Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Limited Abundance

   Yesterday while I was on my walk along the trail that goes around the golf course, I began thinking about part of the story (I can't even remember the name of it) that I never wrote where my made up best friend, Kirsten DeLuca, and fictional fiance (who I began writing about in 2006 before I met Michael), Jeremy Chomsky, served in Guatemala for three weeks. Before he soon decided that being a missionary was his true calling and he left me to live in Madagascar for 7 years. So then I got reacquainted with Michael (in that story I still knew him from Full Sail) and we got married and had a kid! I wrote that part in California when life was too good and I no longer enjoyed writing about a fake boyfriend when I had a real husband. Anyway, so all of this is still stemming from me rereading "Kisses from Katie" by Katie Davis and plus a mix of being in Lent and wanting to simplify how I live. Although I know we have it super good, scaling it back a bit sometimes helps me be more thankful! And scaling it back is easier when I'm also writing about doing it. So today I am doing laundry and only going to wear what is in the dryer for the next 5 weeks until Easter. (Plus one dress that I have in mind to wear for gender reveal pictures if Chip ever gives us notice before my hopeful "three pushes and a sneeze" in July.) I put the rest of my clothes in bags and put them into a different closet. Who knows, maybe next month I'll donate half of it with the whole "out of sight, out of mind" deal.  Here are some pretty pictures I have taken lately while being outside:
Now for my story ~ or at least the parts that I thought about and wrote last night ~

   The three of us sat down that night to watch Living on One on Netflix with our various leftovers of steak, chicken pesto pasta, and carrot cake cheesecake. But an hour later we all seemed disappointed in ourselves and our gluttonous dinner while we watched the hungry lives of others unfold before our eyes.
   Kristen turned off the TV when it ended and looked at me and Jeremy. "You guys, I am so serious." She put her hand on my leg. "We need to go to Guatemala."
   "Really? YES!" I gave her a hug. "I promise I was thinking the same thing while we were watching that." I pulled back, "But do we have to do it exactly like them, or can we volunteer for a couple weeks with a church group?"
   Before she could answer Jeremy jumped in, "Either way it sounds like such a good idea!" He stopped smiling after a second. "Also I've been thinking, for a while now actually, it would be better for our relationship, Rachel, if I move out."
    Slightly stunned I immediately asked, "What? How are we supposed to save up faster for this trip if our rent becomes one third higher with you gone?" Interesting how my mind quickly jumped to it being a money issue rather than my heart beating, "But I'll miss you too much". 

    Skip to three weeks later ~ We found a house for rent. One bedroom and one bathroom, which was actually hard to find considering most houses are two or three bedrooms. At first it looked really junky and run down, but it was the cheapest one we could find in Lancaster. We knew we could save more moving along the outskirts of Los Angeles rather than staying in Glendale. The main reason for staying in California was because of our full-time jobs. The house was close to the road and was made out of cement with small windows and two dirt tire tracks instead of a driveway. However, Kirsten quickly pointed out that there was a pretty lake in the back and reminded me that we passed a 99 Cent store and a library on the way over, so those were two places within walking distance where we would be spending our time.
    The rent was only $900 per month after Kristen talked the woman down from $11,200. Not sure how that happened, but splitting the rent two ways was more doable, bringing it down from the $700 plus utilities that we were each paying in Glendale. We signed the papers for this place and began packing up the old house. By then Jeremy had already moved out and was staying with a couple other guys from church who had been passing out flyers the month before, asking for another roommate. Luckily we didn't have too much stuff, considering we downsized when moving from Orlando so we wouldn't have to rent a huge Uhaul, but Kirsten convinced me to downsize again. Like a lot.

