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here are some of my notes from the “breathe” book i read this spring about “sabbath simplicity” and the idea of simplifying so that we can return to a cycle of work and rest, and focus on God

  • sabbath is about honoring and strengthening connections to each other and to God
  • living a life of Sabbath Simplicity is a God-focused life rhythm of work and rest. you can’t add this to a crowded lifestyle; it’s a way of life you build by listening to God’s direction. it’s living from that Center deliberately and almost effortlessly. it’s choosing what you say yes to and what you say no to based not on the demands or example of others but on what God is calling you to.
  • the sabbath command is interesting because it doesn’t just give a directive but also the rationale behind it. it’s the longest command, because God elaborates a lot on what it means and why.
  • simplifying means really examining your motivation for keeping busy and hurried. just vaguely saying you “should” or “ought to” do something won’t make life simpler. will it enrich your life or just clutter it? the spaces in your day are what help you understand the meaning of all your work. it allows you to stop, focus, internalize and admire all that you’ve done/where you’re headed
  • God LIKES being involved in all the decisions you make (what you say yes and no to): “The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. he delights in every detail of their lives.” (Psalm 37:23). just make sure we’re including God in those decisions and it can only be healthy for us: we learn to listen to him and hopefully we’ll be saying no to the things that pull us away from him. whenever you say yes to one thing, you’re saying no to another. make sure that the “yes” is worth more than the “no.” (don’t be afraid to say no
  • what is your personal mission statement? use this to filter out what you commit to and what you can say “no” to
  • The Fruit of the Vine: “…he cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he trims clean so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:1-4) even if you’re doing all good things, be selective so that the REALLY good can shine through rather than be rushed through. sometimes you  have to cut back in certain places so that you can be really fruitful in other places.
  • frugality means we are to enjoy what we have. waste lies not in the number of possessions but in the failure to enjoy them. your success at being frugal is measured not by your penny-pinching but by your degree of enjoyment of the material world
  • don’t spend too much time reliving the past (feeling guilty, regretting, embarrassed, resentful, etc) because it keeps us (obviously) from being in the moment. spending time thinking about them will only serve to INCREASE the chances of repeating the error and the pain associated with past errors. don’t deny your feelings though, but be sure to acknowledge them and give them to God to heal. when we tell Him, He understands and we don’t have to spew those feelings on others–we get release and he can transform us through our mind. (Rom 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.)
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i started writing this blog entry awhile ago but i guess i forgot to post it. it’s still relevant, so here it is:

I’ve started reading the book “Breathe” about simplifying your life and getting rid of hurry and busyness to make room for God (who is a God of rest and the Sabbath). It’s an interesting idea; today I went to the doctor’s appointment and there was a mom with her kid, and she was telling the kid to hit the button to automatically open up the glass door that led from the building outside. Being a kid, he puttered over while me and another patient stood behind the duo waiting for the door to swing open. Admittedly, my urge was just to breeze past them and push open the door myself. How stupid is that? What difference will 30 seconds make?

I believe it was in Stephen Covey’s book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” that he encourages: “Speed up and slow down.” Speed up the tasks that don’t add anything of substance to your life (but things you have to do, like laundry or dishes or checking email, etc) and slow down on the things that do enrich, like hanging out with your friends/family, reading, journaling, spending time outside, resting, spiritual disciplines. There are things we ought to rush through but others that we ought to enjoy and relish.

In this book, she talks about making decisions about what you should say yes to and what you should say no to. Say yes to those obligations that enrich you toward God. (And that might even mean saying no to things at church or when people ask for your help!) It’s nice to hear that, to be given permission that we don’t have to do anything and everything but can dedicate ourselves to a few, meaningful causes which is going to reap a lot more than spreading yourself thin here, there and everywhere. Another thing that she stresses is “Sabbath Simplicity.”

I’m only 1/5 of the way through, but it’s got me thinking already. I haven’t sat down with my schedule yet, but it’s good to keep those perspectives in mind as I continue to make decisions with my time and energies—and build in time for rest.

