For most of my childhood, I thought a dog and white picket fence were necessary for a happy life. That changed in my late teens, when I traveled overseas for the first time and my scales were lifted. I saw for the first time how the majority of the world lived.
But deep down, I think I still assumed my lot in life was to live in the suburbs and send money where it was needed. I went to college wondering if I should serve God cross-culturally, and found the answer to my question by the time I graduated. A year later, I moved to Kosovo a few months after Milosevic was nicely asked to leave, found Kyle and married him, and started prepping for a life of language learning and being the foreigner.
The weird thing, however, was that I lived a parallel life that looked awfully like I assumed settling down in the States was my default. We registered for plates and things after temporarily settling in the U.S. We collected a bit of credit card debt on the side. We held on to boxes in closets because it was easier than letting it go. All while hoping and praying we’d be ready to let it all go when we moved to Turkey.
I’m pretty sure I thought of our future overseas chapter as just that—one small portion of our life story; that the “regular” days would be spent with those dishes and sending electronic checks to nonprofits.
We lived in Turkey for a little over three years, raising a toddler and birthing another baby and conceiving yet another one before returning stateside. It seemed like we’d use those white plates after all. They were pulled out of storage and dusted off.
All along, I found a surprising passion for living simpler. God used those refining years in a cross-cultural setting to show me the beauty of trusting Him with the details and freeing up my time and money for the little things in life.
Those plates have seen a lot of love the past few years, moving houses and feeding guests and serving us in the daily liturgy of life—but once again, they’re going in to storage. And this time, we honestly don’t know for how long. My family and I are about to travel around the world, to collect stories and to visit friends and to—well, live life and work and learn. And eat off all sorts of plates, I presume.
When we really and truly trust God with the little details of life—even the important ones, like money and housing—we are free to do both the wild and the small, however He leads. If we’re daring enough to let go of our stuff, then we can pack light and both move about the cabin and live in an easy-to-clean house. And when we bravely say yes to His path instead of our cultural norms, we can happily walk a few steps at a time, even if the ground is unpredictable and looks foreign to everyone else.
I’m learning a lot about letting go as we prepare to go westbound in one circular direction in just a few weeks’ time.
Letting go means knowing there’s a net below us, held by Christ himself, who said He’d never leave us. Stepping out allows us to recognize God as sovereign over details. And waiting patiently until we’re sure it’s His voice directing frees us to delight in the small things while we wait.
There is much grace and freedom in living small, living simply, and letting go of the white picket fence.
I dare you to live simply, because you just might find you’re free to dream both big or small. Both are valid and right and good in God’s economy. But neither are as enjoyable if you’re encumbered with the emotional, spiritual, or physical stuff the world prescribes.
Live free and simply. And trust God with both the big wild and the small daily.Leave a Comment
What a lovely post! Man, this site is so amazing. Thank you to the people that run it and write it. Truly gold. My dream is to one day write a book – does anyone have any tips or stories that they would be willing to share? God bless and don’t forget to wear your invisible crown xx
Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God says
Having been recently married, my husband and I have been purging a lot of “stuff” as we combine households. Most of it has gone to friends and people in need and we have both realized that there is something cathartic about parting with your earthly “treasures”. As I read your article I envisioned what it would be like to really live bare bones…with nothing more than is absolutely necessary and it was a wake up call as to how attached we are to our “stuff”. Lord, help me to be more trusting of you so that I may live more simply. Help me to put my relationship with you first and all my “stuff” a distant last. Thank you Tsh for an eye opener this morning and for calling me to prayer!
Blessings to you in your upcoming adventure,
I grew up in Haiti with very little, and throughout my childhood, my ambition was to be better and resultingly have more. I grew up, had more and realized that I felt the need to constantly acquire more. It was never fulfilling and it was never enough. I am now back to desiring less things and more relationships. It has meant changing the way I have always thought about success, and it has been incredibly freeing. I am free to live fully saved, and fully alive in my relationships. Surprisingly enough, this newly found freedom has not been the end of my dreams. It has simply been the start of different dreams; ones that account for the time that I want to spend investing in relationships and touching lives.
Thank you for your words and commitment to spreading awareness about the joy in living simply.
Tsh Oxenreider says
“…this newly found freedom has not been the end of my dreams. It has simply been the start of different dreams…” <– Love this, Fleurztael.
Tsh, you are so speaking to my heart right now. I haven’t had the opportunity to follow along with much of your story, so I learned a lot about your story reading this. My husband and I live in NYC in our tiny apartment, and for the most part we make the most of it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes wish for a dishwasher or a laundry room. But I’m grateful that God’s used the last 10 years to teach us about simplicity and letting go. Right now He’s challenging me to let go of the emotional junk, the unhealthy expectations of others, the busy schedules, and whatever else weighs us down from following Him. This speaks right to where I am and is a huge dose of encouragement from a sister in Christ. Wishing you and your family an amazing journey, and I’m looking forward to following along.
Tsh Oxenreider says
I’m so glad, Kim. Thanks for reading.
