Tag Archive | simple living

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.

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Four to Go

dreamstimefree_662199In January, I started a sixteen-week commitment that was the wrong thing to do. The spring has been stressful,  because I have been giving time, energy, and mental bandwidth to something that wasn’t right for me. I did my best, fulfilled my commitment, and I am now four weeks from the end. The tunnel ahead has light. The future is almost here.

With more free time in my near future, I’m able to think about what I want next. I want to finish decluttering my house, faster than I’m doing it now. I’m a potter who hasn’t touched clay in three months, so maybe I can do some creating. I’m a writer who’s been slow to accomplish anything this year, and I want to write more. I can whittle down the pile of good books I want to read. Spend time with relationships that need attention. Renew my commitment to exercise and take care of my body.

This week I wrote a blog post about anxiety and self care. Then I hit a wrong button and sent it out early, so it might not have been read. Who wants to read two posts in one day? The gist of that post was the question of whether or not someone can plan life around anxiety, depression, other mental/medical issues. I struggle with type one diabetes and feel no guilt when I take care of myself. But the anxiety that plagues me–I feel like I’m supposed to ignore it, not make decisions or plans with that struggle in mind. It’s a question I haven’t entirely answered yet. God and I are still working on that one.

Enter the idea of simplicity. The idea that it’s okay to whittle my life down to things that truly matter to me. That God might ask me to do things for which he has gifted me, not just things that are hard. Maybe it’s okay to clear my life, schedule, mental bandwidth and then fill it all back up with better things. Things that reflect the skills, passions, and experiences God has given me.

Until now, I thought that I had to do what was expected. I had to volunteer and accept everything that came along, everything that was good. Even if it was hard, even if it brought a lot of distress, I said yes. Sometimes because it was hard I thought I had to do it, to prove I wasn’t letting anxiety–or any other weaknesses–plan my life.

Recently, I feel like I can say no to good and wait for better, look for Best. God is calling me to write and share my books. He’s calling me to tend a few precious friendships. Maybe to share my knowledge/experience through a small group study. Pour my life into a few souls. Pray with others. Delve deeper into God’s heart through his Word. I think it might be time to look at both my strengths and weaknesses when making plans. Maybe weaknesses are planned by God to help me on my way, to point me in certain directions. He will use them, but I thought that meant he wanted me to ignore them and move on. Maybe, as long as I don’t use them as an excuse to sin, I can let them help me determine the paths he has for me.

The writer of Hebrews says in chapter 13: And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  I find myself wondering if sometimes my weaknesses help mark the edge of that path.  Maybe they can be a guide as much as my strengths and skills. Sure, God asks us to do hard things. But where did I get the idea that everything has to be hard? That God asks me only to do things that hurt? That something that makes me feel good about the person God made me is wrong? Sure, my passions can take me to uncomfortable places. But when I let things that aren’t that important take me there… Maybe I don’t have to do that just to prove I’m bigger than the self God made me to be.

I recently set up a home gym in the room that was a disaster, and I’m using it to care for my body. That was a victory. I’m clearing out belongings that should have left my house years ago because I’m learning that my things aren’t part of my identity. I stepped onto the path of simplicity for physical reasons, because I was sick of clutter and ugliness in my home. I had no idea it would spread so far and touch all of my life. Time, identity, rest, self care, growth…

Just a few thoughts. In four weeks, I feel like I’m getting a second chance to put some priorities in order. I’ve spent enough time talking to the Spirit this year that I’m confident he will help me plan my summer, my fall, whatever he wants me to plan. I hope I am more open to hearing him, following him, trusting him. I can set things free, simplify my world, and see what amazing things God wants to do through me.

Four more weeks.

The Victory Gym

victory gym(Author’s note: Simple Living Friday has been moved to Wednesday this week, because this is Holy Week, and I want to focus elsewhere on Friday. But, I really wanted to share this post, because it makes me happy. So. Onward.)

I have experienced a great victory in my quest to free up space in my home, and I’m excited to share it. This week we unveiled the workout room.

My husband has always been interested in exercise. He has a black belt in Kempo and likes to do things here at home. My oldest son works as a mover but also has education as a personal trainer. Our house is littered with exercise odds and ends, but since there wasn’t one spot large enough for an adult to lie flat on the floor, those things were clutter. I am sick to death of clutter.

So, I looked at what we called the school room and went Hmmm. I don’t teach my kids in that room any more. It contained furniture we didn’t use. It had a table whose sole purpose was to be a landing spot for homeless items. It is the first room a person sees upon entering our home, and it was a black hole. If something disappeared into that room, it made more sense to purchase a new version than to dig and find it. It was just that bad.

So. The table was taken apart and stored for my engaged son (Thank you, Ikea, for furniture that can be disassembled).  An old sofa was carried to the street, ala my mover son. A few things were added to the pile at the door heading to Goodwill, because I’m human and seldom completely finish what I start. Someday I will make another Goodwill trip, possibly when it gets so bad we can’t get to the door.

