About the Garden, but Not

How long does it take to grow a garden? Can you rush it along and hurry it to it’s final, beautiful stages? Can you drop store bought plants into the ground, mulch heavily, water and then sit back and relax away the rest of the season? Is it possible to work diligently for one solid season and enjoy for the rest of your days? This is not just about the garden dear ones.

I can assure you it takes a very, long time.

This is our seventh Summer living in the midst of my garden. Each year, except this one (so far), I have carved away more and more sod to lay garden beds. Lilies, Iris, Lilac, Hosta, Coneflower, Borage, so many more now spill out everywhere. Happily thriving in the rich, heavily composted soil. My sweet husband once replied to my request to extend a bed with something like; “Well, it’s less to mow.”.

Y’all know how hard the winter is on me here. The garden itself and the work done in it is what saves me from deepest depression. Oh sure, there are myriad other contributing factors, but really, the garden keeps my soul above water. I can see it now, this year as I have faced walking away from it. I can see that I did not just grow a garden, I have grown a place for my soul to sit with God and find rest amidst all of the work it has required of me.

I have grown the garden for the riot of color, for the produce, the herbs, the smells, the feel of the dirt under my nails and on my knees…but there is so much more. When you pour yourself into something, like a garden in Minnesota, you get to miss it and think of it and dream of it for several months of the year. It is something to be desired, longed for, ached over even. It is not just a space to sit and sip rum ( I wrote about this once) or a pretty place to rest; though it is that as well. For me at least, though I know not for all of you, a garden is a place to straighten out my thoughts when they are more scattered than daisy seeds on the wind. A space to pray the darkest, scariest, most fear-filled prayers while surrounded by light.

As I mentioned, this is my seventh season in this garden, and this year for sure it is a little out of hand. We were enjoying ourselves at the beach for the month of June and so the garden at home was allowed to run wild. I have been gifted truckloads of mulch twice and that kept the weeds down to a minimum, but the flowers (and the wild-flowers, aka weeds that I allow to grow in my space) took the month to explode and grow and soak up all that my absence allowed. In the old testament it is required to let the fields rest in the seventh year, I wonder if the Jewish people were still able to collect some sort of harvest from those resting fields? Did the fields still provide something of value to those people as my garden has provided for me even as I have given it (part of) the season off?

I wonder about this as I wander among the raspberry brambles collecting as many berries as I ever have in the well-cultivated years. I don’t know how this matters to you, but it matters to me. I can’t help but assume that whatever seeds fell to the ground in those ancient fields would have grown up in the season of rest, even without tending. Sure, there would have been weeds and wildflowers too, but…

Provision is a word that I can not help but associate with my Creator as well as with the garden He allows to grow up around me. He provides all things in their season. He allows all things at their most perfect time. He gives good, good gifts. I see this clearly not only because I grow a garden, but I see it amongst the flowers and herbs more than most other places. This Summer as I look around our yard, trying to decide what to do next (both in the immediate and life-altering sense) I have found my rest, I can see the provision ever-more obviously. This is not what I expected to find here.

This morning I definitely planned to write about the garden, to reveal to you in some small way that it takes a lot of time, effort, and passion to grow. I wanted to examine a bit how the garden has shaped me as I have worked to shape it. Somehow I have lost that track. Now as I sit, I can only see how the Lord has provided so many, many times for me. There has never been a moment that I have strayed from His care even when I ran hard and fast away from His will for me. I’m not really sure I can finish this post well.

I have been sitting with a decision this past week. Well, really we’ve been working on this for the better part of a year now, for me though a lot of it became real in the past couple of weeks. I wasn’t really going to tell you how I have realized that I could not ask all of my people to do something “just for me”, even though they were willing. I wasn’t going to write out how selfish that made me feel or how I knew at once the words were spoken that we could not follow through with our plans at this time in our lives. I was not intending to let you know that we changed our plans and were moving hard and fast toward a different end, yet here I sit typing it all out.

And now that plan is changed as well.

The garden is where it began and this garden is where I will stay. I didn’t come here this morning to tell you that we were not going to move away, but I suppose maybe I did. I wasn’t completely sold on the plan to stay here in this house, in this neighborhood, in this garden. Typing this out though has made me realize more than I would be willing to tell you. I now realize that knowing your family is willing to move across the country for you, in planning to do just that, and then choosing together to stay. That is not the abandoning of a dream, but the realization that you are truly loved, there can be no fear there.

