Slow wireless connections, well water that tastes like eggs, and two weeks of sharing a dining room with 250 rowdy college students are a few ways to describe my last two weeks in the Upper Penninsula of Michigan to teach and train InterVarsity students how to live out and share their faith. Though there is a lot I could write about these two weeks, being in the U.P. sparked my memory of a post I’ve been kicking around in my head for awhile; the positive trade-offs of choosing to go without.
Though I spent the first week praying, preparing messages and preaching these messages to students from across the midwest, I spent the second week taking care of Reuben and trying to rest while Dave worked with his students from Case Western. On one of the evenings after I put Reuben to bed, I started reading A Place to Meet God; A History of Cedar Campus by Gladys Hunt, the grandmother of one of my friends. Gladys and her husband Keith are the people who helped turned Cedar Campus into an old mill yard on a bay of Lake Huron into a flourishing, beautiful InterVarsity camp where thousands of students have met God and had their lives transformed forever.
Though I had a general idea of the history of Cedar Campus, reading the details about what it took to create this camp was amazing; it was built before the Mackinaw bridge existed, there was no electricity, people had to hand wash their heavy, dark blue jeans, hang them up and hope that they would dry in the cool north air. Bats, mice and all kinds of other critters shared the housing, and the cold waters of lake Huron served as a bathtub for Keith & Glady’s son Mark. I read stuff like that and think two things- 1: I am so thankful that God called people like the Hunts to go on this amazingly sacrificial adventure on behalf of others. 2: holy crow, am I a wimp. Wimp = staying at a 4-star hotel for an InterVarsity conference a few months ago and calling the front desk to complain that the water wasn’t hot enough for a bath. (Those who know my devout love of the bath and all the rituals that accompany it will inevitably snicker at this). total. wimp.
Since we’ve moved to Cleveland there have been a number of things Dave and I have chosen to go without, and I’ve been surprised both by how I don’t miss certain things, and how the mental hurdle to choose to go without something is often more difficult than the actual practice of abstaining.
In January we became a 1-car family, (well, van much to my chagrin, though it is helpful for this stage in our life). It’s been something we’ve wanted to do for awhile Dave commuting an hour to campus prevented us from being able to do this. Now, living 5 miles from campus Dave has been able to bike, bus or gratefully catch rides with colleagues. It has required more coordination on our part, and the realization that I can’t just run out to Target or the grocery store if I need something if Dave has the car. Not being able to do this has helped us to stay within our grocery budget, plan our shopping trips more strategically, walk or bike to the few of stores that are nearby in addition to the obvious bonus of not using as much gas. With Dave’s encouragement and getting over my fear of looking stupid in public, I had my first experience on the Cleveland bus system a few months ago (which was an adventure for another blog- st. patricks day = lots of drunk people using public transportation).
We also chose to not buy a dryer when we moved to Cleveland- in part because we were paying two mortgages, needed to save up and decided that since it was summer it wouldn’t be that hard to string up some clothesline in our basement. We recently did get a dryer, but during those 10 months I was surprised that I was able to keep up on the laundry, that our clothes stayed nicer and we ended up saving about $700 in energy costs.
Though I feel like these are small things that we’ve chosen that help us save money, develop more self-discipline and care for the environment it’s helped me to remember how much luxury, convenience and ease I have in my life. It’s made me grateful for what we have, remember that most of the world doesn’t have a choice to go without conveniences like a dryer, and try to make other choices to go without so that others can live with essentials.
By the way, slow-wireless, eggy-y tasting well water and being in a loud dining room for two weeks is totally worth it to see and be part of what God does in the lives of InterVarsity students! Though I am happy to be home, to get online easily and enjoy normal tasting water. What have been some things you’ve chosen to go without? What has the experience been like for you- do you miss whatever it is? Find that life isn’t that difficult without it?