I daydreamed of a beautiful old English house, with a flagstone hallway, big comfy sofas, and fine antique oak furniture. I pictured hollyhocks swaying outside the open windows and the scent of roses and lavender wafting in on a summer’s evening—not that I’m much of a gardener.
The dream seemed within my grasp, until I watched international movers advance through my home like locusts, swiftly wrapping every item we owned in cardboard.
It took four months for our possessions to reach us in America. They rattled along the road by truck before being transferred to a container and riding the high seas. They passed through the port of New York City and then arrived at our rental apartment.
Being in your own bed always makes you feel more at ease. Yet, even with all my worldly belongings, my new location felt foreign.
“You’re a woman without a home,” a pastor’s wife described me one day. I’ve pondered that label for a long time.
I didn’t belong here, where I was living, and I didn’t belong there, where I had been born.
Instead, I learned my heart pined for people more than a place—relaxing and chattering with my mom in her kitchen over a cup of tea. Or laughing with my college friend and her husband over dinner in their townhouse only a few miles away from the Edwardian house with the tiled floor, comfy sofas, and Wisteria hanging over the door, the one I nearly had within my grasp.
Many of our possessions stayed packed in boxes, heaved into the loft, or stacked in the basement as we moved from one rental residence to another. They stood ignored and forgotten as we invested in more important and valuable assets – our own family of a daughter and twin sons.
We could have left a Gaggia espresso machine, with its incompatible voltage, an antique sewing machine, and my wardrobe of business suits behind in England.
So, in my pondering I’ve discovered I want family and friends to fill my life.
With the ocean like a barrier between us, I’ve learned to not let our differences be the same. Instead, I practice letting go of the things that niggle (a slight but persistent annoyance) so I can make the most of the moments we are together.
And I’ve learned to relish the time with my husband and children and the fun the five of us have together as a family. God has shown me it more important to say I love you to the ones you cherish rather than wish you had the garden for your children to run around in with their cousins.
Oh, I’ve filled my house with plenty of things. “Why do we want new dining room chairs?” asked my husband. “Because,” I said. Now with my little ones grown up and off to college, I realize those dining room chairs are meaningless.
“I don’t need a house,” I said to my son the other day. “I just need a bigger suitcase.”
He laughed and posted it on hangouts—our family chat—because that’s how we keep in touch when we’re all on different continents. The phone buzzes with messages and emoticons 24/7. I wouldn’t swap it for the world.
And so, I recently bought a new suitcase, which I’m learning to pack efficiently. The chairs will stand unused and I won’t wistfully want to fill them. Instead, I’ll be making memories with my daughter in Hong Kong, and riding the ski lift with my sons in the mountains or buying them toothpaste when I visit them in London.
When I return to my house—well, I’ll enjoy my bed—but I’ll wonder why I acquired so much stuff.
How are you putting the people in your life over the stuff in your space?