When we first started talking about downsizing – it was kind of exciting. To be honest, I probably was prideful – I mean, look at us! We are pretty amazing…we are making this against-the-grain decision to get rid of the excess in our lives. Excess “stuff”, excess medical debt, excess “flashiness”, and more. Really, don’t you wish you were as cool as us? That’s what I thought.
Then came moving day. That’s when the rubber hit the road. We were so blessed – so BLESSED by a multitude of friends who came over and moved us. I’d like to say they helped us move, but the truth is that they did it. Women were all up in my business – packing up my junk drawer, and under my bathroom sink, y’all. I was not packed and they packed me. I was a mess and they cleaned it. I was overwhelmed. So overwhelmed I seriously ugly cried. Like, I couldn’t talk because I couldn’t breathe because I was crying so hard. It was bad. I called a friend in Texas and couldn’t even say anything because I was crying so hard. I couldn’t make eye contact with the precious people who were moving us. The extrovert hid.
The next day, a very precious friend met me at our old house and helped me clean all day. That was a bonus lesson in humility. Not the first. You see, the place where we moved to is not pretty. I described it to my family as something reminiscent of an Eastern European ghetto. Inside, it’s dated (from the 70’s), but clean…but outside? Child, it’s ugly. As I cleaned the granite countertops and Brazilian Cherry wood floors one last time, I couldn’t help but wonder if we had made the right choice. Would living in ugly make us more beautiful? God asked me how I felt when I thought of our pretty neighborhood. I knew my heart needed work when I answered “proud.” I knew my heart needed even more work when He asked me how I felt when I thought of our new townhouse. Embarrassed. God, help me. My heart needed more cleaning than those floors.
We’ve been here for nearly two months. In two months, we’ve existed here. Tiny kitchen, no garage, the fridge freezes all of our produce, and the dishwasher leaves our dishes dirtier than we we loaded them. We’ve been going through the motions, but not really changing. I asked God to help me change. How can I be a friend to anyone that I come in contact with if I think that where I live makes me a better person somehow? Do I believe I am more blessed because my home is prettier? Worse yet, do I believe I am less blessed because my house is not so attractive? Lord, change me!
This week, we had to get everything off of our back deck so they could power wash it and re-stain it. As I type this, I’m sitting in our family room with our grill 4 feet away. Precious. Mr Darcy and the boys moved our patio furniture to the front porch this morning. When I got home at lunchtime, I was heartsick to find that someone had stolen the beautiful patio cushions off of my furniture. I was so angry. Spitting nails angry. After I stomped around outside and inside, I sat on the couch and asked God why He let that happen. Those cushions were my birthday present last year. Didn’t He remember that? Furthermore, did He forget that we are doing everything we can to be extra frugal so we can pay down that stupid, idiotic, makes-me-think-cuss-words medical debt? (Just trying to be real, people) And God, you know that buying new patio cushions is not going to be prioritized. Can’t I just have something nice, Lord…something pretty?
He was quiet. Maybe He was waiting for me to finish my tantrum. You can’t listen well when you are too busy throwing a fit. After a while, when the tears were threatening to fall, He spoke.
It doesn’t matter, Janna. It’s cushions. It’s not people. I want you to care more about people. I want you to feel this emotional when it’s a life that’s being stolen. Stomp around when you realize what’s been taken. That’s what worth it. We asked Him to help us reduce our load excess. People are never excess. Pretty patio cushions, while there is nothing inherently wrong with them, are excess. They get dirty and ripped and eventually wind up in the dump. People get dirty and ripped and downtrodden and weary and He wants me to notice them with the same acuity as I noticed those cushions missing. I noticed it right away and I started searching. I didn’t stop and debate if I had time to look for them – or if it mattered. I didn’t think, “someone else will take them time to find them…probably someone who is better than me at finding cushions.” Oh, how I wish I had that same mindset when I thought of our new neighbors. The people who look a little dirty to me. Who are visibly tattered and torn and headed to the dump. The people that I smile and wave at and sometimes even say hello to when I walk past them.
I’m not going to say that I’m glad the cushions were stolen today. I’d be telling a lie. I still want them to magically reappear on the furniture. I want to be real. I want to admit it when things are hard, or painful, or embarrassing. This is real life. This is what matters. If I place a high value on what really matters, surely my address and all my “stuff” will matter less.
John 3:30 – He must increase, but I must decrease.