A couple of years ago I was given a gift. A gift of less.
John and I recently spent two years at The Salvation Army's Evangeline Booth College in Atlanta. We pared down our personal belongings as we moved from our old life into our on-campus apartment. And even though that itself was a 'gift of less,' there was an even greater opportunity to experience life in simplicity. It was through our summer and Christmas internships, which took us a state away for about 8 weeks each.
We traveled to those assignments in our trusty Hyundai Elantra. Butterbean and Buddy were two and one at the time and traveled in mammoth-sized car seats. So in the tiny bit of leftover square footage everything, everything we needed for that two month time period - for all four of us - had to fit in that trusty Hyundai Elantra. (And the boy still required a PackNPlay!)
We did it. Toys and favorite fun stuff to boot. And we didn't seem to miss much of what we left behind. And that was the gift of less.
The experience shook me up on the inside.
It definitely helped that we lived in a furnished apartment in those weeks that provided kitchen items, cleaning tools, etc. But even that provision was minimal. And extremely freeing. What happens when someone uses the fourth and final drinking glass? You wash the other three drinking glasses. (Which is a lot less time-consuming than loading the collection of eight into the dishwasher we have at home.) And it took 1.7 minutes to pick up the kids' toys. Yet they seemed just as entertained as when they were surrounded by a sea of plastic knobs and blinking lights.
We left Evangeline Booth College last June and moved into a lovely four-bedroom home. I started looking around at the bare walls and immediately realized I was gonna' need more stuff. But before I got around to buying 'stuff,' an F5 tornado made it's way through our town. Which made 'stuff' less meaningful once again.
Our neighborhood was spared, but seeing the destruction made me wonder what exactly I might miss if one day it was all just swept away.
I want to live in the gift of less. I feel incredibly overwhelmed by stuff - not just possessions, but among others - emails, advertisements, food, paper.
So I'm going to head in that direction. And I'll keep you posted on my progress.
I'm in the middle of an Advent series, Crowned With Kindness. Even as I was reflecting on all the fun missional adventures the kiddos and I are headed on, I realized that many of them still involve 'stuff.' Hopefully these posts on living with less will keep me focused on the fact that the season of giving doesn't have to be identified in giving the material. Only the immaterial can provide true joy and peace. Selah.
Godliness with contentment is great gain. Reason for Thanksgiving, indeed.