Monday, March 23, 2009

The Struggle with Stuff


(Seaside Cottage @ Art.com)

My husband and I have a dream to live on several acres of land (10 would be perfect). We have a dream to live simply, to build a nice little cottage, to raise livestock, to milk a cow or goat or two, to have a fruitful garden and to be fairly self-sufficient. From where we stand, this seems like a fairly impossible goal, unless we take drastic measures.

You see, we have quite a bit of debt. When we moved to Louisiana in the Spring of 2006, we were nearly debt free, but within two years, we had built up a nice little chunk of I-O-Us. It's not like we went out and spent frivolously. In fact, that's not it at all, but we did manage to get in over our heads while trying to run a business that was near failing when we walked into it (although we did not realize this at the time). I won't go into detail of how disastrous that was, but let me tell you, it was definitely no picnic. However, the experience did teach me how to live on practically nothing, and I learned to be careful what I ask for as well!

Brandon and I thought we were doing what God asked us to do, and in a way, we were (as it was clear we were suppose to move back to Louisiana from Indiana), but we had assumed that this is the path He wanted us to take while there, when, looking back, we can both see that we had not really sought clarification on it.

Still, the experience taught us many lessons, and, as you know, God can use our mistakes to bring us closer to Him and bring us into a better understanding of His will.

It is a little difficult (heart breaking) to look back and realize a lot of trouble could have been avoided if we would have listened a little more carefully and recognized the signs that we were heading in the wrong direction, but our past mistakes have given us direction in "what not to do" and what we should avoid, and at least we learned these lessons in our youth, and not later down the road.

But, as I said, from where we stand now, it's hard to imagine that our goal could even be a possibility, unless we wait twenty years (in which case, half of the goal is not achieved, as we want to raise our children in this environment).

Brandon and I have already overcome a large amount of debt which he piled up before we married, so I know it is possible (but we were also able to do that with the help of an inheritance), but back then, we only had one child.

Now, Brandon and I steer clear of credit offers. Besides, anyone who offers such a thing would be crazy to since our credit report is horrible, yet there are still companies out there tempting people like us with lines like, "Good credit? Bad Credit? No Credit? No problem!" or "No credit check!"

We have learned that if we cannot afford it, we cannot have it. (And even if we can afford it, we probably don't need it.)

I (unintentionally) came up with a great idea to cut back and save a lot of money, but it requires so much sacrifice that I don't know if I can bare it. My husband is all for it, but he also doesn't completely understand the sacrifice it would be for the children and I, since he is not home as much as we are, and, because most of the stuff we would be sacrificing would be my stuff, and the kids' stuff. I am not saying that he is not compassionate about the way I feel, but, being the way he is (unattached to his things, and only desiring to hold on to those things that he could use later in a trade- as in his carpentry tools), it is a little difficult for him to comprehend the inner conflict in me.

This is something I have always struggled with. You see, I have kept things I don't need because of the memories tied to them. A couple years ago, I realized I was hanging onto something that didn't even have good memories tied to it. In fact, the memories attached to it weren't lovely at all! I had boxes of papers with doodles and poems (and there was a time when I would write anywhere from five to twenty poems or songs a day, so you can imagine those added up). Of course, I hung onto things for the ever popular reason of, "I might need it someday." My husband and I have moved quite a bit since we married, so there are some things that stayed in boxes taking up storage space. We weren't even sure what was in the boxes!

I think a lot of this was tied into the fact that my mom was the complete opposite, and, as a kid, I often wished she would have kept more of the items throughout her life, so I could have tangible evidence of her youth. Now I understand why she didn't hold onto things, and I often think sometimes we haul too much baggage around with us physical and emotional. I tried to bring half of my childhood with me when I got married, instead of starting fresh!

So, I've had to work to overcome these issues and the attachment to my stuff. I think most of us deal with this sort of thing. Could you sell everything you own? Could you get rid of half of your belongings? Could you bare to get rid of everything except the bare essentials?

Sure, it sounds good in theory, doesn't it? It does to me! Yet, actually doing it? How do you choose what to get rid of and what to keep? How do you filter out what is practical and useful from those things which you attempt to justify because of sentiment?

I don't want to be so attached to my stuff that I refuse God's blessings. I realize that it's just "stuff", and I knew once I let it go, I'd be fine, but it's the letting go that's difficult!

Do you struggle with this?

Are you like me? Do you not only struggle with letting go of your stuff, but also with letting go of your ideal life? I know that when I make a sacrifice for God, He blesses me with more than I could have ever imagined. So often, after much struggle, I have let go of a dream or my own plans for the will of God, and down the line, I realize that God has fulfilled my dreams better than I ever could have! More than that, He blesses me with peace and joy, so that, even if my dreams never came true, I am satisfied!

Luke 6:38
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

I believe this verse isn't just talking about what we give to others, but what we give up as well. Besides, when we give up things for God, we are better able to give to the purpose of the Kingdom.

The American Dream says we can have it all, we should have it all, and we MUST have it all, and sadly, no one is immune from that lie. It is my belief that growing up in such a culture, most of us will struggle against this for the rest of our lives. The only way we can overcome it is to be rooted in the LORD and to allow our hearts and minds to be regularly cleansed!

God knew how our stuff would affect our lives because the bible talks about it often. Jesus knew we would be tempted to become servants to our stuff when he told us "no man can serve two masters". Proverbs is full of financial advice, and reminds us to "not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle."

