The Great Exchange

It was December 18, 2016.

A seemingly random parable came to my mind as I awoke on the 40th morning of a 40-day fast.

Now I’m not a huge fan of fasting because I really love food, but when it comes to needing answers to some of life’s biggest questions, I know it’s better to ask for those answers from the source of all wisdom and understanding than it is to try and come up with something on my own.

The parable I woke up with that morning is about a young man who discovered there was a pearl of great price buried in a field. He sold everything he had and with great joy, he bought the field.

It was a funny thing to come to my mind after 40 days of looking for an answer to two key questions I had been asking God:

#1. What should we do for school for our oldest child with special needs.

#2. How do I encourage and help my husband pursue his dream to help bring unity to America.

Neither of these questions seemingly have much to do with pearls or fields. But then I was taken back to a conversation I had had years earlier, with a couple who owned a tech company in Knoxville, TN. I was recalling how they homeschooled their kids and when they came to the section on European history, they flew to Europe, rented an RV and engaged their curriculum with all 5 senses. It was a profound shift in my understanding at the time of what it means to “learn” something.

A great Rabbi once said, “To experience is to learn. And apart from experience, we have only information and theories.”

I can testify to the truth of that statement myself, having been pulled out of school at the tender age of 13, for a month of European travel with my grandparents, one of them being a PhD in history. It was like a mini foreign exchange study abroad program. My only assignment while I was gone was to keep a journal, which I still have to this day. And as you can imagine, I learned more in that month than I did the entire rest of that formative year in my academic development.

Back in my bedroom, these thoughts and memories now rattling around in my head, the revelation came in the form of a question…

What if we sold our house, bought an RV and drove around to all 50 states? Then we could experientially teach our children and learn with all 5 senses about this country, and we could talk to real people, hear real stories and learn about the real root causes of division in America?

As I pondered the insanity of this proposition as it were, I knew it was the answer to 40 days of prayer and fasting.

And then I heard a familiar voice speak to me. He said in a tone so wise, so loving and so inviting, “Sell everything and buy the field.”

I lay there staring at the ceiling of my five bedroom Dallas home, tears streaming down my face, knowing I had my answer. It wasn’t an easy answer but somehow I knew had said yes to it before my mind had a chance to turn it down.

I’m writing this as I sit by a crystal clear lake in Wyoming because we did sell everything and we bought the proverbial field with joy, and if I’m honest with quite a bit of trepidation mixed in. But I could not see then what I can clearly see now.

We traded every part of our privilege that can be traded in exchange for understanding the structures upon which that privilege was built.

When we said yes to this adventure, we didn’t know anything about how we have been advantaged in our whiteness. We didn’t know how much the world in which we lived was tipped in our favor, advantage placed squarely in our hands at every turn so we could do something great with our hard work. And we traded it in to understand something we didn’t even know existed. We didn’t know what we were saying yes to.

We have ten states left before this 50 state tour is complete. And as we often say, we may be penniless and homeless when we arrive back in Texas, but we will be the wealthiest people we know in the things that really matter.

We will have a story, an experience that cannot be stolen. It will not rust or decay or become obsolete, because it is made of eternal stuff. We have people we now carry in our hearts, stories that have rearranged everything inside of us, and revelation about the root causes of division in America that you can’t learn from a book.

And so I have come full circle to say what that wise Rabbi expressed is true. To experience is to learn. To encounter is to know. It is indeed a pearl of very great price.

– EL

  • Susan Neibel says:

    Tears streaming down my face, too, from reading this. Thank you for saying “yes.”

  • Ross Collier says:

    I don’t know how else to get this message to you, so I’m posting it here. Given your mission, I wonder if you’d be interested in seeing if you could speak with any of the principals involved in forging what has come to be known as the ‘Utah Compromise’ while you’re in Salt Lake City. It’s piece of legislation that provided a balance between LGTBQ and religious liberty protections that was acceptable to the parties involved. It’s from 2015. Here are two news articles on it:

    I personally don’t know those involved in the “weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations”, but if you’d like I can try to help you find contact information. Just email me.


    SLC, Utah

  • Gwen Westerman says:

    It is quite the revelation. Sending more love your way as you continue your journey.

  • Karen Olsen says:

    I agree – thank you for saying yes and just as important – thank you for sharing what you are learning. It has given us some incite into issues that we don’t understand.

  • Steven Robello says:

    I think it is absolutely beautiful that you listened to your inner voice. The inner voice that has all the answers, but so few of us harness the depth that it has to share. The journey that you are experiencing is extremely profound. May you continue to be blessed with experiences beyond your wildest imagination.

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