The garden. Provision. Goodness. Peace.

Someday I will go friends, though it seems that day is far off. I’m a little sorry for dragging you along on this emotional journey, but not too much so. Over the year of planning to leave and the last couple of days and weeks in deciding how and where to stay, I have seen how loved I am. How connected to community we are. How leaving this village would not benefit any of the people I love enough to do it. I had felt that there was too much concession on my part, but that’s just not true. I am not giving up a dream, merely postponing it. And I completely trust that wanting this one thing and receiving another will work together for our good. I have no fear and no regret, only peace…though it did take some time in the garden to get there.

Faith and Relationships

When at once we know we are created and that we are creators we can rest at peace. Knowing that all of life will fall perfectly into place as it has been created in perfection.

I didn’t always believe that God would work all together for my good.

At those most questioning, seeking moments I don’t know whether I searched after God with all of my heart or if I just searched blindly but honestly and found that God was in my heart. I remember spending a lot of time looking and a lot of time in prayer and a lot of time in the quiet, waiting. I still ask God a lot of questions and the more of my Bible that I read the more questions I seem to have.

This I know: God is not afraid of my questioning.

Over time I have realized that my questioning mind has brought me closer to Him, even if I don’t always feel the answers are super clear. I can see now that often the point of the questions; the reason they are put in my mind, is only to bring me closer to God. By seeking so hard for what is true and what is good and, well, so much more, I have spent an intense amount of time with my creator.

I’ve decided in my own heart that this is the only point. For me at least. The point of bringing all things to God, the point of asking Him so many “why’s”, the entire reason for my being…is simply to build a closer relationship with the lover of my very soul. This has helped me accept and process an innumerable amount of personal barriers. Knowing that the bad things will come and the hard days will march along, but that whether good or bad, pleasant or trying, full of snow or sunshine…in taking each moment to God and leaving it there at His feet…a deeper peace is found.

It is freeing to know that all of the hardships and all of the mountaintops are only to bring me to Him. I’m not tapping these keys, telling you that I dont worry or wonder or have days where my anxiety creeps itchy and red up my neck. I’m not saying that at all. What I’m trying to say is that regardless of my worry or wonder I know where to take it, and that has made all of the difference. For me at least.

I don’t know how to share this. How to explain my heart to the masses. I suppose it’s good that only a few of y’all read what I write, there are no “masses” to please. I want to put it out there though. If each moment of your life drives you to your knees or brings you closer to Him; well, then that moment has done what it was intended to do. And you’ve done what you should with that moment. No need to fix it or understand it or examine it further.

Be at peace with your Creator. Trust for today that what He wants is a relationship with you. Or believe it for the next hour if that’s all you can do for now. He is good, believe it.

***I know this post is not what you’ve come to expect from me…this is where I’m at today though. Thank you for reading it through, I am grateful.***

I Want You to Know

If you’re wondering what’s going on with us, please read this post.

There are many thoughts that fill my head. More ramblings that roll through my mind than y’all would ever care to read about here. Often I think so long on something that I feel everyone in my circle must understand, even if I had never actually vocalized the thoughts. The last few days have found me wondering about all of the things we have. I have written, though not in a very long time, about the ways my family has been abundantly blessed over the years. People have have given to us, we have stumbled across things, opportunities have just worked out more than I can remember.

All of these gifts and met-needs have filled our home with comforts. I scribble down thanks for these comforts daily. Over the last few days I was caught off guard when several dear friends told me that they didn’t fully know of our plan to escape the Minnesota cold. While we don’t really anticipate leaving anytime soon, we do hope to go, and we are planning accordingly. This is one of those things that is so often on my mind, I had felt that everyone must know. I was wrong, and glaringly so. These two seemingly random ramblings; my overwhelming blessings and my inability to vocalize the thoughts in my head do actually go together…just give it a minute please.

I’ve been wondering why I have so much. I mean, I didn’t really set out the second time around to have this typical American dream with the picket fence and two fancy cars in the garage. Yet here I sit.

I’m not complaining, please let me explain.

Post-divorce things got tricky for us. Jobs lost and given up, a new baby, blending a family that was not so sure it wanted mixing at times. We were in a bad financial place and all I could do was to pray. I asked for enough money to pay the bills. I asked for toys and activities for my children. I asked for friends and a community. I asked for the gas in my car to make it through the week. I asked for a home with a yard, a place to call ours. All of the things I prayed for through tears and with a very humbled heart I was given.