The room had some space. It was amazing. The animals wandered in circles as though they had no idea what to think. Space.

I began to move exercise stuff into the space, and I looked online for foam flooring. That was a bust. There is no line in the budget for foam flooring. Then I took my weekly trip to Aldi, the grocery store, and this week they had very inexpensive foam flooring. Score one to God for the assist–we now have an area of foam flooring , enough space that two people can lie down in there.

The animals got even more excited after that. Space and a soft place to stretch out or curl up. Even better, I kept opening the window to let in the warm spring air, and cats like nothing more than sitting in an open window watching a human clean house.

The room isn’t perfect. It still houses an item or two my son plans to take when he gets married in October. There are a few odds and ends that don’t have a home. I’d like to put something fun on the walls. But it’s the first real victory in my quest to simplify my life. It’s more than simplifying and decluttering. I gave a room a new focus, putting space to good use, making it work for us instead of us working for it.

Of course, now I need to tack a few exercise routines to the wall and head in there. Last year I worked out faithfully at a gym with my son as my personal trainer. It improved many areas of my life, including my diabetes. This year, his job changed and the gym moved to a place where personal training can no longer happen, so I’ve been letting go of my exercise time. I hope to use this new space to get that part of my life back. It will take discipline, but I’m learning a lot about discipline right now, so I think I can do it.

Regardless, seeing fruit makes me want to tend the garden better. If I can see one room improve, I can see more. I feel energized in the spring, which is filled with life and hope and new beginnings, and I’m ready to move on and keep this up until the entire house brings the same smile as our front room.

Interlude

InterludeWhenever I hear the song Cool Change by the Little River Band, I feel like crying. If you’re not familiar with the song, it talks about time alone on the ocean and how important it is in a pre-arranged life to get away for a while. For some reason, it hits me deep every time, and sometimes it takes me to the floor.

I’ve been grappling with a simple life for a while. I’ve been digging into spiritual disciplines. I dream of green pastures and still waters. I imagine a house with space, a life with wiggle room, the perfect quiet times where God and I have this amazing, life altering connection every day.

Two things have spurred this strange unrest in my soul. One is a new awareness of the Spirit. Yes, being aware of the Spirit can bring unrest. I have to learn to hear his voice. I have to follow his lead. For now, I’m giddy with longing and anticipation, and that giddiness can make me restless. Continue reading

When Simple Isn’t

When simple isn'tAh, another Friday. Another chance to admit my desire to simplify my life, declutter my home, and take my schedule in hand isn’t quite working out.

I’ve mentioned before that one stumbling block in my quest for a simpler life is that the people in my home aren’t all on board. I continue to struggle with this. I have a vision of space. I want to stretch out my arms. I like the idea of wide open areas more than furnishings to fill the spaces.

I’ve raised four kids in a house with 1500 square feet. And it’s fine. This is what God gave us, and I’m content. At the same time, some days I want to toss every single thing and stretch out on the floor and not hit anything. Our home has many small rooms, which is great for privacy for a largish family, but it means there is no room to twirl or stretch or dance around to the radio. I realize those things aren’t necessary to life, but still… We all want what we don’t have, right? Continue reading

The Bandwidth Dilemma

20131012_144444This week I was involved in a small group study with two women, and one of them asked for prayer in a way that has really stuck with me. It fits here in my Friday Simpler Life category, because I think it says so much about the busy, crazy cluttered life, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

The woman who asked for prayer is busy. Most of us are busy. She knew something in her life needed attention, but the way she asked for it hit a chord–she talked about needing more bandwidth. I liked that. It’s not always about time. Sometimes time management has nothing to do with time. It’s bandwidth. In my head, I conjured this image of electrical impulses going all over the place, taking up space and sometimes crossing, sometimes pulsing, sometimes scrambled. Bandwidth to me meant brain space. And nobody has unlimited brain space.

I’m not the world’s busiest person. I’m pretty good at limiting my schedule. But at the same time, sometimes the things I agree to do, even if they don’t take that much time, take up a lot bandwidth. Sometimes they are scattered and lack focus.

I’m not the kind of person who gets excited about writing life goals or a purpose statement. I don’t have a business plan for my existence. However, the more I thought about this image of electricity gone wild, the more I realized the benefit of some kind of limiter like a purpose statement. Right now I’m writing, blogging, teaching, and learning about prayer and spiritual disciplines. I’m also a wife and mom. Truth be told, all of those things together don’t take all my time. I have room to spare in my schedule.

But in my head? Nope. They don’t all link up. Some take more brain space, induce more stress, fill my thoughts more than others. I waste precious time changing gears to go from one activity to the next. I feel a little scattered.

