Traveling Light

Why do we insist on journeying through life loaded down with baggage? Sure, we all carry within us the “baggage” of our experiences that makes us who we are, but why do we make it more difficult by hefting an extra load of cultural and consumer baggage? You wouldn’t try to hike the entire 2,179 miles of the Appalachian Trail hauling a pony cart full of “stuff” behind you, so why do you clutter your life with adiaphora?

I’m not going to delve into the emotional baggage we tote; that’s a topic for another day. What I suggest is that we journey through life overly burdened for two reasons: 1) we have short memories, and 2) we have a hole in our heart that our culture tells us can be filled by buying and possessing the right “stuff.”

From the time we are old enough to make sense of images and sound, the wonderful world of marketing begins competing for our allegiance. No wonder one study found that more children recognize the golden arches of McDonald’s than a picture of Jesus or the president! Ever consider why you probably buy the certain brands that your parents bought? Why you prefer one brand of paper towel over another one? Why you gravitate toward one soft drink in particular? Why you choose one brand of jeans instead of the competitor? You have been carefully taught by the purchases of others and by deliberately crafted advertising campaigns.

Marketers create a need in our minds, but it can’t be a long-term need because we must consume again and again. We are conditioned to want newer, bigger, better, and brighter. An iPod classic of the first generation is a dinosaur compared to the “new” iPod classic, for example. Who wants limited storage space when there is SO much music out there to purchase?

How do we stop the cycle of need and greed? It starts with awareness, it continues through constant reminders, and it takes practice. It’s a process. We need regular reminders about what really matters, what is “true” and “real,” and how to discern a need from want or desire.

When we moved from North Dakota to Tennessee, we sold or gave away almost all of our worldly possessions. What had taken us almost half a U-Pack It trailer to get to North Dakota ended up fitting into two sedans along with several boxes mailed ahead by parcel post. The two bedroom apartment we rented looked mighty big and empty. It was also, surprisingly, truly liberating.

We ended up bying a sofa and love seat, kitchen table and chairs, entertainment stand, two chairs for the patio, used washer and dryer, and two mattress/box spring sets. Everything else we needed was either given to us or found through freecyle or creative reclamation (i.e. dumpter diving when people moved out of the complex). Even after this major possession purge, the slow creep of acquisition returned with our short memory of freedom from attachment. By the time we moved to Pennsylvania, it took a small U-Haul truck to get us here. Now my spouse and I are parting with possessions once again. With each possession gone comes a little less weight and a little more freedom.

I realize traveling light is not for everyone. Some people can be content in a tent, while others require a Winnebago or a Holiday Inn. Some people need few things, while others collect and acquire much. What I urge you to do today is to consider what it might be like to limit your possessions to what you need and/or truly love. How might letting go enable you to live more fully in thanks-living and giving? Imagine what it would be like to put all that you own into a backpack, suitcase, or car. Could you do it? Could you even dream it? Do you dare?

Lent 40/40/40 Update

Honoring Relationships

I am thankful today for my cousin Doris. This strong yet gentle woman served for many years as a missionary in Honduras. She has given so much of herself to help so many people, and she exemplifies a lived faith. Thank you, Doris, for your light and for your life. You truly understand the value–and beauty–of traveling light!

Giving Possessions

I have a stash of extra greeting cards and envelopes–not all of which match. I have been keeping them thinking I would use them at some point, but the truth is I have not used them and likely never will. So they’ll be going to church with me for the box to donate to St. Jude’s Ranch. It’s a small thing to give/let go of, but it’s one more small lightening of the load.


I am thankful for sleep. I don’t always get enough of it, but I am grateful for a good night of it. Sleep is refreshing, necessary for good health, and a true blessing. Thank you, God, for the gift of sound sleep.

Photos by Timitrius and Quinn Anya used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Day Seven: Thankful for Safe Travel

Dear daughter the younger and I are now safely ensconced in a motel near the university where she is auditioning tomorrow for the musical theatre program. It was quite a drive to get here; we encountered driving rain, thunder and lightning, standing water on the highway, and soupy, sloppy fog. Despite the weather and my overly-tight grip on the steering wheel, we arrived safely, and I am so thankful that we did!

Tomorrow will be a long, exciting, and potentially stressful day. Hopefully everything will work out for her the way she wants. We’re staying in the evening to see a college production and then driving back home (thankfully the prediction is for dry weather) with an estimated arrival time somewhere between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m. I’ll be praying for a safe return trip and some strong coffee.

Still no news on the computer, but thankfully dear daughter’s old laptop is holding out. I only received one hard drive error message today. I can’t complain. Life is good.

Three things to remember in stressful times: breathe deeply, laugh often, and pray frequently. Oh, and be sure to eat your veggies and drink plenty of water. Let’s see if I can take my own advice to finish out this hectic, stressful week!

Here’s how the 40/40/40 project is going:

Honoring Relationships

Today I’m particularly grateful for my father’s two sisters. My Aunt Dot and Aunt Pat are a couple of cool women. For many years they played piano and organ for their home church, and they have shown wonderful hospitality and caring over the years. I am so lucky to have them for aunties. Thank you, lovely ladies, for all you are, all you do for so many people, and for your strong faith.

Giving Possessions

Today I put two more shirts in the bag to go to the Rescue Mission Store — two gap long sleeve waffle knit shirts. They’re really comfortable, but I have plenty of other shirts to wear.


First and foremost, I am thankful to have arrived safely at our destination! It was a harrowing drive in some of the worst conditions I have encountered in many years. I am grateful to have this time to spend with my daughter. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to sit and eat both breakfast and lunch with my spouse. Lingering over a cup of coffee and conversation is a great way to start the day.