    "Sit down with me," she said smiling while pulling a chair out for me. "We're going to make a list." She handed me a single piece of lined paper. College ruled. "Without looking around, write down everything you have." My chair was facing the window, so I kind of day dreamed between jotting down specific things I owned. I started with my handmade scrapbooks and Dorothy dress my mom sewed when I was 16, then a couple books including "7" by Jen Hatmaker, and clothes that were my favorites or ones I had bought most recently.
   About 20 minutes later I handed Kirsten my list and she read it over, checking that there wasn't anything written on the back. "Great! This list is almost perfect actually."
   I paused, cautious. "What is it for?"
   "This is everything you can bring to the new house. We'll donate the rest."
   My first instinct was panic. "What? No! Why? Those are my things."
   "Yeah, things you didn't even remember having ten seconds ago. Obviously they aren't that important to you." I sighed and slumped back in the chair. She was right and continued, "If we want to get in the Guatemalan Groove we need to really make sure that our things - our selfish material possessions - aren't getting in the way of God. He gives us so much. Why do we need all these extra things?"

    I knew it was a rhetorical question, so I didn't answer. Instead I wrote my answer down in my journal. The one I'd have to give away tomorrow. Once I walked back through my room I noticed there was a lot I had not written down. I hadn't written down any of my CDs or DVDs, but had some newer music downloaded on my phone. A lot of clothes that I already forgot I have even though some of it I had worn just three days ago. I didn't even think to write down things like toiletries. I wondered if she would let me keep any of that or throw it all away while I was at work like my Grandpa used to do when I let my room get too cluttered. That actually seemed like a better idea for me and she was happy to oblige. My list was specific and she followed it respectfully, putting "everything I have" in a box while I went on a walk so I didn't have to see her throwing everything else into a big bag.
    While on my walk I prayed a lot, which is another reason why I like walking so much (the other reason being calorie burn). I prayed for God to let my "self" die. The part of me that wants too much. The part of me that is greedy and wants stuff and things, when so many times I tell people that I'm not materialistic and would so much rather have experiences. A list of "Have Dones" instead of just a list of "Haves".  I asked God to change in my heart what is important to me. I want what is important to Him to be just as important to me. I want to help others, instead of only helping myself, although I feel like I'm pretty decent at that already.  But I could do better!
   The first two months were tough. I'm sorry, I shouldn't say that. Kirsten pulls out her imaginary violin and makes me watch The Pursuit of Happyness or Slumdog Millionaire each time I say something like that, to remind us how good and easy we still have it, even with less than "normal".
   "It's not too hard," she tells me. "It's just an adjustment. You're still alive. You're still happy and always laughing about something every day."
   She let me have a few weeks to get used to the smaller living space, which wasn't really a big deal since we had already been sharing a bathroom for the past few years, but were now also sharing a bedroom. At first she wanted us to share a blow up mattress, but with her moving around at night, I couldn't get any sleep. So I bought back the one she had given to Goodwill.  But after the first three weeks I was noticing changes.
   "Kirsten, why won't the shower get hot? I keep turning the nob higher."
   She called back to me through the sound of running water. "Yeah, we don't need that! I turned the max temperature down so we wouldn't waste as much electricity trying to heat it up all the way. Just be thankful the water is clean and you don't have to bathe in the Nile!"
   "Is that why you were binge-watching Extreme Cheapskates before you canceled the internet?"
   There was a short pause. "Maybe."
   I never cared enough to change it back each time she wasn't home. It helped me take shorter showers, which then lowered our water bill. It also resulted in me going for more hikes than usual because a cool shower actually felt really nice after being in the sun for two hours.

   Eight months later we had both saved up $5,000 which was about four times the amount we needed for the Awareness trip through our church via Unbound to meet our sponsored kids. With the extra money we paid for four other girls who really wanted to go, but didn't have enough money (they each had a little over half so we paid the rest) and then gave the remainder to Amazima Ministries as a "one time donation".

   ** Photo above is from June 2016 when we weren't moved into the new house yet, but I wanted to sleep in an empty room after I got off from work one morning. That bedroom pictured is currently Michael's makeup FX room.

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