From the “Just Living” Archives
Eleven days without acquiring any new “stuff” shouldn’t be that difficult, right? In all actuality, it hasn’t been too bad, although I do have to admit that the only two retail establishments I’ve set foot in have been the grocery and hardware stores.
The trip to the hardware store was to purchase replacement light bulbs, yet even there the lure of “stuff” called from the shelves. Right opposite the cash register was a Christmas clearance table with a handy dandy zip up Christmas tree bag on wheels. The vision of effortlessly loading the seven-and-a-half foot artificial tree into said product before hauling it down to a dust and spider-free existence in the basement danced was alluring. However, a lovely, color-coordinated Christmas tree bag is NOT a necessity, and it probably doesn’t work as well as the picture on the front advertises. Temptation resisted, I happily made do with the large cardboard box into which the tree has once again been stuffed and wrapped with bungee cords until next December.
The second challenge to my “making do” pledge came in the form of the untimely demise of our plastic shower curtain. I had planned to use clear packing tape to patch and reinforce the holes by which it hangs, but an unexpected gift from a parishioner changed the plan. Sharon W. had made her son a shower curtain for Christmas patterned after one he saw in a catalogue. She ended up making him another one in a darker color, so she gave this one to me “in case I might have a use for it.” I couldn’t have asked for a better quality or nicer looking curtain. What an unexpected surprise and blessing!
On Sunday, May 25th, we’ll hear Jesus’ words from Matthew 6:24-34 about trusting in God rather than in the quest for material possessions. Eugene Peterson translates verses 31 and 33 in The Message as such: “What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving….Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”
Yes, the shower curtain is but one small example of a small, everyday need being unexpectedly met. I look forward to sharing with you other examples as we move closer to the Sunday that this passage appears in the lectionary, and I challenge you to look for examples of how God is meeting your needs, too.
Finally, a note about stewardship and stuff (or maybe I should say stewardship of stuff!). I am both amazed and horrified by the amount of “stuff” I’m finding tucked away in this house. Bear in mind I moved here less than two years ago. That means either I moved too much stuff here, or I’ve continued to acquire way too much stuff since I’ve been in North Dakota. My sneaking suspicion is that the answer is an embarrassed “yes” to both charges.
To be an effective steward of all this stuff, I’m taking a four-pronged approach. I’m beginning by going through closets, drawers, and boxes to see just what lives here with us. Believe me, it’s a daunting process!
Each item is then going one of three directions: use it, recycle it, or gift it. If an item wasn’t used in the past year, I ask why. If there doesn’t seem to be a good answer, then it is marked for recycling (free cycle, Relay for Life Rummage Sale, or resale). New, like new, or very special items not being used may be earmarked for gifting to special friends and family. Since I’m not buying new stuff this year, gift-giving is taking on new dimensions.
Whatever the fate of all the “stuff” in the Lucas household, it is important that I’m a good steward of my possessions, as well as my time and talents. A year of not buying new is already teaching me some important lessons. Remembering that all we have is graciously provided by our loving and merciful God is now, for me, the first thought in how I will now handle the tangible “stuff” that passes through my life.
Thank you, God, and Sharon W. for a beautiful new shower curtain, and for an important lesson on being a better steward when it comes to “stuff.”