Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Shopping Continues . . .

Well, we went to Wal-Mart this week. Surprisingly, our trips to Wal-Mart since being back in the States have not been very frequent. Right here in Rock Valley we have so many great quality consignment stores, and then the ultra-cheap Dollar store, that we haven't had a real need to get to Wal-Mart.

But this week's trip was pretty momentous. We actually went aisle by aisle, looking everything over to help remind us of what we can't easily buy in Asia (i.e., we should buy it while we can). We began to fill our cart with things like over the counter medicines, especially child formulas, other special children's items, bakeware, sheets for Clara Anne's future bed, a rug and shower curtain for our future bathroom, etc. At the end of it, we had spent three long hours in Walmart and gone down practically every aisle. (We skipped a few of the hardware and grocery aisles.) A few fun finds: beautiful new cookie sheets, some swirled chocolate and caramel chips to go with them, floppy sunhats for the girls, on clearance for $3, and Dora band-aids for those future boo-boos.

The problem of "stuff" presents itself to us who live overseas in an interesting way. I remember when we first moved there, and how excited I was to get rid of most of my earthly possessions. I felt so free! But when we moved into an apartment in Asia, it seemed like we bought it all again . . . the small stuff, like dishes and pots and pans, and then bigger stuff like some furniture items. The true but frustrating part is that we need stuff to live. Think of all of those who lost most of their earthly "stuff" after Hurricane Katrina. Some of them are still working to rebuild, since we truly do use "stuff" to live. So it seems to me that balance is needed--though we need our possessions to make our lives workable, we also do not want our possessions to possess us. If we're not careful, pretty soon all of our time is spent organizing our stuff, managing our stuff, taking care of our stuff, and dealing with our stuff.

It can be easy, especially living overseas, to get caught up in "stuff" that we "need" to have. I have caught myself many times in the last few weeks thinking, "Oh, I can't get that in Asia, wouldn't it be great to bring some back? I just would love to have that!" Or worse, "Oh, Clara Anne and Chloe would just LOVE to play with that!" But the truth is that not everything that I would like is necessary, and so I can and should learn to be content with what I have. Living overseas can sometimes set a person up for coveting--thinking, "oh, if only I was in a place where I could easily buy this or that, my life would be better." Or, "poor me, I can't eat Mexican food here like I can in the States. I have it really rough." But on the opposite end of things, living overseas can be a blessing in this area. It is a blessing to learn to live in contentment whether or not marshmallows are available, or if my child has to wear the same few outfits again and again. As the Son reminds us, life is more than the food we have to eat or the clothes we have to wear. Our Father knows we need these things, and He provides them. We need not worry.

All of that being said, we're trying to have a balanced approach as we plan, shop, and pack for our trip back. It will likely be several years before we return to the States, and though we are trying not to go overboard, the fact remains that we will be taking a lot of "stuff" back with us. Even that stuff, though, goes with a certain amount of faith and trust--only the Lord knows whether or not everything we take with us to Asia will arrive with us, or for that matter whether we ourselves will arrive as planned. So it's all in His hands, thankfully.

Most of you know, I don't enjoy shopping very much, especially when it needs to be focused, diligent, once-every-three-years-thorough shopping with two children under three along. So for me, I'm just glad that there are no more three-hour trips to Walmart in my future!


James and Christen said...

Hi, I am Christen. I came across your blog through Gretchen.

We have just moved to Brazil for our first term. We are going into 2 months of waiting for our "stuff" to be liberated from customs. I feel like I have had to repeatedly give all those things back to God. He is in control, I can live without all those things but I still find myself at times sad at the thought of losing them.

I appreciated your comments and perspective. I look forward to keeping up with your blog.

We can't get marshmallows here either!

Erica W said...

Rachel -

Ha! I am a HUGE consignment shopper for clothes and toys for the girls! I am counting down the days until I hit the Florida consignment shops with my mother-in-law! Who wouldn't want to buy new clothes for just a few bucks!!
My problem with living overseas is that I begin hoarding items. I admit... I am a hoarder. I don't think about how I have 5 jars of salsa in my cabinet that I have collected... I only think about how it isn't available and I don't like making it, so when I see it I get it. Then I am hesitant to use it as I don't want to run out! So my hoarded stash continues to grow! It has been SO good for me to have to clean out all the 'stuff' that we have collected the last 3.5 years... what a clean and freeing feeling!!
Hope you guys have a great next 10 days and can feel rested and relaxed before making the trek back! Funny that we are swapping places!

Love to your family,

SingerMamaMelody said...

Great reminder about how we don't need stuff...I'm learning LOTS about that these last few years, and especially the last several months as I've been getting rid of stuff before our upcoming move. It was AWESOME to see you guys last weekend! I'm really glad that it worked out. My girl had so much fun with your girls...and I had a ball reconnecting with you guys. It was so nice to visit. Lots of love...

Li said...

Hi Rachel! Long time no see! I do not know why every time i call John's cell phone, it says"Hi this is J and R. I will call you back".
I want to talk with you someday.

Scott Alexander said...

Rachel!!!!! Imagine my surprise when recently visiting a friend in Louisville to see your family's picture on the fridge! I think I startled everyone when I yelled, "I KNOW THESE PEOPLE! THEY'RE MY FRIENDS!"

Can you send me your e-mail address? Mine is

Looking forward to hearing from you soon.


Traci Schrock said...

I think you hit it right on the nose when you said the key is to not let our possessions posses us. Keeping our eye on the prize and realizing we can't take it with us. Have a safe trip back to Asia. Give the girls a squeeze for Shane and I.

Jodi said...

Rachel, this is such a good reminder. We need to be grateful for the good gifts God gives, but look beyond them to the Giver with gratitude, and look for ways to share them with those who need them. You set a good example for us who need to simplify and cut down. We could all use less stuff!

Love and prayers,


Gretchen said...


What a great post. I love your focus and attitude -- thank you for being so real and practical. You crack me up, too! I love the humor that slips into your writing. I can just hear you saying those things with a big smile, and making me feel like I want to smile and cry at the same time.

Last night I was able to encourage a girl who is here with her husband from Brazil. She is native Brazilian and just came to the states saying goodbye to all her family (except her husband) and familiarity. I remember how you said "when I'm longing for home, or a place to settle down, I'm really longing for heaven", and I shared that with this sweet Brazilian girl.

Those words have been profound to me. Thank you for them! I hope to encourage you with them now!

You are SO RIGHT about all the stuff. It can become our master. I have lately noticed an inclination in my own heart towards jealousy. The Holy Spirit has been pricking my heart over it every so often when it rises up. How on earth can I be jealous when I have all things pertaining to life and godliness?!! :)

Love you, friend! You are in our prayers. I think of you whenever I have me some Starbucks (hope you treat yourself before you go back).