The Simple Life

Life simple?
We all crave the simple life. but it seems always to be out of reach.

When I write, initially I just throw stuff down. But as I go over it, I refine it.
I remove those extra words that say nothing.
It brings clarity, conciseness.
I don’t want to waste your time with my scattered thinking process of how I arrived at the truth. I give you the truth.
It simplifies the writing, but doesn’t make the lessons easier. 
Same with life.
To get the simple life we must remove the excess.
Prune the needless.
Cut away the extra.
Focus on the essential.
That is hard.
But when we do it, life becomes simple. (Not to be confused with easy.)

We hold onto things that make life, well, not so simple.
When I can’t solve my problems—I realize most are out of my control.
My lack of control can make me anxious, IF I hold onto it.
I evaluate what I can control.
Outside clutter is a window to what’s inside.
I cringe.
I start with my junk. I de-clutter. I can do that.

Over the years people have given me stuff to encourage or help at that time.
I’ve held onto them past the encouragement stage. They now do not help.
Why? I have grown since then. The moment is gone. Yet I still hold the gift.
A gift can help me re-live that moment. To visit again the specialness of that person’s act. But so can writing it in a journal. (If I re-read it.) Or taking a picture of it, if I have a file for it.

The boys have given me things through the years. I’d re-arrange them on my windowsill. They caused me to remember. 

But as I worked to de-clutter, I had to let go of some of those things. I didn’t need the item to remember the person. (Often the boys didn't remember who gave me the item.)
They were what was special, not the item
. I tucked those items in the Good Will box, cherishing what it brought, memories of their thoughtfulness and carefulness to find something I would enjoy.

I had acquired a lot from my grandparents. I never saw them use the item, they merely reminded me of them because they had them. Would I forget my grandparents without them? I hid those things in the Good Will box so I wouldn’t pull them back out. Some were antiques. If I could and wanted to spend the time, I could have sold them. But it wasn't worth my time. It would have sat in my house waiting for that "right person." The value of space was more important to me than recouping the cost of an item.

The motto—keep only what you love and use—stretched me.
We can only love so much. The more we have, the less we can enjoy what we have. (Our "love" is stretched over more "things.") And the love becomes a bondage which must be maintained rather than enjoyed. 

I kept a lot over the years. But I did not love it. Instead it became baggage moved from one cupboard to another, storing it for that special time that never came.
I clung to it, yet did not enjoy it. 
I let it go.

I saved things, not just from sentiment, but out of fear. 
What if I need it?
We have always had what we needed. My husband provides well for us. We live frugally so we may give to others and be proper stewards.
But keeping a drawer full of scrap paper for tomorrow is living in fear. 
I threw it out. 
Maybe come winter when we need kindling, I will wish for it back. But that is for tomorrow. And all those yesterdays didn’t need them.
I must trust God for those things.

Back when money was tight and there were no extras, we made do, substituted, became creative with what we had. 
Creativity abounds when you have nothing.

A fence needed fixed, I used lattice. A bookcase fell apart, and screws wouldn’t hold it together, duct tape to the rescue.
The boys said, "Mom used lattice or duct tape to fix everything."
I still have my duct tape. But when we de-cluttered behind the garage, I threw out all but two panels of lattice. They were sun-rotten, brittle, warped, and unable to serve any purpose.
The area looked clean. A burden lifted.
I no longer need those things. My boys have learned how to fix things right. I ask them.

When we use to go hiking, I would bring every possible thing needed. My husband would lug it on his back as he carried the children. We had diapers, wet ones, snacks, water, a first aid kit, a change of clothes for the baby, toddler and maybe the next one. It was like preparing for never coming home. 
But we used those things. We had good times. We made special moments.

Now my hiking necessities are smaller. No diapers for sure. Tough luck if my own clothes get wet. I take only what fits in my pockets and a small sack that holds water. I do wear a vest with many pockets. It simplifies the hike. My back doesn’t ache from the burden. (My husband carries the snacks!) My hand is free to hold my husband’s.

It’s not so much letting go, but cherishing what is important.
Things are the wood, hay and stubble that Jesus warned us against cherishing.
When I let go of those things, I have more time for people. I don’t spend my time cleaning or storing or finding something that I lost amidst all the stuff.
I can allow people to come, even if I didn't clean. Because it is ready for them. They find rest and safety in my home.

This bottom shelf holds all my family pictures for 30 years, plus some of the boys' individual albums. 

Books and photographs were the hardest.
I am still working through these. 
Last year, I condensed the boys’ photo albums (in addition to the family album, I made the boys a separate album of their own pictures), scanning the pages and making a book through SNAPFISH. Their books went from being three inches fat to a slim ½ inch per book. They stack on one shelf, instead of taking up rows of book cases.

