(I wish I had a photo of my Missionary Handbook, or the “white handbook,” as we called it as missionaries. This image comes from byubookstore.com.)
I woke up in the wee hours one morning not long ago with a phrase on my brain, a rule from the missionary’s handbook. The rule was, ‘Do not accumulate excess baggage.”
This rule referred to not collecting stuff as a missionary, so that you could keep to your 2-suitcase limit. It sounds easy, but it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Photos, letters, an occasional momento given to you by a member or investigator or someone back home–it all added up. By the time I was ready to leave, even though I had mailed some stuff home, my suitcases were bursting.
This rule seems to have such a broad life application, particularly for me in my quest to simplify and rejoice more. Life can get so complicated with STUFF, imagined expectations, comparisons, unrighteous traditions, guilt, unhealthy habits, even excess weight. While I can’t shed everything all at once and replace all of my unhelpful habits with helpful ones, I can take little steps, one at a time, to keep me moving in a simple, unburdened, Christ-centered direction of living.
Today one of those was to unsubscribe to the Wall Street Journal.
But not really. I love reading the WSJ. The newspaper covers so many aspects of what is going on in the world. I found articles related to so many topics of personal interest! I enjoyed the puns that some of the journalists used and the humor laced in some articles. I learned new vocabulary! I cut out articles to share with family members at dinner. Really, it’s a great newspaper.
But it doesn’t fit in my budget right now. I have been realizing some things about money and myself in the last few years: I have still not learned to managed it effectively. I recognize that it is a really great skill that I really want, and I am grateful that for some years, that money has been limited so that I have to really decide what is important. I feel like I have been learning to sacrifice a little. It is good for my soul! I notice that when I sacrifice something good for something better, I still never lack.*
Case in point: I decided I would only buy up to 2 books a month this year and give up my Audible subscription. That felt significant to me because I LOVE books, and I love to buy them like some people love gadgets or chocolate. It can be an addiction. But I realized something. There’s a point when you can only store so much, even something you love so much. SO, I needed to adjust my accumulation so that my intake was equivalent to my outtake. Buy a new book, give one away.
OK, I’ll be honest. I’m not QUITE to that point yet.
But I need to get to that point, because even with books, stuff is just stuff. And too much stuff is a burden. You have to manage it, clean it, store it, move it. You get the idea.
SO. Today I unsubscribed to the WSJ because I had my 12 weeks for $12 and then paid for 2 more months. Or something like that. See, accounting is not my forté, yet.
And I started using a free budget app that I like. It’s easy! I’m recording each purchase I make, and it has helped me not get lost by the middle of the month and just watch my account balance until it gets frighteningly low.
OK, I’m still watching my balance, but I have grips on managing my spending better as I allocated amounts into categories in the beginning of the month. It was a free app, and it’s easy to use. Thank goodness.
Here’s the other thing I have done that felt good: Erased 5,000 emails in my trash and gmail archive. I have been hesitant to erase emails sometimes, because I’ve been worried that I might erase a personal correspondence that I might need 5 years from now. It’s not happening, folks. I almost never go back to read emails! So I just went and erased a bunch. Woowee! That felt good. Gotta keep going.
I let Lane go through some piles in the office–stuff that I had been saving to be able to blog/scrapbook about someday, LOL. That was an easy purge. He was super nice to do it for me, and very little was left at the end. I got into the action a little, but mostly I didn’t want to. Talk about pure love on his part. SO thankful for him!
My goal is to have the office as lean as it can be with only things that we use and only essential stuff stored. My feeling about all of my life is to be “more fit for the kingdom”–to be a living plant that brings forth good fruit, not just some old deadwood tree that birds just build nests in or a diseased tree that only creates bitter fruit or no fruit at all. There’s so much more joy in doing than in saving or storing.
As I was just making my lunch (pausing between the many lines of this long post), I thought of how unsubscribing to the WSJ is a gift of sorts. Well, actually, having a limited budget is God’s gift to me because it has been helping me decided what is most worth saving or spending for. As an example, I’d much rather spend the $30/month that would go to the WSJ on mailing a package to Nate, which costs at least double that.
Simplifying has brought more sunshine into my life. I feel freer to serve and appreciate more. I am learning to recognize how much God has given me that I didn’t notice before. Like children who get good grades because they want them for themselves. Talk about a gift! Or a husband who will clean a tub for me. Or flowers or grape vines that come back every spring. Or birds that sing. And so many blessings that money can never buy!
Enough about this today. I have spent too much time on here! But one of my goals is to be authentic on my blog and share my challenges as well as my triumphs, and the stuff in between. That way, when my daughters read this someday, (I hope they will–I’m keeping this in hopes that they will!), they will know some of the struggles I had and how I felt about them.
*I didn’t quite finish this thought that I wanted to share. After I made the goal to not buy certain things, I’m finding that the Lord still provides things for me. I have been so surprised by His generosity! (I shouldn’t be, but I forget.) Or helps me feel peace. Even today, when I was unsubscribing to the WSJ, and the nice woman on the other end of the line asked me why I was cancelling my subscription, I told her I had a large family and it didn’t fit in my budget with one daughter in college and a son on a mission. She was so kind and nice and didn’t try to change my mind. I was so grateful!