When Treasures Get Dusty

We’re preparing to move in the very near future and as I sort through our belongings, I’m just overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff that we have! I’m constantly getting rid of items, but it seems as though they multiply in the night. I know that so many of us here in the United States have this issue and it’s mind boggling to me. How do we acquire so many items, especially when families like mine are so intensely frugal and aren’t really out there shopping for fun or “wants”? 

When my husband’s grandfather passed away, we were given a lot of his items. They were wonderful, quality items (most of them) but they were triples and doubles of items we already had. My parents, hoarders at heart, have given us truck loads of items over the years. (Seriously, my dad never visited us in Washington without a pickup truck full of items!) Friends have given us many great items, and Anthony and I started out our marriage with most of our house put together already, from items we either owned previously, or purchased together. Add in a couple of crib midgets, and well, you have a house overflowing with stuff! 

Most of this stuff has absolutely no value to me. I don’t know what to do with it. I can’t use it because I’m already using other items. I don’t care for most of it, and it makes me sick to look at it, knowing there are people out there who live in garbage dumps and dig among others’ discards just to find clothing and shelter. Why should I have all this stuff in my possession? What purpose does it serve me? None. It is a distraction from what really matters. 

The devil doesn’t come to you dressed in a red cape and horns. He comes disguised as everything you’ve ever wanted. 

Huh? 

So all the things lying on my floor right now in disarray are things I actually wanted at one time? Well, yeah. Truth be told, there’s so much more than what’s on my floor right now that I’ve really wanted – that I’ve spent a lot of time coveting. It’s easy to covet, especially when we believe that the item(s) will bring us happiness, joy, comfort, relaxation. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve purchased pretty organizing baskets to keep my kitchen, pantry, bedroom, bathroom, living room in line. Most of those baskets found their way either to the Goodwill or to the trash can because they were poorly made. 

We’re spending our pay checks on trash, people. Look around at the items in your home right now. How many things are a poor use of God’s money? How many items are going to break soon, if they’re not broken already? How many items do you use on a daily basis? How many items sit, waiting in drawers, cupboards, on shelves just waiting to be used? 

A couple years ago, I read a really amazing book by Dave Bruno called The 100 Thing Challenge: How I Got Rid of Almost Everything, Remade My Life, and Regained My SoulLet me start out by saying that I resist change out of fear, so it takes a long time for stuff to set in. 🙂 Now, I’ll say that lessons from this book keep coming back to me. I absolutely love the idea of only owning 100 items, but I don’t really know how to make that happen when I’m drowning in stuff! 

 

Salt Water Taffy (Christian Living)

Have you ever felt like you’ve just come out one end of a trial just to be walking through another one? Right now, I feel like that. I know God is with me. I feel Him with me. I just don’t understand what it is that He’s doing right now. I hope He’s carrying me. I don’t feel like I have a whole lot left to give right now. In fact, I feel like a piece of salt water taffy in the making.

Are you familiar with the way salt water taffy is made? It’s a lot like the Christian life! First, the sugar, corn syrup and flavorings are mixed together. (We’re so sweet as babies and small children, aren’t we?) Then this mixture is heated up in a large copper kettle either on an open fire or on a large stove. (Trials! Tribulations! Everyone can see what we’re going through! We are tested. Will we scorch from the heat, or come out sweeter?) From there, the mixture is cooled on a large marble slab. (We’re blessed, allowed to rest, to settle our bones a bit.) Next, the taffy is stretched and pulled, repeatedly. The more it is stretched, the more of it there is to pull and stretch. It keeps multiplying. With careful consideration by the candy maker, the taffy will not break. It will produce more and more. (Doesn’t this just sound like Jesus walking with us, Brothers and Sisters? We’re tested, we’re stretched to what seems like our limits, but the Creator knows what He is doing. We become the salt of the earth! We can rest in Him. We will multiply and bless many from what originally seemed like a small yield!) Finally, the taffy is mixed with other flavors to create beautiful and tasty combinations before being placed in a machine that expertly cuts the taffy into pieces and wraps them for sale. (We leave this earth one by one and arrive in Heaven! New life!)

I watched the following YouTube video on making salt water taffy and it really hit home for me. I can see the parallel between the Christian life and the making of taffy. We do not have to fear the trials, Brothers and Sisters. Our Creator is with us. He knows what He is doing. When we are stretched, it is His hands that are doing the pulling and coaxing. He knows there is something better for us than what we have, what we are doing, and who we are right now in this moment. Will you join me in trusting Him this day, no matter how scary it may seem, Brothers and Sisters? We will not be left to scorch or to fall apart. We are being molded and stretched by expert hands.

