We are packing up our house, preparing it for rental. We leave for Central Asia July 4th, but we'll return by the end of the month. We leave for the year-long portion of our ministry on August 22. But we are well underway to having our stuff all packed up.
Until we moved to San Gabriel, Lisa and I had moved about every four years: 1989, 1993, 1997, then 2001. We've lived in the same house since 2001 and it is embarrassing how much stuff we've accumulated. For a long time, our expansive library has been a source of pleasure, if not pride, but lately it is just a source of chagrin. I wish I could sell our books at 10 cents on the dollar, but I doubt that would be possible. We've sent many boxes to Goodwill, but of course many boxes remain. We will, no doubt, have a substantial library on our return, whenever that is and to wherever we return. But I'd rather rent/borrow books I need than own them with the burden they are over a lifetime of moves. And with the internet, face it, physical books just aren't as necessary as they once seemed to be. I have many regrets about books I wish I had not bothered to purchase, because I certainly never bothered to read.
So one byproduct of this mission, and the fruit it has already borne in my life, is that I literally covet nothing. We had two cars (one was a gift) but when one died, we didn't replace it, we have been borrowing from friends for several months. We plan to sell our other car before we leave for the year. I do not want to own a car right now. Ownership has its benefits, but it also has its costs. So right now, we are anticipating carrying our entire possessions around in two pieces of luggage for more than a year. That is actually liberating and clarifying--the only things I want are things that help me with the mission--some clothes, my computer, some manuscript studies and other notes I will take with me, flip flops and perhaps shoes for the winter.
We will, for about two of the next four weeks, be staying at a conference facility without internet service. We also will have no working cell phones. I think it will be kind of difficult to communicate at all for the first and last weeks of our month of travel. That will be challenging, but also simplifying and clarifying. While we are in Central Asia our focus will be the students and staff around us.
Jesus sent his disciples out two by two without extra money or clothing or food. Our luggage is stuffed with embarrassing luxury and abundance by comparison. But it is a start at de-accumulation, one that I hope will change the way I look at all my possessions long after we return.
I (Lisa) am intrigued by the studies, cited by the likes of Malcolm Gladwell, about the speed at which we make first impressions, for better or for worse. This will be a year of building connections quickly with those we hope to serve; we will need to build trust and even some intimacy with people in a short amount of time. That has its challenges, as does the call to faithfulness with a few people over the long haul.
This past two and a half years, we’ve been in a long-haul care-giving relationship with a disabled man. We fully admit, we did it for another income stream in some lean years career-wise, but we also did feel called by God to serve a person in need. It’s challenged and stretched me in ways I hadn’t anticipated. I’ve learned to value what he values, at least enough to engage in conversation about those things, like Gilligan’s Island plots and endless discussions of the bus routes around Los Angeles. The other day he and I sat and made a list of things his new caregivers should know about him, and I was happy to see how well I’ve come to know him. I know his ten favorite and four least favorite foods; I know that he prefers not to be touched, I know the top chores he does well, and I know that he needs help knowing when it’s time for a haircut. His quirks have come to have a certain charm for us.
It can feel like we’ve been the victims of a certain speed-dating mentality lately. We love our old (1907) home, but many of the potential renters in our area have a high value on brand new construction. Hardwood floors and charming stained glass windows hold little charm for them. We want to say, “Come get to know our house; hear its stories, notice its forty rose bushes and six fruit trees!” It seems they’ve been quick to see the downsides—that second floor bathroom built into the slant in the roof such that a standing shower is impossible, the wear and tear on those hardwood floors. Last night as potential renters left far too quickly, I felt some of what a speed dater might feel at the end of a bad evening: rejection, discouragement, wondering what we could do to make our house more attractive, wondering if it will ever get takers. It’s early days still, I know. I just hadn’t realized the process would take the toll it has.
So, friends, as you pray for us: celebrate with us finishing well with our care-giving long-haul, and pray that we could care well in many, many short-haul situations this year. And please, lift up a prayer today for the right renters to find their way to our truly charming, patina-filled abode!
Rich and Lisa Lamb