Hear me.

Hear me when I say that there was often not enough money to pay all of the bills, that my children did go without a lot of things other kids have, that I had to work to build a community twice, that very often the gas was not enough to get through the week., that the house we were given took a lot of work and a few years to become a home. Sometimes Frequently the prayers are not answered in the way we expect.

Now though.

As I look around this over-large house full of all sorts of things that I’d consider luxury, I wonder over the gift it all is. And I feel a bit ungrateful to think of walking away from it all. I feel like I am being wasteful of His gifts to me by seeing now that I no longer need or want all of this. Why would He have met these wants if they were just wants? Surely the creator would have known that I’d arrive here, in a place where the wants would be excess and the gifts would be nearly burdensome? This has something to do with First John 3:1 I think.

Yet here I am.

The only way I can rationalize it is in somehow paying it all forward. As I begin to think about discarding things, begin to wonder about selling off pieces of this American dream I also wonder how we can do some sort of good in the lives of our community. How this will look is uncertain to me, but I want to donate to more than just the Goodwill. I’ve asked to see the people in need in my community; read my personal community, not only the place where I live. I’m asking to offer up what I have because it is so much more than we need. I don’t yet know how this looks, but I hope that I see it as it is happening.

That I don’t miss it.

 

 

I want to know, I guess, that all I’ve been given is not wasted. That the notes of thanks I’ve written out continue to have meaning to someone, even if I am no longer that someone. I think about this a lot. And that is why I’m writing it down here to share to you, because I don’t want my circle of friends to miss this or feel as though I didn’t mention it.

I want you to know.

I want you to know that I see the needs you have, and while I may not be the one to meet them, I trust the One who will. I want you to know and so I (hope to follow through with this) will talk about what is going on with us and our stuff in person with you. I will make more of an effort to share with my dear friends where we are on this journey toward less stuff and more happiness.

It may be slow, but it will be deliberate.

The choices we are making today may end up not being the ones we want to live with ten years from now, but as I don’t regret any of the things I have asked for up till now I am sure that asking for this opportunity to travel, to live where there is more warmth and sunshine, to do something that feels selfish, but right… I trust that these prayers will be answered and that I’ll take each day as the gift it is. That is, I think, how I can show my appreciation and gratitude.

 

First Thoughts

The sea has long called to me. Most don’t understand this call as I was born and raised about as far as one could be from any ocean. Yet I feel the pull of the tide deep in my soul. I listen to the waves crash in my head as I steal the quiet of mornings. I feel the vastness of the ocean when I close my eyes on the day. Somehow the Lord saw fit to put this longing in me. I can’t see where else it would have come from. This is a different, a deeper desire than the one that calls me off down dirt roads and toward far off sunsets. A more plaintive whisper in my very heart. I hear it and I wait.

A person can not just set off to the sea when there are obligations and responsibilities; children and bills and chores…can she? We did just that for a brief moment in time. I can not recount here my entire journey to my heart, for it is long and vulnerable, and not quite “wordy” enough. More of it is felt than spoken, really. Over the next string of days I do hope to lock the thoughts down on paper, if only for myself. Some I’ll share, others will be the whispers that take me back one day to that forgotten place inside my own spirit. Set down in pencil and ink as a reminder that I am more than…than what…?

The waves were more powerful than I had recalled. As I stood on the shore watching swells crash over my children, seeing their small bodies submerged by the power of the ocean. I was at once in awe and yet fearful. This is something I had long wanted; babes at the sea, splashing, swimming, giggling. I had wanted to give them the power of a wave, the quiet of low-tide, the beauty of the sun over the water.

More.

I had wanted to drum the sound of the water into their hearts, had prayed that they would feel the pull of a place like this in their subconscious. I can not guarantee that they will long for it, live for it, run after it (or any other thing), but I can give them the experience at the shoreline. Can fill their cups to brimming over with tidal waters. This trip was a start, was a drop in the bucket.

I allowed the ocean to speak deeply to my children and I can only pray that the voice of it will not diminish as they grow. That if not the call of the waves than the cries of their own hearts will be loud and forceful. That through the power and wonder of the sea, they can relate their desires. I have watched them sleep on this adventure, seen their sun-kissed faces as they rest, the joy spread wide from their hearts. I have brought them to the type of place I could call home, a place I am my truest self and I have given it to them. I have kept nothing back. Yet I know it was only a vacation, an adventure, a respite. They see it as such and I fear that if it is only this then it will not have been enough.

