Getting Out of the Way of Letting Go

I like to say I come by my hoarding honestly. My grandfather has a garage full of treasures he finds at flea markets, and I had an aunt whose home was filled wall-to-wall with newspapers. (I always loved staying at her house as a kid because she had the best comics.)

I should make the disclaimer: I’m not a full-blown hoarder that is TV show-worthy. I understand there are people who suffer mild to severe psychological distress because of hoarding, and I’m not making light of their situations. But, it was evident in my life early on that I have an issue with parting with things.

For example, the time my mom discovered a hidden pile of moldy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in my closet when I was in elementary school. I didn’t want the sandwiches, but I didn’t want to throw them away, either.

“Children in Africa are starving!” I pleaded with my mom. “I need to save these for them!”  

“Honey, these,” she said, pointing to a trash bag full of green sandwiches, “aren’t doing anyone good in Africa!”

Alas, it’s a small, but daily battle—I think something that many people suffer from, whether it’s decluttering a home office or letting go of skinny jeans. I know one thing for sure, it’s something I don’t want to pass on to my children.

My girls, ages 4 and 6, came home from school the other day talking about how one of their favorite teachers was a foster child growing up and she only had one toy. That same day a friend in my community (who’s more like an angel because of her ongoing support to communities in need) posted a touching story about how her son shared his most prized toy with a kid who had nothing. I glanced over at one of two overflowing game rooms that have more toys than blank space and put a plan into action.

I told my girls they could help children like their teacher by donating toys for my friend to take to the communities she serves. Because their hearts were so open from their teacher’s story, the plan clicked with them, and they eagerly went to work filling a large box with toys of all kinds.

Of course, I couldn’t quiet the little voice inside of me, nagging me oversee and approve of each discarded toy. “But your great-grandmother gave you that before she died! Give me that!”

Then, it happened. A beloved giraffe got tossed into the pile. That giraffe went everywhere with us for a solid two years (and yet, was in surprisingly great shape!). Images of my girls when they were younger, cuddling with that giraffe overwhelmed my brain. My heart clamped up and I had to fight back tears. “You sure girls?” Without batting an eye, they both replied, “Uh-huh,” and went about their toy sorting.

I rushed to my husband, who is the complete opposite of a hoarder, shaking the giraffe in hand and said, “Can you believe, they want to get rid of the giraffe?!”

Expecting him to rejoice over each discarded toy and to calm me down, he instead replied with the same horrified look I had on my face, “No way, not the giraffe!”

We were in agreement, the girls were heartless and the giraffe needed saving.

I put the giraffe back on top of the overflowing box of toys once the girls finished their jobs, thinking if I let it sit in the middle of the room for a couple of days, surely one of them will come to their senses and rescue the giraffe. Nope. The girls were resolute in their decision.

Then this verse fell on my heart, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7 | NIV)

It dawned on me. If I were to keep the giraffe, I’d be impeding on my girls’ cheerful decision to give from their hearts. Who am I to stand in the way of their giving? That’s like following the giving buckets at church and after each person drops in their tithe, I reach in and say, “Are you sure you wanted to give this much? You may want this later! Here, take some back.”

This was freeing. Not only am I free to let others give as they wish, but I learned to give more freely myself. Instead of stockpiling clothes and household things I no longer wear or use, just in case, I thank God for all He’s given to me and for the opportunity to give to those in need, and then release those items for Him to use in others’ lives.

Like a weight lifted from my shoulders, I can now give without worry or regret. In fact, cheerful is the best way to describe how I feel.

When my husband and I dropped of the box of toys, and a few other bags of our own things, he stopped the car one last time before we drove away and waved goodbye to the giraffe. And, I said a prayer for the new recipients of our things, and that their lives would be blessed because of them, and I thanked God for putting me in a position to give.

What are you holding onto? Are you interfering with others’ decision to give? Next time you feel the compulsion to hold onto something you don’t need, pray and ask God for His guidance and let Him reveal to you ways you can be a blessing to others.

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:25 | NIV)

Shannon Ensor


GATHER HER || 08.10.17


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