Tag Archive | simple living

Back to Simplicity

Note: I wrote this a month ago while we were homeless. I have no idea how I missed posting it, but I still stand behind what it says, so here it is:

Just over three weeks ago, my husband, son, and I sold our house, five weeks before we could close on another one. In October my oldest son bought a house, and he invited us to stay with him. We said yes.

At this moment, 95% of what we own is in a storage unit across town. For the first few days we visited often as we added to it and tried to find the most important things to bring to my son’s house. But for the last two weeks, we’ve not visited our things at all.

I had been writing about decluttering and living a simpler life. I think this qualifies. My husband, son, two dogs and I are sharing a bedroom. My wardrobe is in a box, and for the sake of simplicity I haven’t dug down too far, so I keep wearing the same two or three items over and over again. We have nothing personal around–photos, art, decorations. Everything is my son’s. All of my hobbies are buried in the storage shed, so I do a lot of wandering and wash a lot of dishes to keep busy.

I don’t miss most of my things. I wish I hadn’t buried my planner or my son’s gradebook. I hope I find the grade book again, because his entire fall semester of grades is in there. Our cats were farmed out to family, and I really miss them. I want my dresser so I can lay out clothes so I can see them. But for the most part, my stuff is extra.

Granted, my son has kitchenware and dishes, so it’s not like we cook over a fire pit with sticks. He has towels and toilet paper. We’re living in a fully furnished house, only very little of it belongs to us. And I don’t really miss the stuff that does belong to us.

I’m excited about moving back to my own place. Not sharing a bedroom with a teenage boy. Room to spread out a little bit. A new yard that’s a wide open blank slate. But the time here with my son has been educational. It’s nice to know I’m not hopelessly attached to my stuff. We’re moving to the country, but my son lives in an urban neighborhood, and I’ve enjoyed that, especially the variety of races and ethnic groups we meet when we go shopping nearby. It’s good to know we can thrive where we didn’t plan to be and enjoy life when it doesn’t exactly follow the plan.

God blessed us with a place in the country, but I’m glad we had this little respite to hang out with my son and live a different kind of life.

Up a Gravel Hill

img_20170217_075026Last Monday I was able to fulfill a long-term dream. My family moved into a little manufactured house on 3.6 acres, so we are now living in the country. Across the street is a farm where cows wander all day. Behind us are horses that occasionally top the hill so we can see them against the horizon. It’s quiet out here. Roosters crow from the horse farm, and red-winged blackbirds call from everywhere.

I spent a lot of time this week thinking about slow living. I like the idea of simple living, but I don’t focus on the decluttering part as much as the busyness part. I like living slow. And yet, I’m conditioned to  fight that.

I can watch an hour of television and feel no guilt. It’s entertaining, and it’s culturally acceptable. It’s even acceptable to turn on Netflix and binge every now and then and watch a season of something in a weekend.

However, if I stare out my window at cows for an hour, I feel like I am wasting time. Why? It’s interesting to me. I love to see and hear what goes on outside. Why is it wasteful to watch God’s Netflix but acceptable to watch man’s? And face it, what I watch out my windows is a lot more acceptable to God than some of the antics on the screen I call entertainment. Am I the only one who struggles with this?

As I was ‘wasting time’ this week watching skies and clouds, I was thinking about heaven. I wish God had given us more hints about what heaven will be like. But I suspect we can be present without guilt. We can take time to pursue a thing without worrying about needing to do something else. I want to stand on a cliff side and watch the sea for hours. I want to stare at the stars and listen to the wind or the rain and not ever feel the tug of time, not play a mental list of better ways to use my hours, never feel guilt about choosing to feed my love of beauty or my love of creation. In fact, people I love might stand at my side and stare in awe with me, for what will that landscape look like, when sin no longer causes creation to groan, when all is as it was meant to be from the beginning, when I can work with God keeping up the perfection of his world and never fear working against it?

