Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What a ride?

What a roller coaster ride that was for all those who stayed? I personally spent the days prior to the storm fretting over what to do…stay or go. After deciding to stay, Glen and I stayed up most of the night wondering if the wind was going to tear off the roof and leave my family and house exposed to the wind and rain. We put the girls in our interior closet where there were finally able to get some sleep. At some point in the early morning hours after I woke from a short nap, I thought the sound of the wind would never end. Then to wake up the next morning to mixed feelings as we gazed at the mess all over the yard, street and neighborhood, but thanking God we were all safe and sound and had no major damage to the house. Over the next few days after the storm, I found comfort in making contact with friends to see if they were okay, helped family and neighbors clean their yards and homes. I found joy in spending days with my kids and watching them play in the front yard for hours with their friends on the street. Like any great amusement park ride, there are things that thrill you and things that almost kill you, and I can honestly say I was glad to see Hurricane Ike screech to a halt. But this time, I won’t say “Let’s ride it again!”

My review of this trecherous ride...excellent. Surprised? You shouldn't be.

I learned a lot from my decision to stay in my home during the storm. Other than learning what doors and windows leak with horizontal rainfall, that I really should board my windows, and tall pine trees really can bend to where their tops practically touch the ground and don't actually break in half, I learned their are some truly great individuals who live with and around me.

In my unofficial survey, almost everyone I spoke to after the storm who stayed to "hunker down" in their own homes said they would evacuate the next time a hurricane heads our direction. I too was among those in that camp. But thinking about it now, I would have never experienced the true gift of a good neighbor in those days following the storm.

The folks on our street are normally very social. And I have to say I know most everyone on our street. And unlike most streets, we all know each other and occasionally spend time together. But in the days that followed the tumultuous storm, I was overwhelmed by all the care, concern and help each of us showed toward the other.

There were folks who cut down trees, raked yards, helped remove boards, shared space in generator-powered refrigerators, repaired roofs and the list goes on.

The person of which I am most proud is my husband. He spent hours helping our neighbors, some of whom he had never really spoke to, rake their yard, cut down trees, as well as straighten them. Then he spent more hours helping his parents and their neighbors do the same. He is truly my hero and such a great example to our girls.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Simplify: Why?

Over this past year, I have realized, we as Americans, have way too much stuff and I, personally, have too much stuff as well.

For me the quest for more stuff began as a child. I grew up in a lower middle class family. We were well fed and well kept, but there was not a lot of money for any extras. My toys would all fit in a small toy chest which my dad had bought unfinished and then painstakingly painted himself. All my wonderful treasures were kept in that small box. But as I grew I realized other kids had more toys, clothes and things than I. I realized their parents lived in nicer homes and drove newer cars. So my quest was to, at least eventually, have more. But did I really realize the consequences of my mission?

Now I have a house full of stuff: my stuff, my husband’s stuff and my kids’ stuff. Everything seems to be spilling over out of boxes, closets and cabinets. And my biggest fear is that I am teaching my daughters’ to want and need stuff too. I look at the spread of toys that not only fill my daughters’ rooms, but also spill over into about a quarter of my 400 square foot living room; frustrating me as I walk by since they are typically messy and unorganized. I look at my kitchen filled with gadgets, cookware and cups that we rarely use. My hobby room is full of supplies and gadgets. We have a collection of electronics, games and movies. More stuff than we could ever need, want or use. More clothes than we could ever wear.

I ask myself almost daily, “Do they really need all this stuff?” Several rationalizations pop into my head…“No, but we (or family or friends) spent good money on this stuff, so I just can’t get rid of it.” Or “Well, we may need this stuff later and I don’t want to have to buy more. So I can’t give it up just yet.”

So, how can I release myself of these ties to material possessions? Why do I worry about having things that make me happy? Why don’t I believe I have everything I need? Why do I store things thinking I may need them in the future?

I was recently reading an article about this subject that quoted this verse from the gospel of Luke: "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (Luke 12:15). Read more of Luke Ch. 12... And in the rest of this chapter of Luke, Jesus tells us not to worry about our lives, and God will take care of us.

Do I have all of these things because I don’t have faith that God will provide for me or take care of me? Maybe. Maybe I have become too reliant on myself rather than on God. Maybe my faith has weakened as I have aged. As I think of the possibilities, I think of how I can revitalize my childlike trust and faith in God.

I think my first step is to simplify my life, but first I need a plan. More to come…