Downsizing Our Home?

We have been inspired to live simply. From reading One Thousand Gifts and The Reason for God to watching Fran's Chan sermons online, our hearts have been spurred to change. Everywhere we look, we see opportunities to help, assist, sacrifice for the good of others, but we find it hard to fit that into our middle class lives. For years we have developed a typical American life: successful careers, 2 kids, 3 bed/2 bath house with privacy fence and 2 car garage, vacations with family over the holidays, eating out once or twice a week, on and on we go. That isn't a bad thing, but for us, our comfort trumped our obedience to God.

The time has come to change.

I read this article from Thriving Family magazine just last week and I wept as my eyes took in the words. Francis Chan and his family have downgraded their home to give their extra money to those who truly need it after Francis witnessed first had the poverty and depravity in Uganda. Many have questioned this decision, wondering how this sacrifice could be beneficial for their four children, but the Chans have not wavered in their decision to live simply for the purpose of serving others. The section of the article that struck me the most was what their 14 year old daughter said about a difficult time for them when a single mother who only spoke Spanish and her four children came to live at her family's house:

 Does that not just touch your heart? I want my children to grow up and know that this is not their home. This life is only temporary, a fleeting moment, a dim reflection in the mirror. How can they learn this from me if I am digging my nails deeply trying to grip the sand of this life as it slips through my fingers? If the disappoints of this life make me yell and scream and kick my feet in protest, how do these reaction send the message that this life is temporal?

We are inspired and motivated to change.

Just the other day I said to Craig, "If we are going to have or adopt more kids, we are going to need a bigger house." Wait. Do we need another house, or would it be more comfortable to have a bigger house? Craig's gentle reminder put the perspective back where it needed to be. As Americans, we are blessed more then we can fathom. My daily complaints are over luxuries that the majority of the world has never experienced: driving, air conditioning, purchasing new things, healthy children, wardrobe options. Most of the world worries about life altering dilemmas: clean water, typhoid, child soldiers, human trafficking, poor nutrition. How shortsighted I become when I choose to ignore the daily ongoing needs of those around me and around the world. How blinded I am when I think, "I don't have the resources to help them." Don't I serve a big God? Isn't he capable of anything?

Change is the only option. 

Craig is a teacher. I am a photographer. We have 2 preschoolers, a mortgage and student loan payments. We have great reasons not to serve, not to reach out, not to give of ourselves. But that isn't an option for us anymore. As Christians, we are called to help the orphans and widows. We are commissioned to share this hope we have in Christ with others. We can no longer continue on this path of self preservation, knowing that others need us to respond. We aren't going to be as drastic as the Chan family by downsizing our home, but we are making changes. I'll write about those another time, but for now the biggest change is our outlook on life. We are truly rich in every way, and it is time that the wealthy give to the poor.

 After writing this post, a friend shared this project with me and I think it is a fitting addition to this post. This is a picture project of by Peter Menzel that captures families and all of their possessions. It really gives a perspective about how much we own as Americans. Take a look by clicking here.

I have written a post about one way we are going to implement these changes. Read it by clicking here


Ida said...

You know I love this :-)

Praying for you, supporting you, and here for you while you make the changes!

God will not disappoint! Since Nate was laid off, and as you know, not with a "stable job" still, we have had more then enough to still bless others and share what we DO have...all glory to God!

I am going to share this link, if you don't mind! I think everyone needs to read it!

Julie said...

My husband and I have been thinking on this very idea recently. One book we have found helpful is "The Treasure Principle" Randy Alcorn (I think that is the author) The theme of the book is "You can't take it with you but you can send it on ahead.

Jennifer said...

Downsizing our home was the only way our family found it possible for me to stay home and minister to what is my first calling in this season - my family. Our 1200ish sf house seemed so small to me when we moved in. Now, I'm longing for a home that is even smaller because I believe it will absolutely force me to re-prioritize my possessions. I don't think my children would be harmed in any way by having less space or fewer possessions.

As I read the Thrive article I kept wondering how they could have so many people in the downsized home and then it made more sense when they had to move and add on to the house to accommodate their desire to be hospitable in a long term way. Because I know it is common for me to try to compare myself to others and always find myself coming up short, I did want to consider their choice. It may not be helpful to you, but for me it is helpful to realize that the Chans probably live in a larger house than we do already. I don't share this as an excuse, but as a way to rescue myself from the comparison game of who is giving up more. I don't want there to be any pride in me because I am doing more than the next gal when it comes to sacrificing for the poor and widowed. I'm sure Chan would agree that being proud of a small, crowded house is just as sinful as being proud of a spacious house.

That being said, I think it is useful to read examples of how others are living as aliens in this world so that God might be glorified. By sharing his story, we are all edified to do more.

My take away from the Thrive article is not that I should own a smaller house or drive a smaller car. Both of these things have been used in ministry to others and are useful as they are. Instead, my heart is screaming at me to continue to clear my schedule so I am available to help when someone needs me.

Noel Piper recently said that if you can buy and read a book then you are wealthy. This is so true.

I'd love to hear how you are cutting expenses and changing your lifestyle so that you may have more of yourself and your money to share.

Joy B. said...

Your continued efforts to challenge yourself continue to inspire me :-) We saw some of the pictures mentioned at the Polk Museum of Art the last time we visited. I'm not sure if they are on permanent exhibit, but they were on the second floor near their education rooms. I like what Jennifer has to say about also making sure that there is time to give in addition to resources.

Janie said...

"My daily complaints are over luxuries that the majority of the world has never experienced: driving, air conditioning, purchasing new things, healthy children, wardrobe options. Most of the world worries about life altering dilemmas: clean water, typhoid, child soldiers, human trafficking, poor nutrition."

Well said.