“I never get anything,” she pouted and drug her heels on the sterile floor illuminated in fluorescent light.
“Susannah, that is not true in the least,” I replied. “You have more than you could ever imagine.”
More tears. Heavier feet. A sulky almost-six-year-old face. I think it’s best to leave well enough alone at this point so I move on.
She has pushed back harder than this in the past and I’ll be real and say that I have explained the term “spoiled brat” to her in these moments. I don’t CALL her a “spoiled brat” but I absolutely can tell her about what this means as a precautionary measure. I have also been known to warn her of any “Veruca Salt-like” behavior. *
The thing is, Susannah is a very loving, compassionate child. She is not a spoiled brat. She cares for others and is worried about those who are less fortunate. She is beautiful on the inside and out.
But now and then, she forgets about the insane amount of stuffed animals she has in her room. She has no idea how blessed she is that she never, ever has to worry about not having enough food to eat. She is able to be clean, her parents support her schooling efforts, and she is loved and delighted-in often.
This is when it hits me: I work in the exact same way.
There are times when I am ready to sell off the stuff we own and head to Africa to be missionaries. I want to empty myself of all of my materialistic desires and feel a nudge to simplify, to go back-to-the-basics and make life a whole lot easier for us all.
But then there are times when I’m cranky because I can’t find a good pair of jeans. My house is too cluttered. My kids never put toys away. My husband is self-centered. I enter a downward spiral of ungratefulness and can practically hear the laughter of the enemy on my descent.
Why do I allow myself to slip into an attitude of despair and ungratefulness when I know I have it so good?
While we are not moving to Africa anytime soon, I recently decided to listen to the nudge asking me to cut down on all of our stuff – to reduce the clutter in my life. In all forms.
I’ve been unsubscribing like crazy to unwanted emails. I quit almost all of my magazine subscriptions. I’m doing laundry on just one day a week and don’t even think about it on the others. I’m getting up to spend time with God. I’m hauling stuff off to Goodwill and passing down to friends.
I feel so much more organized. So much less stressed. So much more freedom.
Don’t get me wrong – I still forget. I still slip into “Debbie Downer” mode now and then and have a pity party for myself in which I’m the only guest invited.
However, it would be remiss to not mention the fact that cutting down on what I once thought would fill me up made me realize that all of the stuff, the things I had to have, actually made me hungrier.
My mind often does go to the people in Third World countries who do not have clean drinking water. Who live in shanties with dirt floors – if that. Who don’t have enough food to eat.
And yet, I remember watching a video clip of these people worshiping our God with a reckless abandon. They were joyful. They were present. They were free.
They needed nothing except Him. The rest took care of itself.
During this time of the year, we often see 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 emerge: Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Maybe the person who has the least is not the person in the Third World country.
When we have too much and are weighed-down by “stuff”, we lose perspective on rejoicing – instead, we complain when we don’t have it or don’t get it fast enough.
When we think we can buy whatever we want to fill that hole that is God-shaped and can only be filled by Him, we lose the desire to pray to Him.
And lastly, when we are convoluted by all that we have, our feathers get ruffled over things that are so minute it’s almost embarrassing. We cannot possibly give thanks because things are just so bad right now.
Perspective is the great jolt I often need to break me out of this fog and I recently came across a quote by naturalist John Burroughs that is just the tool to remind me of how simple it’s really supposed to be when I feel too cluttered. It reads:
To find the universal elements enough;
to find the air and the water exhilarating;
to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter;
to be thrilled by the stars at night:
to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring …
these are some of the rewards of the simple life.
Perhaps this is why people in Third World nations are able to worship without inhibition, pray continually, and seem to be overflowing with gratitude.
The rewards of the simple life really are that simple. And abundant.
Happy Thankgiving to you and yours. May your spirit be filled with the things He created, may you feel His love for you through this simplicity, and may you stop to be in the moment, to be present, and still.
Lastly, I’m linking up with Jen for the Soli Deo Sisterhood today – if you want to read some good, quality writing, head over and check out some of these ladies. They’re amazing.
* Veruca Salt is that spoiled little girl in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” that says “I want an Oompah-Loompah and I want it nooowww….” in a really whiny, annoying voice. Blech.
We have had this conversation many, many times in our house, on many different levels.
Good for you for decluttering! I always do some version of this in early December, telling the kids I am getting ready for their gifts, but really I just can’t stand all the stuff laying around. Especially when there are people who have less than nothing in our very own city.
You have reminded me of a post I was going to write. Thanks.
I know the next few days is going to be busy, so Happy Thanksgiving, Natalie! My sweet blog friends are a blessing that I thank God for often!
.-= Heather´s last blog ..Jumping for joy! =-.
Likewise sweet Heather – I’m so very thankful for YOU!
i can relate to this post on SO many levels. it’s something i have been thinking about and praying about recently. i even posted about my “epiphany” a few weeks ago…about hos i was focusing on all the wrong things. yet i STILL find myself coveting the material possessions of others…..wondering why i don’t have the things they have. thinking that stuff is going to make me complete. i was running laps the other day and then all of the sudden i just found myself on my knees, tears running down my face….begging God to save me from the pit i was in. i know that He can bear my burdens and for some stupid reason i keep insisting on trying to do it myself.
one experience that is coming soon is that my husband and i are going to guatemala on a mission trip. i know that it will be a life-changing experience and i’m hoping and praying that it will give me a perspective on life that will remain with me forever.