How could a few days ever be enough?

I have given them a taste though. At this time it is what I can give. Who can say how the weeks and months and years ahead will unfold? We try to craft our future, jot outlines of plans, make a way to get what I want. I know though, in that deepest place, that I am not in control. Proverbs 19:21 is familiar to me; “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”. Honestly I’ll keep scheming, keep asking, keep planning for what I want from this life, for the lives of my children. I’ll seek that place where my want and His Will intersect. I trust that the place exists and that I will be made aware of it as I come upon it.

This day I will look for the guideposts which must be along my path. The signs and signals which will direct me in the way I should go, the way that I should lead them. Optimistically these paths will cut close to the water, easily and with deep crying out to us. We will not have to stretch to see the way they will fulfill a longing. More so, I will trust that the Lord wants good for me and that I can live that good by the sea…or not. Place matters, but not so much as well, this I’ve come to know over years spent out of place.

I circle back to the beginning. If this desire for the sea is not from the Lord than from where has it come? If He put a desire in me which is this strong I can trust that He will fulfill that desire in the way that only He can. I know this to be true. I will not force it or overly strive for it, but I will actively work toward my own goals seeking His will for me as I go along.

Ache

This past week is the time when I do some of the most difficult remembering of my year. I tried to tap it out here, thinking that it would help to explain my perceived melancholy. Instead it brought a deeper sadness, a more frequent ache as I thought over the words I had typed. I could not share those words with you; not here, not in this way. I also could not share the words when we were together because after thirteen years it seems that I should have come to more of a sense of finality, acceptance, peace even. I know those of you who will tell me that I could have said something, I should have told you how sad I am, and to you I can only nod and know that I would say the same. Yet there are no words.

There are no words to explain a thing that has settled into my very soul. It is an ache that I no longer feel, it simply is a part of who I am. It is a piece of the person I have become, I don’t mind it. It is a reminder that I can do the hardest of hard and come out of it alive. I tried to write “better” there, but I am only thankful to have made it through with my heart broken and my sanity intact.

I’ve been wondering about this a lot lately. How did I come through the most difficult ( I had to stop just now and wonder at this moment that I’m dancing around as truly the most difficult…there have been so many hard things.) time in my life with my mind in once piece? How and why was I able to put all of my pain and the shattered parts of my soul into tidy boxes and continue down the muddy path in front of me? There are those of you who would make jokes over how sane I actually am, but really, why is it possible for me to know this immense grief on top of the long list of other difficulties that make up my life and yet I carry on in a fairly “normal” way.

I’ve been told by a few different people lately that I should read about ACEs. Have you heard of this before? I hadn’t really known there was a name for it, but it would seem that”Adverse Childhood Experiences” are well studied. I dropped a graphic below so you can get the basics if this is as new to you as it was to me. I’m not going to tell you my number, but I will tell you that it was an alarming thing to put a name to. When I started looking into ACEs, I began to wonder how I came to this point in my life. When I look at the resulting negative factors of having grown up with a few ACEs in my life I wonder, why did I end up so well adjusted? I know that there are those few of you who knew me before my divorce who could point out that I brought some of those childhood traumas into adulthood. You could ask if I married to escape the dysfunction that was my childhood. You could even say that in having a divorce of my own I have dropped more beautiful children into this cycle.

You wouldn’t be wrong.

But…you wouldn’t be right either.

There is so much more to me than what I could underline and highlight as risk factors. That is ultimately what I am so curious about. Why do some people go through these experiences and seem to break under their weight? Why do others not? Even siblings don’t always handle the same stressors in the same way. This is something that I am curious about. Is there an inborn ability to withstand these triggers in certain people? Can a small percentage of the population go through childhood traumas and retain the ability to avoid the risky behaviors and mental illness that seem so common to those who go through these experiences? I am hoping to do more reading on this topic because as a person who has gone through some of these things I wonder.

The most alarming part of this should probably be that over 60% of the population has at least one. One out of eight people has at least four. Look over that list again, do you know which person/people in your circle are the one in eight? I am not naive enough to think that everyone in my friend group has a history with none of these experiences and yet I am not ignorant enough to think that all of my friends have some. So how does the general population walk around seeming so unaffected?

