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Living Simply  //  Reflections on living with Big Blue

Living Simply

Big Blue

She was a 1980 powder blue skyline mobile home.  Never in a million years would I or Naomi have dreamt that we would be living in a mobile home.  In the summer of 2001, Naomi and I set out on an adventure, moving our young family 500 miles away to Columbia, South Carolina so that I could attend seminary. In an effort to save money and keep things simple, we decided to move into student family housing on the campus, which during those years at Columbia, meant moving into “the village” (i.e. the trailer park).

Back in Pennsylvania, we had enjoyed renting a lovely home set in the quiet rolling hills of the country, and now our rented Penske moving truck has pulled up to “Big Blue.”  Stepping down from the truck, the lot size could be measured in square feet, whereas our previous house featured several acres of countryside. Inside Big Blue was less than 800 square feet of living space, whereas our former home had almost 2,000. We unlocked the back of the moving truck and began to unload.

I went into “work mode” and began dutifully pulling items from the back of the truck. About halfway through the truck I can remember Naomi standing at the back and saying, “There’s no more room in the trailer.”

We had brought everything we had owned, because… well, I’m not quite sure why.  What filled 2000 sq. ft. couldn’t possibly fit into an 800 sq. ft. trailer.  We were forced for the first time in life to downsize.  Very quickly we made three piles in the yard.

The first pile was what we wanted to store.  The second pile was filled with items we were going to give away.  The third pile was filled with items which we were simply going to throw away. While packing the truck in PA all of this stuff had felt necessary, now it just seemed burdensome, and being released from it felt incredibly freeing.

It wasn’t long into our time living in Big Blue that I began to feel free, even with less, or perhaps, because we had less.  Free like I’ve never felt before!

I never thought of myself as materialistic but the process of moving into “Big Blue” made me realize that the more you accumulate in life, the more time it takes to maintain those things, and if you’re not careful “the things you own can wind up owning you.” Back in Pennsylvania, it would take me 4-5 hours to mow the lawn; now it only took 15 minutes.  I had no idea how much financial pressure I had been carrying to pay for and maintain a home in the North East, until I sat in Big Blue writing a rental check of only $80 each month.

All of a sudden we had more time, money, energy and even relational capacity.  I had never felt so free in my life to be present with God and those who were around me.  During our years with Big Blue, Naomi I gained three new perspectives on the practice of simplicity.

Three Positions of Simplicity

1. Receiving all as a gift

 Everything we have has ultimately been given to us by God.  Some of us like to believe that our stuff is a trophy for our accomplishments or a paycheck we deserve, but in reality, it can all disappear within minutes.  When we hold too tightly onto all that we’ve accumulated and accomplished, those things can become the focus of our worship. Of course, we’d never say that, but the thought of losing them becomes a controlling anxiety or fear. When we hold our stuff as a gift, we release control, abandon fear and are more free to be present for God.

2. Caring for all we have as if it’s God’s

 If all we have is a gift, then we are simply care takers for the true Owner. Any good caretaker realizes that they need to be good stewards of what they have been entrusted to watch over. Caretakers often measure effectiveness based off the quality of their care, not the quantity of their responsibilities. The principle being, “take care of few items well, rather than many poorly.”

3. Making available all we have for others’

If we have been called to steward our possessions well then they cannot simply be held in storage for us.  At the heart of simplicity is a natural desire to give or share with those who are in need. If all is a gift and we are called to be caretakers, then we must freely give and share to those around us in need.

For example, since moving back to Pennsylvania, my wife and I have used our guest bedroom as a hospitality room for those in need.  We have simply said, “Come and stay, be a part of our family and heal.” It has been a blessing to see how God has renewed souls and taught our family about simplicity as well as restoration.

Some Questions for Simplicity

  • Are you feeling more simple or complex these days? Where are the areas in your life that could be simplified?
  • As you think about your own finances and possessions, what emotions come up? Do you feel yourself being driven by anxieties, fears, and preparations for the unknown?
  • What’s something that you have right now taking up space that could be a tangible blessing for someone in need? What will it take to get it into their hands?

Rick Rhoads
Professor of Student Min at Lancaster Bible College
Rick is the Director of the Student Ministry Majors at Lancaster Bible College. He has served as an Assistant Professor in Student Ministry at LBC for the past 7 years. Over the past 18 years, he has served in various Student Ministry roles at Lebanon Valley YFC, LCBC, Calvary Bible Church, and Riverbend Community Church. Rick, his wife Naomi, and their two children Grace and Eli live East Petersburg, PA.
  1. Elisa Parmer10-22-12

    It’s so great to be reminded and challenged to live simply. The concepts are easy, but the application can be hard. There is a lot of stuff I can get rid of, give away. Thanks for the post Rick. I miss you!

    • Aaron Brown10-22-12

      Good point! I was thinking something along the same lines. I can agree to all of this, but still fail to live it out. It seems like until we have that “the trailer’s full” moment, we hesitate giving ourselves permission to purge and simplify.

    • Richard_Rhoads10-25-12

      Elisa, your welcome. The practice of simplicity is one that I realize I must revisit rhythmically. In our consumer capitalistic culture it is easy to begin accumulating for no reason. Writing the post was a good reminder for me as well. Miss you as well.

  1. Revisiting Simplicity11-05-12