Monday, January 31, 2011

Making the Cut

If you haven't noticed the USA is a land flowing with milk and honey.  I know there is an economic crisis and all, but seriously almost every single American is rich by world standards. (I don't want to get off on another subject here so I'm saving an entire blog to show this, but for now let me just give you one statistic: If your income is $25,000 you are wealthier than approximately 90% of the world's population.  That's right, if you make $25,000 a year you are in the top 10% of wealthiest people in the world!)  There is so much stuff available to buy here in the US.  We have been blessed beyond measure with material wealth and material goods.  I think that the majority of North Americans are drowning in their stuff.  We spend so much time, energy and money just managing our things.  Moving them around, maintaining them, organizing them, cleaning them, weeding through them and getting rid of some of them because we all just have too much.

Since our family is only in the USA for approximately one year, we realize that even though there are so many things available to buy and even though many of them are available for such a good price, we still shouldn't buy too much. Why?  Because in just a few short months we will be packing our suitcases for our journey back to Bolivia and there is a limit on how many things we can take with us.  A very restricted limit imposed by the airlines and even by the country of Bolivia.  We can only carry two suitcases each and the suitcases can not be overweight (over 50 lbs.).  Knowing this I evaluate each purchase I make by a few criteria:  How much does this item weigh?  Will it make the cut of the small number of things that can fit into my suitcases?  Does it justify buying it if I have to leave it behind?  Even though we are celebrating our birthdays and we celebrated Christmas here in the States, we really have to watch every gift we purchase.  Is it small enough, light enough, and valuable enough to us to justify buying it and hauling it back to Bolivia?  One more consideration we have to give is will it fit in our cozy little apartment in Cochabamba.  Again we have a very limited amount of space in which to put all the things we are taking back with us once we get it home.  Is there a place to put it in our apartment?  Just to give you an idea of what this means let me give you an example.  When we had all of our bags packed to come to the States from Bolivia (and we were only bring about one bag each) we had to put them on the balcony because there was no room for all of our full suitcases in the apartment.  It is as I said cozy with 11 people living there in a small space. 

As I pondered the enormous task of taking back things that we will be wanting and needing for the next four or so years, I realize more and more I literally weigh each purchase carefully.  If it is not something that will be used up before we go back to Bolivia (i.e. cookie dough, good chocolate, Reece's Peanut Butter Cups, flowers, Diet Dr. Pepper, Starbucks Mocha Frappuccinos, candles) then I have to decide do I REALLY want this?  Do I want enough to buy it and cart it back to our little apartment?  Do I love it enough to leave something else behind in order to carry it?  There are somethings that for sure fall into this category: my new(er) laptop, our camera, pecans, makeup, our Kindles, Bath and Body Works stuff, Yankee Candles, many of my clothes, new sheets, some soft blankets, a dog tazer, good towels, computer software for homeschool, medicines, vitamins, Lip Smackers, a label maker, a sharp kitchen knife, Tupperware, a really big non-stick skillet, and good walking shoes...just to name a few).  Others just won't make the cut (many school books, a Crockpot, heavy tools, new pots and pans, lots of our clothes, our Christmas decorations, magazines, photo albums, my china dishes, toys (the kids get to carry one backpack each of whatever they want to haul in it), heavy coats and many other things.

All of this weighing and decision making of every item I buy has been good for me.  It makes me truly consider how much I want something and how perfect it is for me.  Do these shoes rub my little toe sometimes?  They're out.  Are these the absolute most comfortable flannel sheets I've ever felt?  They're in.  Is this jacket not really my color?  It's out.  Do I want something to remind me of our time at Walt Disney World?  The refrigerator magnets are in.  How often will I really use this cookbook?  It's out.  Do I want to remember the smells of fall at 'home'?  The pumpkin candles are in.  Everything I value as worth fitting in my bag has to be special to me:  It makes me look skinnier (clothes); I could walk for miles in them (shoes); I can't get this in Cochabamba (pecans);  It reminds me of 'home' (home decor items).  Will it be a special treat to my friends there?  (I'm not telling this's gotta be a surprise)  When I get down to the actual packing even more will get weeded out.  Only the best of the best will make the journey with me.  The space is just too precious to take stuff that is just so-so.

All this evaluating of stuff got me to thinking.  I am being so vigilant in preparing for our journey back to Bolivia because even though I am here in the States now, it is no longer my home.  It is only my temporary home.  My home for this year.  A place where I am for a short while not permanently.  A place that I am enjoying and loving, but I know that one day soon my time here will be over.  This reminded me that as a Christian, this world is not my home.  It is only a place where I am for a short while.  My temporary home.  It's a place that I know and love, but I realize that I will not be here forever.  One day in the not too distant future my time here will be over.  The only things I can take with me from this place are eternal things.  Matthew chapter 6 tells us Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  I need to be just as vigilant about what I am packing in this life.  What is it that will actually make the cut into the next one?  In talking about what we do with our lives here on this earth Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3 "Anyone who builds on that foundation (Jesus) may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.  If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward.  But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames."    Am I packing this life with things that will be burned up when I stand in front of the Great Judge or am I packing it full of precious things that will stand?   What things are worth collecting here in this life?  What is worth investing my time, money and energy in? 

As I evaluate my suitcase space I look at what I can fit in that's worth taking and what I should leave out because as wonderful as it may be (Diet Dr. Pepper) I just can't justify the weight of taking it with me.  I believe I should be even more watchful as I appraise what I fit in my life on this earth.  Just because it's good doesn't mean that I have space for it or that I should include it in my life.  I should only put in the best of the best.  I should save my time and money for things of eternal value.  That's what I should be packing in my life.

How about you?  What are you packing in your life that will make the journey with you into the next?


Stumbler said...

This is BRILLIANT Denise. I think possibly the best you've done.



@ngie said...

Denise, what a great illustration. You are such a wise woman. Thanks for encouraging me to keep my eye on the eternal.

I really don't care what makes it in your suitcase just as long as YOU make it back home.

Love ya!

Amanda T said...

Wise words. I will take them to heart. P.S. I am so praying that our family will get to be at Sandy Cove to hear you this summer! :) We were there in 2008 and heard about you guys then as a preview for the next summer. I have been reading your blogs ever since.

The Holmans In Bolivia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Holmans In Bolivia said...

Thanks Tim. High praise indeed. Angie, can I tell you how much I miss you? No I can't, but trust me it's more than you can imagine. Can't wait to get back and catch up. Lots of exciting things going on for both of us and I really wanna sit down and 'process' some of it over some good coffee and chocolate. I think it's gonna take SEVERAL times before I feel like I've even begun to catch up on what all I've missed out on, but I'm anxious to get started. :>) Amanda, WOW! Thanks for writing and encouraging me. I'm so glad you are following us on our blogs and that something I've said is meaningful to you. I really hope I get to meet you in person this summer!

Derek and Claire Plantenga said...

Denise, I love this post!! I smiled when I read your packing criteria because we just recently returned from home assignment and I asked myself the same questions as you did every time that I purchased and packed an item. :0)

Wishing you lots of unexpected blessings as you transition back "home".