I realize this is a blog filled with rather discordant ideas and thoughts, but that’s where I am this week. I left the home where I raised my children. Only one child moved with me. We’re not around the corner from the grocery store. I feel loss as well as gain, wonder as well as emptiness. There are a lot of emotions to process, because we all know a move has little to do with geography and a lot to do with memories and heart and people. And although we didn’t move far, only thirty miles, in the world of people that’s a long way. Things aren’t what they were a week ago. And it remains to be seen what our new life will look like.

I am excited about this new step on the path. But I also know location doesn’t change the deep things. I hope to see God here on the hillside, but my sin is still my sin. My struggles are still my struggles. I’ve added images of beauty and awe, but I am still me. And I knew that would be the case, but sometimes I wish it was as easy to change the inner self as it was to change geography.

Anyway, that’s enough rambling for this post. Next time I’ll try to be more organized. My physical life will be more organized as I work through boxes. The emotions should be calmer as I work through the new distances from my adult children and my friends. I might even post a blog entry with a specific point. But until then, if you find yourself on a meandering path, feel free to share that with me. I get to write to you all the time, and I’d love comments or emails with your stories, too. Everyone’s path includes stories worth telling, ideas worth pondering, insights worth sharing. Feel free to share yours. Here in the country I have time and space to hear and ponder with you.

When the Vacation is Over

DSC01056My family just returned from a week in Florida, spent on Ormond Beach just north of Daytona. We had a great time, and I plan to post a few things about that, because vacations can be great times of discovery and clarity. Today, though, I feel the need to capture my feelings right now, as our vacation ends. Because I handle the end of a vacation badly. Worse than badly.

First, we had planned to take two days to drive home. So, when we said goodbye to the beach on Saturday morning, I was expecting to drive about six hours, find a hotel, have one last summer swim, eat someplace nice, and sleep on a soft, large bed. Then my son would eat waffles at a hotel breakfast bar, and we’d mosey on home, with one final trip to a fast food place before we returned and reality hit.

Halfway through the day, my husband informed me he planned to push on through and take the twelve hours all in one day. It would save us money on a hotel, and money was an issue. And it would get us home sooner. To him, that’s a good thing. To me, the housewife who also works from home, not so much. To him, it meant a couple days to hang around the house and do nothing before work Tuesday (this was a holiday weekend.) To me, it meant getting back to work a day early. I was not thrilled.

But he had the wheel, so we drove home. And I, the person who grieves the end of vacations anyway, grieved hard. I’d expected one more day. And it doesn’t sound like much. One day. But it felt huge. Summer was over. Reality was back. Instantly my mind began to churn through things I needed to do at home, how much work needed to be done, and how unfair it was that home has such different meaning to each of us. Instead of easing myself back into the pool of life slowly, I’d just been shoved off the high dive into ice water at the bottom. Continue reading

A Fist Filled with Mist

IMG_2003I think a lot about dreams. Those hopes, plans, ambitions I have for my life, my future, my happiness. I’m probably not alone there. I think most of us have lists in our heads of things we’d like to do or see or have during our time here.

God is likely not going to say yes to a lot of my dreams. For some, it’s simply too late. There isn’t time left in my finite life for some things to happen. Some cost more money than it appears God is going to give me (like my farm. I’ve always wanted one. He has said no for 40+ years,  and the bank account and our current incomes say it’s probably not going to happen.) Some require better health than I have. In fact, better health is a dream, and I certainly can’t make chronic illness disappear just by dreaming it.

I read an old article today about King David and how God told him no when he wanted to build a temple. That seems like a pretty selfless dream. And to be told no was a pretty big no. But David let it go. The author of the article said David held things loosely. When his will and God’s didn’t line up, he let it go.

I’ve been thinking about that. What do I hold onto? How loose is my grip? And I realized the things I hold onto the most tightly are things I don’t have. My empty fist is tightly wrapped around dreams and goals that are nothing more than mist. No matter how tightly I squeeze, I can’t hold them. They are things I never had, so there’s nothing even there to cling to.

However, the things I have… I’m not that enamored with what I have. Even things I once held tightly as mist, once they appear in solid form, I release, because the reality never quite meets the fantasy.

