We aren’t really close to moving yet, but that hasn’t stopped us from looking around our house with an eye towards figuring out what will make the trip to France with us, and what will stay behind. It’s not an easy thing to do….especially with Christmas around the corner. We just sent out another missionary couple from our church who are headed to the South Pacific to do Bible translation, and they said that they managed to get everything into a mere five footlockers! * I can’t imagine. I haven’t done a list in a while ** so I thought I’d just list out a few things and go over the logic/ argument that Donnette and I are having both internally and with each other over what to bring and what to leave behind. *** Before I begin, I will point out that part of the dilemma is that we will have enough money to either ship everything we own to France, or to buy all new stuff once we get there, but not both. Our options are pretty much either 1. move like refugees with only the clothes on our backs or 2. move everything and hope if fits in a tiny French apartment. With that said, I begin the inventory.
1. The couch. If we owned a better couch, then this would probably be the deal breaker. You simply can’t fit a couch into a suitcase, even if you plan on checking it, and so if we wanted to take our couch we’d be shipping everything else. We have a nice couch, a couch that has lasted almost the entirety of our marriage, a couch that was almost new yet cost us nothing **** and compliments our house well. It’s survived two dogs and two kids by hiding stains as well as any piece of furniture I’ve ever seen. It’s biggest flaw is that it is about 5 inches two short for me to stretch out on, even if I sleep catty-corner on it, meaning that, for me, it is impossible to get a truly satisfying night’s sleep on it. Which is a shame, since the last month of pregnancy requires me to sleep some place that isn’t next to my wife, and the most obvious place to go is the couch. ***** Whatever else we ship or buy, we will be buying a new couch.
2. Other furniture. It’s sort of sad to look around your house and realize that, even after nearly a decade of marriage, you don’t own even one truly nice piece of furniture. Which isn’t to say that we don’t have any decent furniture, or any furniture that we love, because we do. But nothing that seems to demand “ship me half way across the world.” Our kitchen table is nice, but too small for our growing family. Donnette bought a nice end table off of Craigslist awhile back, but it got all scratched up in our move to SC, and anyways, an end table doesn’t seem to be enough to demand your own cargo freighter. The rest of our stuff is the same way, dressers bought at second-hand store and refinished, bookshelves from IKEA, and so on. The only piece of furniture, and I’m not even sure if it qualifies as furniture, but if it does then the only piece of furniture I can think of that will be truly hard to part with is our bedroom mattress. It’s old, Donnette’s had it for a long, long time, and heavy (and handleless) and the most comfortable thing I’ve ever laid down on. ****** However, much like a couch, a mattress is not something you can easily get through airport security, and anyways, it’s so old, I doubt it’d survive the trip.
3. Electronics. This is where is begins to get tricky. Until last year we didn’t own a T.V. that would even be in the discussion, but then last year for Christmas Donnette bought me (us) an amazing television and now I don’t know what to do. It’s big, but it’s also flat, meaning even in a small apartment I can hang it on the wall and treat it like a piece of art until I’m fluent enough to understand French broadcasts. The problem is shipping, because if we don’t ship our furniture, then we probably won’t ship much of anything, which means if I want to take my T.V., I’ll be holding that bad boy in my lap for 7.5 hours, not including layovers. This wouldn’t be a big deal if I weren’t also wanting to take my Kitchenaid stand mixer with me, because, how could I not want to take it with me. Not to brag, but my mixer is probably not like your mixer. I love my mixer, it’s not the wimpy little artisan one, it’s the professional one, with a bowl big enough to knead 10 loaves of bread and an engine powerful enough to drive a small moped. I’ve heard that the shift in voltage from America to Europe can reduce a piece of electronics lifespan in half, but I’m pretty sure that in the case of my mixer, this just means my great-grandchildren won’t be able to enjoy it. I’ve got about a dozen or so other kitchen gadgets that I want to take with me as well, and so the case for shipping just got a little stronger. And I haven’t even considered all of my plates yet…
