Tag Archive | minimalism

Made for the Garden–Thoughts on the Tiny Life

made for the gardenI enjoy watching shows and reading articles about tiny homes. For someone to glamorize houses smaller than mine makes me feel good. I’m not living in a small, cramped space–I’m thinking about the environment. Being grateful for what I have. Showing contentment. Lots of ways to spin our cheap little house and make us look noble and not crowded.

But you know what? I think I was made for a garden. Big one. Mountains and oceans and forests. Not a tiny home.

I read an article recently that said the tiny home movement is failing because people can’t do it. It’s true we can live in small spaces. It’s physically possible. We need a fraction of what we own. But people fail at it. We weren’t made for that. We long for the garden.

I’ve mentioned my love for the book of Genesis. The fantasy writer in me lets my imagination soar as I imagine the first people. You know what’s missing from the story, though? When God put Adam and Eve in the garden, we never once hear about their house.

In my imagined garden world, there is no house. This is the world before rain. I imagine a perfect climate, where sleeping beneath the stars is possible. There were no wild animals hoping to eat Adam and Eve. No marauders sneaking through the darkness. No rain. Why live indoors?  Given a huge, safe, living garden, why would anyone even consider enclosing a space and hiding there?

They ate from the garden, so maybe they didn’t even cook. Imagine living outside, tending a garden, and eating straight from it whenever you got hungry. Your ceiling was as high as the clouds. You had space to walk and run and twirl without hitting a wall or knocking over a vase or a TV.

I don’t know what edged this garden. Could they see mountains in the distance? Since there was no rain, streams must have run through it. Maybe one side was edged with a river. I imagine they could see for miles, and maybe they could walk for miles. They had space.

There is tendency in our world for space to equal money. Those with money live in big houses. Those without live in small houses. Even in crowded countries where most people expect to live in tiny apartments, the wealthy find ways to get space. So we imagine people who want space are greedy, unable to be content with a reasonable amount of room.

Tiny home living is (was?) a movement that says living small can be a choice that has nothing to do with wealth. But then tiny home owners struggle to stay. Maybe our love of space isn’t about wealth. Maybe it isn’t about greed. Maybe it has to do with our beginnings.

God built a huge world, and he put two people in it. He put them in a garden. He raised the sky so high they couldn’t imagine touching the top. He surrounded them with mountains wreathed in mists and oceans with unknowable depths. He told them to explore it, care for it, and subdue it.

Soon after we married, my husband and I moved, with two small children, to a large, seventy year-old home with high ceilings and big rooms. It was in a bad part of town, and it was a money pit, but I loved that house. We had a couple rooms we never even furnished. Instead, the kids would race around in those rooms. My husband worked out in there. I would simply stand in the largest empty room and breathe.

It wasn’t expensive, although keeping it standing was. We didn’t stay long, forced to move for a job, but I am forever ruined. I miss high ceilings and empty spaces. I wasn’t made to live in a cave. That came later, when the world became dangerous and there were reasons to hide.

No, we were made for the garden. If someone offered me a larger house, I would take it. I know I want land–even if I live in a tiny house, I want to see out, gaze across empty, open distances. It’s where God started us, in a big world, in a garden. And that is my longing and always will be. Space. Life. Sky too high to touch. Waters too deep to plumb. Tiny living is fine. But for me, I’ll take space any day.

Simple life, complex dreams

Surely my heavenly home will be beautiful. Windows. God's creation all around. Sounds of life, smells of life, beauty. Beauty around every corner. It's coming. It's later, not now.I discovered two truths about myself this week while dealing with my space.  One is that I long for a perfect location for Bible reading.  I have this image of the perfect devotional moment.  I’m in a fluffy chair where I can sink into the cushions.  It’s sunny, early morning, warm, and I’m sipping a hot drink, my Bible in my lap.  In this perfect world, I’m in a corner that’s all windows, like a solarium.  Green is all around me, the outdoors visible from indoors.  It’s a place of quiet, peace, and calm where I talk to God. If I can find this perfect spot, growing close to God will be easier.  Our communication will flow without difficulty because the surroundings get me halfway to God on their own.

The reality?  It’s winter.  There is nothing green anywhere. I don’t have windows like that.  That fluffy chair isn’t in the budget, and I don’t have room for it. I don’t even like hot drinks, so don’t ask me what that’s doing in the perfect dream.  If I read my Bible early in the morning, I freeze and the dogs run all over me, excited someone is awake.  During the rest of the day, people interrupt. Don’t get me wrong–I do my Bible reading and praying rather faithfully of late.  But that vision, that dream of perfection, calm and serene…that’s a dream.  I have to step back to reality and know that I’m not going to organize my house enough to make crazy dreams of a perfect life happen.