I need to switch things around. Well, to a point. I know I don’t need to wrap my fist around anything in this world. If I’m going to cling to anything with white knuckles, it should be the hem of Jesus’ cloak. At his feet I find what I need the most. His words and deeds–that’s where I can be selfish. That’s something I can cling to.

But the rest of it? Yeah, not worth the tight fist. Nothing I have fills the void in my heart that longs for God. Nothing I long for can do it, either. I need to hold loosely.

I’m not good at that. I admit that right now. Right before I sat down to write this I did some work on my kitchen. For over a year it’s been in a state of destruction. The goal is to remodel, but money and other things got in the way. Today I came up with a way to do some work on the cheap. I was excited. And that fist began to tighten. If only, I said to myself. If only I could finish this kitchen… But what comes after that? When I hear my heart saying If Only then alarms go off. If only I get this dream fulfilled, then life will be good. I will be content. I will be happy. It all revolves around one more thing, one thing I don’t have that I really want. Then I can stop wanting.

Right. If my kitchen is finished, it will look better than it does now. That’s it. My life won’t be fixed. My family won’t love me more. Or each other more. Meals won’t taste better. I will have a finished kitchen. That’s not bad. But it certainly won’t improve my life and fix everything broken in my soul. Neither will a beautiful farm or even perfect health. Those things will likely never be mine, and even if they were, I know they won’t satisfy my deepest soul. I need to unclench the empty fist and open the palm to God.

Let Him drop whatever He wants into my hands. Use what He gives me. Treat it with respect and care, thankful for the use of whatever blessings He sends. And then, hands open, I need to let all of it go and wait for Him to drop the next blessing.

Open hands. Much better than fists clenched around mist. And wow, so much easier to write than to do.

Simplicity Meets the Garden

simplicity meets the gardenWith the arrival of summer, I’m looking at my garden. And I’m groaning. I love the idea of gardening. It sounds so great–beautiful flowers, healthy veggies, cool and shady spots to sit with a cup of tea. I think the theory of gardening is amazing.

However, the reality of my gardening attempts seems to be fungus, rot, bugs, heat, slugs, weeds, and  failure.

In my quest to simplify this year, I’m tackling my yard. And I have given myself permission to tear out most of the gardens. Last year I let most of them go, because the budget included exactly nothing to take care of them and I wasn’t in the best place and didn’t want to bother. This year, they’re wild. I’m not using a trowel and pruning shears to deal with them. I need a full-fledged shovel and branch loppers. A chainsaw wouldn’t hurt. But I will conquer them.

Destruction is kind of fun. I have found there are parts of simplifying that I enjoy. I love throwing things away. I love tearing things down. I should have gone into demolition. Give me a crow bar, a hammer, loppers, a shovel, and I have a blast.

Then, though, things have to be put back together. And in a garden, that means things have to be planted, and things are supposed to grow.

I am limiting my gardens to the foundation planting  and a path along one side of my house, a spot I see from my kitchen. My youngest son and I have decided to use Asian gardens as our inspiration, because they are simple and feature things like stone lanterns and rocks. It’s not easy to kill a rock. Or I hope it isn’t. I’ll keep you posted on that.

My hope, of course, is to come up with something beautiful. Beauty out front that the world can see as it drives by. And beauty out back where I gaze while I wash dishes. I love beauty. I long for it. And when I fail–when beauty dies or leaves or isn’t within my grasp–it hurts.

Gardens can hurt. Homes can hurt. My dreams and visions are so much more than my abilities. I think many of those dreams and visions are anticipatory. The perfect garden is coming. The ultimate beauty of a world lit by a loving son–coming. Sometimes, when I’m in a garden fighting Japanese beetles or fungus or weeds, I have to stop and smile. The first garden didn’t have these problems. The next life will have gardens without these problems.

For now, I’m trying to make beauty with as few plants as possible, because we’re not to that next garden yet. This is the garden with the curse. And man, God makes the best curses, don’t you think?  But imagine how awesome the next garden will be since I had to fight so hard for this one. Makes all of this worth it.

