Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Man Who Comes After Me, & 6th Update on Kristen

"Yea, I hated all my labor which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me. And who knows whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labor wherein I have labored, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity."
Ecclesiastes 2:18,19
Emphasis added.

This passage of Scripture has always really struck a chord with me.
It is profound to think that one day each and every one of us will leave this world,
and every, single thing we own will be left to someone else.
It is very sobering.

We struggle to gather.
We collect.
We amass as much as we possibly can.
We fill our homes with so much stuff.
Excess to the point of gluttony.
We push ourselves and spend precious time on keeping up with the world's demands,
losing out on what is most important, in the process.
We labor hard to maintain what we have accumulated,
and, then, one day we die and leave it "to the man that shall come after us",
and, who knows, whether he will be a wise man or a fool?

In our pursuit of living a simpler life, we are letting go of many things.
And, it is HARD.
Because we have worked through the superficial layers...
the attic's contents, some of which hadn't seen the light of day in right around 14 years,
the huge, oversized, packed nearly to the brim 2 car garage that was attached to our house,
the big stuff we knew we couldn't bring on our long-distance move,
the duplicate items in our home, kitchen stuff that we never used, and things that were just plain no longer relevant to our current lives.

But, now we have ventured into the deeper layers of minimizing,
where the stuff probably isn't worth a penny to anyone else, but seems invaluable to us.
Stuff like cards.
Joggers of memories.
You know what I mean.

This is not superficial stuff.
This isn't like us leaving behind the big, cumbersome, heavy leather couch for the people who bought our house.
It is not similar to Kevin leaving nearly all of his garage and yard stuff for the "man who came after us" and is now appointed steward over the two acres dear, sweet Zach spent his entire childhood playing and running through.
The things that inhabit this layer of minimizing do not weigh nearly as much as the refrigerator, stove, washer, or dryer we left in the house where we lived and made precious memories for so long.
This stuff doesn't weigh much, at all, per individual item.
But, this stuff is heavy.
Emotionally, it weighs a ton.

Every, single card I pick up and re-read...and some of these cards I have kept since I was a young girl, mind saturated with emotions and feelings I haven't felt in years.
Every piece of paper feels like it weighs a thousand pounds.

I sat in the floor last night, as dear Kevin brought in yet another crate and set it in front of me.

He is the kindest man.
Honestly, I wish every one of you precious readers could know Kevin.
I don't know why on earth God, in His infinite love and wisdom, chose me to be the grateful soul who gets to walk through life holding his hand.
He is the wisest man I know or have ever personally met.
He is even-keeled to the core, not driven by emotion, but guided by the hand of the One Who is eternal truth.

He sat on the couch a few feet away from me, as I warily tore off the tape on the top of the crate and opened the lid to peek inside.
THIS crate is the most emotionally-charged one yet.
At one point, I just almost put the things back in that I had taken out and closed the lid.
I had this huge temptation to leave it all in there forever and ever.
The emotional weight was just far too heavy.
I didn't feel like I could handle it a moment longer.

As I read through letters and cards, one by one, just to see if I felt like they should be kept a moment longer, I started crying.

"Don't cry" Kevin said in the gentlest of tones.

His tenderness always soothes me.
I could never, even if God gave us a million years together living as man and wife,
ever, ever thank Him enough for this dear, loving man.

This point of minimizing is where it gets hard toughest.
Man, alive, I just can't tell you how hard this is.

I am not a hoarder, in most ways.
But, when it comes to cards and letters people have given me,
little receipts that remind me of things Kevin, Zach, and I have done through the years,
scraps of paper that instantly take me back to another place and time and earlier section of life,
I must be the ultimate hoarder of all time.