My other realization is that what I really want, in the depths of my heart, can’t be found by clearing out my stuff.  What I want is to move.  I’ve wanted to live in the country since I was eight years old.  (I wanted to be a dairy farmer when I was eight.  I kid you not.  Now I just want the land and not the work of dairy farming!).  No neighbors.  I want to look out my windows and watch seasons and animals and birds.  My bid to improve my home is my way of coping with second best.  Trying to be content.  Finding a silver lining.  But my heart–I don’t know if it will ever give up on that dream.  Surely my heavenly home will be beautiful.  Windows.  God’s creation all around.  Sounds of life, smells of life, beauty. Beauty around every corner.  It’s coming.  It’s later, not now.file0001933163190

A quest for the perfect space.  A dream I try to quench with everything I can think of.  The desire is to be content, to realize this life will never quite fulfill. God will do that.  Fulfillment is internal.  The external will never measure up.  Still, I will do what I can to bring beauty and refreshment to this place, because I am hardwired to long for beauty, to create and work toward it. My space can be a tool to help me on my internal spiritual journey, but it will never take its place.  It can’t fix my life or my soul, nor can it replace the reality of a life with the Spirit, a life with God.  So far, I hope I’m keeping my perspective and guarding my heart from idols, for even simplicity can become an idol.  But I must be diligent, because I already see how easy it is to lose my way on this path.

Love, Clutter, and Hidden Places

file0002139807118I’m determined this year to reclaim my house and yard.  As things settled in around me last year, things that strangled my soul–doubts, fears, negativity–I lost track of many of God’s truths in my life.  I lost joy, and I lost hope, and I was no longer useful to anyone.  I was defeated.

One outcome of that was that I no longer cared about my space.  My family complained that nobody cleaned.  True, every one of them is old enough to clean after himself, but the complaint went deeper, I think.  I’m the mom and the wife, and for years one way I’ve shown them love is by caring for the space they live in. It isn’t that they can’t clean after themselves; it’s that they wanted me to care again.  My spiritual and emotional struggles bled over to them by affecting even the physical surroundings.  I don’t think the complaint was the house.  I think the complaint was the level of love the house spoke to them.

After reading about a million articles, blogs, and books on simplifying, minimalism, and decluttering, I feel like I’m ready to fight through the mess and create a space where my family can feel my energy, my love, and my renewed hope and joy in God’s love for me.  It won’t be easy, which is amusing, because I decluttered right after my husband lost his job eight or nine years ago.  Since then, we’ve had little money.  I’m not a shopper.  I don’t hoard or even value my stuff that much.  I don’t know how it all got there, but stuff has taken over all the nooks and crannies.  Now it’s time to give most of it the heave ho.

All the books say to start small. I can do that.  Many suggest I start with obvious places, so I can see my victories.  I’m tossing that bit of advice to the wind, mostly because I know once it looks good on the outside, I’ll stop.  I’ve been living with myself for four and a half decades,  so I know won’t finish easily.  I’ll get distracted by something else, or I’ll get lazy, and I’ll quit, so I’m saving the good stuff for last.  First it’s the dark closets, the places under the bed, the closed drawers–all the hidden stuff.  Just two days and three small areas into my resolution, and I already feel freer.  For now, nobody can see what I’ve done, but I know it’s done. Restoration has begun. My reward for dealing with the hidden places is to see the pubic areas restored at the end.

I realize my spiritual walk will need treated the same way this year.  It’s easy to read Scripture and set aside some time for prayer and look good on the outside.  I’ve been doing that for years.  Not that I’ve been a pretender all this time–I can now, for the first time in a long time, say with faith that I’ve been a child of the King most of my life. However, I’ve been happy to work at less than full strength.  I keep a few closet doors in my heart closed, let a few cobwebs stand, ignore a few areas of sin.

Maybe even worse, I’ve ignored a few areas of confusion and weakness. Instead of fighting through doubts until I know for sure I am his, I have been happy to go through the motions.  Instead of trusting him 100%, I’ve set the bar at 86% and assumed that was good.  But all of those closed doors weigh down my soul and hinder what God can do with me.

So here it is.  This week, it’s closets and drawers.  An hour a day or even less, depending on how many trash bags I fill along the way.  I’m being ruthless and honest about what I need.  I did learn today that anything that says I love you, mom, no matter what it is, gets to stay.  When I found a colored/scribbled stocking made my oldest (now 25!) when he was little and I burst into tears, I made the rule that if it invokes tears, it gets to stay.

Here’s hoping I can be just as ruthless and honest as the Spirit and I tackle the dark paths and valleys of my soul this year.  What do I need to learn about God?  What wrong ideas about God do I need to amend? What weighs me down and what builds me up?  What will invoke tears, and what do I do with those reactions? And then, how do I use what’s left to build up others, because this is a kingdom thing.  I’m a kingdom girl on a journey, and everything I do needs to reflect that, even decluttering my house.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.  And if I disappear, send someone after me, because the laundry room–I might fall in and never see the light of day again!