“Do you really live out of your car?”

I remember a conversation with an eighth-grade girl just after I left the convent. I explained to her that I expected to be consecrated–that I would never be married–and that I was living rather a simple life. No car, no cell phone, that sort of thing.1 When I have conversations like this, I generally expect people to get hung up on the whole celibacy thing. But not this girl:

“You don’t have a cell phone? Like, really? No cell phone at all? I couldn’t live without my cell phone!”

I tried to draw her attention back to consecrated life, but to her the lack of cell phone was dramatically more significant than the lack of husband.

It’s been much the same in recent months. When I meet people and discuss my vocation (God willing) or my ministry, they’re interested. But then they ask where I live and all hell breaks loose.

“Right now, I’m living out of my car.”

Jaws drop, eyes bug out, and any number of questions follow:

“But really, where do you live?”
“Where’s all your stuff?”
“You sleep in your car?”
“Where do you shower?”
“Do you really live out of your car or is that some kind of speaking gimmick?”
“How did you learn to read if you don’t have a home?” (Okay, that was from a five-year-old.)

Again, I would have thought that being celibate or willingly unemployed would draw more attention. But these questions keep coming up, so I thought I’d take a minute to explain.2

Check it out: all my worldly possessions.

When I left Kansas in May, I felt as though I was being led to pack everything into the trunk of my car and give away whatever didn’t fit. (There wasn’t much–I haven’t owned a stick of furniture for three and a half years now.) At that point, I had three things planned for the rest of my life: babysitting, a wedding, and speaking at a retreat. There’s something very freeing about having a schedule that wide open.

My expectation was that I’d visit friends for a month or two and then settle down someplace in August. I wasn’t anticipating having anything much in the way of income, so I figured that God would just give me a place to live. He does tend to provide for me in rather surprising ways, so I figured that someone would ask me if I wanted to house-sit for a year. You know, pay me to live in their house. Something like that.

I was planning to settle down, though. See, I’m crazy extraverted. I mean, after working for an hour, I used to leave my classroom and wander the halls till I found someone to talk to. Ten minutes of small talk later, I was ready for another hour’s work. I’m so energized by socializing that living in other people’s space is something I often enjoy.

But I have this terrible disorder called FOMO–fear of missing out.3 So when there is fun to be had, you’d better believe that I’m out there having it. I survived my senior year of college on four hours of sleep a night rather than miss out on any of the 4am fun. Seriously, it’s a problem.

My FOMO means that when people are around, I’m not so good at taking time for anything other than socializing. Oh, I’ll get my prayer time–that’s non-negotiable. But there’s only so much work I can get done when there’s somebody around to chat with. So I figured if I’m going to write this book,4 I’ll need my own space. I’ll set a schedule, I thought, with all kinds of time for reading and prayer and naps and writing.

And so, having been called out of my well-planned life into this bizarre new endeavor of trust, I began to plan my horarium. And once again, God laughed.

I left Kansas and started my new nomad life. I stayed with my sister and my old roommate and the little girls I’ve helped raise and my best friend from high school. And it was really good.

Being a nomad felt right for the time being, so I pushed back the date I expected to settle. Instead of August, I’d travel till October. Then October approached, and I began to think I could do this until January. Now I’m not so sure that I’ll settle down at all in the next year–or even longer.

Throughout this whole thing, the Gospel passage that I’ve been given has been, “Take only a walking stick.” I like plans and stability and safety nets, but God prefers that I trust.

Beneath the image (wedged above my gear shift) are the words “Saint Clare, bless our house.”

When I’m homeless like this, I join with the disciples who went out, not knowing what welcome they would get. I learn to trust that God will take care of me, sometimes in dramatic ways. I learn to trust that friends and family and even strangers will open their homes to me. I learn to trust that I’m not a burden. I learn to trust that God will give me direction as to where to go next, that he’ll give me work to do and money for gas, that I’ll have time to blog, that my car won’t break down unless I’m taken care of.

It’s strange and it’s totally unlike me—and yet it fits me so well. I’m a missionary, an itinerant evangelist, a nomad for Christ, a crazy girl living rest stop to rest stop.

So for those of you who want the nitty gritty, here’s what it means that I “live out of my car”:

I don’t sleep in my car. Well, occasionally I take a half hour nap, but only during daylight and only in crowded parking lots where nobody would try anything. There’s trusting God and then there’s blatant imprudence–I’m not doing anything dangerous.

Everything I own is in the trunk of my car. Okay, my mattress pad and my comforter are at my sister’s house. But everything else: the dress I wear to weddings, my high school diploma, my bottle of Jordan River holy water, my Code of Canon Law–everything. This is very convenient, but it does get a little crowded. Fortunately, I have little enough stuff that I can literally fit everything into the car and have room for 3 passengers besides me.