Dear Jesus. Love me to do good. Love me to do no harm. Love me to stay in love with you. I borrow these words – this prayer from my Pastor, but they are also from You, God. You are always with us. In the moments when we do not know what to say or what to do, You provide the words and the wisdom that we need. When we feel we are being stretched too far, You carefully guide us along the way. We are burdened and hurting and we place our fears and our situations in Your hands, Father. We believe. Help our unbelief. Forgive our unbelief. Bless us, we pray. In Jesus’ Name. Amen. 
Wedding

Eight Years Later

Yesterday was Anthony’s and my eight year wedding anniversary. It was a pretty quiet day until we attended a board meeting for the Little League in our area. We went to volunteer as board members and were voted in during the meeting! That was a really cool way to celebrate the anniversary of our marriage.

As we begin another year of marriage, I can’t help but reminisce over the last eight and count my blessings. I’m so glad my husband puts up with me. He’s a wonderful guy! So without further ado, here’s a very, very short list of things I’m grateful for in my marriage.

First Year

  • Spending our honeymoon in Bandon, Or. I’ll always treasure that first day as husband and wife, walking around the tiny little town, exploring the local fare.
  • Positive pregnancy test! Our little Theresa was on the way!

Second Year

  • Theresa was born not long into the second year of our marriage. I went into labor at the air port, picking Anthony up from deployment. It was a dramatic entry for our little “Tornado Tess” and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Anthony was so sweet, holding our precious little babe. He barely let go of her those first few months.
  • Positive pregnancy test a month and a half after he returned home from deployment! Our little Chelsea was on her way!

Third Year

  • Chelsea was born just 22 days into our third year as man and wife. True to form, Anthony was a perfect dad and husband at the birth. He never left our sides.
  • Living in base housing in Seattle and walking through Fort Lawton every night after dinner. (The base housing is no longer there. It’s been moved to Lake Stevens, WA and the land given back to the natives.)

Fourth Year

  • Travelling all over WA state on the weekends, exploring just because we were there and we could. Anthony is a wonderful navigator. I, on the other hand, get lost in the grocery store and require a map.
  • Anthony took both girls trick-or-treating, by himself. (This is huge because I absolutely despise Halloween and prefer to hide. He had no qualms about taking two kids under two trick or treating so I could have quiet time.)

Fifth Year

  • This was a tough year for me, but Anthony stuck by me the entire time and defended me when others spoke damaging lies about me. He even stuck up for me against his command’s wishes. Marriage first, mission second, which is not the Navy way, but it is Anthony’s way and I love him for it.
  • Going to the Seattle zoo almost every weekend. He always let me sit and watch the giraffes as long as I wanted. What a guy!

Sixth Year

  • This is the year we got out of the Navy. He denied his orders to stay in Everett and just got out when I asked him to. We had to work really hard to make post-Navy life work, but we did it together!
  • He went vegan with me to help me curb and correct some of the painful reproductive issues I’d been having.

Seventh Year

  • We moved back home to Oregon, at my request. He had a great job at Silgan Containers in Toppenish, WA for $60k/year and left it for a $38k/year job with the county jail back home. (Anthony has wanted to be a cop since he was 5 years old. I’m so blessed to see his dream come true!)
  • Having my husband HOME! This was the first year of our marriage that he was home every day and did not deploy. It was surreal. I kept waiting for the deployment to come, but of course it never did. (Thank God!)

Eighth Year

  • Struggling with our finances together and praying together. This brought us so close to each other, and to God. It’s stretched us further than we ever thought we could go, and made us so much stronger than we ever realized we were.
  • Watching our daughter’s first Tee-Ball together. I almost burst out in tears the first time she took the field. My mother’s heart was proud, and I was so glad for Anthony’s strong arms around me, praying for her success with me.

Hopes for Year Nine

  • We’re still trying for baby number three!
  • Coaching Tee-Ball next year and blooming as Little League board members
amish

Going Amish?

amish

 

One of my all-time favorite books is Almost Amish by Nancy Sleeth. I cannot read this book enough! Right now, I’m reading it for the fourth or fifth time and taking more intensive notes than I ever have before. God has been placing it upon our hearts to live more sustainable lives and to love and tend His creation. For the last couple of years, Anthony and I have been working really hard to live more with less. We got off track about a year ago when we moved back home to Oregon, but we’re slowly getting back to where we want to be. Eventually, we will switch from 100% electric lighting to 100% non-electric lighting, from owning a clothes dryer, to not owning one (and line drying all of our clothes), and we will cut down on our use of a car for any errand within five miles of our home (unless it’s on the way home from church or work, which are both more than 10 miles from home). We’re selling pretty much everything that is non-essential and that does not honor God. This includes home decor, clothing, and most small electrical kitchen appliances. This change began in the heart, and is moving outward, to our actions. It’s not so much that we want to be Amish, as that we want to honor God in all we do and say, and we want to be sure we’re considering long-term cost to our environment, neighbors, and our wallets, as opposed to short-term gain for ourselves.