I have papers that were written on years and years ago.
At 50 years old, I feel like I have already lived out several lifetimes,
and when I see these little scraps and fragments, they remind me of how I felt in each stage.
That young, insecure little girl with ponytails,
who loved her dolls, Pollyanna and Marcia and the Sunshine Family, who looked forward to the day she would grow up and marry and have her own little Sunshine Family, who moved every few months, was unsettled, worried, and scared, but abundantly loved by two parents who would have laid down their lives for her in a split second,
the awkward, self-conscious teenager,
who never did feel like she fit in...anywhere, changing schools often and at the most inopportune times, but ever-hopeful, and at the same time hopelessly romantic, always reading and dreaming of her very own Mr. Right,
(thank God, I found him, and he loves me just the way I am, emotional warts and all),
the enthusiastic, forward-looking young adult,
striking out and starting a career of her own, ever eager and excited for what good things life had in store,
the head-over-heels-in-love 20 year old,
who couldn't wait to pledge her heart and hand and truly belong to the mate of her soul, the man who swept her completely off her feet, and with whom she finally, at last, found the place she knew she really, truly, honest-to-goodness fit in,
the newly married wife,
eager to do everything right, anticipating with high hopes the next natural step in which her little girl dreams would become reality, and she would hold her own, real little doll baby,
the ever-maturing, infertile young woman,
who over a span of many years, daily struggled with feelings of inadequacy, failure, and pain, due to not being able to conceive,
the much wiser, more mature, ecstatic new Mommy, (God knew),
 whose whole world revolved around that long-anticipated-and-longed-for bundle of joy baby boy,
the to this day, everyday-and-eternally grateful wife and homeschool Mama,
who never could and still can't bear to part with one workbook this precious boy has ever written in from Kindergarten to NOW, who cherishes every, single second of life, who feels like the most blessed woman ever created by our loving and eternal God.

Through all of life's stages, up until now, I have kept and held on to little things that remind me of all of these moments that were spent living life.
And, as I pore back over them, opening crates and boxes of stuff packed away until a future time,
I find that that future time has come, and here I am.
It feels like peeling scabs off old wounds to even remotely think of getting rid of certain things...
like I would have pulled off the cover and let go of what protected that memory.
I just want to let those sleeping memories lie...
to leave them alone and not allow them to be awakened.
I find that I still do not want to let any of these things go...
because it feels like if I do, there are parts of me that will never remember them again.
As I look through every, single shred of paper I own, I am transported back to those everyday moments, and that shred of paper is the means of transport.
How can I let it go?
I don't want to lose the conduit.
I told you this is hard.
It is downright complicated.

Now, I realize there are some of you who will think I am crazy for agonizing over whether or not to let go of a golf scorecard from 1992, the motel receipt from our honeymoon in 1988, hair clippings from Zach's first haircut, or the birthday card Mom and Dad gave me in 1982.
Some of you have much more sense than I do and don't allow yourself to be overcome by sentiment, and you would never have kept most of this stuff in the first place.
Some of you possess a much stronger capacity to remember than I do,
and you wouldn't feel the need to hold on to things in order to be reminded.
If these were yours, some of you could take these boxes of what I consider precious and dear and dump them into trash bags, feeling nothing but relief.
My hat's off to you, friend.
How I wish I were blessed with your fortitude and wisdom!
If I knew then what I know now, perhaps I wouldn't have kept a lot of this, either.

Oh, sure, there are painful parts of my life that I have spent years trying to forget ever happened,
that I would never, in a million years, want to revisit or find a slip of paper that conjures memories of.
Every now and then, I am finding something that jogs those recollections,
and, yes, I am letting those things go.
But, it is the slips of paper, ticket stubs, cards, mementos, Zach's artwork, school workbooks,
and a million other things that stir up happy memories that I am just really, really struggling with deciding whether to let go of or keep.

I can see why God allowed our current situation of life.
It is giving me wonderful time and space, to not feel pressured into doing this quickly.
I need that.
I am trying hard and diligently keeping on these projects, but I don't feel that I have to hurry up and get them done tomorrow.

Even though we had downsized MAJORLY...I mean I just cannot even convey to you how much we had let go of before we made this long-distance move, we still ended up leaving the home we sold with....are you ready for this?
No less than 141 boxes.
I said 141.
I kept a very organized list of what was generally in each box and numbered them,
so we would know what was in them before pulling them out of storage.
The number "141" does not include the cedar hope chest I have had since I was 16 that is crammed full, the old, black trunk that is filled to capacity, many, many crates, and other such things.
You get the picture.

If you saw what we still have, you would wonder how on earth I could be telling you that we have overwhelmingly minimized our lives and belongings and that we have been on an intensely intentional journey to simplify for the last two years.