Note–it’s summer now. I’m going to spend more time trying to live a simple life and less time writing about it. So, my Simple Living Friday posts may come less often. I may  wait until fall to talk about how I did this summer. I may not. But I’m cutting myself a little slack and trying to get a handle on things in my physical life before the school year rolls around again. Enjoy summer, everyone. Celebrate. Find beauty. Rest. Read a good book. And let God speak into the quiet.

One Step Forward, and Duck!

one step forwardLast week I wrote down a list of my goals and then why I wasn’t accomplishing them. I called it my goal thwarter list. I wrote a post about it. And I have to say I’m surprised that list has helped me. After more than four decades of being less than organized, it seems I can get my act together. A little bit. Sometimes.

This week I put my Bible, journal, and other stuff I use in quiet time in a basket. Little portable basket. I want a place for quiet time, a comfy chair or a spot in the sun on warm days. I’m still working on that. But even having everything in a basket where I can carry it to today’s spot–that’s a big help. So, score one for me.

Last week I also finished teaching. Since January I’ve been teaching classes at a homeschool co-op. High school kids. And it simply wasn’t a good fit from the first second. It’s weighed on me heavily all semester, taking time, bandwidth, and bringing more stress than it was worth.

With that over, I have more time and brain space to do other things. For instance, this week my parents might come visit, and I have time to clean up a little bit. Score another one for me.

Which brings me to another goal thwarter. I’m not great at cleaning house. Not deep cleaning. There might be mold on my shower curtain. The bathroom used by all my guys might smell like a bathroom used by a bunch of guys.  I decided part of the problem there was not having the right tools. This week I bought a few special cleaners, replaced the shower curtain, and put a simple routine in place so I can stay ahead of it. (And why, you might ask, can my adult/nearly adult sons not do this themselves? Because there are a few areas where I am a parenting failure. And this would be one of them. That’s a whole different post, I’m afraid.)

So. A few victories. And that’s great incentive to keep going.

However, sometimes a goal simply has to be set aside, because it’s not a true goal. It’s a dream. And regardless of what all the pretty memes on the internet say, not every dream is possible. And I can waste a lot of time chasing certain dreams that should be let go.

I ran into that this week. Several fellow bloggers linked me to a bundle of ebooks all about organizing, self care, cleaning, spiritual life, all the things important to me right now. Pages and pages of ideas. Pages and pages of ideals. Pages and pages of dreams that would crush me if I let them, because there is no way I could possibly implement all those ideas and end up with my perfect life.

And that’s the problem with some of my goals and dreams. I want perfection. I want a week where nobody interrupts, where nothing clutters my schedule, where the dogs never jump on me while I exercise and my blood sugar never slows down my gardening and there is never mold in the bathroom. It’s all good. And usually in that dream, it’s all about me. My time, my goals, my dreams, my perfect house…

Once again I’m experiencing forward motion in my goal to simplify and organize my life, and once again I’m facing that worst of enemies, me. Once again I have to put all this at Jesus’ feet and let him decide what’s really best.

This week I have unexpected company coming. I’m excited, but it wasn’t in the plan. A friend needs help one evening. I’m delighted to help, but it wasn’t expected. And the list goes on. God doesn’t really consult my list of goals, dreams, plans, and expectations when he puts my weeks together. My perfect life makes him chuckle, because it’s often selfish, rarely a challenge, and always fails. Then he listens to me rant about it, and he shows me a better way.

I’m allowed to keep mold off the shower curtain. Clean dishes, lack of clutter, a wise budget, and a comfy place to meet with him–those are fine. But when I find myself so focused on this idyllic life that doesn’t exist… Well, that doesn’t help anyone.

My schedule is open. I’m seeing victories. And yet spiritual battle comes with every new step. I have to dodge lies I tell myself and those I get from the world around me, and I tend to forget that even in the simple life, battle never ends. I have to duck a lot of arrows, because there’s an enemy who strikes out because he doesn’t want to see me gain ground in any part of my life, especially when I’ve given that life to the Spirit for safekeeping.

