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!