What is at the Heart of Simplicity?

Only as we allow the love of Christ to penetrate our wounds will we be able to love again as children love. Only as we open ourselves to the love of Christ and His people can we begin our journey toward being real.” Claire Cloninger

My Recalibrate Life Read this month is A Place Called Simplicity: The Quiet Beauty of Simple Living by Claire Cloninger.

It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord brings it all together. Somehow He shows us exactly what our hearts need in order to heal. And He teaches us what is necessary for our souls to be cultivated and grow in Christlikeness.

The words of the quote at the beginning of this post touch my heart deeply. The words really resonate with me because the Lord is making their truth real in my life. He has been leading me in learning about His love. My learning is taking place mostly through my practice of lingering and listening.

I am learning that His love truly satisfies every one of my needs. As I grow in willingness in being vulnerable, places deep within are opening. These are places that have been locked closed in self-protection and fear for years. I am finding the healing balm of His love is touching every wound within me. The broken pieces of my heart are being bound together, and I am feeling a new wholeness within.

There have been some very important verses that He has been using in this process. I will be sharing more about these verses in future posts.

Today I want to share generally about what is changing within me in that process. The healing that is taking place is changing my life.

First of all, the way I love others is not as often about striving and people-pleasing. But instead my love for others is coming out of the fullness of the love the Lord is filling me with. This is a big step of simplicity in my life, because I am realizing when I depend on Him and grow in His love I can rest.

Secondly, the way I look at life and plan my days is less about my unending to-do list and getting recognition or people-pleasimg. My new outlook leaves room for a slower pace. I don’t need to earn love. We don’t have to do anything to receive His love, in fact, nothing can make Him love us more.

Finally, I am learning strategies to bring myself back when I fall into the old patterns. I am learning of His love as a respite. Oh, I have known of His love for a long time. The problem is it hadn’t touched my heart fully because my heart was so calloused and walled off in fear and self-protection. But as the Lord’s love seeps into the crevices opened by growing trust.

I see how I can run to Him like a toddler looking for mommy during play. The way they look to see if she is still there, making sure nothing has changed, to know that they are still safe. So, in my moments of doubt and fear, I look to see if God is real, and if He is Who He says and I am finding that He is. I am finding also that He is always there, ready to meet me wherever I am.

Praying His Word has led me in knowing these truths in my life and in my heart. And as they become a part of me I am choosing differently. I am learning to live out of a heart that has found the secret to simplicity in living focused on and rooted in His love. I still stumble and people-please and strive at times, but the Lord is at work within my heart changing all of that.

I am learning that it is focusing on the Lord, learning of His love, and reaching for Him moment-by-moment in the midst of neediness or fear. It changes everything, because when we are not focused fully on Him, we are striving to fill the emptiness inside with things and with what we think people should give us, like love and acknowledgement. We reach for these things out of our fear, emptiness, and neediness in order to fill the God-sized hole in our hearts. And, you know what, no matter how hard we work to fill it or keep it full, it will never happen, Only God and His love are meant to fill it.

I know, I am probably not telling you anything that you didn’t aready know. But I have to admit I always thought I knew God’s love, and I did know about it. I just didn’t allow it in fully, I guarded my heart out of fear. Now, after all these years, the reality of the healing effects of His love is pouring into my heart. His love is finally becoming more real to me. In a way that seems too hard to explain, I just know I feel the difference inside and I see a difference in my response to life.

I will be sharing more about my times of listening, lingering, and learning of His love as I spend time in His Word and in prayer in some of my future posts. I hope you will join me. I hope too, that you will find hope in His love in the midst of whatever life is bringing you.

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Recalibrating Life: Halfway through 2019

We are approaching the end of June, which means I have been on this journey of “recalibrating life” for six months. This week I want to share how I am growing and in what areas I need to continue to work at. I also want to share some changes that I am making for the second half of 2019.

I am especially excited that the changes I am making in my life are sticking. Many of these ideas have come out of or have been prompted by the “recalibrate life” books I have been reading.