UPDATE: I’ve since finished reading the book and highly recommend it. this was the book that got me to give up TV and, more recently, fast from reading anything but the Bible. i’ll share some highlights later. but in the meantime, become more aware of your schedule. where can you prune? where can you enrich the time you spend?


Psalm 92
A psalm. A song. For the Sabbath day.
1 It is good to praise the LORD
and make music to your name, O Most High,

2 to proclaim your love in the morning
and your faithfulness at night,

3 to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
and the melody of the harp.

4 For you make me glad by your deeds, O LORD;
I sing for joy at the works of your hands.

5 How great are your works, O LORD,
how profound your thoughts!

6 The senseless man does not know,
fools do not understand,

last night I went over to my parents and we spent a good portion of the night outside, scouting out different plants around the yard and clipping flowers and putting them into vases. I took a big bunch of lilacs home with me, which sat on my nightstand and woke me up every once and awhile when I’d catch a waft, which was soothing and seemed to remind me: breathe in, all is good.

and it’s true. all is good, because i feel like i’m breathing deeper these last few weeks.

i think there are two parts to this newfound feeling:

part one
the whole grand rapids thing, where i have so much peace that it makes me wonder if maybe it’s too good to be true? but aside from praying that if this isn’t what God wants that he’ll do whatever it takes to make sure to tell me/stop it from happening, then i’m trusting in God’s nature as a peace-giver and as unchanging. even if this did seemingly come out of nowhere, i don’t want to sit on my hands if i feel it’s a good thing. and i do.

Joshua 1:9
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Don’t be terrified. Don’t be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

I’ve been going through bouts of feeling scared about whatever the future might hold, because it’s so far-off and so indeterminable. The fact that it would mean leaving many good things behind (church, friends, work, youth group, family) in exchange for…i’m not yet sure what. That makes me scared, so I keep praying that God will be with me and to “not hide your face from me,” that I will know his will and be strengthened to forge ahead with it. i woke up the other day and one verse from a Hedley song was rolling around in my head, “If you don’t believe me, watch and I will make it happen.” i really felt like that was God reassuring me, that he will make it happen. he won’t pull me this far and then drop the ball and walk away. another song lyric that spells the same thing to me: “you are safe, child, you are safe.

Isaiah 43:5-7
5
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.

6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth-

7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.

plus i’m reminding myself that if this is what God wants, he’s not going to purposefully make it hard or arduous; He WANTS it to happen and so He will help me do that. He did that for me when it came to breaking up with Paul (I was prepared to do it, but Paul ended up coming over and finishing things); when I moved to Alabama I had 2 weeks to relocate and find a place to stay for 5 months and God provided that along with an awesome roommate; then with Cincinnati He totally set me up with a great church and great friends and a great job. So I have to keep reminding myself of those blessings past, and that because God’s unchanging, that He won’t stop doing that—he’ll continue to guide me and provide for me along that pathway.

Psalm 25:4-10
4 Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me your paths

5 guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.

6 Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.

7 Remember not the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you are good, O LORD.

8 Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.

9 He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.

10 All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
for those who keep the demands of his covenant

* * * * * * * * * * * *

part deux
which brings me to my second point which is the book i’ve been reading of late: Breathe. it’s pretty phenomenal and one that I barely convinced myself was worth buying; I only did so because it was half-price. it was well worth it.

the book is very grounding and encourages us to put our purpose and focus on God and to do so with our time and resources. it encourages us to simplify and say “yes” to the things that draw us to Him and to say “no” to those which don’t. while i know that my priorities aren’t nearly as tangled as a parent’s who has multiple other people to keep in mind with decision-making (the book is intended for mothers), i want to become aware of these struggles now. because if i can be aware and intentional and deliberate now, then it will become a practice/discipline which will serve me well as i move forward–and on into those next stages of life.

