Saturday, April 26, 2014

Breathing Room: How Much is Enough?

 I was filled with envy once while taking a sleigh ride in the Colorado mountains with my husband. The driver pointed out a stone cabin clinging to the side of the mountain 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. She captured my imagination.

Sometimes 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

Why does it take disaster for us to remember that?  Some days I'm overwhelmed by a feeling akin to smothering amid the stuff.  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

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.

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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