200 Pounds of Trash

I have an internet friend that I’ve known since 1997. Never met him face to face, but I’ve been with him as he’s pastored several different churches. He had a wonderful email ministry for most of those years. He has graciously given me his Thought for the Day posts–all 522 of them. This one hits home for Christian writers and editors in a couple of different ways. We’ll only talk about one today…

200 Pounds of Trash

by Alan Smith

Fred Craddock tells the story of a missionary family in China who was forced to leave the country sometime after the communists took over.

One day a band of soldiers knocked on the door and told this missionary, his wife, and children that they had two hours to pack up before these troops would escort them to the train station. They would be permitted to take with them only two hundred pounds of stuff.

Thus began two hours of family wrangling and bickering — what should they take? What about this vase? It’s a family heirloom, so we’ve got to take the vase. Well, maybe so, but this typewriter is brand new and we’re not about to leave that behind. What about some books? Got to take a few of them along. On and on it went, putting stuff on the bathroom scale and taking it off until finally, they had a pile of possessions that totaled two hundred pounds on the dot.

At the appointed hour, the soldiers returned. “Are you ready?” they asked.


“Did you weigh your stuff?”

“Yes, we did.”

“Two hundred pounds?”

“Yes, two hundred pounds on the dot.”

“Did you weigh the kids?”

“Um, . . . no.”

“Weigh the kids!”

And in an instant the vase, the typewriter, and the books all became trash. Trash! None of it meant anything compared to the surpassing value of the children.

If only it were that easy for us. If we had to make a physical choice, the choice would be easy. What’s worth more — your child or a computer? If you could only take one with you, which would it be?

That’s easy; it’s a no-brainer. But seldom does the choice come wrapped in such easy-to-open paper.

Too often, it sounds more like this: What’s more important — spending time with your family or staying at work a couple of extra hours to get caught up? “Don’t ask me to make that choice! My family is important to me. It’s just that I really need to get this done!
After all, I’m only doing it to provide for them.” Still, there are times when the question won’t go away: Which is more important?

And there are times when we are forced to admit that we’ve been gathering hundreds of pounds of “trash” while neglecting that which is of greatest importance.

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.
(Philippians 3:7-8)

But God bless each one of you with the wisdom to choose that which is of greatest value.


We all have other jobs besides writing. Not all of us are single with kids grown and families of their own. Parenting, wife-ing, husbanding, are jobs God trusted us with before the thought of work to live and live to work came into being. That is why putting our writing life into perspective is crucial to our health and family’s health.
So how do we do that? What’s the balancing point? How do we balance our passion and God-given, God-urged talent for writing (or editing, or illustrating), with our other important jobs of family and providing for family, or the nine-to-five? How do you do that? Please share!


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6 thoughts on “200 Pounds of Trash”

  1. I love this question, especially as I have been working on it since retiring this time last year. So far, my answer (for myself) is fourfold: (1) to put First Things First (by meeting with the Lord); (2) to share what I receive in prayer; (3) to get plenty of exercise (my FT job is staying out of a wheelchair); and (4) to sing, making music each and every day. As I go along, I keep reading (which for me, as a writer, is important), and I continually connect with others following Christ in real life. Lots of laughter gets sprinkled into all of this, and gratitude galore. Time just FLIES this way (and yes, sometimes I clean the house)!

  2. I started writing while I was working as an elementary teacher and I was a care-giver in my home for my mother. I understand your problem. I put my mother’s care first, my work second as the kids were all very needy, and my writing third. I started with a conversation with the Lord each day and then put my mother’s care first and my work second as the kids were all very needy and my writing third. This meant I might not write some days , some days ten or fifteen minutes, and on the weekends I might get more time (If I wasn’t marking report cards). After a bit more than a year I did have a rough draft of three short mysteries. Which I later polished, had edited and went the indie route. Little bits of time work but it is hard unless you are a person that can thrive on little sleep- which I can not. Keep writing. Little steps do make progress and don’t beat yourself up if you are not making faster progress. Be thankful for what you are able to do as you do need to put your family first so they can thrive. If they don’t, you won’t. At least that is my two cents worth.

  3. I discovered over the years while I worked full-time, it was to my benefit to use public transportation as much as possible. I rode a train into work and crossed the street to my place of employment. It was an one hour ride each way. I wrote during that time, usually going in and coming out. Sometimes I would socialize with other train patrons, but this allowed me some writing time. If I had to drive into work, I could leave at 4:30pm and get home at 6:30pm OR I could leave at 6pm and get home at 7pm. That gave me an extra time for writing at work and also eased the hassle of congested traffic. By the way, I dictated during the drive and then typed the transcript when I got home. This way, when I was at home, I could spend the time with my family. They would go to bed at 9 or 10pm. I could then write until midnight if I wanted. The Lord gave us 24 hours and we split it into 8 hrs of work, 8 hrs of play and 8 hrs of sleep. Unfortunately, the Devil has whittled away at the 8 hrs of play and sleep. It is up to the writer to figure out take the Lord’s 24 hours and make them useful. Today I’m retired and I’ve discovered the Devil still steals as much time as he can so play and sleep are blessings. Maybe I do get 8 hrs of play with the grand and great-grand kids… it just seems like less. Writing is still important but not as much fervor as it was 20+ years ago.

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