Marina Bromley says
WOW!! How exciting!! How wonderful an opportunity to have too, having your family all on-board and able and willing to live out of suitcases (or backpacks, or ??).
God’s best blessings on you and yours; especially those that you will leave behind. May they find courage and peace in your leaving, and not stress when life happens abroad, or events at home take place and you aren’t there to share in it. May you each find God meeting your needs, just where you are. To be filled by Him, and reassured in His Words.
I can’t wait to read your posts/blog while you are on this journey!! Just WOW!!
Tsh Oxenreider says
It’ll be backpacks! Thanks, Marina – we’re excited!
I absolutely love your outlook and you have given me the urge to really go over things that I need to make up my mind to let go….
all the best to you and your family in your new endeavors….
Beth Werner Lee says
I was a travel agent (mostly for missionaries) in the 90s, and my dream was a round the world ticket! Haven’t done it yet…so I’m with you on the Blog and praying for you as you go.
I’ve learned much about traveling light (took backpack and carryon for a month in England where husband taught his college students this May) but I still need much help in the living light part. After the May study tour we visited friends in Cork, Ireland who have a small row house and yet heard about their travels in the continent and home to visit grandparents in the States and in S. Africa respectively. “Small house, big world.”
I can only learn so much from theoretical reading; I thrive on examples, so you and my Ireland friends are good for me. The next year we are here but after that we don’t know a thing except that God is good and I want to live out his dream for us rather than our own.
All that to explain my big thank you for not only living but also writing about it!
Tsh Oxenreider says
You’re so welcome, Beth! I love writing about travel and simplicity with family, so I’m happy to do it. 🙂
Love your post … as a military wife this is something God has shown us practically as well. Now we still have more stuff than I’d like. And I love to decorate! 😀 But I also know how freeing it is to literally live in a tent with just the essentials! Blessings to you and yours …
Chris malkemes says
It is so true, Tish! The adventure begins when we obey. In the obeying we trust Him. In the trusting we love Him. In the loving we know Him. In the knowing the abundant life is realized. Thanks for letting us in. You go girl!
Margaret Berardinelli says
We are on our 4th downsizing in 13 years…
It’s not easy for me, I take a strange “comfort” from having “stuff.” After two long-distance moves and a series of serious financial set-backs, we’ve come from three houses full of furniture, appliances, vehicles, & nick-nacks to living in an RV since 2009, with a small warehouse for storage of things I can’t bear to part with… Mostly cherished momentos, kitchen gadgets, & gardening tools I don’t need while God has us planted in an RV. And while we’ve given away 99% of the furniture, vehicles & appliances, (sometimes with sadness as our hopes and dreams go with them); it’s taken me over a year to begin to part with the “small-stuff.” I get ready, get right there, then run away.
Last month we started again and as we slowly give things away or sell them on Craig’s List, we both realized, just yesterday, after the first twinge of sadness, there is a peace that surpasses all understanding that comes with the simplification of our lives.
Susan Shipe says
All I can think to say is, “WOW!”
I send checks. I pray. Have only felt the prompting “to go” once, to Cuba in 1999 and even then it was for a very specific wheelchair delivery to a loved one of my daughter-in-love.
Your adventure sounds intriguing and I hope to follow it on your blog. xo God bless you in every way.
Donna R. says
Tsh, Thank you so much for being transparent and taking the time to write! God has been speaking to me about this topic. Your comments hit home, so I’m sure they were from God for me. Praying for you on your journey.
Fabiola Johnson says
And this is why minimalism matters:
“If we’re daring enough to let go of our stuff, then we can pack light and both move about the cabin and live in an easy-to-clean house. And when we bravely say yes to His path instead of our cultural norms, we can happily walk a few steps at a time, even if the ground is unpredictable and looks foreign to everyone else.”
I love living simply. It’s a common practice in my life (as of the last few years). I’ve never felt freer. Mentally and physically I’ve realized that as I’ve let go of things like extra socks even, I am freer to think about other things! Thank you for this post!
I really enjoyed “Notes….” and am excited to follow your next family adventure. My heart is so with the ministry you do with workers abroad. It is my passion as well. It is what keeps me awake at night and often in prayer. I would love to somehow connect with you about it as HE is in the process of putting some dreams in to place!
Tracey Casciano says
I love this! My husband and I have 4 sons and lots of “stuff” in our house. As much fun as it is, I find myself longing for the day when we can park in a garage and not have to worry about a lawn. Good for you for doing it now!
Beth Williams says
I always wanted to live simply. Big cities with their glitz, glamour and buildings don’t attract me. I want wide open mountainous spaces to enjoy all that God has given me.
Part of my life plan has always to live with the necessities. I go through my clothing periodically and see what doesn’t fit, don’t like or haven’t worn in a while then out it goes to some charity for a deserving person. I also go through other stuff as well. I find it cathartic to give away stuff–it doesn’t give me the ok to buy more–just feels good knowing that I’m helping someone else out.
All one really needs is a roof over their heads, clothes to wear, food to eat and a means to pay for it. All the rest is icing on the cake so to speak!
Blessings as you travel and see the world!