But, here we are.
SO much progress behind us.
SO much that still needs to be done.

One thing God has clearly made evident to me is that we need to condense down to what will comfortably and unclutteredly (is that even a word?) fit into our current, small living space.
God is being extremely reasonable with us.
He knows all about my hyper-emotional, super-sentimental nature.
After all, He created me.
Jesus knows I SO want to follow Him.
To be like Him.
To let go of the weight and sin that so easily trips me up and pens me in.
To live this life unencumbered, free, and ready to do what He wants me to do,
without excuse or obligation.
To be more eternity-focused and less adoring of what is temporal.

I never saw these "things" as idols before, but I declare, that is what some of this is starting to feel like.
Anything can become an idol.
If holding onto something means more to us than minding God,
then that thing comes between us and God, and we are giving it priority.
Couldn't, shouldn't that thing be classified as an idol?

I am not saying God is requiring me to let go of every, single thing that I hold dear.
Not at all.
What I am saying is that He absolutely wants us to continue to downsize and declutter and let go of what ties us down and causes us to spend extra money in order to keep.

Every month, I go online and pay an extra, excess monthly bill for storage rent,
because all of our stuff will not fit into our small, condensed living space.

Slowly, we are working through it all.
Painfully, I am turning loose of what I didn't even realize have become idols.
I've written about the type of looking back that is not healthy
and the healthy type of looking back to see how far we've come.

Some of these reminders I am coming across are really unhealthy and bringing me down.
I am finding it is getting easier to let them go.
Things are not like they were then.
Life is different.
We have moved forward.
The old is past, the new has come.
Dragging certain things into the new that God has brought us to is really not conducive to peace.
And peace is our word for this year.

Peace comes after firm decisions are made.
The time spent in the valley of decision is agonizing.
God is helping me.
Color is coming back into my knuckles, as I am starting to release the need to retain what God says is no longer necessary.
I'm glad He is patient and long-suffering.
I don't know what I would do if He were rushing me right now.
He knows how much we can take, and He is ever kind and merciful to our needs.

One day, I will have passed off the scene of life, and, like Solomon, there is a "man who is coming after me."
Dear Zach already shows wisdom beyond his years, and I truly know with all my heart he will be a wise steward.
But, I do not want to leave a heavier burden than is necessary for him to have to deal with disposing of in the aftermath of my parting.
I want to leave him with a healthy amount of reminders of who I was, who his ancestors were, and where he came from.
But, to laden him with things that he won't even recognize or understand the reason they were held onto is just selfish of me.
I don't want to make things any harder on him than they have to be.
Mom and Dad had very little when they died, and, I tell you, it was a blessing.

All of this stuff...these mementos so cherished and precious to my heart,
will one day pass away.
They are not living things.
They hold no eternal value.
What will matter is the living legacy I leave behind...
the memories of how I lived life day to day.

As Mom so often reminded me,
"Only one life, 'twill soon be past; only what's done for Christ will last."

God, help me to live my life with the truth of this continually in view.


Please continue to pray for my dear niece, Kristen.
She is not doing well.
She saw the hematologist, and he is working hard to try to find a solution.
She needs medication that, due to being pregnant, she cannot have without endangering the life and well being of her unborn baby.
Her condition has actually worsened, and we are pleading with God for the miracle she and her precious baby boy so desperately need.
PLEASE do keep praying, dear friends.
Whether or not the hematologist finds the answer to Kristen's health problems,
GOD is the ultimate Healer, and He doesn't need medicine or any help in performing the healing Kristen needs.
Our eyes are upon HIM.
Your continued prayers are SO appreciated!!


And, now for something FUN!
I am slowly adding more things to our FREE STUFF Page!
I wish I could put more on there, but so many of the items we are letting go of are heavy, awkward-sized, and difficult to mail.
So, most of it is either going to our local thrift store or a nearby consignment shop.
I am coming across some smaller things that can be mailed, and those are the little things I would love to pass along to some of you!
So, feel free to click over here from time to time, and see if there is anything that catches your eye.
There is never a charge to you for anything, not even postage.
Just let us know what you would like to give a new home,
email us by clicking here, then click where it says "email" under "Contact Me",
and, Lord willing, once you make your request known, we will get it on its way to you!!


God bless you all!