The more we pare down, the freer we feel. We live in a small (by “normal” standards) two bedroom, one and a half bath apartment. It’s around 900 square feet and it’s ample room for the four of us. We park in a community car port and we live less than half a block from the schools, and less than one-quarter mile from a local grocer’s. Everything we need is within one mile of our home. Though we do not have a backyard, we do have a small patio, and we are using that to grow some food. We currently have cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, mint, rosemary, basil, oregano, broccoli, limes, lemons and oranges growing on our back patio. There is still room for our two girls to play out there as well. We plan to increase our crop by double next year, adding beans, cilantro, potatoes, radishes, cucumbers (for pickling), and tomatillos or some other type of peppers.

Our girls are expected to help water the plants, feed the pets (we have a small dog and a cat), and clean up after themselves, as well as set the table, prepare some simple foods (like cutting olives with a table knife, tear lettuce for salads, stir baking mixes, etc), fold laundry (towels, wash cloths, socks, underpants, cloth napkins, etc.), and sweep and mop tiled areas, to name a few. I also expect them to clean the bathtub every Monday evening. (They love that particular chore, since it means they’re the first to take a soak in a clean tub!) We do not pay our girls an allowance. We had been using a rewards system to bribe them to do chores, but we’re removing that from our home, since we don’t believe that it’s spiritually beneficial to bribe them to assist the family, or for any other reason. This can lead to a sense of entitlement, and that is not a spiritual blessing in any way, shape or form. Instead, we reward ourselves with time spent outside, such as a daily walk to the park to play on the playground. We live exactly a half mile from two different parks (one in each direction), both with playgrounds. Taking a walk to the park is a daily occurrence, provided it’s not pouring down rain outside. This is ample reason for the girls to complete their chores in a timely manner. They absolutely love going to the park with enough time to spend socializing with the neighbor kids.

We have significantly decreased screen time for our children, to a mere 20 minutes a day (for computer games on Sesame Street.org) and one movie a week, on Fridays, when we make popcorn and settle in on the couch as a family. This week, we watched Beauty and the Beast and all of us girls were delighted to discover that my husband knew all the words to every song in the movie! Anthony and I have cut down screen time for ourselves, as well. We’re working on cutting it down even further. It’s a tough habit to break! He is in online school, working towards a degree in forensics and criminology and I home school Theresa, using the internet as a frequent resource for her. (I have found very helpful videos on YouTube for my visual learner.) We have to be very mindful of how we are using the internet. It’s so easy to become distracted!

Our financial situation has always been bleak. We were love-sick kids who got married on borrowed time and borrowed money. We barely had two nickels to scrape together, and then we started having children. You can guess how that’s all turned out. 😉 We tried chasing after the “American dream” but found that for us, it’s more of an “American nightmare.” We have little interest in corporate America and even less interest in working far from home. We value our time together as a family, and our small home that allows us to be in close proximity to one another. Yes, we do occasionally (read: daily) drive each other nuts, but we also have some insanely funny moments. I would not trade this time with my family for anything, nor would I desire a larger house so that I could “escape” from my husband or my children. We make time for each other, and for ourselves. It all “comes out in the wash” as they say.

Behind our home is an empty property, full of grass, wild flowers, birds and often, deer. We love to stand on the patio, quietly talking to our friends, the deer. Right now there are five young bucks that make the trek to our “backyard”. It delights our girls to no end to see them out there, munching on the sweet grasses or laying lazily in the sun. I love listening to the hundreds of birds outside our window. There is a stream about 50 yards away, down a bit of a ravine, and I know the area is teeming with wild-life. I am in heaven here. There is always something new, something beautiful to enjoy, even in the middle of a small town.

Because we enjoy our friends the birds and deer so much, we want to preserve their land. Limiting our time in the driver’s seat, cutting down our carbon footprint, and reducing our use of non-renewable energies. We’re beginning to shop locally (which is an adjustment, I’ll admit! I love Fred Meyer!), frequenting farmer’s markets, purchasing locally made toiletries, using cloth napkins exclusively, cleaning with water and vinegar, and clearing our home of unnecessary clutter. (Clutter equals fire hazard, among other things.)

The reactions we’ve received about these changes have been, surprising to us, mostly negative. People ask why we’re striving to be so different, and ask why we’re trying to buy our way into heaven. It’s not about buying our way into heaven at all! It’s about ensuring there’s still a planet with fresh air, healthy (recognizable, non-genetically modified) foods, and room to run and play and explore nature, for future generations. Most of all, it’s about living in a way that allows us time to be free to do what we love best, and that is to love God by serving others. I cannot serve others very well when I am tied down to a large house, cleaning lots of things that I do not really need, and working at a job I hate just to be able to afford these things. That, to us, is the opposite of a dream.

God has deeply and richly blessed our family. I can count on one hand the amount of times we’ve discussed leaving this town to go somewhere else and make more money, and on one finger the number of places and situations I’d rather be in. God has planted us here, and we intend to bloom right where He’s planted us. This, above all things, is the Amish way. We will bloom where God has planted us until it is time to be with Him forever in Heaven.