i like that the book gives you permission to say “no” to people, causes or activities that draw you away from God. this has been revolutionary to me and quite liberating. i’ve decided to let go of my TV-watching because i can see how it not only wastes time but also wastes words–when i spend time recapping tv shows with my friends and coworkers. it prevents me from digging deep into conversation. so i’ve started abandoning that need to “fill” my time with things like TV. now i just let my friends recap the shows for me, which cuts my investment time down to 5 minutes or less and frees up at least 15, a pretty good exchange if you ask me. (although I do foresee making room and allowing for “Heroes.” no matter how great a storyteller you may be, I don’t think anyone could recap that show with justice!)

one challenge they give in the book is about looking for opportunities to shave down your obligations, and then not fill them. Today I did that on my lunch break by breaking free from my desk and rushing to a nearby park to sit quietly and read more from the book. Being quiet isn’t an easy task or discipline for me, so this book is especially fitting. I need to invest in this ideal more and more, because I know I always complain about not being able to easily “hear God” but I think that’s because I’m not patient enough with the quiet to listen. I’m also hoping that our upcoming trip to IHOP in Kansas City will be enlightening and insightful for that, too!

i’m also hoping that in this decision to follow God to somewhere new, that hopefully that’ll draw me nearer and keep teaching me to connect with him and get to that point where i can hear and where i can really find my purpose and place.

I walked into barnes and noble thinking about how fitting it is that the words “sour” and “dour” are so alike—in both meaning and in spelling, but how unfair, almost blasphemous, it is when words sound so much alike but are polar opposites like “happy” and “crappy.” that’s the way my mind was acting and why I decided I needed to break free.

So, doing something I usually reserve for all other seasons, I decided to take a real lunch break and get away from the office, hopping in my car and wandering over to the bookstore for some R&R (and some sugary starbucks).

There are a few places that are able to snap me back into place and wipe away any “sourness” and “dourness” I may be feeling (or otherwise self-pity): the always awe-inspiring Anthropologie, sometimes Forever21, a pretty park on a clear day, and a bookstore. Today was a bookstore kind of day. And it made the perfect prescription.

I’d gotten bent out of shape over this and that and spent last night in a complainy whiny mood that did nothing but pull me down further because I don’t like to complain and whine but you do it because you think it will make you feel better but it just makes it worse. See how that sentence just turned around and around in a circle? That’s the logic behind complaining. It leads nowhere, even if logic tells you it ought to.

I started listening to this podcast by Boundless.org, which is affiliated with Focus on the Family, but is aimed (I presume) at young adults/singles. The people who host it are down-to-earth and funny but insightful (which if you ask me, is the best kind). Anyway one of the hosts was talking about a friend she has who really likes this guy and he leads her on (by way of not saying “no”) in a limbo-sort-of-relationship that is not serious but is not “friends-only.” one of those her-heart-is-on-the-line but he-gets-to-eat-his-cake-too kind of situations that I believe we’re all too familiar with. The hosts battled it out and one of the ladies offered advice that I thought was quite fitting (and which, not un-tangentially, goes along with my statement above): That the woman in the situation—who feels heavily invested and has no desire to leave the “relationship” she’s spent months “building”–needs to do exactly what she doesn’t want to do: Instead of giving more, give less.

We think that by giving more (of our hearts), we’re drawing someone closer. But in situations like this, it seems that you just end up giving away more of yourself—to someone who doesn’t appreciate it. The better way to salvage the situation is to give less, because if it jolts him into waking up, then great! But if he just lets it be, at least you didn’t keep trudging down that path.

So it often is, that the way we think we’re making progress and getting what we want, takes us the exact opposite, tangled way.

Regardless, after 45 minutes trolling around Barnes and Noble and sipping my way and paging my way through various book jackets and magazine covers, I came back uplifted and encouraged, with the self pity and poor mood from yesterday having melted away with last drops of a white chocolate mocha.

Well I’m pretty pumped. How’s that for a change of pace? Yes, I’m breathing a sigh of relief too. Let’s hope things stay sunny like this for quite some time…

So what has caused everything to start looking up? A few things.