In a few months I will be able to rewrite my schedule. I’m not going to write a purpose statement, but I think I’ll look closer at what I do and how they link. I want to spend less time transitioning. Maybe if all my activities use less bandwidth, I won’t get so overwhelmed. Writing, blogging, and spiritual disciplines are related. All dig into spiritual realms. All deal with words and themes.  I soak in ideas and truths with Bible study and prayer. I spit them out in books and blogs. All of it includes processing, internal discovery of who God is and what he wants from me. Shifting from one to another can be seamless.

This semester, teaching writing and art isn’t fitting so well. During other times of my life, it has. And I’m neglecting some of the mom duties because my youngest is old enough I tell myself he can tend himself. But he should get more bandwidth. He’s a priority, so I should shift things to fit around him, not make him fill in the gaps. I need to uncross a few wires and line up other purposes around him.

I don’t know if that all makes sense. Cleaning out my house and my life fits, as it clears up space for better things. I have been feeling some spiritual nudges about a few other things, and I need to see if they fit or if they will dilute my energy and my direction. Maybe I’ll decide this way of looking at things isn’t right at all. But since I’m dealing with prayer and listening to the Spirit now in new ways, I’m not worried. He’ll help me see clearly how to use my time and where to put my energy. And then I think I’ll use my limited bandwidth in the best ways possible, and what spews from my frequencies will be clear and loud and useful to the God who made me.

The Wrong Yes

I’ve written about trying to reclaim some order in my house. I’m hauling away junk–yes, I got a lot of things OUT THE DOOR last week, instead of simply removing items from one place and storing them in another until I can get to Goodwill. But time is another area that can get cluttered. Normally, I’m not terrible about my schedule, but sometimes I mess up.

First, I have to admit I have some anxiety issues. For the most part, I know how to deal with it. There’s a difference between having an anxiety attack–which I have–and simply being fearful or a worrier. That second one is what I think God talks about when he tells us to fear not and to trust him and not to worry. It’s something in my control. Anxiety attacks or panic attacks–those are another story. They’re largely physiological, and I try not to beat myself up about them. I engage in both types of anxiety on a regular basis, and I repent of one and do what I can not to trigger the other.

My physical anxiety is triggered by lack of sleep and being too busy.  This makes it easier for me to say no to excess in my schedule. If you’ve ever had panic attacks, you’ll understand that a person will do almost anything to avoid them. So. Even with four kids, I have always been good about us staying less than crazy busy, because Mom having a breakdown leaves our schedule in worse shambles than just preventing a busy schedule in the first place. (Yep, I know this one through experience. Ugh.)

Another thing to know about me is that I teach sometimes. I teach pottery, art, and writing at various homeschool co-ops to different ages of children. Usually I like it. We can always use a little extra money, and I need to get out sometimes, and normally saying yes to a teaching gig every semester or so is not a problem.

For some reason, a few months ago I said yes to a gig when I knew I shouldn’t have. I can’t tell you why it wasn’t the right fit because I don’t know. But I knew before the email had reached its destination that I had misspoken and promised something I would not easily accomplish. God has me doing a few other things right now, like writing books and blogging and studying his Word and learning about prayer… other things.

Turns out, I was right. What I’m doing this semester isn’t wrong. I haven’t sinned. I am still happy to have the money. But it isn’t the best thing. I didn’t make the best choices for my time. I feel tension all the time that likely won’t go away completely until I’ve finished this obligation. I’m not as useful because of the tension and the anxiety it spawns. I simply said yes to the wrong things for the wrong reasons, and now I pay for it.

I realize we can’t always do what we want. A few years ago my husband lost his job, and I took a lot of jobs I didn’t like that made me tense or made life difficult. Strangely, those didn’t feel wrong. We needed the money, and I was doing my part. So this isn’t about loving where I spend my time. I don’t have to love everything I do. I have to do what needs done. But this time, I didn’t talk over my plans with my husband. Or with God. I simply didn’t use a lot of wisdom in my decision. And I will be fine, and the students will still get my best, but it’s making things harder than they should be for a few months.

The moral of the story is that it’s important to watch our time. Or at least it’s important for me to watch my time. My schedule isn’t mine alone–like my house, it’s part of my family life, and that has to come first. The house needs to be a haven for my family. And the way I use my time also has to be right for my family, so I can be the best mom and wife I can be. After being God’s daughter, wife and mom are the most important positions I hold, and at the moment, I’m lacking there because I’m dealing with a wrong yes, both physically and emotionally. Since I’m usually pretty good at this, the failures stand out. Time to put a little more thought and prayer into how I spend my time. Time also to trust the Spirit when he nudges me away from something that might have been the right thing last year or last semester. Life changes. What God wants with my time changes. It’s okay.

9mOrwfTgI honestly don’t think God has one path, one plan for my life, and if I can’t read his mind on every little thing I’m going to be lost forever. Looking for God’s way has more to do with living out his love in all situations, even the wrong yeses. But when I have a choice, when God says I can choose door A or door B and neither one is dangerous or harmful or sinful, I should choose wisely and then be ready to follow through. And sometimes, I simply have to suck it up until it’s time to stand before the next set of doors.