Sunday, April 1, 2012

The pouring out

Four or so years ago, God gave us this desire to move out to the country and live a simple life. Now, if you knew me before all of this, you would know that sort of thing would not have been very appealing to me. I really liked the city, and the idea of being out in the middle of no where and getting my hands dirty? Like, ew. When I was a kid, I would have loved to live out in the country. I was a tomboy, and loved getting dirt under my nails, but somewhere in my late teens and early twenties, I had definitely become quite the priss. In fact, the idea of working hard... actually having to work with my hands and work up a sweat... yeah, no thanks.

So, you can see how much of a change it has been for me to have my desires completely flip flopped. Brandon and I went from desiring a bigger house, nicer cars, more stuff, more money to just wanting to simplify. A lot of people thought we were nuts when we started talking about building what is called a "tiny house" and cramming our growing family in less square footage (so we could move out to the country). I used to talk about it a lot, but it seemed like such a distant dream. I had no idea how we were ever going to get to that point. It really felt like an impossible dream- that God had put this desire in my heart and this dream in my head that we would never achieve. It took a few years for me to realize that was kind of the point.

I believe the Lord wanted me to realize that this was not only a God-planted dream, but also a God-directed one. He is going to arrange it. It is in His hands. One day it became very clear. I was telling a friend about our dream, and then said something like, "Well, it'll be a miracle when it happens because it just doesn't seem possible."

{*Light bulb moment*}

Then it hit me that God had been, was, is still arranging all the pieces. Just because it's taken four plus years doesn't mean He hasn't been choreographing it all. The message to me has been, "Sit back and watch Me work, Mandy. Don't rush it. Don't push it. Just let Me do it."

Even though the journey has been rough, I am so glad that the Lord showed us that stuff is just stuff. As Brandon often says, "One day, it's all gonna burn." It's stuff. It breaks down. It gets lost, stolen, worn out, replaced, repaired, rebroken. It's stuff. It becomes clutter. More stuff to dust, wash, clean, care for. And, throughout our lives, we keep adding more and more stuff to the collection, don't we?

But I know what it's like to have nearly nothing. I know I've said this a lot, but I like to remind myself of how poor we used to be because that's one of the times in my life when I felt the richest. House on the brink of foreclosure. Truck repossessed. Restaurant going under. Twenty dollars in my pocket for groceries and diapers for the week. Electricity being turned off every month. It looked bad. It seemed depressing from the outside looking in. But I felt so rich. It's not like I loved the position we were in. I was indeed frustrated with the whole situation but boy did we learn a lot of valuable lessons. It was one of the richest seasons in our lives.

It's when we really learned that God wanted us to pour our lives into people, not our business, not our stuff, not the "pursuit of happiness". Our home may not have been much, but it was always open. It became the place of ministry as Brandon and I learned how to reach out to those who were where we had been- those lives controlled by drugs, alcohol, sex, marital woes, and various other addictions, lives that needed someone to love them until they could love themselves, pour out patience and kindness.

Not to say that being in that position didn't sometimes drive me crazy because it is really difficult to work with addicts, to help them get clean and then see them fall back into that pit. It's really hard because you love them, you want them to be free of those things, you want them to see how rich life can be, and how those addictions are chains that hold them back. But it's also a good mirror. It has shown me the love of God, how I was addicted to stuff and a dream that was useless and fruitless and never-ending (because you are never satisfied with the stuff you have if that's what you're chasing after), and how Christ wanted to set me free from my dependence on stuff, and I can get "clean", but I end up falling back into that pit because it's tempting and it's flashy and it's all around me and it's new and it's improved, and man, I've gotta have it.

And yet it never, ever brings happiness. It's brings a temporary high, but it never satisfies.
I firmly believe that nothing in this dimension can satisfy.

Look around at all the people who are constantly chasing after something fresh and new, never satisfied for long. That unquenchable thirst. We get what we think we want, and it's not enough. We're all starry-eyed and wooed and then after a few days, weeks, months or years, when we feel we aren't being served by it or him or her, the search is on. If you're pursing happiness, you'll probably never find it. Happiness is a state of being. It's not something you can find or create. Happiness is contentment, and you will never be content as long as you are focused on yourself, on what you have or don't have, on how you're being treated or how you should be treated, or whether you've achieved the goals you had in mind.

But man, we live in a society that hates contentment. Loathes it. We market against it. We are bombarded with images that stir a longing within us for something "better" than what we have. The "Keeping up with the Joneses" syndrome. An envy, greediness, a Gollum-like obsession over anything that sparkles- "My precioooous."

All that keeps us from really enjoying what we have already been blessed with, blinds us to what really matters, distracts us from what is truly valuable. It's so easy to be distracted. God is constantly realigning my focus. I am like a small child thrilled over trash, refusing treasure. Reminds me of what our pastor in Louisiana once said. "We're clinging to a cow patty, while God is offering us a gold brick."

I'm constantly stripping away the stuff, and yet the addiction is still there. My eye is drawn to things I don't really need, craving meaningless things. I'm no fool. I know that shedding the stuff won't make life perfect. I know that moving out to the country won't make me happy. I mean, yes, it will make life simpler, and it can bring about things I really want, but it, in itself, will not bring happiness. I can't live life waiting for the next phase, living for the "when". I've been in that trap. Life will be better when. I'll be happy when. I'll start really living when. I'll be a better wife/mother/friend/person when. I'll enjoy life more when.

What about now? I'm aware that my dream can become just as much an addiction as stuff. I can lean on a dream just as I can lean on stuff. I can chase after a dream just as I can chase after stuff. And it won't satisfy any more than my stuff will satisfy. It's a hard lesson to learn- how to live right now, to be intentional about living this very moment to its fullest. We categorize the days and the moments. This is a good day. That was a bad day. I'm ready for tomorrow. I miss yesterday.

So what about now? Can I choose to enjoy now, even if my newborn is fussy, and my toddler is clingy, and the children are being too noisy, and my house is dirty, and I miss/want/need my mama and..... Can I turn it around, appreciate that I have babies who need me, a house that is full and running over? Can I put on different glasses, change the perspective, realign my focus, tweak the lens through which I see my life?

I want to see the stuff as just stuff. I want to see the beauty where beauty really is. So many things masquerade as gold, but few things are. I want what is truly valuable, I want to clearly see it, never take it for granted.

I want the simple things. You can have the world, I don't want it. I don't want the competition for bigger, better, badder. I don't want to be a celebrity. I don't want to be famous. I don't want to be rich. I just want to live in the fullness of love, to really pour out my life like Christ did. That's where the value is- in the pouring out, not the taking in.


  1. Thank you....struggeling with this right now and this helped put things into perspective.
    God Bless!

  2. Love this post. Reminds me of the "One Thousand Gifts." Gratitude changes everything!