Yes, this is our family holiday card!
2015 was a year filled with exciting changes for the Yarber-Lee family. After much thought, we decided to spend a year doing intentional travel discernment and volunteer work in order to better prepare us to achieve our long-term goal of opening a small ecofeminist retreat and education center. So, the first half of the year was spent preparing for this endeavor. While teaching at HPU, Elizabeth also became a certified Health Coach. And while teaching at WFU, Angela became a certified Les Mills Body Flow and Body Combat Instructor. As we researched a variety of volunteer opportunities—campground hosting, Artist in Residencies, working on organic farms, leading retreats—we purchased a pop-up camper and sold our historic home in Winston-Salem. We resigned from our teaching positions, though we still keep a connection with our respective universities by teaching online. In July we took the plunge! Our home sold in less than 12 hours. We packed our belongings into storage. And we whittled down a year of clothing and supplies into a vehicle and camper!
The purpose of this year of travel is to help us better discern the next vocational steps for our little family. By volunteering in different beautiful places, we have learned, and hope to continue learning, valuable skills that will aid us in opening our retreat center, while also deepening our undergirding philosophy focused on sustainability, justice, peace, and beauty. We enjoyed the summer as campground hosts in the Green Mountain National Forest of Vermont. For almost three months, we splashed and canoed in Silver Lake, hiked along the backpacking trails, and celebrated as Riah’s language truly began to flourish as he discovered newts, groundhogs, and even the occasional black bear. It was beautiful and meaningful and challenging, though we learned to thrive without running water in the middle of the woods.
In mid-September we began the trek to the Jefferson National Forest, where we were campground hosts for the fall. Along the way, we stopped for visits with family and in DC so that Angela could give a lecture at American University. Rain and stunning fall colors awaited us in Southern Virginia, where we hiked, played, and fulfilled our volunteer responsibilities at the campground. All the while Elizabeth began teaching an online class and Angela led several retreats and had an art show in Boone, NC. Riah’s fabulous birth parents visited as we celebrated Riah’s second birthday, complete with a decorated camper, cupcakes, and a small toy train. We enjoyed the rest of the fall visiting family in Atlanta and Florida, and we ran a half marathon on Thanksgiving. Angela celebrated the publication of her sixth book in November, which became her second book to make the “Top 25 LGBTQ Christian Books of the Year” list.
Currently, we are spending the month of December making our way across the country with the camper. In early January we fly to Hawai’i for the winter. On the Big Island, we’ll function like Scholars in Residence, leading events at Hawaiian Retreat while Elizabeth also works on an organic farm and Angela teaches yoga for two months. For our final month, Angela will be the interim preacher at First Unitarian Church in Honolulu.
Riah remains silly, active, and curious. We savor this time we all have together as a family and celebrate the visits that our extended family and friends have shared with us in our various destinations. We are beyond grateful for the opportunity we have to take this year of discernment and travel. It has taught us much about wonder, gratitude, gentleness, and adventure as we have simplified and worked hard (cleaning vault toilets ain’t pretty, folks). We continue to look for properties that could become our retreat center in North Carolina and, while the future remains uncertain, we are filled with hope at what we are creating along the way.
So, thank you for the influence you have on our little family and your thoughtful contributions to the big changes we have made in our lives. As always, we are tremendously thankful for any donations to our campaign and hope you will stay connected with us through our travel blog: www.searchingforsustenance.wordpress.com. We hope that 2016 is a year filled with wonder, peace, and love for you!
With Peace and Hope during these Holy Seasons,
Angela, Elizabeth, and Riah