Becoming a Tent Dweller

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1

We want to hear God’s call on our life and know we’re headed in the right direction in the race marked out for us, but we’re hindered, held down by something we need to throw of that’s got us trapped. There’s something competing with our calling. Is it our stuff? Like the wealthy young prince we don’t want to leave a comfortable situation to set out into the unknown. Is it our pride? We know what God’s asking of us, but we’re afraid what others might think or say. Is it some other good cause we’ve fallen in love with but isn’t actually what God’s asking us to do?

What’s competing with your calling?

Do you think about moving here or there, but you’re too tied up with material things? This applies to the initial big GO overseas, moving around once you’re there and the inevitable return. Until just recently, I would have said, “I’m quite comfortable here. I hope God doesn’t call me somewhere else (even across the street) because I have so much junk I’d hate to have to move it. I’m fine here, thanks.”

However, after months of consideration and prayer, moving to an apartment across the street seemed like the thing to do and the doors just opened up. So we went for it. I know. Just across the street. But if you had witnessed my other Chinese move, you’d see why I’d avoid another one like a toddler avoiding naptime. On moving day, the workers show up and act as if there’s a fire in the apartment, and if they don’t evacuate the building in thirty minutes flat, someone will certainly die. Sane as we are, we weren’t about to DIY a move from one sixth floor apartment to another sixth floor location (both featuring elevator-less stairwells), so facing the Chinese movers happened.

Moving across the street made for a chaotic couple of weeks, but looking back, I’m so glad we did it. I cannot believe how much we threw out: old foodstuffs from the very back and bottom of the freezer and cabinets, ripped socks hiding away in overstuffed drawers like fugitives among friends, soiled shirts shoved to the back of the closet in vain hope they’d one day magically be clean again, used up craft supplies bringing joy to no one, faded and forgotten on the fridge or taped, fraying on walls, piles of paper waiting for shredding or reading or keeping. It’s actually embarrassing when I write it out like that! How did we accumulate so much trash in three and a half years?

By deciding to move, we forced ourselves to go through our entire household, one object at a time. I know people who can do that sort of thing without moving, but I felt so paralyzed by the clutter I couldn’t motivate myself to tackle it. Now, I have fresh eyes to live light and free (throwback to the 2015 VA retreat). It seems like every day I throw something else out, not in an “out with the old so I can run out and buy something new” fashion. It’s an out with the old and simply enjoy what I choose to keep sort of thing. It’s such a good feeling.

I’d like to pare my belongings down even further so I never have to live with the dread of “what if we have to move?” I’d like to live like a tent dweller, ready and able to go wherever whenever God calls. I’m definitely not there yet. While reading about tent dwellers Isaac and Rebekah in Genesis 26:11-25 this morning, I noticed a lot of talk about Isaac and his servants digging wells. Shortly after digging a new well, a quarrel with the locals would break out and they had to move on…repeatedly. It hit home with me because as a foreign renter, there’s always this underlying tension of “how long can we stay?”

Having just moved, I can vividly imagine the fanfare of it all for Isaac’s household. Pack up, unpack and spread out the tents, cook a few meals, dig…dig…dig…oh, wait. We can’t stay here. Pack it all up and move AGAIN!!! I know I just ranted about getting rid of stuff so I can live light and free, but their situation seems extremely difficult. They were tent dwellers–always aware they shouldn’t get too comfortable as they might need to leave at a moment’s notice. Adopting this mindset could help me not to get attached to my stuff so I can move well when I have to. Today’s clutter-free life is tomorrow’s easier move!

Maybe you’re way ahead of me and you’ve tackled the clutter in your life. So what about your pride? Do you feel called to go somewhere or do something, but lack the funds and you’re too proud to raise support, even if that’s what God’s asking you to do? (I’ve been there! Another story for another time…)

Alright, so you’ve tackled pride? ha. That one will keep coming back up. And, how about something even sneakier? The desire to do something good. Yes, even that can compete with your calling. You have it in your heart to do one good thing, but God is actually asking you to do another. What about that?! God works in unexpected ways. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t champion good causes, but sometimes we’re asked to put down one in favor of another.

Whether it’s our stuff, our pride or our desires to do good deeds, there’s always going to be something competing with our calling.

What competing with yours?


  1. Carin January 31, 2016

    What if you have made many moves and a recent huge transition and you go too far the other way? Is it possible to go too far the other way? I do not want to accumulate “stuff” because you have to get rid of “stuff” when you leave, so don’t show me stuff because I am not interested. I am attempting to put family pictures up on the walls, I am purchasing some local made treasures, maybe a plant will show up and a few bookcases. I look at other expat homes full of wonderful imported from home decorating items and I balk at it, I don not want any of it. I find myself culturally different from my host culture and from the expats around me. I am a third culture of some description. I surely do relate to keeping stuff to bare minimum.