The first Christians were willing to let go of their stuff in order to meet the needs of all in the church. (Acts 4) Unfortunately, this is a little difficult to do today for a couple reasons. First of all, we're too greedy to let go of our stuff or share it with others. Secondly, we have people who would take advantage of those willing to give. Their greed and laziness would have them always putting out their hand, but never contributing.

I believe, if we are unwilling to loosen our grip on our stuff, God may have to forcefully take it from us. We are to be good stewards of our stuff, and this means making wise choices in what we purchase and cling to, taking care of what we have, and being willing to share with others. If we cannot be faithful in these small things- these day to day matters- how can God trust us with the bigger things, the things of His Kingdom? That thought always puts things in perspective for me.

I know it's easy for me to depend on my stuff for safety and comfort, but I need to depend on God for those things. I know I WILL fail myself, but God will never fail me!

I pray that God will help me to overcome these issues and to be willing to let go for His sake! I think I have a tendency to feel, "Well, I deserve this stuff," but the truth is, I don't. Yet, once again, the American Dream tells me I do. I deserve the big house, the nice cars, top of the line everything. I deserve to go out to eat at restaurants. I deserve these nice clothes. I deserve.... but, again, I don't. We tend to think that riches are blessings, but the bible tells us that is not always the case.

Anyway, I've rambled on. I just wanted to share my struggle with you all. I'm sure some of you can relate! I know, with God, all things are possible, and He will help me overcome!

8 comments:

Heather said...

Oh Mandy I have SO BEEN THERE! In fact it was about 7 years ago that God called us to not only get rid of half of everything but also to fast from purchasing clothing items. And it was amazing how, as I stepped out in faith and started getting rid of, He started providing more and more (in fact, I had to halve things multiple times because more kept coming in.) We also qui going out to eat completely (unless God provided--and He did!) And out of that obedience came other blessings as well until now we are finally really getting out of debt and living within our means. God is good!

Hillary said...

You sound a lot like me-I'm always afraid I'll regret getting rid something somewhere down the road.

It was a huge step for me to get rid of as many clothes and pairs of shoes as I did a couple of weeks ago, but it FELT SO GOOD afterwards!

You can do it! :)

Also, I wanted to ask you to pray for baby Stellan over at (www.mycharmingkids.net) if you get a chance. He could really use them.

Nikowa@KHA said...

I've actually been dealing with this myself. It's hard. I want to get rid of my wedding dress...BUT it holds sentimental value!

Jennifer said...

I am not a saver, I'm a tosser! My mother was the exact opposite - she saved all sorts of weird stuff (in my opinion). I, on the other hand, haven't saved much of anything. When it comes to cleaning, I start out with an empty trash bag and generally have it filled by the time I am "finished". My kids cringe and run for their room when I say it's "cleaning day" :) I don't toss EVERYTHING, but I feel its important to keep things to a minimum and have tried to teach my kids to toss broken stuff, to give away things they no longer use/need, and to let go of items as they have grown. I DO keep artwork and special items that have some sentiment attached to them, but I really don't have an issue with letting go of "stuff". Hubby, on the other hand, is a different story. He won't let me near his stuff, which would explain why I insisted he clean off his desk...only to find all of the clutter laying the floor next to it because "he needs to go through it". I've threatened...um, offered to do it for him, but he just shot me "the look" and told me not to touch it. He has a week...then all bets are off :)

inbeulahland said...

I've been there. I'm kind of still there, actually. Our house is small and I look around it always thinking of what I could "get rid of" but so far my garage sale box is only half-full and not very large to begin with. I'm getting there, though.

It's good to go through stuff a few times a year to practice the mentality of living on less, with less.

Jess said...

I completely agree that it so easy to confuse riches for blessings. I believe that as soon as we think we are "safe" or that we HAVE the grace of god, then we probably don't. I think this could be true for our things as well. As soon as we think that we deserve something, we probably don't. We just had special meeting company and we talked about this very thing! There is no such thing as a small blessing. Everything and anything that god chooses to give us, is a big deal. I am trying to be more sincere when I am giving thanks for what I have been blessed with. It is so easy to take the food on my plate for granted.

Mandy, I think you are on to something. Decluttering our lives, spiritually and naturally, is not an easy thing. If you weren't struggling then maybe there would be something worse that is wrong. I appreciate you sharing this with us, as many have the same experience.
As for the natural side of things, I have an article that might be interesting to you. I am by no means a mega-oprah fan but I saw this article on her site and found it slightly helpful.
Take a look if you are interested. There are actually several articles linked to this one that might be of some help as well!

miss you much girly.

http://www.oprah.com/slideshow/home/homeimprovement/slideshow1_ss_challenge_start_rooms/1

Anonymous said...

I almost cringe to tell you this, but I am living your dream. We are debt free & live on a 15 acre farmstead. For what it is worth what I have learned is God does what His children to have it all. He just doesn't usually give it to us all at once!

Lori said...

I share your dream, however God recently told us to move in with my parents to help them out. I feel like I'm at that part in the dreamgiver book where he has to give his dream back to God. Anyhow, in the move we sold just about everything we owned to move our family of four into one room in my parents house. It's been hard but I can already see the lessons God has planned and while I'm not exactly sure when we'll come out on the other side of this situation I know when we do we'll be better parents and Christ followers because of the lessons we are learning right now.