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Our journey towards deciding to live in a school bus really started many years ago when it was time for Abigail to start kindergarten. Up until that point, we were living the American dream: suburban house, two cars, dual incomes, and two children. I had graduated from a public school with no real issues and then went on to teach in one. However, when it came time to put Abigail in school, deep down in my heart, I knew it was not going to be a good fit for her. At the time, I knew no one personally choosing the homeschool path and I had to convince Brian to let me try, but he yielded and Abigail stayed home. One year turned into two and then three. Over time, homeschooling became a way of life for our family. Our children thrived.
However, for many families, choosing to homeschool comes at a cost. Usually one parent must stay home to homeschool while the other works. This lowers the amount of money coming in to pay the bills. Brian has worked hard to support us over the years, but his jobs have always been in some type of sales. Although he is very good at what he does, the state of the economy greatly affects his sales from year to year. Over the years I have tried to help with finances in various ways, like many stay at home moms, but finances have been hard. We have never regretted choosing to homeschool, but often that choice has created financial challenges.
For those of you struggling to make ends meet, my heart goes out to you. We can relate. We have gone without hot water during one winter followed by no air conditioning the following summer. I have hung clothes outside on the line one entire year until we had the money to replace the broken dryer. During a season of job loss, we relied on WIC and food stamps to eat. We have prayed over our heater when it broke and prayed over the pipes when raw sewage backed up in our basement. The list of problems over the last ten years goes on and on. Life has often been hard.
For us, the final straw came this past January when Brian’s grandmother passed away. This was the fifth grandparent Brian and I had lost in about five years time. The children were excited about going to the funeral in Virginia because they were going to get to travel out of state. When you struggle to make ends meet, real vacations become non-existent. Brian and I grieved that our oldest child was three years away from leaving home with no real vacation memories to pull from other than the occasional out of town funeral or a random work trip of Brian’s that we got to tag along to.
Enough was enough. Brian once heard that the definition of crazy was doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. We had spent ten years living frugally paycheck to paycheck. We could not seem to get ahead regardless of how careful we were with our money.
We started praying for a real solution to the problem. In January, Brian stumbled upon a documentary on Amazon Prime called Expedition Happiness. It is the story of a German couple who turned a school bus into a home in the United States and traveled for a year in North America. That documentary sparked a seemingly crazy idea. What if we traded our things for experience and time with family? If the bus was self-sufficient and paid for, we could eliminate a house mortgage, utilities, and the truck payment which would allow us to give the children the travel experience that we craved and become debt free at the same time.
At that point, our prayers changed. We started asking the Lord to make it very clear what we were supposed to do. If we were not supposed to move into a school bus, we asked Him to shut all the opportunities in that direction. However, if moving into a school bus was the plan He had for our family, we asked that the Lord make the process easy.
We had a lot of mountains to overcome to make this school bus plan work, but God can move mountains. Our first mountain was finding the money to buy a school bus and turn it into a tiny house on wheels. We had no savings. We were living paycheck to paycheck. Our only asset was our house that was sitting on a prime location two blocks from Lee University. It had enough equity in it to complete the school bus project. Unfortunately, the house needed work and we did not have the money to fix it up enough to put it on the market. There also was not enough money to pay a real estate agent’s commission if one was needed to represent the buyer or the seller. Another mountain involved our family’s shelter. If we sold the house to get the money for the school bus project, where would we go? Rentals in a college town are expensive and hard to find, especially one that would accommodate a family of six and a school bus conversion project.
If our idea was to work, God had some big mountains to move. They were bigger than we could figure out on our own. Brian did two things to test the waters. He put a make me move sign on Zillow and he told three real estate agents about our potential property.
About a month later, three different buyers decided they wanted to buy our property on the same weekend. The buyers we chose gave us the amount of money we asked for in cash. They did not require us to fix anything on the house. They were real estate brokers so we did not have to pay the commission for any real estate agents. The best part is that they are allowing us to stay in our home while we convert the school bus and sell most of our things. We are renting our home back from them for very close to the amount we were paying in a monthly mortgage to the bank. God had moved in a big way! The initial very tall mountains had disappeared overnight!
God was not done giving us peace about this huge step of faith. We were supposed to close on the house April 10th. However, issues with the paperwork caused the closing date to be pushed to April 12th. I am going to be honest, closing on the house should have been extremely exciting, however, Brian and I both walked away from the closing feeling like maybe we had completely messed up. Satan often tries to place doubt in our minds when God is trying to do big things. We continued on with our day like normal. I took three of the children to a planned activity. Brian’s job was to take Gage to the skating rink for a skating party with other elementary age children from church. During the skating party, Brian was sitting down, trying to explain our school bus intentions, without sounding crazy, to someone from church that he knew. While continuing to feel very unsure of our plan, he was interrupted by another father not related to our church at all. This other father had overheard Brian’s conversation about our intentions to convert a school bus into a tiny home on wheels and asked Brian if he had seen their school bus in the parking lot. Brian responded no. The father proceeded to explain that he and his family were presently living on a school bus and had been traveling the country for years. They just happened to be passing through Cleveland, TN on that particular day and decided to stop at the skating rink to skate because they needed the exercise. Brian spent over an hour talking to this Skoolie family about their experiences living on a school bus. The father gave Brian lots of ideas on how to convert a school bus and more importantly, assured Brian that he would not regret the decision that we had made. What are the odds that Brian should run into another Skoolie family on the exact day that we needed the reassurance the most? We have not before or since had the opportunity to spend time with another Skoolie family in person. They are just not very common. God’s timing is impeccable!
What I have just told you is the very beginning of a journey that God is leading us on. It has not been easy. I am a planner. I like to know all the details before I take the first step. God does not work like that. He gives us one step and expects us to take that first step in faith. Then He gives us the next step and expects us to follow that one too. And so on and so on. He wants us to have faith in His plans for our lives.
Does God want you to move into a school bus? Maybe. Maybe not. What I do know for certain is that whether you love God or even believe that He exists, God loves you as you are and He has a plan for your life that is far better than any you can imagine if you are willing to follow Him in faith. In the Bible, it says in Jeremiah 29:11, “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.”
Keep following our story. I will keep writing it because as much as I truly hate to write, it is a story that needs to be heard. God did not abandon us when we closed on our house. We continue to convert our school bus into a home because God continues to move mountains when they begin to form in front of us. We chose the name Serenity because we are gaining so much peace through this process. When problems arise, we are learning to pray, and then sit back to watch what God does next.
Below I have included a few resources regarding prayer and hope that have encouraged me in this journey to convert a school bus. Our family wishes you the very best on your own personal journey. Dream big! C. S. Lewis once said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream another dream.” What is your dream today?
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