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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Living Simply: What Does it {really} Mean?

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” -William Morris

I was so badly bruised in Ethiopia. The bruising is manifesting itself in so many different ways.

I came home with a beautiful brown-eyed boy tucked into my arms and his country tucked into my heart. Though I felt so much joy, so much happiness, at finally having our son here in our home, my insides were also in turmoil. I can never look at my beautiful boy and not remember what I saw, what I now know, and that changes everything. I am living with a daily reminder of Ethiopia.

For the first three weeks home with Jamesy I could not breathe, I could not relax, I could not enjoy some of the most precious moments our family has ever been given. I was being suffocated in my home. The "stuff" that for so long I thought was so important was closing in on me, consuming me - my time, my energy, my thoughts. It was daily robbing bits of my joy. I thought about Ethiopia and what I knew, and I could not reconcile the two.

Jim and I have been wrestling through this knowing and how it must change our living. We don't believe God desires for anyone to live in poverty, so that is not the answer. But when people say God wants me to have nice things justifying their material possessions, well that sits in my gut like fingernails on a chalkboard. Where does the Bible say that? Yes, God wants our needs to be met. I do believe there is a standard of living that He desires for His children, but as Jim and I have been talking we do not believe that it is an American standard of living.

So, what is the standard?

{sigh} I'm not sure. Maybe it is not cut and dry. But this much I do know - we have not been living the way God desires our family to live - consumed with our stuff - cleaning it, moving it, storing it, sorting it - all of it steals the precious gift of time God has given us to steward. It is stealing our time away from loving people well. I was not stewarding my time in a godly way. I couldn't - not with all of the "stuff".

I happened on Tsh Oxenreider's book Organized Simplicity:The clutter free approach to intentional living. (I believe I first heard of this book via a blog post that I read of another woman who was reading the book.) What caught my attention was the intentional living part. That is what I so desire for my life - for it to be intentional - with purpose - my parenting, my wifery, my homemaking, my homeschooling, my ministries, etc. I read the book in a day (after ordering it for free with my swagbucks! ) and was hooked. I loved the author's perspective on simple living. She redefines it in a way that makes so much sense - especially for me as a believer desperate to live my life in a way that pleases my God. Tsh spends the whole first part of the book defining simple living - getting away from the "buzz word - going green" definition that we have all grown accustomed too.

Summing up her definition simply {grin} Living Simply just means simplifying your life (and it is not cookie cutter for everyone). Simple right?! {wink}

So for five days last week, I went room by room, closet, by closet, space by space in my house and simplified everything. (Yes, Tsh recommends 10 days. I am an overachiever, and I just wanted it DONE!) My husband was a huge help, although a few times he raised his eyebrows and I am sure wondered if meals would ever go back to normal. He helped me kick start the process on his day off with the toy room and living room. Tsh suggests tackling one room at a time and emptying the entire room - cleaning it top to bottom and then only putting back what is either useful or beautiful. Yes, I did that in my entire house. Yes, it was a ton, a ton of work.





The book suggests holding a yard sale. Just the thought of that made me break out in hives, so I opted out of that. BUT we eliminated at least 50 garbage bags of "stuff" {cringe} from our house - it is all GONE!

And I can breathe!

There are a lot of helpful things in the book such as recipes for homemade cleaning products, practical checklists to go room-by-room in your house and an appendix filled with great printables to help assist in running a home smoothly and simply.

Jim and I were also able to come up with a mission statement for our home upon Tsh's suggestion, and I love it.


Overall I am just so changed by Ethiopia, my son, God opening our eyes to the world outside of us, and now - this book has been added to the puzzle as we learn to live our life in a way that truly emulates Jesus Christ.

I know this is a life-long battle that I will have to fight with my flesh - the desire for more. I love yard saling and bargain shopping for things that we "might" need, and that has. to. stop. I do not believe that I am honoring Christ when I am doing that. I am wasting time and resources. I hope to go through my home room-by-room (not necessarily pulling everything out again!) and simplify every 3-4 months. Hopefully, it is never as massive as a clean out as this time was. I already know that there will be items that do not make the next "cut" and get eliminated, and I am okay with that.

I want living simply to be part of my life so that my time, my resources, my desires can be completely focused on Jesus Christ. I believe that is what God taught me the most last week as I went through our "stuff". Our possesions - our "stuff" had become my idol as I allowed it to consume my time, my resources, my desires.

I've had enough of the "stuff".

I feel as if I did not only spring clean my home, but more significantly my heart.



Unknown said...

Beautiful! I have done this a few times-but I know in my heart that I have still too much stuff around-that our standards of living and what we "need" to survive is so not the case. I want to become more simple in our living and what we half to have to live.
This was so great-thanks for sharing it.
Your baby is beautiful-what is happening with his eye appointments lately? I have been praying for healing with all of this-I have been excited to read how far he has come from you being told he was blind.
God is good.

Hopegirl said...

thank you so much for posting this/ sharing. I feel the same way.. and my thoughts have been consumed with material things all my life. American culture is so faulty, the worldly mindset is something we all have to fight with God on our side in the battle.

Kim said...

This was just beautifully written, and definitely inspiring. Thank you.

BARBIE said...

God has been speaking to me about simplifying my life. I can't say I have too much to get rid of these days, but I am always surprised by the things I find that clutter up my life and steal my time with Him.

Anonymous said...

I love this post, and am on the same journey to simple. It is such a learning and growth process, as I seem to take 2 steps forward and one step back. Thanks for sharing about the book, I have put off purchasing it bc I am trying not to keep buying all the books I want. But maybe this is one that would be a good one to own?? Thanks for sharing.

The Imperfect Sojourner said...

We're doing the same thing. I must search out that book. I am so glad you visited my blog today and therefore I found your writings because already i see alot of the life God is moving me in to...steps ahead in your accounts and in your life. It is inspiring and comforting x

Danelle Townsend said...

This is me!
I have never been to Ethiopia, so I don't have that perspective. I know that must be incredible. Totally humbling. . completely realizing what we take for granted so easily. . .
However, I have the ORGANIZED SIMPLICITY book and have been on a quest for the simple. Stuff absolutely drains me. Completely. And the more I give away, the more freedom I feel.
It is so hard to know the balance between what we should give and what we should "have". . but I agree, every blessing comes from Him and I know He wouldn't want anyone to live in poverty.

Melissa said...

This is wonderful! I especially love your family mission statement!

I struggle with the issue of "stuff," too. Right now we have too many balls in the air to even think about tackling it. BUT after my test results come in, I will have to think about it again.

Jamesy is SO cute! Those eyes!

Jennifer said...

Can I just say that I really LOVED this post! It's amazing the perspective you get when you see how other's live and suddenly all the "stuff" we have, doesn't seem needed!;-D Your family is beautiful.

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