I suppose we are seeing that they really don’t seem so unaffected. There are so many people who struggle with anxiety, depression, much more. I don’t question that these things are real and I don’t question the way that people are coping either. Instead I find myself asking what have they gone through? Let me be clear, I have basically zero knowledge of this topic. I have researched very minimally at this point, but I want to understand the hope or resilience or fortitude that some people seem to have inside of them to overcome what they were exposed to as children. Where does that come from?

Over the years, before anyone gave me a name for it, I have thought that a person’s faith in God or some higher power may have been what allows them to carry on. I don’t currently trust that thought to be completely true. While I have believed in God since I was a very small girl there have been years of my life where any amount of faith was questionable at best. My behaviors at times would seem to point to the exact opposite of faith. Whatever that would be, denial I suppose. As I look at the times when my faith was strongest it was most certainly not when I needed to have the closest relationship with my Creator. While I do know that God is what has ultimately held me together, I don’t believe that my faith in Him or in His love had much to do with it at all.

I have asked myself if I managed all of the hardships simply because I had to. I was the oldest child, the one my mother expected to help the most or be the most responsible. Over the years I know that I let her down in that respect, but in my defense I would say that I knew when I could let her down. Looking at it now I can say that I knew because my own failings in this area came at times when she had the most outside support. I did not disappear when she was most alone or broken. A better question would be; how did I know this as a teen? It felt the same then as it does today. I know when she most needs me even still, and I know the support system that she has built around her is much stronger than it has ever been. As I read over this I can see what some of you might insinuate; asking why I need care for my own mother in this way. I will add it to the list of questions I currently seek answers for, and tell you that I simply do. Is it the typical first child belief that they are caretaker and controller-of-situations that made me who I am?

Is it something more? Do certain people have the sight in them to see the other side and how things should really be? Can a percent of those kids growing up with ACEs know inherently that childhood does not last and that they will have the ability to make it good on their own at some point. If so, where would that knowledge come from? A mentor? A support person? Peer groups? I so strongly want to understand, though I know it is likely any combination of factors. How can we give that knowledge or experience to other kids who are coming through their own ACEs today?

I also wonder how much worse it is getting. Children are now growing up with parents who may have been subjected to their own trauma and who are unable to handle it as adults. These parents are passing on some of that same trauma to their children, seemingly unaware of what they are doing. Is that why so many young people seem so ill-prepared to function in today’s world? If so, how can we help to break that cycle? Also, how can we give the young people the hope or fortitude or faith to trust that they can do the hard things that their lives will require of them? How can we quiet the gripping fear, the stifling depression, the overwhelming grief that some are dealing with? Is there anything to be done at all?

Like so many of the other things I write down here, I have more questions than answers about this. I can say that for me, very personally, I know that the struggles I managed from my childhood allowed me to make the most difficult decision that I ever had to make. I can tell you that without having gone through the ACEs that I did I would not have been the strength my family needed. Would someone else have stepped in? Probably. That choice though, knowing that she looked at me and asked what we should do…feeling the weight of it. I know how that event has shaped me, and without the previous hardships I would not have been able to make the choice, I would have been crushed by fear. From doing hard things I knew that I could do this impossible thing.

Why do some use the experiences as tools to get them through, while others see the same experiences as broken pieces of themselves? This is where my curiosity has returned to in this week of remembrance. This is where my mind has settled and what has kept me from falling into the very sadness and brokenness that I’m questioning.

I feel it necessary to profess that my childhood was good. I have almost exclusively fond memories of growing up. When I look at that list of ACEs I know that there were things about the earlier years of my life that should have, could have, made me look back quite differently though. And so I question. I will hope to know what it is that is in me that makes me see the years as overall-good. I will also be thankful. While I have struggled I have also been strong enough to overcome those struggles and I have thus far been able to manage…my life? my mentality? my emotions? what exactly I’m not sure.

This has been a bit rambling, even for me. If you’ve read through to the end I’d hope first that you weren’t hoping I’d wrap this up all neat and tidy and second, that whatever factors have made you the person you are today, you can see them as good. That you can see how hardships give us the ability to endure more hardship as well as an ability to more completely enjoy the good. Perhaps we can even see how much braver and bolder and stronger we are with each difficulty we overcome.