S-l-o-w d-o-w-n
Monday afternoon, I met one of the guys from church for lunch to talk about the idea of discipleship and how to nudge it in my different small groups. Besides the fact that he’s super smart and inspiring and full of advice and insight and spewing knowledge, it was nice to have that real-life challenge. That person that is holding me accountable to what I’m doing in other people’s lives and in my own and with my own perspective.
Like, he was telling me about the need to just focus on doing one thing at a time. When you accomplish one thing, then God will give you more. But don’t rush anymore. God is very one-step-at-a-time, vs. our society which is EVERYTHING ALL RIGHT NOW!!!! It’s challenged me to be content with what I have now and make the most of it, rather than try to accelerate everything and play hopscotch through it, leaping to the finish line. That—slowing down and taking my time in the here and now—isn’t something that comes easy to me. So that’s been a pacifying force/idea.

Drink up!
Yesterday we Starbucks-ed it with the lovelies, which was, fittingly, quite lovely! I know consumerism is currently seen as the devil (particularly with that new documentary, “What Would Jesus Buy?”), but I have to say that there are things like Starbucks that I think are worth the investment. Because it’s not the drink itself, but instead the time to chill with friends and spend hours hanging out, without having to fret “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” You just sit. And be. And my friends are the grounding force in my life. Period. End of story.

Girl talk
Also, last night I got to chat with my DEAR old friend, Kristin. Who, for the past year or so, I have probably only talked to once every few months. But I’ve already talked to her 3 times in the past week. And it’s glorious! She is so able to pump up my spirits, whether it’s quoting her new book (some kind of How to Survive a Break-Up book) or telling me about all the crazy scenarios she gets herself into. And of course I spill my guts and she spills hers and then we mop them up together. I think that kind of give-and-take is what’s so cathartic. She’s going through a break-up now, too, although admittedly, hers is much more devastating than mine; they were together for over 2 years and she moved across the country for him.

In the spirit
And today, I spent my lunch break doing some good, old-fashioned Christmas shopping, which makes me feel better to check more names off the list. And to come across some really funny or really fitting presents. I’d say I’m about 1/3 of the way through. But that’s a good, solid start—one I can stand on and feel less stressed about.

Making headway
Along with the whole idea of taking what you have now and not rushing through it and just going one step at a time with it, is the whole Paul sitch, which seems to be settling into a softer routine. and it’s nice to ease into that, whatever may come of it…

i’ve got to say, it’s been a picture-perfect thursday. paul’s been sick, so last night i went over to keep him company (and also learn how to play guitar hero, although i was disappointed that “reputation” wasn’t the joan jett version). we were listening to the new angels and airwaves cd that he got and fell asleep on his bedroom floor. i feel like lately i’ve been sleeping more and more, and half the time i feel like i ought to be back in high school, heading to bed at 10:30. i’ve just been chalking it up to “old age.”

anyway we woke up and i left around 2am, came home and decided to head in late to work. so i didn’t wake up until almost 10 when i made my way into work. it was a productive day at the office and flew by. came home, watched some ANTM, and here i am. in about an hour i’m going to go meet brianna at starbucks, which will be a nice way to wound down the night.

although i have been playing around with paint shop pro which came on my laptop but was always too complicated. i started messing around with it this morning and the stuff from the photoshop class i took back in college (which i can hardly believe is over 3 years ago!) has started coming back. maybe we’ll see some fun examples of that on here soon. i’d like to take photos more regularly. otherwise i feel like the new camera isn’t really going to use. in the meantime, here’s a picture i played with of me and paul:

olddaysportrait31.jpg

on a less “dear diary”-esque note, my church has started a blog that they update with ideas for bible readings and discussions. i think it’ll be a good tool to use for short daily readings/devotionals, especially because there’s no flipping or fumbling involved–click and it’s there, plus you can access it from anywhere. i love seeing churches and faith be so hip to the technological age; it’s pretty cool.

see? home by 10:30. refreshing.

this has been week no. 1 in my attempt to recalibrate. it has been good. although really it’s worked out less because of my attempts and more because everyone (meaning the lovelies and paul) have been busy. so i haven’t really had to try to take things slow and take time for myself. it’s nice to be eased into things.

