, it's much more fun to love myself for who I am, in the clothes I found at Goodwill....with hair that doesn't have to be combed.

I love the definition above of "alternative" listed above..."a chance to choose between two or more possibilities". A "chance to choose". There is so much possibility in that phrase. What is your ultimate dream in life? Are you pursuing it? Are you taking steps each day towards that goal? Or do you just lay in bed at night and think about it? Do you think about how impossible it is? How life just isn't fair? No more thinking. JUST START NOW. Take one step. And then take another. And another. Until you are living your dream and you couldn't imagine it any other way!

God places passions and desires in our hearts for a reason. He wants us to be in the center of His will...pursuing the passions that He has placed in our hearts. Abide in Him. Listen. Dream. Take one step toward the alternative.

Photo credit: Flickr| tonystl

The Compact Revisited

When I committed to The Compact in October of 2006, I had no idea how radically it would change my life. I set out on a mission to simply stop buying new stuff...but instead the experiment changed my entire view of our consumerism-obsessed culture, marketing, wants vs. needs, giving vs. selling, the poor...the list goes on and on. While I did not complete the entire year of Compacting by my "rules"... I will be forever changed by this experience. I have blogged in the past about my journey, but here are some effects of The Compact that are still with me today:

  • I LOVE buying used. It's almost physically painful for me to buy things new/full retail cost. I could spend hours and hours at Goodwill...especially if I have a list of things I've been looking for. The thrill of the hunt is so fun. Whenever we need something, whether it be RV related, clothing, kitchen gadgets...we always turn to eBay, Craigslist, or Goodwill first before ever looking for it new. I would have to say that this ONE THING has been the biggest change for us.
  • I've become appalled at the price of things...and have started to realize the crazy profit companies make on our purchases because we are just too lazy to search out the alternative. My current pair of jeans (yes I only have one pair) were 99 cents at Goodwill. Matt found them for me in the men's section and said "here honey...these will be cute on you". I LOVE them! And now, when I go in and I'm browsing the jeans, a tag for $3.99 seems ludicrous! Ha ha! How dare they think they can charge $3.99! :) This also happens when I've been to too many garage sales...I get used to the LOW prices and it's hard to go back to eBay or consignment stores after that!
  • I started to give a lot more stuff away. I think that when you come to the realization that it's the STUFF that is bogging you down emotionally, mentally, and just want to get rid of it! So I got very good at filling boxes and going to Goodwill. Is there anything that feels better than handing over boxes of stuff that has been cluttering your home to the Goodwill attendant in the back of the store? I love it...a natural high!
  • Handmade gifts are where it's at...if it's a handmade/recycled/found object art gift, even better! I think it was during my Compacting days that I discovered Etsy. Oh my goodness. How can you not love Etsy?!
  • I am so much more sensitive to the marketing teams whose main goal is to make me feel like my current state of being is not good enough. They want me to want something. They scheme all day long on the by putting "want creators" on TV, internet, billboards, junk's rampant.
  • Because I am more sensitive to these things...I can hardly stand to set foot in a mall. The bright lights, the busyness, the insane amounts of money being exchanged. It's overload.
  • I can now walk into a Target or any other store and actually only buy what I went in for. Prior to The Compact, I almost felt like a zombie as I walked out of Target...wondering what just happened in there! Last night, we went as a family to buy a few items that we've had on our list for weeks. And it felt so good to come out with just a few things on the receipt.
  • Now that Bella is at the age where she can understand purchasing, money, wants, has become more time consuming to go into stores because I need to discuss everything with her as we go. She amazes me with her self-control though. When we walk by the $1 section in Target, she likes to stop and look, but is not thrown into a frenzy if we decide not to get something there. We talk through it and it becomes a teaching moment about consumerism, money, and priorities. We talk about whether or not we need it...does she already have something similar in the RV? And if we were to get that item, would she be willing to give something else in her toy box away to make room for it? Young minds are hungry for teaching...I try as hard as I can to teach her things that aren't in a normal school syllabus! :) Of course, it's pretty rare that we even go to Target, so I think this is the key to success. Keep children focused on the abundance they DO have...not what they don't have. Gratitude breeds contentment.
  • And oh what JOY will come if we can learn contentment! Pray for it...Christ wants to give it to you!

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:11-13 (New Living Translation)

I would LOVE to hear from all of you who have committed to The Compact at any time (and for any length of time). Let us know how you felt about it and how it has stuck with you even after you were officially "done".

Photo credit: Flickr/Creative Commons: ATIS547


The more time I spend with Jesus, the more disenchanted I am with the things of this world. I'm soaking in His words and realizing once again what He is all about. And I'm wondering. Pondering. Over and over in my head...

How can people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ live a life of EXCESS?

I don't know the answer...because there are so many more questions that go hand in hand with this:

"What IS excess?" "Is one person's excess different than another person's?" "Is living with excess ever ok?

Let's start by defining excess:

1. The state of exceeding what is normal or sufficient. 2. An amount or quantity beyond what is normal or sufficient; a surplus.