If you have recommendations for me to learn more about ACEs or managing trauma I’d love it if you’d drop me a note.

Snatches of Time

I put all of my people to bed early tonight. I had ambitious hopes of coming here and writing out the cries of my heart. Nearly an hour later I am still up and down the stairs with a child who feels less than wonderful. I am frustrated by this because I really needed the time. Instead of tapping away peacefully I am scribbling snatches of thought between whispered prayers and requests for essential oils. I see the selfishness in this rant. I really do.

I have been holding off on writing, feeling as though the time would come if I let life flow naturally. We aren’t so busy, the days are not over full, the time seems to skip happily away while I play Legos with a little or read endless chapters to fill their imaginations.

I know what you will say; this is a momma’s most precious work! Her most important job! Be grateful!

I am.

I agree.

I still want something more.

While this rambling will likely never support my family, how can I know that when I can’t even steal an hour at the end of the day to type out a coherent thought? When and where (and most of all how???) am I supposed to build an audience when I can’t build a proper paragraph for lack of focus?

I have my excuses it’s true.

I don’t mean to have quite so many.

I’ll admit to being distracted plenty of the time. With projects. With Facebook. With catching up on years of lost sleep. Still, it seems I should be allowed this time for me. This time to do something that makes me feel like I’m intelligent. Something that is meaningful to at least a few of you dedicated friends. Something that let’s me deal with the anxiety and fear and despair that creep in during the darkest months of the year.

What to do? I feel the call of the early mornings again. Though I despise waking before the sun or at least before six AM, I know that my house is quiet then. Children typically don’t stir early. Devices need to be charged. Tasks must be quiet so as not to wake sleeping babe’s. This frustrates me, I do not want to give in to that time of day. It seems that I must though. No other hours will relent their needs.

If you notice a few more posts in the coming weeks, you can assume that I have given in to the deepest cry of my heart -the desire to create something from myself, from who I’ve learned that I am- and that my heart has won over the logical side of me who really loves to snuggle back into the comforters every morning.

If you don’t hear from me for awhile, don’t be too disappointed, there are lots of words out there. Trust that the right ones will come to you as you need them. I’ll keep etching out moments, minutes, corners of time that will continue to build my story, and make my own spilled out thoughts that less rambling once they meet the page.

Recycling and Assigning Value

I’ve been decluttering the last few days. I don’t feel like my house is overly full, but somehow we regularly end up with a box for the thrift store and books to drop in little libraries and a pile of things that need to be disposed of properly. It really adds to the list of errands that we need to run and while I get quite the sense of satisfaction from it, my kids do not always enjoy the extra stops. Especially when it’s six degrees outside.

I have three stacks in my house right now as I am making a hard push to get rid of all unnecessary items. The first stack is the “donate” pile. The things in this box have not been dug out of the backs of cupboards or closets in at least a year. I may look at some of them longingly, wishing I could convince myself they were needed, but I just can’t. They have to go. This stack is really easy for me to put stuff into, I don’t have a ton of sentimental attachment to things. I also don’t have a ton of cupboard space since I asked my husband to drag the island out of our kitchen two summers ago. Space is at a premium for me and so if it’s just collecting dust, it’s gone.

The second pile contains all of the things that I would call “recyclable”. My own big blue bin is full right now after snapping pictures of the dusty wine bottles I’d saved from special occasions and the thirteen-thousand pieces of child-art. This is normal recycling. What I’m talking about here is the out of date printer/empty toner cartridge/broken charging cord that needs to be dropped off at BestBuy. Did you know this was a thing? It is sooo simple, you should really try it out if you haven’t yet. You barely have to walk in the door with the smaller bits, and there are basically zero questions asked even with the larger items.

Also, the expired bottles of children’s Advil/sore throat spray/prescription-you-didn’t-finish in your medicine cabinet. Most cities have a place to drop these meds off so that they don’t end up polluting the groundwater or in the wrong hands. I’ve included the link for my county, but it’s quite simple to alter the search for your own corner of the world. I was worried that I’d have to {gasp} pay for parking just to drop off my expired bottles yesterday, but I was able to run into the downtown location quickly and without issue. Definitely safer than just tossing this stuff in the trash.