I’m excited about progress. I think I can see some old, long-desired goals come to fruition in my life. If I can watch the battle part and not let myself get swept into obsessive perfectionism or pure selfishness, I think I’ll be just fine.

 

Organizing the Scattered Soul

scattered soulBecause I’m a homeschooling mom of four, people think I must be organized.  I’ve had people ask me questions that assume a person who successfully educates her children must have lists and routines and tips and tricks to make things run smoothly. To which I always laugh, because really, there’s not a whole lot of organization going on here.

Not that I haven’t tried. I adore lists. When I’m writing lists, I don’t actually have to do any real things.  Lists are easy.

I organize my computer all the time. In fact, just this week I organized all the images in my computer–those that go with books, with blogs, different folders and files, and it’s a work of art. And I did it because all that takes is a few clicks.  Clicking is easy.

Yes, I’m really a very lazy person. I like life slow, slow enough that I don’t really have to be organized. If I’m so busy I need a day planner, I’m too busy. I tend to plan the day’s school lessons on the fly, while my kid does his math problems. I have no idea what we’re having for dinner tomorrow, and there’s a good chance that will still be the case five minutes before dinnertime tomorrow.

Being organized is great. I spent years wishing I was organized.  But, I’m not wired that way.  The thing is, I’m organized enough, in a way that works for me and my family, for our schedule, for our level of busyness. Or that’s what I tell myself. But maybe there are instances where a little organized, mindful living is in order.

First, I know I have to develop some routines. I am the worst at routine. Fortunately, my Chihuahua Sparrow has been teaching me in this area. This little guy thrives on routine. At night he moves through the house and brings each toy to my bed, until they are all safely settled around us. (My husband, second shift, climbs into bed in the middle of the night and ends up sleeping on dog toys, poor guy.)

In the morning, the dog and I get up first, and Sparrow heads outside and then eats breakfast. Usually Skye the cattledog pup is part of this. But then, once Skye is outside looking for cattle to herd, Sparrow stands at the door to my bedroom and whines. He wants me to get all his toys off the bed. We call it the Morning Toy Rescue, and it happens every morning. I sneak into the darkened bedroom and try to dig toys out of the comforter without rousing my husband, the dog prancing at my feet for me to hurry.

Yep, I was never good at set nap times with my kids, but my dog is whipping me into shape. Go figure.

I’m about to make some changes in my life with respect to my time. I’m about to finish teaching at co-ops and focus on writing a little more, work toward some marketing, see if I can make writing pay a little better. But I can keep limping along as I am and survive. However, there is one area where I have to stop limping and start thriving, one area where I need to organize, one area where I know I’m failing, and failure in this area means failure over all.

It’s why I’m clearing my house and rethinking my schedule and making lists I intend to read. It’s why I’m soaking up information about clearing my spirit and learning disciplines. Quite simply, I need to remember God. Not once a day. Not once a week. But all the time. I need routines that force me to read his Word, pray, reach out to those who need me, write words he wants me to write, etc. And I’m not doing it. In all my years of disorganization, I’ve gotten other things done, but not this one.

Because this one matters. Because there is an acute battle against this one. This one can change the world, and so all the forces of the world oppose it.

I’m reading and listening to podcasts about scheduling and time management. My schedule is open and ready. My home is clearing out of extras that weigh me down. Now I need to put a few routines in place, organize a few things, make physical places, time places, and soul places where regular communion with God happens.  Morning routines, evening routines, whatever it takes.

Having a perfectly clean bathroom and set dinner times are nice, but I can get along without them. But having a casual, whenever-I-get-around-to-it relationship with Jesus?  That’s not going to cut it. This year I’ve tasted the sweetness of being close to God, hearing his Spirit. I don’t want to taste it. I want to eat deeply, every day of my life. I want to choke on it until I’m breathing it and living it with my entire spirit.

And for that, I need to get serious, strategize, and give up my love of randomness, at least in a few areas.

I’ll let you know how it goes. Next week I finish teaching. I just downloaded some courses on time and schedules. My book on spiritual disciplines is out and waiting. I can do better than I have been. Lord willing, soon I will be.