Ok. So...excess is having more than you need. But what exactly is a "need"? Is having a new living room set a need? Is having brand name clothing a need? Is having more than two pairs of jeans a need? Is having organic food a need?

See what I mean? It's very difficult to nail down exactly what a need is. Everyone defines it differently. I may look at someone and think that they are living a life of excess...but chances are, they don't see it that way. They may see it as being "blessed". Each part of the country will have a different answer. Each income bracket. Each church. Each family.

Has our definition of excess and need changed over the years? Yes. TV and advertising has radically altered our view of necessity. Your parents' and grandparents' definition of need is most likely different than yours. Go a few weeks without watching TV. Don't visit the mall. Don't read the advertisements from the Sunday paper or open "SALE!" emails in your inbox. And then....see how different those wants and needs feel. How much less "urgent" they seem.

Is excess having more than one of something? Is it having two or three or four of something? Bikes? Cars? Cell phones? Coats? Shoes? Pots and pans? Why do we have so many of these things? When there are people in the world without shelter, without food, without basic do we go on accumulating more for ourselves? It reminds me of the quote by Ghandi, "Live simply so others may live". How can we stop consuming so that we are able to provide more resources for others?

I would suggest that we figure out WHY we are running after all of these "things". Why are people working 80 hours a week to pay for a house that they are never there to enjoy? I've heard it so many times since we hit the road for the tour...people saying "I wish I could do that!". When I tell them that they COULD do it...they give me all the reasons why they couldn't. They have a big house payment.They just bought a new car with payments. They have too much credit card debt. Notice a pattern? Everything holding them back is related to money. Money they spent that they didn't have anyway. They were seduced into believing they needed these things, and now they must work endless hours to pay for it all. And now they just want a real life.

On a somewhat related note... I've often heard it said that if there weren't wealthy Christians with an excess of possessions and money, who would minister to the wealthy unbelievers? Who would be "in their crowd" to show Christ to them? What about Christians who use their abundant resources to reach the lost? Who open up their large homes for people to use? Could all of that extra money be used in a different way that is more effective in ministry? I don't know what the answer is to this. I've asked so many people this question over the years and no one gives me the same answer. My initial thought: Isn't God bigger than that? Does he not own all the resources in the world? I don't think it's necessary to "blend in" to the world to minister to the world. I think everyone could live simply and still minister to all types of people.

I read an interesting excerpt on the Youth Specialties website regarding how Christians and consumerism:

The materialism of American Christianity rests entirely in the fact that we’ve turned one single verse on its head. Paul surrenders himself with the words, "To the Jews I become like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those not having the law" (1 Cor. 9:20 NIV). When in Rome, we might say.

But American Christians are largely doing this in reverse order. Paul chose to be like the Gentiles to minister to the Gentiles. We choose to minister to the suburban middle class, because we have chosen to be like them. The average American Christian seeks to go to college, secure a career, move to the suburbs, have 2.5 kids, and then declare, "Here I am, Lord! Send me!" We, the crew, have cast out the anchor and settled down before asking the captain, "To where are we sailing?" And I imagine that Jesus feels like his call to us is like a captain trying to steer an anchored ship. In the Navy, this is called mutiny.

I just wonder. I wonder what kind of amazing, crazy adventures God would take us on if we gave Him the reigns before we TOLD him what we were doing and asked Him to come along?

Jesus makes it very clear in the following parable that having "riches" makes it more difficult, but not impossible to follow Him.

The Rich Man

16 Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher,[a] what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 “Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep[b] the commandments.”

18 “Which ones?” the man asked.

And Jesus replied: “‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. 19 Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c]

20 “I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?”

21 Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 24 I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

25 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.

26 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”

I've found this to be so true in my own life. In times where our income has been small...I rely on Jesus for EVERY LITTLE THING. I ask him to help me be wise in my grocery help me choose the right foods for the right price. When we are bringing in more money, I tend to forget about praying before I head into the store. More money feels like security. I mistakingly believe that I have provided myself with a safety net. But in reality...ALL things come from God. Nothing is ours to begin with. And if you continue on that road long enough...believing that YOU are the one who EARNED your income to buy all of your excess things, it will be harder and harder for you to rely on God for your daily needs.

I do not believe that making a good income is bad in itself. It's when people start to put their hope and trust in it...when they start to think that the world would fall in if that money went away tomorrow. The following quote by John Wesley really hits the point home:

“When I have money, I get rid of it quickly, lest it find a way into my heart.”


Jesus knew the seductive power of money...and this is why he spoke about it more than most things in the Bible.

“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 John 3:17).

“Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘who is the Lord’? Or I may become poor and steal and so dishonour the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8).

“And my God will supply all our needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Living simply and giving money away to others is a radical way to live in today's society. But are we not called to live a life set apart? A life that is different? Right now, it just seems like most people are blending in. Be different...and confront your ideas about excess.

I'd love for this to be a starting point for a discussion about these ideas...I truly have no answers here. In fact, I think I asked more questions in this post than I answered. These are ideas that are constantly in my mind...and I would love to hear your thoughts. I know there isn't one "right" answer to the question about having excess...but let's all learn from each other's experiences and insight.