My phone made a “memories” album as it does every once in a while. This one was titled Four-Legged Friends. Some were sad reminding me of our sweet Snowy. Some had me rolling my eyes at the sight of Bandit, the very weird cat that made us his family. Can’t believe I actually took a photo of him! Then there was a brief appearance of River, the rabbit who helped us realize that we are not rabbit people. Pepper made an appearance as well, the sweet stray who now lives with our friend in South Africa. Ironically, most of the photos were of Posey, the crazy Jack Russell who traveled via airplane so she could live the good life with us in America.
This dog is crazy as evidenced by the handful of photos that graced my Four-Legged Friends album. They made me chuckle and maybe they will you, too. Or you can laugh at me, that I’ve become THAT person who dedicates an entire blog post to a dog. 😜
When I moved back from South Africa, I heard all about the Instant Pot and how great of an invention it is, so when I found one at my local Dirt Cheap for well, dirt cheap, I thought I scored. After making 3 or 4 meals with it, I wasn’t happy with any of the results. Neither was my family. I put it in my pantry thinking I might use it to make yogurt or elderberry syrup. That was probably 9 or 10 months ago.
The other day I started thinking, “I should sell that Instant Pot. It’s taking up way too much room in my pantry. I’ve never made elderberry syrup, and the last time I made yogurt was probably 10 years ago.” So I sold it. For more than I paid for it.
This little story isn’t just about my woeful adventures with the Instant Pot. No, this got me thinking about much bigger things like clearing the clutter…physically, spiritually, mentally. So many times we keep things hidden away “just in case” when really we need to get rid of them to create space for more. More time. More relationships. More of what God has for us.
Physically I do this by regularly taking inventory of what’s in my house and thinking back to the last time I used it. I also try to be super intentional of what I bring into my house.
Mentally I do this by having regular times for reading, yoga, prayer and meditation, and exercise. I’m working on incorporating more times of physical creativity, because I’ve noticed how much this opens up space in my brain.
Spiritually I do this by keeping short accounts and forgiving quickly. I’m also working on laughing at myself more. There’s something deeply spiritual about joy and laughter.
What about you? How do you clear the clutter in your life?
It was 20 years ago this month that Jeremy and I first stepped foot in South Africa. While America was celebrating its independence, we were flying over an ocean to a land that would, unknowingly, capture our hearts forever. I’ll never forget that trip in the Summer (or Winter if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere) of 2000. South Africa was a much different place then. Death was everywhere due to HIV/AIDS. Children were raising children. The images in front of me were so different than any I’d ever seen or experienced before. They were images that prompted us to take action, leading us on a journey that forever changed our lives.
After many travels back and forth to South Africa, in 2007, we moved our family from the East Coast to Africa. I’ll never forget watching the doors of the shipping container being closed and locked up as our belongings spent the next few weeks in transit to our new home. We were really doing this. Joshua had just turned 5, and Emma Grace was 2. They were about to learn what it was going to be like growing up in a culture they were not born into.
Those first few months in South Africa were filled with adjustment as we moved in. There were so many things to learn…quick exchange rate calculations at the grocery store, driving on the other side of the road, driving a manual, speaking English so people can understand. I remember loud and clear the day that I realized we couldn’t live temporary. We had to make South Africa our home like we were going to be living there forever. We couldn’t have this short-term mindset. We had to be in it for the long haul.
And that we did. We raised our kids there. We built amazing friendships there. We created memories. We had life experiences, both joyous and heartbreaking. We lived life and truly made it our home.
It was one year ago this month that we decided it was time to move back to the states. I believe it was the right decision, but it’s still so hard, because a piece of home is still in South Africa. It’s why I have yet to unsubscribe to my South African grocery store weekly deal emails, why I can’t bring myself to get rid of my favorite plant pots over there, why I cherish weekly calls with my friends in South Africa. I miss the people most of all (although a cold Appletizer on these hot Texas days are high on the list, too 😊). We spent years building a culture and an identity. Man, I miss those daily interactions.
Living in South Africa I learned that I will never think like an African, but moving back to the states, I feel like my thinking doesn’t fit in with my American identity either. I feel hyper-sensitive to things I see and hear. Processing through it feels exhausting at times. Sometimes I think this journey that we set out on so many years ago wrecked us, both in very good and very challenging ways. But I press on to make Texas my home just like I made South Africa my home those many years ago. I just wonder why it feels so much harder than it did 13 years ago.
5. Learning how to do new things. I’ve had to do this a couple of times recently, and I’ve realized just how much I like the satisfaction of learning how to do something new.
6. Evening walks. It’s probably my favorite time of day to walk. I think it reminds me of Summers spent at my grandmother’s house.
7. Family movie nights. Anyone seen Hamilton yet on Disney+? So great!
8. Options? I do like them, but man. There are SO many choices for electric companies. In South Africa, we had one. My contract with my current provider is ending, so I’m on the hunt for a good plan.
9. Homemade ice cream. That’s EG’s new thing. Man. So good!
10. Fireworks! We saw a fabulous social distanced fireworks show last weekend. My mind drifted to all the years celebrating American Independence Day in South Africa with our dinky fireworks. Such special memories.
In my years of working with people, I’ve seen how the empowerment process involves a slow release of control but not abandonment. In helping people become stronger and more confident, there’s a process of walking with them. It’s not very honoring to have a role, a job, a title dumped in your lap, leaving you to figure it all out. On the contrary, it’s also not honoring to be micro-managed every step of the way. Neither one of those are empowering. Instead, I think it’s kind of like driving a manual. When you’re in first, if you don’t give it any gas or not enough, the car dies. If you give it too much, you lurch forward rather quickly. Neither are pleasant. Instead, you want to maintain a good tension of pressing down on the gas while easing your foot off the clutch. The right tension ensures a great result.
If you want to be empowering, you have to engage the tension and be willing to walk with people and then let go when the time is right.