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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thank You for the Dollhouse

He is bringing me to surrender.

And while I spout words and thoughts about freeing my heart to Jesus on a regular basis, surrender is a difficult place for me. Sure, I'll surrender my worship, surrender my words. I'll surrender time for Scripture reading and some crumpled bills for the offering plate.

But what about stuff? Comfort? The redefining of need?

Back in January (or was it February?), I pegged this the "year of home."


It has come/is coming to mean something other than what I thought it would, as these things usually do. Adoption. Moving. Again. Paring down. Letting go.

We get keys to our new place in 16 days, a townhouse on the university campus with faded pink paint and a blue door like the one on my daughter's plastic dollhouse. There is a clipboard on the front door for family game night flyers and street sweeper notices, clothing exchange announcements and resident-only softball league signups. Our next-door neighbor is crafty, if the Halloween swarm of paper bats and a cardstock moon fastened across her front door and window is any indication, so I wish like a 6-year-old that she will be my friend. Maybe we will ride bikes to school together.

The usual new house excitement and chaos is underway now and all the preparations loom ahead. Except that it's more of a stateroom than a house, really. Part apartment, part dormitory, part submarine berth, part communal abode. Our new back porch is wide open to the grassy common play space and I'm about to have all manner of neighborhood children up in here, up in here.

I wonder whether we'll be able to fit very much more than a couple of forks and some warm bodies into the dollhouse with us. The dimensions of the dining room are actually smaller than the dimensions of our dining table, without any chairs. I call about borrowing a saw to hack two feet off the ends off my brand new dining table, a handmade anniversary gift from my husband. I am nothing if not determined, and resourceful.

But the line between need and want is a dashed and dotted one, I think, and life with four forever children means a hard process of purging the comforts I've always treated as deal-breakers. The dollhouse has no dishwasher, for instance. No washer/dryer hookups either. I am accustomed to clean laundry piles that reach my chin, a daily soundtrack of washing machine chugging and spinning, and the truth is, I don't really want to spend half my hours in a coin-op Laundromat with my neighbors. I don't want to end up with someone else's underwear by mistake and have to locate the rightful owner. I don't want to be a goldfish in a glass bowl again, inviting people in when my floors have crumbs and my sink is full because I have no dishwasher, and my kid is covered in purple marker. I don't want to revisit all the boundary-crossing that happens when you live in community, blurring those lines between yours, mine, and ours. 

But it's time I did.

It makes me worried, the thought of giving up so much of my stuff. But I'm grateful for the process, grateful for the paring away of internal, emotional clutter that comes alongside getting rid of the things I think I need simply because I like them. Grateful we'll be part of a culture again and that letting go of things often means making room for people.

So as I try to downsize, it's with that end in mind: blessing people, making room, living in community. Though I've taken a few sizeable car loads to Goodwill already, I'm aiming to be more intentional about finding needs to meet with our excess rather than merely discarding or selling it. There is something about giving it away that energizes and brightens so much more than simply giving it up. Furnishing the new home of a friend who had to leave everything behind, bundling up extra toys for the foster babies to bring along with them when they leave, adding resources to the church library… it is all His way of turning paring down into building up.

And the truth is, I can't wait for the dollhouse. To be stepping on the toes of my family all day, piling up together on the day bed we'll be using as a couch, rubbing elbows with my neighbors at Taco Night, tossing scraps in the complex compost pile to feed the community garden that will feed us too. I can't wait to wonder aloud about Jesus over a pint with the girl in my algebra class and meet my babies for lunch in a crowded student union. To learn. To grow. To live with less.

It's appropriate, I think, that we are moving in over the Thanksgiving holiday. The time for gratitude is here. 


  1. I love how you live your life for Jesus....hard and true and out loud and share it for us to grow! You are the good stuff, my friend....the stuff of champions! I love you!

    P.S. Still working on my submission...I am sorry I am ONE MORE thing on your plate. I am struggling with the surrendering of this onto printed page. I am trying to have it to you this weekend..but if you get to the point that you have to move forward...I understand!!

  2. Lindsey, you are never ONE MORE THING. You are the good stuff, girl. :) No worries on the submission. It is going to take me a week or so to get organized and there are several still coming in, so send it along when you can. Love you, friend. And yes, this process is grueling, I know.

  3. We're sharing space with another family (wonderful, messy, loud family). I used to say we did that on purpose, for the same reasons you say thank you for the dol lhouse. But lately there has been social fatigue, stress, scarcity: it has felt a little more like a bummer, less like a gift. Thank you for the reminder. God put us here together to Be Together, and it's the best thing ever, when we remember that, and I hope you'll have someone just like you to remind you when you forget!

  4. "I don't want to revisit all the boundary-crossing that happens when you live in community." Oh I can relate to this. I say that I want it, but as soon as I get a taste of it, I retreat. You are far braver than me, friend, and your words are encouraging. I've been mulling over simplicity and community these days, and the real purpose behind it all. I love the idea of paring down to build up.

  5. Hey Cara, been missing your words lately. Jumped over to see what you've been writing and I find we're arm in arm in this moving season. Our UHaul arrives the day before the big Turkey. Will pray for you as you transition. And if you think of me? Pray for me, too.
    (oh, and I read and laughed through your martha stewart post tonight. a much-needed jolly. thanks. :))


Your comments are such an encouragement. Thank you for sharing your valuable words.