I mostly stay with friends. I occasionally stay with friends-of-friends. So far, 25 different families have opened their homes to me. I haven’t yet stayed with strangers, but I’m sure it’ll happen. Don’t worry, it’ll be a host family arranged through a parish I’m speaking at or someone who reads my blog or the nice people I met on the plane to New Orleans. I’ll be safe.

I don’t have a permanent address. I have stuff sent to my sister’s place or to my previous address to be forwarded. But sometimes it’s time-sensitive and misses me and has to be forwarded around the country. That’s always funny.

My passenger seat is reserved for snacks.

I’ve been to (or through) 28 states in the past 4 months. And I’ve put 12,000 miles on my car. I listen to young adult fiction to stay awake (princess books!) and eat a lot of dried fruit and nuts. I try not to eat much fast food. I don’t really get bored if I’ve got books to listen to, plus I do my rosary and chaplet and meditation in the car if I’ve got a big chunk of driving to do. I’m pretty comfortable driving up to 12 hours in one shot; anything shorter than 6 is a breeze. If I get too tired, I call someone; talking on the phone re-energizes me (see above).

I guess home base is my sister’s place. I’m there more often than I’m anywhere else (three weeks over the past four and a half months, I think), and I’ll be there even more come the end of November when she adds TWINS to her already busy two-toddler house. It looks like I’m taking December off to help out, so for a month or two I’ll have a little more stability. I’ll still be living out of a suitcase, though–don’t think I’m selling out.

I’m not worried about money. People think it’s awfully irresponsible of me to quit my job and then turn down job offers. What kind of person is intentionally unemployed? But there’s nothing to worry about when you’re in God’s will. I’m trusting in God’s providence, people’s generosity, and a savings account to fall back on.

I’m not yet speaking enough to warrant being homeless. I don’t have events in every state I stop in, but maybe eventually I will. I find that there’s plenty of ministry going on even when I don’t have anything scheduled, and I’m trying to make it more intentional. I want to get a shirt that says “I’m a Catholic. Ask me a question.”5 Then I’ll wear it when I’m in public places with time to kill and voila! Instant evangelization. If anybody knows someplace awesome to get a shirt made (or wants to make it themselves), let me know.

My front bumper is basically an entomologist’s dream come true.

I only ever have a vague plan. I usually know where I’m going for the next few weeks. Then there’s some fuzzy space to be filled in before my next event. For example, I know that I’ll be driving from DC to Georgia in early November. I have one scheduled stop, but once October rolls to a close, I’ll probably have added a few other visits. Other than that, all I’ve got on the docket is Georgia in January, DC in March, and Kansas after that. I’m sure God will fill in the hazy in-between weeks.

I’m open to whatever! In September, I drove from Iowa to Texas just for a fried avocado and some football with friends–don’t think I won’t come to you. If you’ve got a youth group or RCIA or confirmation class or Bible study that you want me to come speak at, I’d love to! You don’t even really have to pay me if you can’t. Or maybe you just want me to come hang out at your house and be your new best friend or talk to your teenage daughter or homeschool your kids. I just never know what God’s going to set before me. All I know is that he’s asked me to speak—street corners or stadiums, it’s all the same to me.

Maybe I’ll spend the rest of my life as a nomad and maybe I’ll have a home next week. Maybe I’ll never be gainfully employed again and maybe I’ll settle back into a classroom in January. I’ve learned to stop making plans–well, beyond the next few weeks–and consent to follow.

As I was driving away from my most recent home back in May, I noticed a strange optical illusion that I’d never noticed before. The hot asphalt ahead of me shimmered in the sunlight and seemed to disappear. I couldn’t tell exactly where the road was; I just had to trust that it was there ahead of me. I couldn’t see exactly where it was going until I was right on top of it; but while I didn’t know what twists and turns it would take, I knew the ultimate destination.

I’m sure I’ve seen this a hundred times before, but I never once noticed it until that day, the day that I was setting out on a road I didn’t know, not knowing where it would go or how it would get there, but trusting that it would lead me to my ultimate Destination. Jesus and I had quite the little chat over that one, let me tell you!

So I mostly eat granola bars and dried fruit and crackers, I listen to a ton of audiobooks, and I’m more grateful for cruise control than I ever thought I could be. And all for the kingdom–isn’t God funny?

 

P.S. I’ll be speaking at the Omaha Theology on Tap this evening at 7:30. If you’re in the area, be sure to come by!

