The winter brought fullness. Richness. Plenty. It was my favorite time of life thus far; the winter of no paychecks. Naively, I said things like, “I have now learned to be content with little, and I am so overjoyed that I will never revert to being swallowed up by excess.” But when the first paycheck came, I forgot.
The self-forgetting happened rather immediately. First, there was the constant justification to buy ALL the books. (Books are my weakness. And candles. And rosé. And armfuls of fresh flowers. And fancy cleaning sprays. And skirts.) Ironically, we began a Mitchell Family Challenge that we titled “Operation Spend NO Money.” But as we adjusted to our “new normal” with Matt traveling more than he is home, I began numbing myself with packages. I would perform a daily count of all of the packages that would be gracing me with their presence in the upcoming days. When the package count ran low, I would order another book. (Note: I do not actually have time to READ all of these books…they just form pretty little piles around the house.)
After several weeks of my indulgences on Amazon, my dear husband stared at me with obvious concern and said, “Jo. You have been really discontent lately…you’re spending money every day, you have been complaining excessively, and you don’t seem like yourself. What is going on in your heart?” Oh boy. Just leave me alone, man. Let me have my Anthropologie clearance rack and I’ll keep feeding you.
Though Matt is traveling A LOT, there are perks. Number one?? The amount of airline miles and hotel points that are racking up. Holla. I’m dreaming of you, dear Greece. Number two? We get to travel along with him when he doesn’t go too far. So, a couple of weeks ago, as we tagged along to South Carolina, and I mulled over the issues of my discontentment, I was presented squarely with a real-life application that awakened me to my own heart issues. As soon as we stepped onto the beach, the little boys asked me where the sand toys were. Well crap. “They’re at home in the shed. You’ll have to play without them.” I fully expected to be nagged by their sheer sand-toy-less boredom so many times that I would lose my mind and we would end up in the beach aisle at bloody Target. Instead, they played for the next six hours, without a single complaint. (This has literally never happened in the history of ever.) They played with the sand, they played with each other, and they played with the waves. All the while, I watched in awe. That evening, after Matt returned from his meeting, I told him how content our offspring were with nothing but nature. I was freshly renewed by the truth in the cliché words: “less is more.”
Less packages…more joy. Less stuff…more freedom. Less complaints…more gratitude.
Y’all. I sincerely wish I could tell you this is the first time I have learned this lesson, but it’s not. This is a continual pitfall in my journey called life, and I’m certain I’ll relearn it at least twelve more times.
At home I received another life application in the form of a single flower. One day in March, wrapped in a brown package and lying on my doorstep, came a dreamy little book called The Cut Flower Garden. Since I’m such a sensible woman who lives in moderation, I immediately went out and bought every flower seed I could find. I’m not kidding you. My mother and I spent HOUUURRRS planting seeds and pulling weeds. One of the flowers that MOST excited me was the Ranunculus. However, my amateur abilities left them all looking rather meager and deathly. But…just when I was ready to give up on my hope for backyard-grown Ranunculus, I spotted one single ball of yellow atop a wilting, pitiful plant. There it was. My single, holy, glorious flower which was surely put there just to drive my lesson on contentment straight home. I cut it yesterday afternoon, and then grinned stupidly at it for the next five minutes. Because, you already know, armfuls of colorful Ranunculus never could have brought the same sweet contentment that came from that one single stem. Less. Less. Less.
“If you give up your lust for money and throw your precious gold into the river, the Almighty Himself will be your treasure.” Job 22:24-25
Here is to abandoning little brown packages and embracing the gifts I already have. Stuff can never bring the joy of relationships; both Holy and human.