.-= alison´s last blog ..everything must go!! =-.
Alison, thank you for sharing a bit of your heart. I know I struggle with this as well and I am pretty certain God understands this – He is our creator. I think it’s just one more tool He uses to make us cry out to Him and you did just that. I know He is pleased with you.
There are several verses that talk about how the people “cried out to God” and He delivered them. Crying out is the first step.
Oh, I so have a heart for missions. In the next season of my life, I plan to be a mission mama! I can’t wait to hear about your experience in Guatemala.
Just said a prayer for you, sweet Alison. I’m hoping you are feeling it today!
I had a similar conversation with my daughter this week, however it was a response to “I”m starving!” Really. I finally put it into perspective for her. I probably didn’t do it in love, patience and compassion, but I put it in reality as to what starving really means to some children in other parts of the world.
I’m with you on the decluttering. As we move toward the most holy and yet, also materialistic time of the year, I’m starting to think about what we truly need, rather than what we truly want.
Thanks for these words to Natalie. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.
.-= Michelle´s last blog ..ALL the Pieces =-.
You hit the nail on the head. I struggle with the same thing. So much “stuff” yet we complain. I just unsubscribed from a ton of e-mail lists as well (just yesterday!) and I just made a trip to Goodwill (more to come). I don’t like clutter, but it’s everywhere. I start getting rid of things and start wondering how I came to have much of it. Accumulating stuff doesn’t fill me, so why do I buy it? I have been praying about this a lot lately. God is slowly changing me, but it is a process — a very long one! So many things to think about this time of year — being thankful, giving gifts, making a “wish list”, cleaning out, what we’d like to change (new year’s resolutions), etc… So many contradictions. No wonder life is so hard!
.-= Kelli´s last blog ..A Race That Humbled =-.
well said, oh my goodness! I am HERE right now. We just went to the good will several times last week and it’s all about ‘need’ or ‘want’. And it is true, we have soooo much to be grateful for. My sis went to Africa just this year and came back in absolute augh even as much suffering as she saw they are the happiest people on the earth. WHY? Because EVERYTHING is dependent upon Him and they know ALL comes from Him and they worship with a heart of thanksgiving daily glorifying Him. It is so inspiring!
.-= marlece´s last blog ..A BIG EVENT! =-.
This is a perfect time of year for this post. We have been doing the same things at our house and it has been relief to be a little more empty on the material-goods side and a little more full on the Jesus side. I gave the kids a challenge yesterday to each give a way 3 stuffed animals, 3 barbie dolls, and 3 other random toys. They had to show me them and then check off the blank on the challenge sheet we made. After Abby was done, she made Mommy a challenge sheet too. She challenged me to give away 3 things off my bedside table, 3 pieces of clothes, and 3 pairs of shoes. 3 pairs of shoes! Oh my…
.-= Jen´s last blog ..A Numbers Game & Soli Deo Gloria Link-up =-.
Natalie, you hit the nail on the head girl.
I spent 2+ FULL, as in ENTIRE days cleaning Luke’s room last week in preparation for his birthday party where more STUFF was going to enter my house. For the love of Tonka Trucks! I thought I was going to have a meltdown. And then I DID have a meltdown. We have so much STUFF in our home I could just get sick. I guess you hit a chord here, sorry.
Hi, I’m Erin, and I hate clutter.
Love you, and hope you’re having a great day…and I still haven’t read anything yet.
Thank you so much for this!!! I totally feel the same way. I grew up with very little (I have 4 siblings and my parents are high school teachers in rural Indiana), and I find it so hard to teach my children that we live in such abundance. They don’t know what’ it’s like to only own one pair of shoes each year, or one winter jacket. I also get bogged down by the clutter, but I just haven’t taken the time, like you, to do the de-clutter thing (except for our annual summer garage sale). Perhaps I will try this next weekend and have the children go through their rooms and see what they’d like to donate to Goodwill before Christmas so other children can have some nice toys under their tree. :)
Oh — and by the way, this would have been a perfect speech for MOPS. :)
You know I am loving this post, and I am pretty certain we all have a little Veruca Salt in us. I get what you said about getting rid of the junk in our lives. How many times do I open my email and delete half of what is there because I’ve subscribed to some random subscription that I never read…get rid of it! I guess my problem comes when I am trying to put a stop to the mounds of stuff that makes its way to our house, and others (family members!) continue the nonstop buying. Oh, it is such a struggle. When I say slow down, they feel as if my kids are deprived.
ps Your photo is perfect.
.-= Amy Sullivan´s last blog ..My Girls- My Mission =-.
What an inspiring post! We can so easily become slaves to our stuff and what a horrible place to be. DeCluttering is a way to prevent that from happening. Blessings to you on this Thanksgiving!
.-= Lea Culp´s last blog ..Miscellany Monday =-.
i really, really, really loved this. i’ve been thinking about doing the same thing in my world & home. in fact, i’ve been dragging out boxes and filling up garbage bags. i’m just starting to scratch the surface of the beauty you reflect in this blog. this absolutely inspires me… so much.
Visting from Lisa’s blog.
Great post, especially good for gearing our minds for what Thanksgiving is all about. Appreciated your marriage post, too. I write quite a few articles on marriage for Family Fountain. Important subject, and one you addressed very well.
You have a nice blog.
Have a good Thanksgiving.