  1. How different from today, where all I really have are a car and a cell phone! []
  2. Maybe I’ll get a QR code that links to this post. Then when people ask me, I can show them the code and stand there checking facebook while they read it. It would certainly be more efficient…. []
  3. Katherine, Chenele, Hannah, I’m looking at you. []
  4. Did you know I’m going to write a book? On apologetics–think every apologetics post I’ve ever written but in some systematic order. It’s going to be awesome. No, I haven’t written a single page. []
  5. Props to the St. Lawrence Center at KU for the inspiration []

About Meg

I'm a Catholic, madly in love with the Lord, His Word, His Bride the Church, and especially His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. I'm committed to the Church not because I was raised this way but because the Lord has drawn my heart and convicted my reason. After 2 degrees in theology and 5 years in the classroom, I quit my 9-5 to follow Christ more literally. Since May of 2012, I've been a hobo for Christ; I live out of my car and travel the country speaking to youth and adults, giving retreats, blogging, and trying to rock the world for Jesus.
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25 Responses to “Do you really live out of your car?”

  1. Tina S. says:

    We have a guest room if you need it when you’re in GA. We’re in Marietta, exit 267. We’re not the most fun, social people but we do have a warm bed, clean bathroom, good food and plenty of granola bars 🙂

  2. angela boland says:

    If you are ever in Ohio, near Akron, my family would love to have you come and stay. Yes i have 7 kids, 21 yrs down to 8 yrs but they would love you to come and join in the crazyness of this household. I m sure you would fit right in. Anyway keep this in mind, we are always here and would be delighted for you to look us up. The kids youth group that they belong to at Sacred Heart in Wadsworth , i know would really enjoy having you come for a visit. The youth leaders are a really fun, nice young married couple , who i know would love to meet you. Its just becoming a vibrant youth group because of their exuberance and love of youth. So the offers there, hope you take it up!

    • Meg says:

      Angela, that is so kind of you–and sounds like a ton of fun! I don’t have any plans in your area yet, but if Sacred Heart wants me to come or I just find myself nearby, I’ll definitely take you up on it. Thanks!!

  3. Marilynne says:

    I’d love to meet you some time, but I live near San Diego. Maybe a good place to go in the winter. Melissa knows how to reach me.

    • Meg says:

      I’m thinking about Cali this summer. Winter would be better, but I’ll be busy with Rosie’s twins. If I’m heading your way, I’ll definitely let you know!

  4. Michael Gagnon says:

    Dibs on Meg when she comes to Atlanta!!

  5. Cindy says:

    How about Southern Maryland (St John’s Church in Hollywood) in March? We are about an hour and a half south of DC.

  6. Joe says:

    I realize that you will typically be at Andrew and Rosie’s when you are ‘here’, but you are more than welcome to stay here just for a change in scenery

  7. John Bender says:

    Love the story! Thanks so much for sharing. In a way, we are both alike in the sense that we are both totally abandoning ourselves to God so please know of my prayers for you as you continue on this great mission!

    St. Joseph’s College Seminary in Chicago is making the trip to DC for March for Life. Maybe I’ll see you there!

    God Bless!

    • Meg says:

      John, thank you–thank you for reading and commenting and especially for your prayers. Know that you’re in mine, as well. I’ll be in Atlanta for their Rally for Life during the March, but I’m sure we’ll meet at some Catholic event some day 🙂

  8. Jack says:

    Come to Kansas City, November 8-10!

    2012 Anglican Use Conference

  9. Paula says:

    You’ve got a place to stay in East Central Minnesota, Mille Lacs lake area!

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  12. James says:

    Hi there love your story. I’m from the south coast of the uk so if you ver get this far you re welcome. I was wondering if you could answer my questions….I’m currently 18 and my friends and work colleagues are beginning to plan and settle down in their lives which to me is not what I want. I have applied to a university just so I can fall back on something. But all I want from life is similar to what you want….which is whatever happens just go with the flow as you will discover so many amazing things and people who you would never find if you sign your life off. I really want to choose this life before its too late when I meet a future wife and start a family or become trapped in a job or whatever.
    How did you tell your family tht you wanted to live in this way and what other problems and sacrifices have you had to make for this life. Basically what are the cons of this lifestyle as I don’t wanna go and fall into a trap that’s wrong for me.
    Another thing is that I’m not religious but it still seems so simple to me that you just rely on spur of the moment opportunities. I always think that a day is so long! But when you go to college or a job it’s so short! Just think of all the opportunities you could encounter by simply wandering around and talking to as many people as possible.
    Much love
    James x

  13. Kendra says:

    Will you ever be coming up to the great white north (Canada)?! We could use a good speaker in our parish. 🙂

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