When I first felt God speaking to me about this journey of simplicity, I felt that he was posing one clear challenge. It was probably the one thing that made me the most nervous about going down this road. It was something that would make this choice of simplicity quite noticeable on a daily basis. The challenge was this: to become a one-car family.
I was afraid to even think of what this would mean for our the four of us. More honestly, I was afraid of what it would mean for me. We had just one car for the first two years after we moved back up to Duluth. Ella was a year old and I wasn’t doing a whole lot outside the house. If Pete was working and I needed the car, I would plop Ella in her car seat and drive Pete the five whole minutes to his hospital. But life doesn’t look like that anymore. Ella has school every day, Sam has appointments, Pete works 30 minutes from home, and I sometimes need to get out just to have a break from being home. I was concerned that this change would leave me feeling trapped and alone. I tried to figure out how I could get around this part of the simplicity plan.
I really did try, but every time I prayed about it, I felt God was clearly leading us to just one vehicle. That meant we would need to sell Pete’s Jeep, affectionately known in our family as Charlie. For a few days, I thought maybe we could lend her to a friend for these six months or just park her in the garage. That way, we’d be able to use her again as soon as the six months passed, or if we really, really needed her, she’d be available. But again, that was not what God was leading us to. He made it clear through strong feelings in both my heart and Pete’s, that we were supposed to actually sell Pete’s Jeep. This was mid-December, the week after God woke me in the night and put this plan of simplicity in front of me. Though we had decided to sell her, I found relief in knowing we would still have a month before beginning our six-months of simplicity. That would give me time to mentally prepare for one vehicle. Except that’s not the way it happened.
It didn’t take long at all for us to know who we would ask first about purchasing Pete’s Jeep. We had originally spoken to him about using the Jeep while we’re in Kenya, so Pete called to ask if he’d think and pray about buying it for a good price. Pete worked out the details with him and just a couple days later, he came by for Charlie. So much for the time I thought I had to mentally prepare! Suddenly, we were down to one vehicle. Looking back, I think this was best for me. God knew I would try to have complete control over the situation and plan out every detail before selling her if we had her any longer. This way, I needed to trust in His timing and control rather than my own.
Two months after saying goodbye to Charlie, I can tell you that it has not been the struggle I thought it would be. Not at all. We’ve been able to manage getting to appointments and meetings and play dates without much trouble. A few times, we’ve taken Pete to work so I could have the car during his shift. That’s an hour drive, round trip, but we’ve discovered it’s really great family time. Ella thinks it’s exciting to take Daddy to the hospital. It has also given me the opportunity to listen to a couple audio books while the kids watch a quiet video in the back. I’ve gotten better at scheduling play dates at our house or having phone meetings instead of driving to a coffee shop or the church to meet face-to-face with someone. Living in town, public transportation is a bit of an option. We live walking distance from the bus line on a warm day. This morning I took a cab. I needed to get to a meeting downtown at the same time that Pete was taking the kids up to the med school for a lunch talk on international medicine. Once it warms up, I’ll be able to walk to the bus stop with the kids or bike more often, but today the windchill is -25, so a cab was the best option. When I went out of town with the kids at Christmas but Pete still needed to get to work, he rented a small car. These options do cost money, but they all equal far less than insurance and the cost of gas for a Jeep Wrangler.
These two months have certainly taught us to plan ahead. I can’t usually just run to the grocery store at a moment’s notice and we need to plan for days when Pete and I both need to be places. That takes a bit of communication. Ella knows she can’t dawdle in the morning and miss the bus or she won’t get to go to school if we don’t have the car. We’ve all had to learn to be flexible. Two months in. So far, so good.
THE STORY OF CHARLIE
Charlie came into our family the week after Sammy was born. We had been planning on going from one car to two, and Pete had spent a lot of time searching online and calling dealers all over the country before his arrival. After we met our Samuel, Pete and I both needed to adjust to his unexpected diagnosis. I’ve written before that this time of adjustment is incredibly important and shouldn’t be glossed over or ignored. Fortunately, this was something we both recognized early on. We knew that Sam would be in the NICU for a while and Pete had found a Jeep he liked at a dealership in North Carolina. I knew the time away would be healthy for him, so we agreed that a quick flight out and the drive back would be good for him. He arranged the trip with a buddy and the two went to get Charlie.
Pete spent lots of time adventuring with that Jeep – rock crawling up on the Iron Range, rescuing cars from the depths of snow-filled ditches, trekking through the flood waters of 2012 to close the clinic (just weeks after Charlie arrived in Duluth). We took the doors and top off for summer date nights and, when Sam was big enough, the four of us went on family rides together. We had a fantastic two-and-a-half years with Charlie!
To read other posts about our journey of simplicity, click here.