I wrote last Wednesday about how I have felt compelled to give clothes and shoes to some specific women in need. Really compelled to action by Jen Hatmaker’s “7,” but I’ve been struggling with this feeling of having TOO MUCH since last August when I went through my 39 Things challenge. I had to write to share what happened as a result of last Wednesday’s post, but first I decided to share a story.
My parents divorced when I was 12. We moved from Kansas to Texas at the end of my seventh grade year. My mother stored all our things, stuffed animals, furniture, etc., in the garage of our rental house as she got us moved and then a friend was going to bring our things down in a trailer a couple of weeks later. We moved in with my grandparents because we had nowhere else to go. The landlord back in Kansas got drunk and went into that rental house garage and took everything in it to the city dump. Or so the story went. He could have taken it for his own house, we didn’t know. We just knew that it was all gone. The last tangible things we had here on Earth. I remember very little from that time but I do remember this beautiful red stuffed parrot. Someone had given it to me for my twelfth birthday. I loved that bird. It was among the things taken.
That is no excuse for what I have collected, but it’s just a little bit of background on why I am so sentimental about everything. I keep things for me and my kids because I don’t ever want them to be in a house with none of their furniture or familiar things that give them comfort during a time of needing serious comfort. As a Christian, I realize that comfort comes from a faithful and loving God, but as a pre-teen, I could have really used that parrot.
After last Wednesday’s post, I found four women in need. I walked into my closets (yes, both of them) praying that God would reveal things for me to give them. I truly believed that after giving two trash bags away already, I would not have enough to give to these women. My heart was racing as I pulled things off of hangers and out of drawers. You know where I got stuck. This t-shirt. This plain navy t-shirt.
I was in tears. I felt very clearly that I needed to give it away because I never wear it, but I didn’t want to. It was a t-shirt I bought while studying comparative law in Oxford, England at Magdalen College. It represents a time to me. And the truth is, none of these women probably needed a navy Magdalen College t-shirt. But I felt so strongly I had to give it away because of what it represented. I am hanging on to so much STUFF because of the emotion I have attached to things. But that shirt is not the experience. It’s not even a photo of the experience. And with each experience, I hold on to one more thing. So I added it to the stack. Then I piled all the items up in the guest room and started praying that I would give just the right thing to the right woman. To the newly single mom with an infant and a hearing impaired Autistic toddler. Now she had to get a job. To the woman who had just this past year lost her husband, her grandfather, and whose daughter had been shot. Now she had to get a job.
Friends, here is the pile (the bed couldn’t contain it all). And then the stack for each woman afterwards. I didn’t only have something for every woman, I had a trash bag full for every woman that included clothes, shoes, a purse, and jewelry. Not only that, I was able to give the woman with the toddler things for her son.
But look at my closets. Clearly more bare than they have been in a decade, but still TWO closets of clothes that have more than I need after this exercise.
I also had the opportunity to give a couple of bags to a three-year old girl who had been newly fostered and had not one item of clothing or toys. But even in that process I fought my emotions. Little bit helped me pull together the bags for the girl and offered me a pink bunny rabbit to add to the pile. Oh y’all, I did not want to give that bunny away. It held some sweet memories for me even though I didn’t remember who gave it to little bit nor did any of the kids play with it. This was going to go to a child with nothing and still I sat there and struggled.
I don’t believe you need to give everything in your house (or my house) away. I have a big box in the attic filled with mementos from the kids’ infancy for them in the future if they want it. But when the stuff you collect starts blocking your relationship with the Lord or your need to rely on Him, then it is time for it to go. It was time. I have been blessed ten thousand times more than what we had in that garage 27 years ago, and it’s time I let go.