Going Without — A Reprise


FamilyWhen I was growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of money which meant that sometimes we had to go without. For me, that meant I mostly got hand-me-downs to wear, and I rarely (ever?) got the latest, greatest toy that TV was advertising on the Saturday morning cartoon shows.

Doing without didn’t mean we were hungry, though I guess there were a few times we came close to having no money for food. I seem to remember a time someone left a bag of groceries on our front porch. During that time my dad, a college professor, took a second job as a door-to-door salesman.

We had days when our evening meal—normally dinner—consisted of spam sandwiches and cornmeal mush. I know it may not sound appetizing, but I personally liked it a lot. Only as an adult did I realize this was a meal we had because we couldn’t afford much else.

There were lunches when Mom fed the five of us from one can of Campbell’s condensed soup. Admittedly, the cans were bigger in those days, but still, that wasn’t a lot of soup for each of us. Some years ago I asked Mom how she managed it, and she said she just added more water. I do remember one time sort of whining when I realized she was going to open only one can: “Aw, Mom, can’t we please have two cans?”

But the bottom line is, I didn’t really realize most of the time that we were going without.

We didn’t have a TV for years, and when we did finally buy one (I was in 3rd grade), it was black and white (yes, they used to make those). We had that TV for years—maybe until I was a senior in high school, and we moved out of the country.

Despite going without as a kid (and not realizing it), I lived an adventurous life. And a secure one. We moved with some frequency, but we had a home base in Colorado where we owned some mountain property. My dad and brother, with help from Mom and us girls and anyone who wanted to visit and help, built a real log cabin. We sort of camped out at first, then Dad put up a one room building we fondly called the shack, which we lived in until the cabin was ready. Neither place had electricity or running water or indoor “facilities.” We had a mountain stream where we got our water and an outhouse where we did our business. 😉

But none of this was part of going without. This was all a part of being so blessed we enjoyed adventurous living. I could tell stories about hiking to a fire tower a few miles above us, to the beaver dams below us, or to rocks we named (Alan’s Rock, Armchair Rock, Bed Rock). Then there were the cook outs we had at the Peak or pine cone fights between us children. I could tell you about the bear that visited and the evenings spent reading stories as a family.

Yeah, none of that had anything to do with going without.

Going without was picking up furniture second hand and driving old cars. But really, that’s not going without.

The point of all this reminiscing is that I think going without taught me the value of stuff—none of it is worth as much as we think. I was happy growing up with less. Not because of what we had or didn’t have but because stuff didn’t rule our lives. We had an old couch, so never thought about putting plastic covers over it like my uncle did with his new, matching living room furniture, or keeping the kids our of the living room because the furniture was too nice, like our neighbors did.

On top of that, God provided (see above the paragraphs about adventurous living).

Who else has this whole forest to play in? Part of the play involved hauling water and helping to bring in firewood. We got to unpack the barrels where we kept the cabin stuff and to wash clothes by hand. There was a sense of family pulling together to survive—everybody chipping in, everybody bringing something important to the table.

There we were, no telephone, no car—we had to hike in because the road was too rough and at that time we were too poor for a jeep. Only a kerosene lamp, a lantern, and flashlights. We heated water to wash, used the cold mountain stream as our refrigerator. And there was only a sense of adventure, a joy in the everyday tasks.

Sure, this was short term. We didn’t live in the cabin year-round. But the value of going without is priceless, and lasting. Because it was abundantly clear that we didn’t need a TV to be happy or entertained. We didn’t need a lot. We needed each other, and that was probably the most important take-away for me.

This post is an edited version of the one that appeared her in July, 2015.

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Published in: on June 1, 2018 at 4:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Packing It In Or Tossing It Out


Traditional Thanksgiving dinnerThough it might not seem like it at first, this post is related to Thanksgiving Day.

Airplane travel has become … an adventure. Never mind the body scans and “pat downs.” Many airlines now charge a passenger for each suitcase he takes with him. How do you fly somewhere without taking a change of clothes or basic toiletries, I wonder.

The “pay per piece” policy has a lot of people thinking twice about what exactly they must take along on their trip. Perhaps a second sweater isn’t necessary, and buying gifts upon arrival seems like a better idea than bringing them from home.

The new goal is to pack only the necessities. But on occasion something else important must be included—a special dress and shoes for a wedding or gloves and knit hat for a snow trip. In this new flying reality, however, adding something to our “pack it” pile means something else has to be left out.

Imagine if someone told you to chuck it all, save one thing. Only one thing. Or how about this. You could take anything, no extra charge, but you’d have to leave out your most prized possession.

Let’s up the ante. An overbooked airline tells you you can take as many pieces of luggage as you want as long as they can have your second ticket back—you know, the one you bought so your wife could go with you on your business trip. But if you opt to keep the ticket so your wife can fly with you, neither one of you can take any luggage, at any price. Not even your laptop or the briefcase with the notes for the business meeting you’re to conduct.

Those are interesting hypotheticals, I think—pondering what one valuable thing we’d take if we could take only one, or considering a trip with a spouse and no belongings.

It’s not quite comparable to what Paul experienced in life, but I think it sheds a little light on what he said in Philippians 3 about ringing up his valuables only to toss them aside in favor of Christ.

Paul had it made. He was in an exclusive position among an exclusive people—God’s people, the nation He chose to be the apple of His eye. Paul made sure he covered all his bases. Parentage, check. Legal status, check, Attitude, check (anyone could see his zeal by tallying up the destroyed lives when he left town). He was one righteous dude.

And he tossed it all in the trash.

Why? For the sake of Christ.

pumpkins-912529-mAs we approach the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, I can’t help but wonder if we who count our blessings, and name them one by one, would be willing to throw them away if it meant we could gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of our own.

Would we give up being American, with our Constitutional rights, to be part of the kingdom of God? Would we leave our family to be part of God’s family? Would we give up our chance to earn a living in order to be called a Christian?

In short, would we embrace the sufferings of Christ and be conformed to His death if it meant attaining the power of His resurrection?

In so many ways, we live in a world that lets us eat and keep our cake at the same time. We get to do ministry, openly, publicly. Out of our abundance, we get to give generously. And when Thanksgiving rolls around, we pause to consider all the good things and wonderful people we enjoy. If we go a little deeper, we count all our spiritual benefits and thank God for each one.

But I’m wondering if this year it might be informative to approach Thanksgiving with an opposite mindset: what am I willing to give up for the sake of Christ. Are the things I usually give thanks for on this special day of the year so very dear that I would hesitate to count them as rubbish?

I know, Paul wasn’t exactly stacking up his possessions next to Christ. Or his family members. Or his job. Or his citizenship. Was he? Or might not the things he could have put confidence in, be considered his Thanksgiving list?

If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
-Phl 3:4-7

This post originally appeared here November 2010

Published in: on November 16, 2015 at 6:50 pm  Comments (1)  
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