4. Books. What happens when an English major marries a history major? You end up with books, lots and lots of books. In fact, as I’ve done the inventory of our house, I’ve come to realize that book shelves are by far the most numerous pieces of furniture in our house. Fortunately, what a degree in English and History don’t leave you with is very many books you would want to read, and so parting with most of our books won’t be a huge dilemma. I don’t even have the problem that most seminary graduates do, suddenly owning 10,000 old, heavy, theological tomes. ******* We went into seminary with an eye towards missions, and so I discovered the library early and often in my career, begging and borrowing almost all of my books and only buying them when it was absolutely necessary. I hope to get a kindle at some point in the near future, and this will help me to consolidate the book collection even more, to the point where all of our books shouldn’t take up more than one small box. That is, until I come to my cookbook collection, and then I’m stuck. I may not have bought many theological books over the years, but I’ve bought plenty of cookbooks over that same span. ******** Big, beautiful, heavy cookbooks. I’ve got a lot of cookbooks, and, with the exception of maybe one or two of them, I love them all and can’t even consider the idea of letting them go. Donnette tells me I’m not allowed to buy anymore, but even if I listen to her ********* I’ve got way more than will fit into an overhead compartment. The case for shipping gets even stronger.
5. Miscellaneous decorations/ house stuff. Much like our furniture, we don’t really have much in the way accessories that will demand transport, with one notable exception. We have a lamp, and it is an awesome lamp. Well, really, we have a lamp and a lamp shade, and that isn’t the order we bought them in. We actually bought the shade first. It is a beautiful shade, one of a kind, and, from a store whose furniture is normally so expensive that we don’t even dare to breathe on it. We actually bought several lamps to go with the shade, only finally finding the right base after (literally) months of looking. It is Donnette’s favorite piece of furniture, and I feel fairly confident that if Oliver ever accidentally breaks it he will be spending the night on the porch. It’s not a floor lamp, but it’s still too big to fit in a suitcase, and so, if it’s going to go with us, it’ll have to be in someone’s lap. **********
Of course, there’s other stuff too. Donnette wants to bring baby clothes, I’d like to bring our deep freezer. We probably need to heed the words of Martin Luther, who in “A Mighty Fortress is our God” wrote that we are to, quote, “let goods and kindred go.” I don’t know what we’ll end up doing, but I do already get the sense that to be a missionary is to lose any and all attachments to “stuff.” Which sounds good to me. But I’m pretty sure that lamp is coming with us.
*Of course, if you’re going to the South Pacific, you only need to pack for one kind of weather: warm. We, on the other hand, will be making our first stop in the French Alps.
***A furniture rapture maybe?
****Thank you Mom and Dad.
*****Having two kids not share the same gender means that we will probably not have a true “guest room” ever again.
******This sentence ends in a preposition, which I remember my writing teachers saying was a big no-no. But I can’t think of any other way to end that sentence: “anything I’ve ever laid down on…with the intention of sleeping” – that’s just awkward, ends in a participle, and is itself a prepositional phrase which may be just as bad as actually ending with a preposition. I write this, not to highlight my lack of English grammar knowledge, but to remind you all of how freaked out I am over having to do this sort of thing in another language…
*******Andrew Gretzinger, I’m talking to you.
********Some would argue that perhaps my priorities are out-of-place here, but I don’t think so. Take, for example, Calvin’s commentaries. Almost every seminary student I know has a copy of Calvin’s commentaries on his shelf, which is fine, except that all of his commentaries are available for free online. The same goes for any other number of prominent Christian writings, so much of it now is out there, for free, accessible to anyone with a 3G phone. Theologians tend to be generous in their offerings. Cooks, on the other hand, only seem to be out for themselves, and are far more stingy with the secrets to their trade.
*********And it’s likely I won’t.
***********Picture this: me holding a 46″ TV and a large Kitchenaid in my lap. Donnette holding this giant lamp in hers, and Avonlea holding…Oliver I guess. If you’re sitting next to us on that flight, let me go ahead and apologize in advance.