If you’re new to The River, you may know me as that lady who works at Cityteam, but I’ve only worked there for a couple years.
Previously, my life was devoted to education. I spent close to thirty years going to college, getting a teaching credential, teaching elementary school, and providing professional development and training to other teachers. During that time, I accumulated a massive amount of books, supplies, files, games, P.E. equipment, technology, storage materials, professional resources, and other school-related materials.
Image courtesy: Lorianne Lee
In fact, by the time I left the classroom, I had to rent a 5’ x 10’ storage unit to hold all of my stuff. My second bedroom is filled with my personal collection of over 4,500 books.
If you ask teachers to describe themselves, more often than not the word packrat comes up. After all, you never know when those toilet paper rolls or magazines might come in handy.
It makes sense. Most of a teacher’s supplies are purchased with his or her own money. Teachers hate to throw things away if there’s the slightest chance it could be used in the future. On average, I used to spend $2,000 a year out of pocket. I spent more in my earlier days, but even in those last few years, I was still buying books, resources, and creating new curriculum.
When I first resigned from my teaching position, the thought of getting rid of everything I had spent so much time and money acquiring didn’t even cross my mind. After a year, the thought popped into my head, but I shook it off. After all, I was the one who had bought and made everything. I worked hard for every item in that storage unit. And there was still a possibility I could return to teaching.
About a year ago, I was reading The Good and Beautiful Community by James Bryan Smith. When I got to the chapter titled “The Generous Community,” it hit me. I tend to operate under the scarcity narrative, which means I hold onto things for fear there won’t be enough for me. In actuality, Smith explains, “The truth is what I have is God’s, to use for his glory.”
God reminded me that he was the one who provided the money to buy all the things I had. If I ever decided to go back to teaching, I could trust that God would once again provide all the resources I would need.
The students in my classes had been lucky to have a wealth of resources to supplement and support their learning. Why was I wasting all of those resources by keeping them in storage? They weren’t being put to good use in storage. No one was enjoying them in storage.
I had so many tools to help people learn, but in storage they were just taking up space (and I was paying for that space each month). As God nudged me to let go, I learned that my storage rent was going to increase again. I took that as confirmation and decided to get rid of everything.
When I finally decided to let go of my possessions, I thought about selling everything on eBay. After all, I probably had over $20,000 worth of books and resources. Recouping a portion of the money I invested over the years sounded like a great idea.
However, I got the sense God wanted me to give it all away. My students and I had been richly blessed over the years. God wanted me to bless others in return. I didn’t need to try and get money back. He would continue to be faithful and provide for my monetary needs. I could bless others without trying to get something in return.
In The Good and Beautiful Community, Smith asks, “How shall I use the gifts you have given me?”
God had freely blessed me with an abundance of gifts. I would in turn gift those blessings to someone else.
Once I made the decision, I got excited. I couldn’t wait to give everything away. I asked people to pray and help me discern whom to donate to. Soon after, someone connected me to a church in Hollister that had an onsite preschool and an afterschool program for low-income neighborhood kids. It was perfect: I had materials for preschool through fifth grade. In one fell swoop, I found a Christian organization that could use everything in my storage unit.
Image courtesy: Lorianne Lee
Once my storage unit was empty, my next task was to find loving homes for all the books in my collection. I have been giving away books to all my teacher-friends and families with kids, but I still have over 3,500 to go.
I didn’t know it would take so long to give away these books that have brought so much joy to so many. If you know individuals, groups, or organizations that could benefit from gently loved books, let me know. I’m ready to let go.
Lorianne Lee was a teacher for nineteen years, and she has been a part of The River Church Community for seventeen years. Lorianne is a creature of habit. She doesn’t like surprises or change. In fact, she admits it bothers her if someone sits in “her spot” at church. Lorianne appreciates God’s sense of humor, and she finds it ironic that God is changing her in so many ways. Lorianne wants to be open to whatever God has planned, even if that includes change.