What about  You?

What made you happy today? For what are you thankful? Who do you need to honor and tell how important that person is to you?

Photo by Yuya Tamai used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

The Friday 5 + the Saturday 7 = 12 Thanksgivings

Yes, I can do math as long as it’s simple math! I did not write yesterday because we were in the car for 10 hours on the way home from Tennessee. Since dear husband and step-son are away for the weekend doing their Boy Scout thing, my daughter and I stopped at our local quick mart and each bought our favorite pint of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and settled in for a Mother/Daughter Movie night. We watched the Coen Brother’s rendition of True Grit on Netflix, followed by a couple of episodes of Dr. Who. The combination of chocolate bliss and travel fatigue knocked me right out for a solid seven hours of sleep. It was a meaningful trip and a wonderful night of time spent with the youngest daughter.

Sometimes Thanks-living means being present enough to live in the moment, making choices that perhaps are not the most logical or efficient but that carry the most relationship capital and time/love investment. It is a necessary challenge to balance thinking and living between head and heard.

So without further commentary let the thanksgivings begin…

1.  Mother/Daughter Movie Nights (My daughter gave up time with her step-sister and another friend to stay and watch movies with me. Thanks dear daughter!)

2. Time with Parents (I had some precious time with my father and mother this week. I am particularly grateful for the time my mother spent sharing stories of her childhood. I’ll write more about that one later.)

3.  Safe Travel (Other than the senior citizen from Florida who veered her “land yacht”  into our lane so close that I could feel my skin crawl and the Big Rig driver who almost clocked us, we had an uneventful and safe trip. Whew! Thank you, God!)

4.  Lunch with my Cousin (I always have a blast with my cousin who lives in Chattanooga. Like me, she stays “busier than a bird dog scratchin’ fleas, so I am especially grateful that she took time out of her day for a long, leisurely lunch filled with laughter and catching-up-conversation.)

5. Dinner with a Good Friend (My mom and I had dinner with a dear friend and former neighbor at Wally’s, a local Chattanooga restaurant specializing in Southern home cooking. Again, it was a time filled with laughter and good conversation.)

6. Facebook (Yup, as annoying as it can sometimes be, I am grateful for this social networking tool that allows me to keep up with family, friends, and colleagues. Technology is neutral; how we choose to use or avoid it makes all the difference.)

7. Amazing Teenagers (From the high schooler who has identified an amazing potential weapon in the fight against cancer to the homeless teen on Long Island who won a national science prize for her discovery about adaptability in two marine animals, I am amazed at the gifts and talents youth have to offer. Our job as adults is to encourage, support, and avoid squelching their dreams. Click here for more on these amazing stories.)

8. The Joy of Finding Great Clothes at Second-hand Stores (While I was in Tennessee, I stopped at a local non-profit’s resale shop, where for under $10 I picked up three like-new items that would have totaled about $150 if bought new at their name-brand retailers. I saved money, I gave a second life to three items of clothing, and I circumvented the consumer stream. Cool!)

9. My Laptop (I bought this laptop from a local computer store in North Dakota on a clearance special. It’s a Dell Vostro 1510, and it it a bit too heavy and clunky, but it is sturdy and meets all my computing needs. Best of all? My total investment was under $400. It is essential for my work and writing, and I am so thankful to have it.)

10. Health Insurance (I am so fortunate to have a good health insurance plan made possible as part of the benefits packages provided by my husband’s and my congregations. As a cancer survivor, I would have a difficult time finding coverage otherwise. One of my daughter’s friends, a working actor who lives with diabetes, just tweeted that he cannot find any plan that will cover his preexisting condition when he ages out of his mother’s plan next week. Something has to give with our healthcare system!)

11. Steel Cut Oats and Green Tea (Both of these foods are among my favorites and are healthy choices offering significant dietary benefits. Based on the reality of #10, healthy food choices are especially important. Click here for a quick trip through the 10 best and worst food choices from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.)

12.  Simply Being Alive! (I give thanks for another day and another opportunity to live life to the fullest, loving my family, friends, and neighbors, and reveling in God’s good creation.)

It is my prerogative to make this list of thanksgiving into a “Baker’s Dozen” (but with no calories or fat), so…

13.  I am thankful to you for joining me on this thanks-living journey. Please take the time to post at least one thing for which you are thankful this very day. You guys rock!

Photos by Jason Riedy, stonysteiner, and theseanster93 used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!



Thankful for Safe Travel

It’s late…or early, depending on how you look at the wee hours after midnight. We arrived at my sister-in-law’s house a few minutes ago, and I am truly thankful for safe travel.

What a day! We got a really late start for our journey to Rhode Island, and this year we had two vehicles in our “mini-caravan.” It was dark before we left the lights of Harrisburg behind us. We stopped in Allentown at the Taco Bell and did some serious damage in terms of the quantities of food devoured. The next stop was a Starbuck’s in New Jersey for a jolt of java, followed by a trip to the nearby grocery to pick up the toiletries we’d all forgotten to bring. Well, everybody but my husband Mr. Boy Scout, that is. We made a final stop for gas in Connecticut (and Dunkin’ Donuts) before cruising down the highway for the final leg to our destination outside of Providence. Overall, traffic was heavy but tolerable, and the weather cleared up just in time. Whew!

The kids are wired, and the adults are tired. It’s time for a few hours of sleep in a comfortable bed. First, however, we’ll take time to pray and give thanks for a long but safe journey. It’s good to be among family, although it’s sad that we can’t be with all of our family.

Night, ya’ll! Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo by John Trainor used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!