Little by little, I have been moving into our new home. Slowly clearing out this space, and filling up another. It has been a smooth transition so far, and considering the amount of experience Nick and I have at moving, it should be. For instance, the time we hired strangers outside of the Home Depot on Sunset Boulevard to pack our things, we learned a very valuable lesson: Don't hire strangers outside of the Home Depot on Sunset Boulevard to pack your things. Don't get me wrong, they were hard workers. And I was pregnant with two toddlers. And I had a broken toe. And we were rushing to get out, and totally overwhelmed, and I threw all organization out the window and focused on simply getting every item in the house in a box and into the truck. The workers were polite, and did what they were asked. I was just not a fan of the fact that they packed chicken cutlets in the box with a Christmas tree stand, nursing bra, and kitten hand puppet wash cloth. Had I known they had packed actual chicken cutlets, in the box marked "Christmas tree stand" I might have opened that box first, rather than waiting for Christmas.
This move feels different on so many levels. First of all, I am not making any chicken cutlets. Just to be safe. But I am also not feeling the need to bring everything I own. This house of ours? We have lived here just about five years, and the amount of stuff we have managed to fill closets, drawers, and cabinets with is astonishing. There is just too much.
Which is funny, or ironic, or whatever you may call it...because I do not consider my family as a family that has too much, but rather, as a family that struggles to meet our basic needs. And yet, as I fill trash bags and boxes and make countless trips to the dump and Good will, it is undeniable that for even this family who lives pay check to pay check, we are living a life of horrible excess. And I want to lose it. I want to rid us of it all.
As I sit on my closet floor and sift through papers and art work, old letters and photos, it has become apparent that there are things I hold onto that I can certainly live without. Things and clothes and souvenirs that are dust covered and out of date, but still hang and take up space because of some emotional attachment, as if my throwing them away means I lose that memory, a piece of myself. As I held in my hands the Spiderman backpack that my son innocently wore to first grade, the day of the terrible tragedy that happened at his elementary school, a rush of grief and horror, sadness and pain washed over me. The thought of throwing this back pack away took just that...thought. And why?? What would holding onto this item do for me, other than focus on the terror of that day? Certainly, my throwing it away will never cause me to lose the memory. Things attached to circumstances are nothing other than things. If I lost my wedding rings, would I not still love my husband? Would I cease from being his wife? Of course not. It is not about what I store in my closet, but what I store in the depths of my very soul. And how beautiful and efficient the God made heart is! It is large enough to store everything we need, and yet light enough to bring it with us everywhere we go.
I have approached this cleaning out method in this way: Can I live without this item? More specifically, can I live freely by holding onto this item? Because I believe we hold onto a lot of things we think we need to live, that in truth, are holding us back and keeping us from moving on and living as we should. In many ways, I have hoarded material memories, believing they were an anchor, a way for me to hold onto the past.
Of course, there are those memories that are bitter sweet. The things you discover at the bottom of the crate that cause your heart to skip a beat, and your eyes to well up. The hand writing of a loved one who has gone home to Jesus. The photo of the grandfather, with his arms wrapped around a much younger you. These are keepers. These are the things that absolutely must be packed up and moved along with you. These are the mementos that take you back to that time for a brief moment, fill your heart up, and then send you along, back on the path you are meant for. These are also the things that when I am gone, are worthy of my children stumbling upon. If you are ever unsure about whether or not you should hold onto something from your past, ask yourself, "Is this something I want people to find, discover, read or see, when I am no longer here?" What you hold onto now is the trail you will leave for your loved ones. When I think this way, it is amazing to see how my vision changes.
I love our new home. It is an antique with a great story, on beautiful acres of land that I fully intend on filling with many of Gods creatures. There is a pond for fishing and a greenhouse for me to do all of that gardening that I admit I have never done. I have big ideas and beautiful plans for what a life in this new space looks like. I have imagined garden parties under twinkling lanterns, and kids around the fire pit, my parents sitting in the quiet surrounded by roses, my sister at the table with a cup of hot coffee. Nick went as far as to say, "this is my dream house", and despite the teenagers arguing over a certain prized bedroom, I have to say, this all does feel very much like a dream.
But I am careful. I am trying to remember that this house is just that...a house. It is walls and floors, and a place to protect and shelter the actual gift I have been given: my family. Yes, my husband and I have waited nearly 20 years to dwell in a place like this, and I would be lying if I did not admit that I love it and am over joyed. But there is so much more to love in all of this than just the house. What I am most loving is the process of letting go; throwing away the waste, and giving away what I do not need. The physical act of tossing aside and traveling light feels like prayer. I do not want to simply live, I want to live simply. I want to unleash what holds me down, and rid myself of baggage. I do not want to fill our new home with things and stuff; the very things that keep me from where God wants me, because I am too busy idolizing and focusing on what is material and earthly. I want less of the earth and more of heaven. I know from previous fasting, prayer and almsgiving that it is only by losing and letting go that we are able to make room for God. I want to pack light.
It is true. We have moved a lot. But this time is different. I am more than ever, incredibly aware, that my true wish in life is not to live in the dream home here on earth, but rather, to dwell in the house of Lord; the ultimate move I will make where I need not pack a single thing because He will give me all that I need.