The Start of Our Family’s Minimalist Journey

September 18, 2013

In the autumn of 2008, our family went to L’Abri outside of Boston.  It was a watershed few months that has changed the trajectory of our family’s story.  During our time at L’Abri, we lived in one bedroom.  While it was snug, it was also sweet.  It was all we needed.  We had a small bin of toys and some basic homeschooling supplies.  We were all living in one room, and the kids were happy as clams.  We have such sweet memories of waking up early and sipping our coffee in the  L’Abri library as the wood stove took the chill off the autumn New England mornings.

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L’Abri

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L’Abri

We had been struggling for years with various issues around God and faith.  When we left L’Abri after three months of study, we were changed people.  We believed down to our toes that God loved us and that He had come for us.  We were grateful not only for heaven in our future, but for the here and now.  This changed everything.  It changed how we viewed money.  It changed how we viewed our time.  It changed our view of careers and giftedness and children.  It rocked our world in a wonderfully life-changing way that messed up all our plans.  In a way that we totally wanted to get on board with.   It changed what we wanted.   Because we wanted way more than the American dream of the big house and fancy car.  Now we wanted in on God’s plan of redemption.  Now we wanted in on making the earth a more just place.  Now we wanted in on preventing human trafficking and on chipping away at poverty.

Charlie and I both remember the moment.  He had been out of work for several months, which precipitated the trip to L’Abri to begin with.  We had been living quite contentedly in this one room at L’Abri.  We were shaken with gratitude to our cores.  Grateful to be loved by God.  Grateful to have a faith that we could look our kids in the eye and defend.  We were grateful for a new perspective on life.  Grateful that God had changed our hearts.  Expectant for what God was going to do.  So, there was this moment when we walked back into our hilltop house in the Bay Area.  This house that Charlie was having stomach pains over.  This house for which we were in debt up to our eyeballs- and would be for the next thirty years.  This house that I loved with our garden, honeybees and chickens.  And, it was just all too much.  Too much mortgage.  Too big.  More than we needed.  This was the moment when we started wanting less.

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Halloween at L’Abri

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Snuggled up in our room at L’Abri

It took a while to listen to that.  We were mortgaged up to our eyeballs, and the real estate bubble was freshly busted.  We knew that we were going to lose a ton of money.  And we did.  I’m convinced that God doesn’t pry our hands off our money.  But, I felt Him asking us to open our clenched fists.  Slowly, we felt them begin to unclinch.  I began reading Proverbs and Ecclesiastes daily.  Praying for wisdom and a Godly perspective on money.  We began to read books and blogs on Minimalism.  Charlie and I both felt the financial loss.  2 1/2 years later, it still stings.  Please don’t hear what I’m not saying.  I love Dave Ramsey.  I love budgets.  I love financial planning.  But, this was a time when we felt God calling us to clear the deck and start again with less.  We felt God calling us to trust Him with our finances.  We were fortunate to take a tiny sum out of our house.  While it was a difficult financial loss, we were grateful not to leave the house in debt.

As we got the house ready to put on the market, we started our journey to less.  It was painful and relationally costly at times and wonderful and freeing.  We got rid of silver tea sets and antique furniture and dressers and chairs.  By the time we moved out of that house, our load was about 50% lighter.  Since that time, I would guess that we’re down to about 30% of our original possessions.  While it hasn’t been easy, it has been good.  It’s allowed us to live well in our 1100 foot rental.  It’s allowed us to run our small business within this small space.  It’s allowed plenty of room for games and for homeschooling.  We have plenty of room for our backpacking equipment and soccer gear.  It’s allowed mental space and more peace.  It’s brought about simplified wardrobes,  simplified art supplies and a simplified budget.  But, we have plenty of room for those things that we find beautiful or useful.

We still talk about those early L’Abri mornings around the fire.  They are a sweet memory etched into our minds.  Because they represent what we want.  Shelter.  Warmth.  Relationship.  Faith.  Messy community.  Intellectual stimulation.  Meaning.  Literature.  Art.  Beauty.  Work worth doing.  We want more L’Abri in our lives and less frantic.  More relationship and less financial stress.  More family and less workaholism.  Less distracting stuff and more of the good stuff.

We’re not sure what’s next for our family.  But, we are looking forward to the journey.

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3 Responses to “The Start of Our Family’s Minimalist Journey”

  1. John Says:

    Awesome post. I love that you shared so many of the details behind your thought process and experiences while also being so honest about how it all felt. You guys are on an a great journey and I’m cheering you on!

  2. Tricia Padua Says:

    Hi Robin–just reaching out, saying hello, also loved this post and the picture of the you and the kids in bed. Jao asked me why Ninang Robin’s picture is on the computer, and why little Charlie has the same Spider Man costume as he does. Miss you guys!


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