Faith · Just Give Me Simple · Uncategorized

On Being Intentional

One of the main reasons my husband and I wanted to get out of debt was because of the choke hold it had on our freedom and peace of mind. We knew that until we were out from underneath the weight of it, we would never be able to fully live the life God had for us. By God’s grace we were able to get out of debt, but that was only the beginning.

During our journey out of debt, we stayed out of stores and restaurants and started to notice that we really needed very little to stay alive and enjoy life. Enter minimalism. It’s been five years since I first wrote about the concept, and I had no idea it would change our lives so much.

We started asking things like what if we didn’t really need a house? What if we did something radical and sold it and, dare I say, rent? What if we got rid of all of the stuff that just lays around the house but serves no purpose?

Slowly we started paring down. Just getting rid of things here and there. We sold some of it and gave away a lot of it. We started finishing up little projects in the house that hadn’t been touched. And then we took the plunge and put a for sale sign in the yard to test the waters.

Four months ago, our house sold. We sold or gave away most of our stuff and moved from our four-bedroom house into a two-bedroom apartment. A dream come true. I cannot tell you. Less space to clean. Less stuff to clean around. More time to do things that matter. Instead of spending weekends working on something that broke around the house or worrying how we’re going to pay for whatever broke around the house, we have time to hang out with friends, take a day trip somewhere, and money to do those things.

Minimalism is more than just the absence of the extraneous. It encourages a life lived with intention rather than just being moved along by the current of activity and wondering where the last year went. Most of us spend a lot of time doing good things, but in the clutter of activity we miss out on the moments.

So in an effort to create a life more in line with what we value most, we moved out of a place that required more of our time and money than we were wanting to give and into one where broken dishwashers and water pressure problems are solved with a phone call to maintenance and repaired at their expense.

In the spirit of intentionality, I’m tackling another area in my life. Health. Though I don’t suffer from disease or serious health problems, I’m becoming more aware that my steady diet of caffeinated beverages and sugar-laden goodies is contributing to my lack of energy, constant need for a nap, and general overall feeling of not experiencing optimum health.

This year I’m committing to spending the first seven weeks of the year doing a cleanse. The very term strikes both fear and anticipation in me. What will I have to give up? Is it sustainable? Will I be able to stick to it until the end? How will I feel when I’m done? Will I have more energy and fewer stomach aches? The questions are endless, and there’s no other way to find out than to just do something I’ve always wanted to try but never had the guts to undertake.

I will be following the RepairVite gut repair program where the list of foods not approved for consumption is longer than the list that is. I won’t go into it. You can read about it here. Suffice it to say, it will not be easy.

What this is not:

  • A resolution to never drink coffee or eat dessert again.
  • A weight loss plan. There are much easier ways to lose weight.
  • Some crazy hair-brained idea I came up with on a whim. Lots of thought and consideration has gone into this.

What this is:

  • Freeing up another resource God has given me, my health, from my obsession with sugar and coffee.
  • An exercise in tenacity. Because of my dreamer tendencies, I am a great starter. I can imagine anything and start anything. It’s the finishing and sticking to it when things get hard that I struggle with.
  • Becoming untethered from yet another thing that is more of a hindrance in my life than a help.

Looking back I realize that getting out of debt and downsizing our living space were actually steps toward intentional living. Minimalism is great, but it doesn’t answer the deeper question of why. Intentional living takes what minimalism has freed up, resources, and directs them with razor-sharp focus at what matters most. It’s about getting rid of the clutter in all of its forms so that we can live the life that God has designed for us.

Here’s to setting ourselves up for a year of soul-mending service and life-giving experiences. Happy New Year.

Just Give Me Simple · Uncategorized

Enough Already

There’s a trend out there right now that has totally captured my attention. Minimalism is sweeping the blogosphere with a rapidity rivaling that of a disease sweeping through a village. Simplicity is the new way of life. Less is more. Less debt equals more financial freedom. Less junk food equals more health. Less time tending to stuff equals more time experiencing life.

As a recovering over-the-top spender and collector of debt and all things material, I totally buy into all of this. I’ve written about my laser sharp focus that snaps into action when I go after the cluttered rooms around my house. Like a tornado I purge and pitch with wild abandonment to the utter horror of the rest of my family. I’ve mentioned in the past how I would give anything to pair down my stuff to only that which fits in a backpack. And with the loyalty of a disciple, I follow the small house movement in silent envy of those who pack their lives into homemade houses of 300 square feet or less. Yes, I know I’m weird.

The blogosphere is pregnant with promises of grocery bills being slashed in half through the magic of couponing, price comparing and tailoring a menu based on sales in the weekly flyers. Having spent hours culling the wisdom of these blogging superheroes I have been able to whittle down my grocery bill to an impressive $92 a week for a family of four. This includes a teenage boy who would eat paint off a wall if he were hungry enough. I’ve also read the testimonials of those who’ve taken the challenge posed by Project 333. The freedom that comes with pairing down your wardrobe to 33 items that you wear over and over for 3 months has intrigued me to the point of attempting this challenge myself. No more agonizing over what to wear every morning.

I say all of this because it occurred to me that besides chasing simplicity for the sake of order in my life, a pattern has emerged. That is, that when life feels out of control I immediately go after my stuff, my budget and my space. On one hand it makes complete sense. Despite my utter disdain for clutter, be it financial or otherwise, it’s there at every turn. It is the antithesis to calm and order, and despite my best efforts it reproduces itself overnight. So I go after it with a vengeance knowing that I may not be able to control the people or circumstances around me, but I sure can control my immediate physical space and my spending habits all in an effort to obtain the often-elusive calm I am seeking.

But then when I stop, admire my work and wonder why I’m still all jammed up inside, it hits me that organizing and decluttering physical space is great, but to stop there is shortsighted. If it’s inner calm I’m seeking, all the outward efforts toward it will never accomplish what a good inner purging can.

Spiritual clutter does more to derail us than any amount of clutter lying around our house. When our hearts and minds are cluttered with things like fear, anxiety, discontentment and worry, that’s what we listen to, and that’s what gets our attention. It’s a lot harder to hear the still small voice of God when the other stuff is screaming at us.

A mind concentrating on God at all times and in all circumstances is a mind at peace. This is a tough one for me.  In fact, I’ve often thought if I weren’t a believer, I would be an easy target for the New Age gurus out there with their seductive promises of empty minds and calm inner selves. I’d spend an entire weekend on some retreat seeking empty-mindedness through meditation and chanting. Anything to quiet the noise in my head.

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal” (Isaiah 26:3,4 NIV).

In his commentary, Matthew Henry writes,

“Good principles fixed in the head will produce good resolutions in the heart and good practices in the life.”

Just like a professional organizer gives steps and tools to creating a calm space the Bible gives us steps and tools to achieve this same outcome in our heads.

Good principles such as “seek first the kingdom of God,” “guard your heart for it is the well-spring of life,” value others above yourselves,” “do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,” all of them contribute to mental peace in one form or another. How different would I look if I replaced anger, anxiety, frustration and self-pity with these things? How would my life change if I let God untether my brain from the strongholds of worry and fear?

A spiritual cleaning would go a long way in ushering in mental peace. To spend time purging the junk in my soul with the same amount of ferocity used in purging my house would benefit not just me but everyone around me. Maybe then I wouldn’t be so quick to throw out the physical treasures, and my kids could keep some of their stuff!

So I have to ask, is your brain cluttered with the unnecessary junk of the world? Would you give anything to trade in the circus in your head for something more akin to this?

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).

Jesus is peace.