Just when it gives. You thought I was gonna say lemons and making lemonade right? Aww naww.
You know how sometimes you begin to recognize a pattern in your life? The books you're reading, the conversations you're engaged in, the events you attend, or the topic that keeps popping up at parties? At some point you cock your head, put your index finger to your chin and make a big ol' deep V in that little space between your eyebrows oh wait that was me looking in my 10x makeup mirror this morning. Anyway you've been there. To the recurring-thing-in-your-life place, not the vertical furrow lines in your brow place. I'm sure you don't have those.
Sometimes I believe it's self preservation. Our own psyche has taken stock, determined we need to head in a direction, and without telling our conscious self, our insular cortex launches a sneak attack and initiates implementation. No mystery there. For example after the holidays I miraculously gravitate to diet books, exercise philosophies and light, heart healthy recipes. Awesome. After my child has a melt-down (and) or I handle a parenting incident with the finesse and maturity of an eleven year old tantrum-throwing diva, I head to Barnes and Noble and scour the parenting section for help. Solace. Vindication that I'm not the only one. On a lighter note, after hunky hubby attends a bluegrass festival he trolls ebay for banjo instruction books and practices more. Waaaaaaay more. I bought him a mute. Did you know they made such things? Mutes? For banjos? Please trust me they do hallelujah and amen. And one day when it reaches the top of my to-do list, I'm going to look up the person who invented it and write a thank you note. Until then at banjo practicing time I'll just close my eyes, lean my head back and stretch my arms toward the heavens and say "thank you, thank you, you inventor of banjo mutes, you seer into the future of banjo players' wives lives. You ROCK."
How-ehvahhh. Sometimes when said pattern recognition phenomenon occurs, it's apparent to me right away (right away being when I notice it. And sometimes, my darlings, I'm notoriously slow. Dense even.) that God has placed it there. It's too completely random to be of my own doing. My psyche doesn't have mental acumen any larger than my conscious brain, so simple logic dictates that I don't have the schmarts or preservation tactics to orchestrate such complicated campaigns.
So here it is. A friend gave me Jen Hatmaker's book called "7, an Experimental Mutiny against Excess". It resonated. Jen and her family did a seven step reduction of the 'stuff' in their lives that would make even the new pauperish Pope's head swim. Seven is a small number and I don't feel the need to go that deep or that narrow at one fell swoop, but the point was a good, honest, real one and it hit me. Hard.
Then. Then I came back to the hotel room the other day to find hubby watching the movie Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Not a great movie as movies go but I'd watch Steve Carell in anything. I watched enough of it to feel convicted that most of the things I worry about and even spend time and money and energy on are things that, given 16 hours until the end, wouldn't make the cut. Then. THEN, at a particularly poignant spot in the movie, they play that song with these lyrics:
"Sommmmmetimes all I need is the air that I breathe, and to love you."
.....aaaaand I'm done. *sob, snort, dab at eyes* Okay Jesus, I'm starting to get a hint of a thought of an idea that maybe you're nudging me on something here.......
See? Do not act like you weren't warned. Dense. Reaaaally slow on the uptake here. (Please refer to paragraph four.) You woulda caught the hints waaaaay before The Hollies started singing right? Yeah, not me. I'm usually so convinced I'm on the right path that I don't even give a glance at the stuff I have to knock out of the way to stay on it. It's a well known fact, and my hunky hubby and kids LOVE that about me and are not annoyed by it in the least. Ever.
In the days and weeks following, clue after clue after hint after hint popped up that God was nudging me to think about excess in my life. It became time for the regular seasonal cleaning-out-of-kids'-closets for example. After going through each article of clothing in my sons' closets to get rid of the things they'd outgrown, the stacks of outgrown clothing were enough to fill two garbage bags. I shook my head in wonder. After counting pairs of outdoor boots while trying to clean the shelves they occupy, I counted twenty four pair. There are four of us. I clucked my teeth in shame. When emptying the coat closet for the plumber (to reach a leak) I looked at the stack of coats and realized shamefully that that huge stack of coats all belonged to two people. After getting home from the grocery store I had to rearrange food items in the fridge and pantry just to accommodate my purchases.
I started giving thought to why I keep buying things when I already have a houseful of things. Stuff. Clothes. Food. Neat stuff. Shoes. Pretties. Accumulation of goods. Shiny things. I have so many shoes I've had to encroach on other areas of the house to store them all. Sunday when I grabbed my Bible before church I even noticed I have six Bibles! Different versions, newer versions, large print versions, translated to modern speech versions, workbooks for the Bibles, 365 days of scripture and meditation, Bible Study books. The list of stuff just goes on and on.
What am I teaching my children? To store up stuff? That material things, new shiny purchases make you happy? Fill a hole or sad place in your life or your heart? Fix problems? That more is better? That if there's a newer, better version of what you already have, well you certainly have to upgrade. And in the end, when we're playing Steve Carell or Keira Knightly's parts and we have 16 hours left 'til the end, who of us will give thought to any of those material things?
I'm starting this reduction of excess by making each purchase deliberate. No spontaneous purchases, no purchases just because something is on sale, no stocking up on stuff. I have enough clothing for six people, enough shoes to don the feet of 246 women with size 8.5 feet all at one time, enough food to fill a refrigerator, two freezers, two pantries, and several tubs of stashed foods for when the zombie apocalypse comes, enough books to start a library of my own, and the list goes on and on.
I am tasking myself with recognizing in each moment how much I already have and making each of my moments about my people and my relationships, not my stuff.
My family does not think of ourselves - independently or as a collective unit - as excessive. (In fact if you ask my kids I'm alllllways saying no when they want something.) There's always someone who has more. On the other hand, there's also always someone who has less. I'm curious to see how this concept will affect my family dynamic as I pare down the material things in my life. I'll keep you posted.