Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Room to Breathe: The Psalm 90:14 Woman

When the Stones sang "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" they really nailed something, didn't they? That simple grammatically incorrect lyric speaks volumes about us. We all struggle with just how much is enough. The plethora of yard sales in spring and thrift stores filled to the brim are a testament that it is a challenge to have enough to be comfortable and not enough to stifle our souls. Where that line is, is likely to be different depending on your personality, style, and what season of life you are in.

I remember many years ago reading an interview with Ali MacGraw and she was quoted as saying that she wanted to be able to pick up and move anywhere with only her books and Navaho rugs. I love that. I was filled with envy once while taking a sleigh ride in the Colorado mountains with my husband when the driver pointed out a stone cabin where a woman was living all alone with no heat and no running water. The cabin was about the size of my garage. I've thought of that woman so many times and wondered what truths about herself and life that she uncovered sitting by her lonely fire on cold winter nights.

Adventurous, self sufficient solitude...be still, my beating heart! 

I know. Some of you are jealous of your neighbors new car or remodeled kitchen. I am jealous (and brace yourself, because this is going to sound terrible) when people have an excuse to start over with next to nothing.

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

A check from the insurance company and a material clean slate. Every choice of what to own after that could be so deliberate. Nothing inherited, nothing dumped on you by parents or kids, nothing you somehow got stuck with that you hate.  Ever notice how natural disasters focus our attention like a laser on what's really important? It's often only under these harsh circumstances that we hear people say "It's only stuff"  or "We're all together; that's all that matters." Ordinarily much of our conversation is about what we are going to purchase next, what "this room needs" or our wish list.

 “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~ Leonardo Da Vinci

One day, I don't remember exactly when, it all became enough and then too much. Some days I'm overwhelmed by a feeling akin to smothering amid the clutter.  The quest for balance is ongoing. Family heirlooms, stacks of favorite books, a bird's nest, an icon lovingly brought home from Italy (of St. Francis and St. Clair, both of whom shunned abundant materialism to find God) are the things I enjoy having around. When something makes you happy it's worth giving a home to. But even beloved books, are often passed off to other bibliophiles, leaving only slightly painful empty places behind. It is probably only a fraction of the stuff you have that is giving you any joy. The rest is just cluttering up your home and clogging up your life.

 Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” ~ Albert Einstein

Maybe it's time to stop accumulating so much.  Here's my list of what I'm willing to spend on these days:

good coffee and food
travel, enjoyable activities, and experiences

Your priorities may be different, but at this point in my life I mostly spend on things I can use up or pass on...Possessions frequently cycle THROUGH my house. Think of the difference between a fresh babbling brook and a stagnant pond. There are some things that have a forever home, but I do try to be careful about attaching too much sentiment to material objects. Many things get used for a season (of life) and then are given away to someone else who will enjoy them. When my kids were small they knew that accompanying the list they were going to make for Santa also meant it was time to let old toys go to charity. Every once in a while there were regrets and tears over something, but if Christmas was just around the corner, they were likely to be distracted by that.

Teach your kids to pass things on early in life.  They will learn to be givers and come to appreciate making careful choices. Plus, you don't want them leaving 18 years of stuff behind when they move out!

 A vocabulary of truth and simplicity will be of service throughout your life” ~ Winston Churchill

I believe in a God who wants us to free us from our selfish desires and show us how to walk in freedom from all manner of grasping and greediness. It's a long process and He still has a lot of work to do, but I'm working on releasing that grasping fist into an open palm.

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.  Psalm 90:14

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