yesterday, after having what was officially titled “my no good, very bad day” (don’t ask), i left work 15 minutes early and took the time to do something i haven’t done in over a month: run. in high school i was a really good runner. i played soccer and could almost always be the first player to finish all our laps around the practice complex. halfway through the season my junior year, though, i got really bad shin splints and couldn’t run without shooting pains. so i stopped running and was afraid to for years. this past summer i decided to try again. and, surprisingly, i wasn’t half bad. although i guess i’m not sure what i’m measuring it against, but i’m not disappointed in where i’ve picked up.

so it was, that i ran for an hour yesterday and was quite heartened by it. it did help clear the bumbling air that was gathering in my head.

today i went over to my parents’ house and visited my grandma who was actually much herself, which typically isn’t the case. that was such a good feeling. she was laughing and cracking jokes. she had a hard time hearing and many times misinterpreted what i was saying (i guess i have a hard time speaking up), but that made it more entertaining. she slipped a few times into her own little world, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it has been. that was a good feeling. we ordered pizza and i made tasty pumpkin cupcakes for sir paul and then i worked a new project of mine.

right now i have this crappy piece of cardboard that i made holes in with a hole punch and have strung my necklaces through. although i’ve received compliments on it, i think it’s pretty shoddy. so my new effort is to take a medium-sized branch and cut it down and then pop nails into it and spray paint it white. all i have left is the spray paint and mounting. cross your fingers. i can’t have my necklaces get tangled and this is the best idea i’ve come up with yet. (plus i just like nature-y stuff. i’m also working a poster to blow up for over my bed. more on that later.)

and i think the best part of my day was at work i decided to start working on my lesson plan for this sunday. if you don’t know, i teach sunday school for the teen girls at church. well every once and a while i like to do “Fireside Chats” with the girls–basically a chance for them to tap into what’s going on in their life and apply it to God and look at it through that lens, and get the support of the rest of the group. so, considering what’s been going on lately in my life, i decided to hone in this week on struggles. so i spent some time looking up verses and came across a bunch that just heartened me. it was pretty cool to go from, one moment being self-pitying and ‘woe is me’ to, the next, being content and satisfied despite the circumstances or ‘what if’s.

here’s an example, 2 cor. 4:16-18 (MSG): Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye.

one of the things i did was type up all the verses so that the girls can cut the various ones up and keep them with them, in their purse or put them on their mirror or in their locker–just so that they have them nearby when they need them for reassurance. i do that at work; have a little “inspiration/reassurance wall.” it’s mostly made of encouragements i received when i went to haiti this winter. and i look to it often, so i know it’s worthwhile. so i’m amped for it–for both my sake and for the girls’. i haven’t felt like i’ve really given them the time and effort they deserve lately, so i’d like to work on that.

although i did get an email today about the OTR efforts and that they might be acquiring a n old church down there and attempting “betterment” efforts like helping the homeless neighbors find jobs or learn to read or to write. that’s totally the kind of thing i want to be involved in. so we’ll see. i’m excited about the opportunity, although i’m already wondering how i would be able to fit yet another commitment into my schedule. but i think it’s a good thing. so i guess i just have trust that the pieces will all fall into their place. i have faith that they will… one way or another, they alway do, right?

that’s a pretty quote that i read in this lady’s blog. she seems like she lives such a pretty life, always cooking and baking and sewing clothes for her kids. seems very peaceful and serene in that it’s probably chaotic and crazy, but just the way you’d want it to be. who knows. anyway, yes, i liked the quote.

tomorrow i leave for good ole birmingham, alabama. i’m actually really, really looking forward to it. it will be me, becky, and an 8-hour car ride from here to there. and “there,” we’ll meet up with jackie, my old roommate from way back When; when we used to live in a little southern cottage and chase the flying cockroaches with bug spray and try to smash them with phonebooks and textbooks and when i burnt a whole pan of baked beans and our other roommate hated us and there was a visiting mouse and melted strainer and we worked at big-name magazines and hung out at southern bars and learned every word to “sweet home alabama” and watched “life was we know it” until it was cancelled and took a road trip to new orleans and got ourselves in all sorts of youthful debacles. and then she stayed there and i packed up my car and then on Christmas Eve 2004, drove back home through a snow storm with no idea what awaited me in my old hometown.

