The Stuff of Life

Have you ever looked up the word “stuff” in a dictionary?  It’s quite entertaining.  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary includes the following definitions, among others, of that which is by definition general and undefined:

 materials, supplies, or equipment used in various activities

 an unspecified material substance or aggregate of matter <volcanic rock is curious stuff>

a group or  scattering of miscellaneous objects or articles <pick that stuff up off the floor>

the movement of a baseball pitch out of its apparent line of flight : the liveliness of a pitch <greatest pitcher of my time … had tremendous stuff— Ted Williams>

If we understood exactly what the great pitcher had, we’d describe it accordingly, but we don’t…exactly.  So, “stuff” is a handy word, because it is so “various,” “unspecified” and “miscellaneous.”

Sorting through the stuff of life

Over the last couple of months, my parents have been sorting through the stuff of fifty-plus years of marriage, twenty years of it having been accumulated in their most recent four bedroom house, to decide what to take with them to their new two bedroom apartment.  In the aggregate, it is miscellaneous stuff.  But to my mom and dad each item has a place in their home, is useful, or represents an important relationship or a valuable memory.

On Sunday night, my parents with assistance from their assorted children, in-laws, and grandchildren, successfully organized selected stuff into carefully labeled boxes.   Upon the completion of that great achievement, in what has become the stuff of family tradition, my dad picked up the phone and ordered two Lou Malnati’s pizzas.

We congratulated ourselves, enjoyed the food, laughed, somehow ended up in a theological discussion (another frequent feature of our family meals), and then we prayed.  We thanked the Lord for all the life-giving moments that we had enjoyed in that house, for his generous blessings, for the new adventure ahead for my parents, and for each other.  We (well, at least I) wiped away a tear or two.

The stuff of fifty-plus years of marriage was bound up in boxes, but the stuff of life was palpably present among us at the table.

Last night, after a long day of unpacking, we gathered again, this time in Mom and Dad’s new home.  After another night of laughter, conversation, and prayer, it is clear that in various and unspecified ways their new home will hold the same stuff of life as the other homes in which they have lived.

Some of it will come out of boxes.

“…a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  Luke 12:15b

12 thoughts on “The Stuff of Life

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  1. Hi Judy,
    This sentence really stood out to me: “The stuff of fifty-plus years of marriage was bound up in boxes, but the stuff of life was palpably present among us at the table.” I love what your learned from your experiences with helping your parents with their stuff. You noticed that your relationship with God and others is far more valuable than all the stuff!

    1. We all know that, but we don’t always notice or remember it until we experience situations in which that truth becomes very tangible. Thanks for your comment, Danielle, and have a wonderful weekend!

  2. Beautifully written and welcoming, Judy. I wanted to be there at the family table, too! And the stuff — I am decluttering our home at the present. It feels so good to get rid of extra stuff. Not just in the physical. But also in the spiritual. Regular decluttering sessions take place in this heart of mine.

    1. It does feel good to declutter, doesn’t it? (When it’s done, that is:) And thanks for the good connection to our need to declutter our hearts as well as our homes. Have a great weekend, Cristal!

  3. Judy,
    This sure brought a tear to my eye. It’s such work to pack up a house and all those memories. I remember what it was like after g’ma & g’pa Tews’ house. I pray that your parents settle in quickly and look forward to so many more memories to be made in their new home! Please tell everyone Hello from us!
    In Christ,

    1. Thanks Jennifer. It is a time for reflection, but also anticipation of the next chapter! I’ll pass along your greeting, and thanks so much for your thoughts:)

  4. This post spoke to me right away. 🙂 Anytime you mention Webster and his canon of vocabulary, my ears prick. A wordy, I am, but of course you have a greater message here. Thank you for this lovely piece and reminder about possessions.

    Bless you, Judy,

  5. Oh, Judy–this is WONDERFUL; very moving and True!! Your family sounds so gracious (any room for honorary adoptions–or is there a rigorous application process/interview?) God bless you abundantly!

  6. I helped my parents move from their farm home of 43 years to a two bedroom condo. So I understand the memories attached to items…lots of items. It took me three weeks to wiggle stuff out of their hands and pack it away.

    It was a lot of fun and there were also some tears. I will cherish the memories forever.

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