I’ve been tearing up when I see RVs on the road. It doesn’t matter if they’re motorhomes, fifth wheels, or trailers; I feel sad because they remind me that as of next week, we will no longer be living on the road.

When we sold our house in Connecticut over three years ago, I had no idea that the stop-gap solution for our homelessness—living in an Airstream trailer—would extend into a way of life for such a long season. I assumed that after six months (maaaybe one year?) of trying to figure out where we might live next, we’d find a house and resume life as usual. Moving every couple of years was normal for us (although living in a trailer certainly was not.) In thirty-seven years of marriage, we moved fifteen times and have had a myriad of unique living situations. We had lived in England on and off for a total of fourteen years and in Mumbai, India, for just under two. We’ve lived in (what felt like) outlier states such as Idaho (where cows have the right of way) and Alabama (where my fitness students routinely went out for doughnuts or fast food after working out. Weird. 🤷🏻‍♀️). I figured we had been through enough soul-stretching living environments that adapting to a minuscule living space on wheels would be no biggie. Or not.

To be fair, one of the most difficult parts of the whole process happened before we even hit the road. Pairing down our must-have (ahem) assets—like my extensive shoe collection and Jeff’s camera and outdoor gear—into a few tiny cupboards required herculean patience and effort.

Selecting what kitchen gear to take was also heart-wrenching; it felt like I was leaving behind a few of my kids. Kitchen Aid? No. Food Processor? Absolutely. Pizza Oven? Yesssss! Electric Coffee grinder? Sadly, no 😩. (A small hand grinder was the only thing that would fit.)

I had no idea what we would need on the road, and I worried needlessly about what clothes to take. For example, I fretted about whether I would need evening wear for special campfire outings. (That would be a no.) Thus, the black stretchy pants I selected for such an occasion barely got used. The sparkly silver stilettos, however, turned out to be an essential item for all the weddings we went to. Who knew?

As we prepared to part ways with our house and beautiful property, our belongings, our church, and our friends, I didn’t miss an opportunity to grieve my upcoming loss. Sure, we were relieved not to have a mortgage anymore since neither of us had a job, but the ending of yet another season in our lives left me feeling nostalgic. I mourned all my lasts: the last hike in our local nature park, the last trip into NYC by train, the last time sitting in our sunroom watching deer feed on our grass, the last time I led my small group, attending our last service at Trinity Church…the list goes on. It turns out there is a lot of loss that comes with each and every transition in life.

a road in the middle of a desert with mountains in the background
Photo by John Murphey on Unsplash

Grieving transitions in my life is something I have always done. I remember crying for ages when high school ended, for goodness sake. Who does this? 🙋🏻‍♀️ Ditto for every move, every time one of my kids finished the school year, and (most) times that I finished one of my graduate classes. (There were a couple of classes like Systematic Theology that I didn’t grieve but rather did a happy dance upon completion.) Truth be told, I’ve even teared up at the end of a great dinner party. Although I used to feel quite embarrassed by how emotional I get with transitions, I now relish the grieving process. Let me explain.

When we allow ourselves to slow down and focus on all the unique memories, habits, and people that we are leaving behind, we are given an opportunity to be grateful for what is now coming to a close. Leaving a job, relationship, house, or community will always be bittersweet. There will be sweet experiences to look forward to, but it’s important not to try to avoid the pain of grieving your current loss by only focusing on the potential of the future. The space “in-between” gives us a beautiful opportunity to be thankful for all the blessings of the fading season—even the difficult aspects of it. Believe me; I know a thing or two about that.

Although living on the road has provided us with the opportunity to have some of the most AH-MAZING experiences and connect with friends we haven’t seen in decades, it’s also been a painful time of dealing with job loss and the subsequent failure to find employment, dealing with the disorientation that comes with being untethered, and coming face-to-face with issues in our relationship that we had been able to avoid prior to living in 200 square feet of living space. As painful as it was to deal with my unprocessed trauma and Jeff’s avoidant attachment in tiny quarters with nowhere to hide, as I look back, I see the genius of having this long desert season. God’s perpetual invitation to come to Him with our pain, fear, and loss consistently reverberated in the thousands of miles we’ve driven across this beautiful country. I can’t help but cry with gratitude.

white ceramic mug with coffee
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Another benefit to looking back, even if it’s painful to do so, is having an opportunity to reflect on how God was working in your life even when you didn’t recognize it at the time. For me, one of those times was when I turned sixty.👇🏻

We were only four months into our Airstream adventure when tightness in my back morphed into a full-blown lower-body injury. It was terrifying to hit a milestone birthday in miserable pain. Rather than climbing some beautiful mountain to celebrate the day, I was flat on my back in the trailer, worrying whether I would ever be able to hike again. Although God provided me access to see an excellent orthopedic doctor while we were in New Mexico, the doctor’s assessment of my condition left me battling fear as well as physical pain. Life on the road doesn’t work if you can’t sit for hours in a truck or explore the local sites. It was a scary and lonely time, yet upon reflection, I realized that I would not want to change a thing. My physical weakness forced me to grow stronger in my spirit; it also heightened my overarching sense of gratitude. I learned that if you grapple with loss while wearing lenses of faith, you can’t help but feel thankful.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28)

I wonder where you are in this season of life.

It seems like almost everyone I know is in a transition of some sort. Several are moving out of state; a couple are separated or going through a divorce; some are undergoing job changes or are in the process of changing churches. Lots of friends are looking towards retirement. Some have children who are reaching milestones that will signify the end of a season; the home will become empty next. I know of one couple whose baby is days away from walking on his own; what an exciting and sad day that will be! This little guy will no longer need the hand of his parents to get from point A to point B. That’s a perfect time to pause and remember all the beautiful (but hard) experiences of caring for an infant. Perhaps it may even prompt a tear or two…

If you are in a time of transition, I encourage you to make some time to process the season you are leaving, even as you allow yourself to have fun anticipating what’s to come. I don’t want to get so busy dreaming about buying an espresso machine that I neglect to appreciate all the lessons I learned by hand-grinding my coffee beans. (I might be able to write a whole post on that process alone!) If you are not experiencing transition (just wait, you will), perhaps you might like to reflect on a previous one that you never processed. You won’t regret taking the time to do it. I know God has much to show you.

Here are a few questions to get you started: (I suggest you invite God to lead you in this process.)

  • What are the obvious joys of the last season? List as many as you can think of.

  • As you look back, what are the things you are losing that make you sad? Write them down, allowing yourself to experience the pain of this loss. Cry if tears make an appearance. (I’ve stopped to cry twice just writing this post!)

  • Take time to thank God for each of those things.

  • What has caused you pain in the last season? List as much as you can think of. Ask God to highlight what he would like you to know about the pain. Is there something you learned or benefited from despite your hardship?

  • Write a prayer of gratitude for the season that is ending. Consider reading it out loud daily, allowing yourself to feel whatever emotions pop up as you read. If you are like me, there will be lots of tears and celebration.

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