I have 3 kids. My oldest, Jameson, is 7. Raegan is 5 and Amelia is rapidly approaching 2. I feel so grateful to have been awakened to this new life of less while they are at such a young age. For the most part, this will be all they know. I truly believe they will be better off because of it.
We have slowly been plugging along and donating more and more of our belongings. Some days my kids are willing and on board and other days, not so much. All the while, we press on, teaching, encouraging, and hopefully shaping the way they view their material possessions. We continue to put an emphasis on giving over selling. We have discussed the difference between junk and quality toys. We discuss and model delayed gratification. We talk about what it means to be a good steward of what you own. We continue to choose experiences over objects.
Most days, it feels like a lot of conversations. We try and reinforce this worldview by the words we speak and the choices we make. Like most parents, we take the time to teach life lessons through every day, routine encounters. These little people of mine have yet to venture out on their own path, to make their own choices. For a bit longer, we are still in charge of them. As parents, we often wonder what kind of influence we are making. Is it sinking in?
Then, in a moment, we get to see the fruits of our labor and the hopes of our prayers. I see my kids putting a stranger first. I see them willingly sacrifice for their siblings, which, for some reason, is often even more difficult than sacrificing for a stranger. I see God use my small children to speak big words to my heart. I see them being used as the hands and feet of Jesus. I see them choose to part with something they are done with, rather than try and hold on to it for the “what if!”
For example, these shoes…
My son’s beloved light-up Spiderman shoes had grown snug, but still fit well enough. The soles had started to pull away. The seams started splitting and his toes became exposed. It was time to let them go and I apprehensively prepared to inform him.
You see, this little boy of mine held on to everything. He has a heart of gold and the spirit of a giver, but a fear of missing things. A year prior, he had outgrown a coat. During our church’s winter coat drive, I put it in the car to drop off. This little hoarder could not fathom parting with it. It was a long, comical discussion. He gave me reason after reason why we should keep this coat. He tried to demonstrate for me that it still fit him…it did not. He tried to pull at my heart strings, explaining that it could be the coat he uses when he rakes leaves or cleans the garage with Dad. At that time, I opted to end the debate and revisit this discussion the following year.
These were the all too often conversations I’ve had about everything, from rocks, to toys and stickers, to dentist office and fair prizes. It was me begging this boy to throw something away, all the while knowing I, too, would have had a hard time. We treasure things hard. Sentimentality runs deep in our bones.
In a previous post, I told you it was a good idea to “be sneaky” while you are getting started and purging some of their items. Tread lightly. I still do that with some things I know they have forgotten all about. The things that won’t come back to bite me. However, the ultimate goal, is to get our kids on board. We want them to embrace this life. It’s a delicate balance between teaching gratitude for what they have and holding onto things loosely.
It may be a bit dramatic to some, but I believe this will overflow into other areas of their lives as they grow up. 1 Timothy 6:6 says, “Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing let us be content.” I’m certainly not opposed to financial wealth, but we need to spend more time preparing them for contentment in all circumstances. It’s ultimately about genuine, deep, and lasting trust in the never-ending provision of God.
Ok, back to the shoes. There we stood in the kitchen, and I was ready to force him to throw these shoes away. I took a bit of advice from “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. It is an amazingly helpful, yet slightly overwhelming and neurotic take on minimalism.
I explained that it was time to throw them away. I then held them up and said, “Repeat after me: Thank you shoes for serving me well.” He mockingly tilted his head, but smiled and repeated those words. He slid his Crocs on as I stuffed the Spiderman shoes in the trash. Paul and I glanced at each other in shock as the conversation changed topic and I proceeded to happy dance.
In that moment, I actually felt choked up as I was hit by a wave of gratitude for the lifestyle we have implemented. It’s working.
I continue to see little glimmers of my kids moving away from seeking joy and security through possessions. I see them building better relationships with each other. I find myself putting aside my to-do list and my need to fill my day. I’m spending more time picking up a basketball to play a game of four-square with my kids and saying, “sure” to reading one more book even if it’s approaching nap time. I’m setting down my phone and picking up more books to read myself. It’s encouraging to see such progress in my kids and it challenges me to keep on and press into the simple moments.