Day 2: The Yurt

31 Stories of Faith Adventures

Day 2:  The Yurt - My zaniest faith adventure

At the end of 2009, My husband James and I had sold our house, and we were dreaming of what to do next.  We had researched straw-bale homes, and we thought it was something we might could do in the future.  We didn’t have the capital to build one.  James works in the ministry, and I am a homeschool mom.  We didn’t have much at all.  We were trying to figure out how we could live simply and cheaply so that we could save and work on building a home that would eventually be debt-free.  It was a hard plan, and we knew God was calling us to try something hard.  I’m not ashamed to say that we never made it to the end of our plan, because I am proud that we even attempted such a wild thing in the first place.  

Let me explain what a yurt is.  It is a round heavy canvas tent that is insulated and supported by beams and lattice.  It has a glass dome at the top of the roof.  Ours had a insulated platform that it sat on.  I’m a visual learner.  If I had never seen one, no amount of describing it would allow me to picture it, so the first time James mentioned it, I said, “Absolutely not.”  I was picturing something on the ground and a lot of ducking of heads.  Neither ended up being true of our yurt.  

Most women I know would use a hotel stay in their definition of camping.  I’m not like that.  Don’t hate me for it.  I was a Girl scout.  I like camping.  

For three months James worked hard on getting our yurt set up.  He built the insulated platform, ran electricity, built a loft that would serve as the kids room, and plumbed a bathroom and laundry room under the loft. 

We moved in at the beginning of summer.  We had built it on some land that my in-laws owned about 15 miles north of town.  I loved that the kids had room to run around.  There were plenty of places to explore.  They rode bikes, found bugs, played and played.

There were so many times that we hit rough patches though.  The first was when the roof blew off.  I’m not even exaggerating.  We had just moved all of our stuff in a week before.  James called me and said, “Don’t come home.”

It turns out that the company who sewed our yurt had glued the roof but never stitched it.  It wasn’t apparent when we raised our yurt, and it had been up for weeks.  James called them, they put a rush on getting us a new canvas roof.

Something about having all of your earthly possessions exposed under God’s sky does something to your brain.  You begin to question whether or not you actually believe all of the things you’ve said you believe like “store up your treasures in Heaven” and “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.”

I cried really hard that night.  Looking back, I am so ashamed of how much a morned over physical possessions, and I am so thankful that God changed my heart.

Meanwhile, my dad, who was never excited about his daughter and grandkids moving into a yurt, was headed to town for a friend’s funeral.  Not having a roof made it impossible to reassure my dad about our living situation.

Since my dad was there anyway, we decided that the kids and I would go to my parents’ house in Houston for a visit.

One week later, our roof was fixed, James came to Houston to pick us up, and we had a restart at yurt living.

As we settled in, malfunctions became part of our daily life.  If it wasn’t the air conditioner breaking, it was the well pump or the toilet or the heater.  We had so many of those types of interruptions, I guarantee I couldn’t name them all.

The most difficult thing about yurt living was not having a real kitchen.  We had an airstream trailer with a small oven and stove top.  It was so hard to keep things clean and have space to prepare meals.  The majority of the meals I cooked were on a plug in appliance, rice cookers, crock pot, George Foreman grill, or griddle.  Washing dishes was difficult too.  The small RV sink didn’t really fit our big dishes, and washing things in the bathroom felt fundamentally wrong to me.

At the end of that summer, I found out that we were going to have our baby Gabe.  It was a complete surprise.  Lucy was 11 and Andrew was 6.  We were really in shock.  How was I suppose to have a baby in a yurt?  This wasn’t part of our plan.  I immediately Googled “yurt baby.”  This wilderness power couple was really the only hit.  They were environmentalist living in a yurt in Alaska.  They had a 6 month old baby that they had named after a mountain.  They had pictures of this baby boy out on snow trekking trips.  Pictures of him going down an Alaskan river in a kayak.  Pictures of him getting a diaper change in the snowy forest.  If mountain yurt baby’s family could do it, so could we.  We started setting up a bassinet and bought gDiapers.  (You wouldn’t expect a yurt baby to use disposable, would you?)

I even announced that I was pregnant by putting this on FaceBook:  “Guess I’m going to need one of these.”

We really tried, but when Gabe was two weeks old, I found myself sitting in front of a box fan, shooing away flies, on the phone asking James to find a realtor.

We found a great realtor, and bought a house.  My biggest criteria was that the house would be easy to resale.  There were two reasons for that, you might know that 2008 had been a tiny bit of a rough patch for the real estate market.  Those news stories had made me very cautious.  The other reason we wanted a resalable house was that my husband and I had newborn brain, I didn’t really trust our decision making.  We just needed a landing spot for a few years, preferably one that didn’t need AC, water, or really any kind of repairs.  We were burnt out on that jazz.

We had moved into the yurt in June of 2009, and we moved out June of 2010.

Giving up our yurt was really hard.  I hated admitting defeat.  I hate to lose.  I hate to give up.

But so many good lessons came from our year in the yurt.  My husband says that it was good for our marriage.  He said after I had moved into a yurt with him, he knew I would be up for anything and that I really trusted him.  It was true.

It was good for my patience.  The almost daily frustrations of things breaking, the long peaceful drive to get home or go anywhere, the new appreciation for simplicity all slowed me down and changed my perspective.

It was good for my global perspective.  I had a new appreciation for women who live in third world countries.  I was straight up glamping, and it wasn’t easy.

It built my faith in too many ways to number.  Living a normal American life, we were more dependent on brick, mortar, and dollars than we ever were on God.  Every stormy night was like living on a sailboat upon the sea where we were depending on God to calm the waters.  We live in one of the windiest parts of our country, and when the winds blew, and they often did, it moved the whole structure, walls, roof, and all.

We were in God’s hands, and now I realize we always living in God’s hands, out of our control.

I have this memory of this beautiful winter night that is my favorite yurt memory.  It was cold, and I had been at a meeting.  Driving up to our yurt, everything was so peaceful.  James, Lucy, and Andrew were huddled on the couch reading books.  Walking into the yurt with nature within earshot, seeing my family living and loving each other so simply was just beautiful.

That year in the yurt was an opportunity for our family to live a moment like Peter stepping out on the water.

And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
— Matthew 14:28-33 ESV

Peter sank, he failed.  But that wasn’t the end of his story.  Thankfully the yurt was part of my story, but not the end of my story either.  We don’t have to be afraid of stepping out.  We don’t have to be afraid of failing.  We only have to be afraid of not trusting God.



I love music, and a fun thing I like to do is include a song with each blog post.  This song is forever the yurt song for me.