Monday, February 27, 2017

Finding Joy Through Letting Go

Philippians 4:6-7New International Version (NIV) 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

That verse is often easier said than done. What would you take if you were told that for at least the next 3 years you could only take half of your belongings with you? How would you feel if I told you that you and your family will be sleeping in a loaner beds and living with loaner furniture?

 This is our current reality, and it's bitter sweet. I have been wrestling with the emotions of letting go for a few days now. Having known children who never had their own bed before or even running water, a part of me feels a little selfish and spoiled because I'm having having a hard time sorting out in my mind not having MY bed and my children not having their's. In the big picture I know it's just stuff and that having our family together with a solid roof over our head is more important than anything else. Yet, I come back to thoughts about "my stuff" and have to work through emotions to not feel bitter and a little sad about being told we must leave it behind.

It's amazing to me how I complain all the time that we have too much stuff and that I need to do a major purge. Part of me thinks God is laughing at the ridiculous thoughts in my head because, Yes, I prayed to find time and the will to get organized and let go of stuff we don't need. I just didn't realize it would be letting go of so much so soon.

I believe a huge part of why I'm so emotional over this is because of the timing of it happening on our journey. This could be a 3 year move. This could be the time we beg and ask to stay for an additional year to make it 4. This could be a 2 year move where we beg to leave early. This could be the end of my spouses' career and could be followed by retirement. We could stay with this job and go onto another country after this move, meaning more years without our "stuff". However, I think the real reason I'm having such a difficult time processing letting go is because this could be my oldest son's last time living with us at home. Most people don't have to think about that until later, but my oldest son starts high school this year, and I am going through my own emotions of knowing this could be his last time living at home with us. When I go home to see my parents, my bed from childhood is still in the house I grew up in. This is not the reality for my children, and even though I know that they were born to live a different childhood from the one I experienced, I thought if I could at least always make their room the same, no matter where they went, it would still feel like home because that same bed and dresser and nightstand with the stickers would be right there. The song "The House that Built Me" comes to mind about my childhood and it's a reminder that the house that built me is not going to look like the one that builds my children. They won't be able to go back to their childhood home.

My sons (13 and 11) are currently in their 8th home and while the houses have changed, the stuff inside has pretty much stayed the same. There are the bunkbeds that have traveled from SC to CA to Guatemala to SC to Costa Rica and to NY. There is the big red couch we bought in California along with my funky rocking chair I got to rock my now 8 year old daughter in. There is the bed that my teenage son now sleeps in that belonged to my husband's great grandmother. There's the dresser that belonged to my parents. There's the sidebar I found on a garage sale site that is identical to the one my grandmother had in her house. There is the china we received as wedding gifts and the silver my grandparents gave me to eat on. There are lego sets that have somehow survived international moves due to my mad packing skills. There are quilts made by my husband's great-grandmother. There are pictures and artwork we have collected from all over the world that remind us of where we have been. There is the bench made by my step-father-in-law who passed away soon after from Cancer. There are holiday decorations. There is the desk my grandmother helped me buy. There is the kitchen table we've had since we were married that all of our children crawled on top of. There are bins of clothing and toys from when the children were smaller that I've not quite been able to let go of. There is a bin of things from my childhood. There are books, so many books we could fill one room and make it a library and the sad part is that I have collected those books so my children could have a library overseas when there was limited access to books in English.

The first part is dealing with the emotions and making peace with knowing we have to let go of the stuff. I know that the stuff doesn't make our family nor does it make it a home. The song Temporary Home is what comes to mind in regards to my children's childhood.  This move will be my 12th in 15 1/2 years. We move. We let go of stuff. We let go of friends. We let go of the daily lives we've come to know. We start over, and we move forward. We live a good life, and we truly feel the life we live is a gift. It doesn't mean it's easy though, and there has always been comfort in knowing that when everything else around us changed the stuff inside the walls would remain the same.

Now begins the process of deciding what to let go of forever, what goes into storage, and what we will take. That's the hard part, I want to think of what I want for me, what do I need to live with and feel at home for 3 years in our next temporary home. However, it doesn't work that way. As a mother, the emotional needs of my children will come first. The question becomes, what will they need to help them feel at home and what can I let go of that's mine to ensure they have the things that meet their needs because I know I can live without the stuff. I already had a childhood and my bedroom at my parents' home is still Paris Pink. This may be the life my children are designed to live, and I know that they have gained so much through experiences people dream about, but it still doesn't mean they haven't made sacrifices. My oldest son, for example, will not experience Friday Night Lights at high school football games. He won't experience traditional American High School with Homecoming. He won't learn to drive in the US and get a driver's license in his home town on his 16th birthday and take it to school to show all of his friends the next day. He won't have a job bagging groceries or working at the mall. And if he chooses to date, (God help me.) even that will be a different experience due to the security issues we will face living in an underdeveloped country with a high crime rate. These are the things I will think about when I am deciding what stuff to take and what to leave behind. What can I take that will help him feel at home for what could be his last years living at home. He's a logical wonderful son, and thankfully, I know I can ask him, and he will help me. The other two children.... well, let's just say they might be harder to reason with over the stuff.

We will do this, and I feel in my heart that God has a plan for even this. I trust there is a reason for us to not take all of our belongings, and I will begin to pray that we will know what to keep and what to let go. I know that there is truly nothing we need more than each other, and that as long as we are together as a family material things are insignificant. The things aren't the memory, they were only there when the memories were made. Sometimes, I am human though, and it takes me a little time to wrap my head around the big changes, especially when they all come at once. I am positive this move will be amazing. I am excited about what's to come and the experiences we will have as a family. I have wanted to live in a more minimalist way and here is the opportunity to do it.

2 Corinthians: 8-9 "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."  The future is bright. It's simply going to be filled with less material stuff and instead be filled with more prosperity of the heart. Today, I will focus on letting go, letting God, and trusting that we are only making room for new blessings.

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