it was a really scary time in my life. i remember driving down there when i accepted the internship. jackie and i had never met, i had no idea what i was in for and was taking this as a leap of faith. i remember listening to the allister song that talks about starting over from “scratch”, which is exactly what i felt like i was doing:

you better start from scratch
it’s now or never
but we can’t look back
I need you with me
for another day
she’s so far away
yeah far away

I know there’s no time left for second chances
Still we’re right despite these circumstances
You’ve changed me more than you could ever know
So we will just hang on until tomorrow
so take my hand
don’t ever let me go

take our time
making sure that everything feels right
it won’t be easy
but I’m not afraid
she’s so far away

you better start from scratch
it’s now or never
but we can’t look back
I need you with me
for another day
she’s so far away
yeah far away

and as with so many other things in life, it all turned out beautifully. we made memories, i found a perfect job and moved back home and made amazing friends and an amazing little life for myself. so it will be interesting to journey back, now at the point where i am, and look at it all through that lens. on Friday, we’ll head over to Jackie’s and do dinner and reminisce and then head over to Innisfree, the bar that we used to walk to every weekend, and on Saturday our friend Liz is tying the knot so we’ll get to experience a proper Southern wedding. and then on Sunday… we make the trek back. maybe we can stop in Nashville for dinner or something? i’d enjoy that i think.

so we’ll see. but i’m looking forward to the break and the moment to catch my breath. i feel like i’ve been running full speed ahead and so now i realize that that isn’t healthy. so if you pray, i’d appreciate those kinds of prayers. just learning how to strike that balance. i went so far as to scribe a little list of rules: things like leave one night a week with nothing planned, do nothing (phone, visiting, etc.) after 10:30pm, and only schedule 2 things a night. (last night for instance involved a happy hour from 5 to 7, small group from 7:30 to 9:15, and stopping by paul’s from 9:30 to 10.) i just recognize that by running myself ragged i get stressed = fretful = crabby and that’s not worth it. that’s not me.

so thanks for any prayers, internet friends. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)

(also, in regular list-making fare, i got started on my christmas list. and that’s a month later than most years!)

when i was in elementary school, one of my favorite tv commercials was the spam one. not because i liked spam (it grossed me out), but because of the theme song for it, “i like bread and butter; i like toast and jam. i like those good and simple things, and that’s why i like spam.”

i always felt like i could identify with that refrain. i’ve never really been one for the over-the-top; i’m quite satisfied spending my days going for walks with friends or makeshift photoshoots and lounging outdoors and getting some ice-cream.

in college, i met a guy and when he called the next day to see about doing something, he asked what i wanted to do. of course i was lame and said, “i don’t know, what do you want to do?” he replied that he didn’t know, he thought we could watch a movie together or we could go get some ice-cream–he didn’t mind so much as we were hanging out. when i told my roommates what he’d said, it was the simplicity (and innocence?) of going-to-get-ice-cream that earned him a thumbs up (which he promptly lost, though, i’m sad to report).

anyway, i sometimes i wonder if all the fancy-schmancy stuff is an attempt to cover other things–to fancy ourselves up to other people’s expectations or status symbols. i often catch myself wondering if i can pull such-and-such off (most things in urbn fall in that category)–if it’s too trendy or too much for me. am i trying to be someone i’m not?

and so that’s why i think i gravitate to the simple things in life: there’s no pretense to them, and that makes them such a relief. and they embrace an innocence that, as a society, we’re all too ready to throw off and bury before it’s too late.  and even though i realize that in most cultures, i still live like the ultimate of royalty with a single room dedicated to cooking and another just to sitting and another just to sleeping, i am still trying to learn that it’s these simple things–just spent living and loving pulling away from all the distractions–are the things that are apt to chalk up the purest kind of happiness.  and yes, even ice-cream and toast and jam.

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