If you’re anything like me, despite your constant use of cloth bags for all of the things – groceries, library runs, even the liquor store- you still have a bazillion plastic grocery/other bags that make their way into your house. These usually should not be thrown in with your regular recycling, but can be easily returned to a grocery or box store for recycling. Also, many other places will take them too. The library will take clean bags for folks who ended up with more books than they thought they would and now need an extra hand. Many thrift stores will take used grocery bags. In my neighborhood there is even a group (probably more than one) that uses the bags to make “plarn” (that’s plastic-yarn) and then knits the plarn into mats that are distributed to the homeless community so that they have a layer of protection between their bodies and the cold concrete. If you want to donate your bags to this project let me know and I can connect you to someone who currently knits the mats.

There are other things in this pile; items I want to post on the Facebook sale sites, toiletries and dry goods that can be donated to the local shelter, jackets and shoes my kids have outgrown that I’ll pass on to friends with smaller children. Being able to do all of this makes me feel good. Sure it sucks up half a day once every couple of months, but I’m also able to benefit so many people by taking this time. It is a good opportunity to remind my kids that the trash is not the best option much of the time. It helps them to see that most items have a usefulness beyond what we might think. Yes, it requires a bit more work, but I think it’s worth it.

I honestly didn’t come here this morning to talk about recycling. Or even about downsizing in preparation for upcoming travel. I can’t exactly say how you got to read five paragraphs of this. All of this purging, all of this disposing, causes me to pause and really look back over the last ten years of accumulating. That is what I had hoped to mentally sort through here. When I went through my divorce, I left with one pickup truck bed full of things from my previous life. Though my lawyer told me I could go to my house and gather all of my belongings, my ex said otherwise and, since I was in a place of shame and fear, I returned only once to sneak back some of my favorite gardening things.

This leaving began my process of starting over. I truly had very few possessions at this point in my life and, looking back we should have hit the road right then and there. Instead, I felt the need to acquire all of the lost treasures I’d had “before”. This was made difficult due to job loss and babies, and deep emotional struggles. We worked through it though. By the grace of God we have come back from the lows of constant financial worry, pressing anxiety, and fear of what is to come. How do I now justify to myself the giving away of all that we have worked to gain? I suppose I do it by recycling. I imagine that is how all of those paragraphs came into being this morning. By giving the things back to those who need them.

In walking away from all that I had worked for nearly ten years ago, I felt a sense of loss for the material possessions. Those things represented all I had longed for, all of the brave and bold steps I had taken over the years to do little things for myself. The sacrifices I made to work where I wanted to work, to put effort toward what I wanted to do with my life. When at home I had been repeatedly told the things I felt were important, were not. I felt like the things I was walking away from were pieces of myself. Almost literally footprints from the times I had stood up for my own wants in a marriage that did not care what I wanted.

And now? Now I am choosing it. It is less heart-wrenching to dispose of the things because this time, most of them are just things that we have used. Not things that are a statement of who I am. I am trying to walk this line carefully, not insisting anyone in my family give up things that are special to them. Not forcing the donate pile to be too large in spite of cries from my children. While I don’t see the need for twelve stuffed animals, should I force them to be given up? I won’t yet. I can understand their fear of losing treasures that are truly important to them at this stage in their young lives, and I will make a conscious choice to not steal those treasures away.

If you’ll remember I started out by telling you I was making three piles. The third box that I’m filling up is full of the things I will take with me. While my sweet husband has repeatedly told me that he will only take three things along when we leave this place, my list is slightly longer. The things I am setting aside as important are small, most cost me nothing, and almost all of them speak to the person I am or have been over the last ten years. The pieces of history I put in the box all speak to me, some remind me of who I have worked so hard to become. Others show me where we are going.

What would you put in your box? Which possessions in your house would you definitely bring along if you had to/got to leave? I don’t mean the external hard-drive with all of your family photos on it. Though that could go in there for sure. As you look around your home, what holds value for you? What would you be grieved to leave behind? You may think that all of it is just “stuff”, I know that I did before. It’s funny how things can be so meaningful in showing who you are and who you’ve been. While I’d be one of the first to tell you that you’ll be fine without all of the stuff, I’ll also be one of the first to understand when you can’t part with a hand trowel or a bird bath or a jewelry box.

As I prepare for more things to be put into piles this weekend, I am feeling peaceful. I trust that I’ll have just what I need, exactly when I need it. There is no need to hold on so tightly to all of the knick-knacks or memorabilia. I can get through it, I know now that I can be defined by some thing and still let that thing go. The definition is still inside of me even without the external representation.