A few weeks ago I shared a few books written by some of my friends. Today I’m happy to welcome one of those authors to Chatting at the Sky – Allison Vesterfelt. I met Ally last year when she and her husband Darrell were in town. See – aren’t they cute?
Ally wrote a book called Packing Light where she documents her journey of selling everything, traveling across the country, and learning to live with less baggage. Glad to have her here today.
I don’t know about you, but for me, September feels really full.
Summer vacations are winding down and even though I’m mulling over fond memories, I’m also cleaning up their messes — the tent in the garage that we never bothered to fold up the right way, telling ourselves we would “clean it later,” the hiking shoes left scattered in the front hall, the linens we still haven’t washed and cleaned from the guest room since our company left weeks ago.
Then, school starts, and even though I’m not in school I always feel like it’s time to take off the vacation hat and put on the productivity one. So all the projects I’ve been putting off all summer — telling myself (rightly) that this was a season for rest and play and adventure and family — are knocking on my door, and I can’t ignore them.
Plus there’s Pinterest and Instagram and I have to at least try to live up to the thoughtful and creative projects everyone else is accomplishing.
Then there’s the shopping.
In one sense, I love that about this time of year. I love the freshness of it all — the new clothes and school supplies and pumpkin spice everything; and I just want to fill my cupboards and my home with things I know are going to make us cozy when the cold weather arrives.
But I often get carried away and soon it isn’t just activities filling my fall, but new shoes and clothes and make-up school supplies scattered everywhere. Then I actually end up buying more stuff so I can organize it all.
Do you ever wonder to yourself — how much is too much? How full is too full?
Do you ever feel like you’re missing something?
When I feel like I’m missing something, I like to make a trip to Target.
I mean, I’m not serious of course, but I’m kind of serious. Target has this freaky and amazing way of helping me see what I’m missing that I didn’t know I was missing. A mustard yellow throw pillow that would look great on my couch. The newest books I need to read and DVDs I need to watch. As I’m wandering the aisles I can practically picture my husband and myself, curled up on the couch together, with glasses of hot cocoa and a bowl of homemade popcorn, watching those movies and reading those books together, the beautiful throw pillow sitting next to us.
But the truth is, the more I buy and do, and even the more “productive” I am in September (or anytime), the more it feels like I’m missing something.
I wonder if you sense that too.
A few years ago I did this totally crazy thing.
Inspired by the story of the Rich Young Ruler from the Gospels, I sold almost everything I owned, moved into my car, and traveled to all 50 states to write a book called Packing Light. I know it sounds extreme, and it probably was, but I was single and unattached at the time, and I wanted to see what it would look like to make room in my life — to let go of the clutter and mess that was making it seem so crowded.
A few days into my journey, I had dinner with a couple who asked me a question I’ll never forget.
They asked: What do you need?
Think about that question for a second. What do you need? If someone asked you that question today, would you know how to answer it?
Everything I owned was in my car, and still I had a really hard time.
It made me think about how rarely I allow myself to go on a journey without everything I need. In fact, even the thought of being unprepared makes me feel sort of nervous and irresponsible. Maybe that’s why I pack my life and my home with so many things all the time — even good things — like cookies and friends and Bible studies and furniture I love and throw pillows to match the season.
Maybe it makes me feel like I’m in control, like I won’t ever have to go without.
The second thing I realized when they asked me the question was that, despite the fact everything I owned fit into my small 4-door sedan parked outside, I didn’t really need anything. It was such a strange sensation to think about all the things I had packed so diligently, into every nook and cranny of my vehicle, without really knowing what I needed.
I had no idea what was coming.
I don’t really know what I need until I go without.
Now that I’m home and I have a closet again and a bunch of cupboards, and a normal, weekly schedule I can fill with things I really like and want, I have to remind myself of this lesson often. I have to ask myself: What do you need? I have to consciously choose to clear out the clutter and make space in my life.
And I’ll be honest: I find it really hard.
But I try to think back to what it felt like when I camped in the Grand Tetons — drove my car out into the middle of nowhere and set up a tent and slept in my clothes and rose without an alarm clock. I try to remember what it felt like for morning to linger for hours before she ushered in the afternoon.
I try to remember how open my heart seemed…
How open my life seemed..
I try to remember how, even though I didn’t have a Starbucks in hand or a mirror to do my make-up, or any throw pillows to speak of, I had everything I needed.
I try to remember how God met me there.
To learn more about Ally, check out her blog at AllisonVesterfelt.com and her book, Packing Light.