malcolm marler

on a mission to embody grace and compassion in all relationships

Month: August 2012

Who or What Owns Us?

For the past two years, I have given lip service to wanting to simplify my life.

You know–own less stuff, take care of less, live more generously in the world so that my life reflects more closely with what I say I believe.

It sounds good.

You can read some of those longings here.

But now that we have sold our house, or at least we are supposed to close on it this coming week I whisper prayerfully, I understand better why I wasn’t ready for these big changes before now.

It is simply exhausting dealing with all of the stuff I (we) own. What to throw away, what to keep, what to sell, what to give away? We’ve given away most of it to others who wanted or needed it.  Thousands of decisions in a month. I’m not talking about physical exhaustion as much as the emotional kind. For me, there is grief in realizing what has got a hold on my life and how I define myself.

Do I really need to take all those little league football award and newspaper articles saved by my mother and stepmom from the first grade through college? No, gone. Do I keep all of those family pictures, or the other hundred that chronicle my growing up? Well, yes, many of them are like touchstones for my memory. The list is long.

I used to be very critical, even judgmental of the man that walked up to Jesus one day and said, “Teacher, what must I do to have eternal life?” And Jesus looked at him and said, “Sell all that you have and follow me and then you will have eternal life.” And the man dropped his head, walked away sadly because he was rich and owned many things.

When I would read that, I would think how foolish he was.” I thought when you have Jesus standing right in front of you giving you a clear, concise answer to the most important question of your life, then it would be an easy question.  But it never is.

It isn’t so easy to let all this stuff go.

We are choosing to live in a beautiful space, just smaller and closer to my work.   I am excited about walking or riding a bike to work.

I have not sold or given away all that I have.  Just a lot of it.

But, this IS a step on this journey to answer this important question for me personally, “Who or what owns me?”  I am aware that grace is needed for all of us along the way.   And it is an ongoing decision.

So what have you learned along this journey on moving and letting go of stuff?

Got an encouraging word for this traveler?

New Dreams

Sunset at Smith Lake, March 2012.

Change can be exciting, challenging and exhausting all at the same time.

Mary Bea has been home from her first year in seminary for this summer and her presence has been a wonderful gift for me.   I’m so thankful.  But it is almost time for her to go back.

Many of you know that we have had our house on the market for the past two years.  For many people in the country, this has also been one of the hardest time to sell a house.  We finally have a contract to sell, and have decided to rent in Birmingham close to my work until Mary graduates in 20 months.

First, the grief of leaving.

Ten years ago, just a few months before I fell in love with Mary Bea Sullivan, I built this house on a bluff overlooking beautiful Smith Lake in North Alabama and have enjoyed countless sunsets, clear clean water, and a canopy of stars on clear nights.  This is where our love for one another was nurtured.  Our children lived here through their high school and college years.  Our house has provided the space to share meals together, swim, water ski, laugh, and cry together.

The first night after we signed the contract to sell it, I had to let it go.  Mary was wise and just held me while I cried.  Sobbed would be more descriptive.  No words were necessary.

I learned again that good, wise decisions in our lives can be painful, and yet still be the right thing to do.

Second, sometimes we have to let go of old dreams in order for new ones to be born.

We have decided to rent for the next couple of years so that we can be “lighter on our feet” when Mary graduates.

Our new place is ONE mile from my work.  After driving 40,000 miles per year for 10 years, I will walk or bike to work each day.

It is the beginning of a new dream.  A dream to live closer to work, to own less, to live more simply.  More about this dream later.

What kind of dreams are you letting go of these days?  And what kind of new dreams do you want to see?

Peace be with you.



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