Recently I went through my cook books. I scanned those recipes that I ACTUALLY TRIED AND LIKED. I threw out all those “wanna-be’s.” If I hadn’t tried them by now, I wasn’t going to.
Even my grandma recipes that she didn’t try had to go. I kept her “tried and true” recipes. The one or two recipes I used from other cook books were scanned and I gave away the books. I kept the Betty Crocker’s and  Better Home's books Mom gave me when I got married. They give recipes from scratch that are hard to find now. 
I made a book similar to the boy’s photo book with SNAPFISH. My recipe notebook went from a bulging 5 inches to a slim ½ inch. Now I don’t waste time trying to find that one recipe that I know works. My shelf of cookbooks went from a lot of unused books to four.
Nor do I look at my shelf and feel guilty that I haven’t tried all those recipes.
I considered making copies for my daughters-in-law. But didn’t want to burden them with something they wouldn’t use!

Simple takes away the guilt. No remorse over unfinished projects, untried recipes, unread books. They are gone.
​Gives focus on what is essential.

Don't Have Time?
Ever rock or nurse a baby and look across the room at some mess? You fixate on that mess that you cannot clean now. You get all worked up over it to the point that you can’t rest.
God gave moms that special time to rest, albeit nursing or rocking a toddler, because He knew moms would not rest without those forced times.
Yet, we don't appreciate the rest He gives.
We may be forced to sit, but our mind is whirling too many miles to count. We must do something, even though we can’t.
Take those times to rest your mind. Don’t think of what you shall do when you can. Don’t rehearse what must be done.
That rest will be a battle at first. But make it habit. Treasure the short time of holding that little one. And thank God for it. 
Dirt will always be there. You will always battle clutter.
But the rest will sustain you for your next battle.

It's those other "clutter" things that hinder your focus.
People say they don’t have time to focus on what's important. Maybe they don’t.
Or maybe their clutter is choking out what life they could be living.
Do they relax in front of the tv for hours, letting the tv control their time and thoughts?
Do they scroll Facebook for what everyone else is doing, and lose an hour or two of their own life?
Do they “research” the internet for what could be wrong, only to find they just have the flu?
Has clutter in a different form stolen their life?
Clutter isn’t just stuff. It’s habits, schedules, life.

Life is simple. Love and obey God.
But we get too busy with our stuff, our time, our hobbies, our…. and forget it’s all about God.

We make life complicated by added our stuff, whether it be stuff or habits that bind or activities that steal our energy from what God wants us to do.
If your schedule is so complicated that your always running and never resting, find why.
Jesus was never in a hurry. He rested. He did what He came to do.
I doubt that you have anything more important to do than Jesus had.

We can’t trust God because we can’t let go of what we hold in our hands.
onveniences and comforts become our constraints. 
We have, but must maintain. It enslaves us.

George Mueller told his wife they could not reach the lost with tapestries on the walls and fancy tea sets.
These were her wedding heirlooms. She sold them.
They trusted God for everything.
God used them to do great things.
Doing great things required focus on the important.

Jesus said, "It is more difficult for a rich man to enter His kingdom . . ."
Not that God couldn’t save him, but that the rich man wouldn’t let go of what hindered him from knowing God.

We are rich in more ways than we know. But riches can cloud our sight of eternity. 
Comfort can obscure our trust in God.
Stuff can hinder exposing ourselves to God.
We cannot hide behind our stuff when we stand before God.
We will be exposed, naked and undone. Some will be surprised.
All will fall at His feet and worship.

Life is simple. But not easy. 
The path to knowing and following God is hard.
There are so many things that trip us up.
We get distracted, lose focus and forget perspective.
We get buried in our stuff.

Sometimes, just getting rid of the outside stuff helps us focus on what is important on the inside.

Life Simple?
You bet. 

Life easy?
Not at all.

Displaying all 2 comments

I am reading a book right now that agrees with you totally. So between now and Thanksgiving when all our family is coming (even Christi down from AK), I've decided to go through the house to see what I REALLY cherish and what has only sat there for years with me hardly noticing. Thank you for the encouragement. Another incentive is that Jeremy's girlfriend was here for the weekend (not yet engaged, but heading that way) and her mother is trying to do this, so I told Karin that when she comes at Thanksgiving, she'll see the difference. I don't dare fail!

You are inspiring me to declutter my own home and life! Especially with little kids, it is so easy to collect all the stuff (look Mom, a new toy I desperately need!!) and then never move along the old stuff no longer used or needed.

Good reminder to rest when nursing or otherwise physically restrained. It is way too easy to just veg on the phone (I have begun thinking of it as mind candy) instead of going to the work, haha, to rest and pray. It is a discipline for sure! I have found I have so much more mental space when I do manage to limit the phone time.

I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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