    1. Jenilee February 1, 2016

      I just read your comment Carin and I totally get what you are feeling! I’m there too. The thought of getting more “Stuff” is overwhelming. I, too, am struggling to put things on the walls or accumulate unnecessary stuff that will eventually need to be stored, sold, packed, moved, etc. Such a weird place to find ourselves in! I’m trying to work for balance. We CAN have things in our home. We CAN decorate and make it home for our family. For me, it’s just getting past the logistics in my head 🙂 and praying for God to help me settle, put down roots and be at peace for as long as He has us in this country. Just wanted to add my two sense that I get what you are saying and I feel it too!

      1. M'Lynn February 1, 2016

        Couldn’t have put it better myself, Jenilee. I would say there’s got to be balance and everyone’s balanced approach will look different. For me, I like having a certain amount of stuff around (I’m by no means a minimalist) but I’m developing a health relationship with my stuff and I want to keep it that way. I own things, they don’t own me! yay!

        1. M'Lynn February 1, 2016

          *healthy. ha

    2. M'Lynn February 1, 2016

      I think if you’re happy living on the bare minimum side of things, go for it! Maybe you can do one of those “only own 100 things” challlenges. haha. Be you and let your space reflect that. And celebrate someone else’s collection they’ve hauled across the ocean and then go home and be happy about your choice to live simply. I guess I’m at the point where I understand that some people love collecting stuff. I’m just one of them right now.

    3. Ellie February 2, 2016

      I think that it’s possible that sometimes “hurt” can be competing with our calling and I wonder Carin, whether this is partly what you describe? Hurt and fear of getting hurt for example. I have just gone through/am in the middle of (who knows?! ;)) a huge transition and I find myself retreating from God and lots of things until I can “get a stable footing” – and I think a certain amount of retreating is very sensible and healthy, but I’m aware of days when it can be an excuse to run away from God because I’m hurting, and that’s not probably the way forward.

      “The way forward is through it” in the end I suspect.. But gently and with love. Perhaps the not wanting to have things is part of a bigger picture of hurt and having had to let things go when you didn’t feel ready/know how to grieve? Or perhaps that’s just where I’m at and that’s what your post said to me!  (I would be jealous of minimalist living too as my two kids seem to be creating clutter quicker than I can think how to deal with it! :P)

  2. Jenilee February 1, 2016

    And love “Today’s clutter free life is tomorrow’s easier move!” lol YES!

  3. Julie in Germany February 1, 2016

    I had friends who referred to godly living as “keeping your tent pegs loose”. I never forgot that phrase 🙂 We are facing another move and I can relate…

    1. M'Lynn February 1, 2016

      I love that! Hope your upcoming move unravels you in a good way 🙂

  4. Phyllis February 1, 2016

    For me it’s not so much stuff or not having stuff, but I do sometimes have a hard time with, um, not being able to drive my tent stakes in deep enough? Or something like that. I have fought so hard not to hold on too tightly, have been forced to move so many times (“there’s always this underlying tension of “how long can we stay?””), that sometimes I just have this feeling of “Why even unpack the boxes?” “Why even try?” But I need to, for myself and for my family. It can be so hard to find a balance.


    15 years ago, before starting into this life, I knew there would be challenges, but I didn’t even come close to guessing that one of the biggest ones for me would be all these years of renting. And moving. And moving again.


    (I’m praising God for more than two years of stability in a great little house–first ever! And begging Him to please let us stay here as long as possible.)

    1. M'Lynn February 1, 2016

      Phyllis… so true! I struggle with the balancing act and can’t imagine having to move as often as you have. But, as crazy as it sounds, the fear of moving used to paralyze me and now I’m at a better place of accepting that frequent moves (that’s subjective of course) might just be a gift from God. Never before have I been able to throw off the love of my stuff than my current season. That creeping anxiety of “what if we have to move??” can still lurk around the corner, but I’m trying to see each move as more of a significant learning opportunity and less of a loss. That seems to mitigate my fear! I hope that your current season in your happy little house is a blessed one, and whenever that season comes to a close you’ll be able to fully embrace what’s next. Thanks for your comment 🙂

    2. Ellie February 2, 2016

      Ooh, I know what you mean Phyllis, I said to my husband a while back that the reason I was becoming antsy was because I feared moving again (we had no reason for moving on the horizon but my internal clock just said “it must be so”) and I found I had been “perching” rather than living in our “new” house of two plus years. Am trying to settle more and do some things that mean I feel at home here. But I really want to buy a house and settle and dig those tent pegs into some concrete! Haha!

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