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Downsizing: Memories, Totes, and Boxes

Over the last several years, Terri and I have relocated a few times, to say the least. We feel like unintentional restless nomads, often called to situations, where we bring our gifts into liminal spaces and transitional situations. With each move we have made, at some point in the transition to the next chapter, we enter a "downsizing mode." Through this exercise, we spend a day opening totes and boxes of our "stuff," hidden away in the attic or in a forgotten closet.

As we review, sort, and categorize that stuff, we decide what to throw out and not carry forward with us, and we choose the treasures to retain and take with us into our next adventure. Each item in the totes and boxes represents a specific memory, a unique turning point, or even better, relationships that have changed us. The other day, I found in the tote marked "Personal - Eric," some forgotten treasures that are very special to me.

I found a 1983 letter sent to me by US Representative James Quillen who nominated me for a "competitive alternate" slot for the USAF Academy. This letter reminded me of the friends in CAP, my first flight instructor aviation legend Evelyn Bryan Johnson, and my high school teachers who encouraged me to pursue my dreams.

Unfortunately, I never received the appointment to the Academy, and I never achieved my childhood dream of flying as USAF pilot.

Next, I found a picture of me and Terri with me in my pilot uniform. I wore this every day teaching students when we lived in Naples, and while I worked as a full time flight instructor. The photo reminded me of the many instructors who taught me and encouraged me to pursue my dream, even when I was insecure, struggling, and uncertain. The picture also reminds me of the many flight students I taught, encouraged, and gave of my time to help them achieve their dreams. For the last 22 years, aviation was not my my full time vocation, but was merely my part-time passion and "side hustle." However, this avocation inspired me and taught me to keep balance in my life, making room for other pursuits while serving in ministry.

The last picture I ran across in the totes was a photo of my Dad taken most likely in the early 1950's. I had forgotten I had this rare color photo of Dad with his "Brylcream" slicked haircut and mid 20th century attire. Dad was not an educated man, but he was a gifted man. He did not complete high school, but he did teach himself electronics and opened and ran a successful television dealership. He bought and ran a farm on which, we raised black Angus cattle. He helped start and eventually served a Chief of our volunteer fire department. Throughout his life, he was a "jack of all trades" and he mastered many of them. Dad inspired me to fly out of his own love of aviation. He and I took flying lessons together in the early 1980's. He encouraged me and challenged me to do my best in all things. He often said, "son either do it right, or not at all."

There were so many other precious memories found in those dusty totes hidden away in our attic, too many to share here. Some of those momentos will make the trip with us into the next chapter. Other treasures have been given away for others to enjoy. Some were donated or recycled.

Sometimes we need rituals like these to help us transition. Mine and Terri's "downsizing" task reminded me that the most precious memories are not found in totes or boxes, but in grace-filled moments serving others. Those are precious gems which are alive in the friendships we made and gifts shared both in joyful, and in difficult moments with those who need us, and those we need. Terri and I have had wonderful memories serving alongside colleagues in the diocesan office, and serving God's people in the churches we worked with across this state. It's been a short two years here in Oklahoma, but our hope is the brief time we were among you, we made a small difference in the lives of God's people.


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