On the Weight of Stuff

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I’ve been spending hours sorting through boxes and piles of my earthly belongings.  Pots and pans, dishes, spatulas, potato mashers, baskets, jewelry, curtains, chairs, lamps, art, picture frames, and more.  As I sort I’m making decisions about what to do with it: take it to China, put it in storage for an undetermined number of years, or sell it.  If I decide to sell it, which is the majority of items, I have to decide if it is garage sale or craigslist material and how to price it.

It is a tangible yet emotional task.  As I sort I’ve been reflecting on the emotional weight of all this stuff.  Wooden toys built by my grandpa, my cabbage patch doll with a Dutch costume, and a framed photo of people from the Church of the Servant Basic English Service all have clear emotional weight.  They were fashioned by people I love or come from an important time in my life.  They would be impossible to replace.

 

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Dishes, picture frames, and a kitchen aid mixer have emotional weight, too.  They are all fairly easily replaceable—it will just take some money.  But most of these come from my seminary apartment and the apartment I had when I worked at COS.  They were my first post-college American apartments and the places I established much of my adult identity.  I made life-long friends.  I became comfortable living on my own.  I hosted family gatherings and bachelorette parties.  I enjoyed the beauty and stability of my apartment.  The table cloths, the storage bins, the shower curtain all remind me that I am an adult (even though I’m not married), they remind me of times of joy and sadness, they remind me of my community.

Dishes, picture frames, and a kitchen aid mixer have emotional weight, too.  They are all fairly easily replaceable—it will just take some money.  But most of these things come from my seminary apartment and the apartment I had when I worked at COS.  They were my first post-college American apartments and the places I established much of my adult identity.  I made life-long friends.  I became comfortable living on my own.  I hosted family gatherings and bachelorette parties.  I enjoyed the beauty and stability of my apartment.  The table cloths, the storage bins, the shower curtain all remind me that I am an adult (even though I’m not married), they remind me of times of joy and sadness, they remind me of my community.

Now all those things are in the sell pile with little purple, green, or yellow price stickers.  They are waiting for a garage sale in a few weeks where hopefully they will all find new homes.  I won’t have these physical reminders of all the things I’ve learned and the person I’ve become in the last few years.  I’m asking myself: what are the most important lessons I’ve learned and how do I take them with me?

I have learned to live life in community and to offer hospitality to foster that community.  I actually learned a lot about this while I was living in China.  When I moved back to the U.S., I had to put what I had learned in practice.  I made new friends and we offered hospitality to each other.  My cake plate reminds me of the orange chocolate yogurt cake I made for a friend’s birthday party and of the meals of frozen pizza we enjoyed together.  The cable modem reminds me of how I learned generosity for a friend who said not only did she have one, but that I could go over to her apartment and find it while she was out of town.  And not to dare think about giving her any money for it.  I have learned to do life with others and to let them in to my life.  I need the people who laugh and cry together.  I’m thankful for the ways that we have figured out how to be friends from a distance.  I also look forward (with some trepidation) to getting settled in Beijing and making new friends.  I’m looking forward to finding new ways to offer hospitality—maybe with frozen dumplings instead of frozen pizza.

I have learned the importance of beauty in my life.  This world was created good.  Although marred by sin, much of that goodness and beauty remains—flowers, trees, art, music, poetry.  This beauty isn’t frivolous, it helps me to live life to the fullest.  I will be looking for beauty of all kinds in Beijing—good parks, art and houseplants for my apartment, and taking photos of it all.

I have learned how to enjoy solitude and live independently.  This might sound contradictory, since I was just talking about community, which I also need.  The independence I have learned has more to do with not being married.  It is the skill of figuring things out myself—or figuring out who to ask for help—and resting in the confidence that I am a complete, adult person by myself.  Part of this life is having a community, and part of it is becoming comfortable with being myself.  As I leave the area where my family lives and create a life in a new place, I will need to have this resilience while I make new friends.

I am so thankful for these years of my life, for all I have learned.  I am thankful for the friends who have walked with me and formed me.  I am thankful for the opportunity to look back and reflect.  And I look forward to the next season of life, for what I will learn and I how I will serve.  I look forward to the old and new friends who will walk with me on this part of the journey.

One Response

  1. carla windemuller

    Ruth you write so beautifully. People in China are very lucky you are going there. They have a a very special person coming.

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