Honoring the Sabbath has been my intention for the past few years. The last couple years I tried to set the day aside but I probably only followed through 60% of the time.

  • This year I have been able to really keep the Sabbath, by living out a slow, restful Sundays, honoring the Lord in His glory and sovereignty. My day begins with coffee/ breakfast and my personal time with the Lord, then attending worship service. Lunch and supper are simple soup or salad meals. An afternoon nap is often a regular part of the day. The remainder of the day is filled with reading and journaling, watching movies together, taking walks, or time with our extended family. It is consistently a day I really look forward to.

I shared about learning to have “slow feet” in a previous post The Diligent Intentionality of Slow Feet. You can read about that here. I am also learning to slow down in many areas. One of the most important has been in my time with the Lord. And that time has grown to be so much richer.

  • I am lingering with the Lord and really listening. I shared more about my learning about lingering here. I am especially enjoying scripture prayer. The Holy Spirit is leading me in such deep growth and I am basking in His love. I will be sharing more about this in a couple of my upcoming posts.

I know I have gone through seasons of slowing down and being present with the Lord, really lingering, but then I have drifted back into rushing through. This time I don’t think I will be going back, I don’t want to miss something so satisfying.

Setting in place an evening routine is another part of recalibrating life for me that has been extremely positive and helpful.

  • My evening routine usually goes something like this: dinner, dishes, a neighborhood walk, a bath, relaxing with my husband, pet care, then reading, and journaling right before sleep. I am loving it. It is slow and I breathe deeply in it! I move through my evenings feeling peaceful, not rushed and overwhelmed.

I am still tweaking my morning routine, trying to get exercise in it on a regular basis. Making my husband’s lunch for the next day, when I make dinner the night before, has really helped to make my mornings less hectic. I will share more about my morning routine once I feel more settled into it.

I am not rushing through life so driven and constantly striving. I am even choosing to take time for self-care.

  • I am giving myself permission to stop during my days, when I am home, to relax, to read, or to take a nap if I haven’t slept well. I no longer feel like I live in a “pressure cooker.” I can’t even begin to tell you how happy that makes me!

I am realizing more and more the importance of relying on the Lord and I have been seeking Him more in the midst of my days.

  • One thing that has helped me immensely, when anxiety seems to consume me at times, is remembering to do breath prayer. I have a few standby prayers that I rely on and they center me on trusting in the sovereignty of God. It is a wonderful practice that brings me home to His heart of love.

Having too much stuff and not enough time to keep it all organized really has caused me stress! But I am changing that too!

  • I am continuing to declutter and am really enjoying the open spaces. It is bringing a calm deep within. It is helping me get ready for our move, but it feels relaxed. I am not feeling stressed out as I have in the past.

Actually my feeling less stressed is a result of a combination of me decluttering both the house and my calendar.

  • I have cleared the non-essential from my calendar and am choosing to just add a very few special things to look forward to occasionally, like the baroque concert a couple weeks ago. I don’t feel as though I have to fill my calendar to feel worthwhile. I am loving the whitespace. I don’t “need” to get together with everyone. I have a couple of really close friends that I spend time with regularly and being with them feeds my soul because we are sisters in Christ and share deeply! I don’t want to be gone or busy every minute as I have in the past.

Another area that I have made some changes in is that of meal planning.

  • I am choosing to cook simpler meals. They are less time consuming and delicious. I find cooking to be very enjoyable until I get myself feeling overwhelmed because of trying to do too much. So, simplifying the meals has been very helpful and healthy.

There are a few things that I still want to incorporate into this recalibrating life season from the books I have already read. Specifically, right now, those are more spiritual practices that lead me in self-exaination and discernment. I started doing them when I first read about them but they have fallen by the wayside. I feel that I really want to make them a part of my life because they seem very beneficial to my relationship with the Lord.

I will be changing a few of the titles of my Recalibrate Life reads for the remainder of the year. I have decided on some different books that feel like a better fit for me at this point in the journey. I am still reviewing and working through some of the questions and answers in previous books. There has been a lot to take in and a lot to contemplate as I read and study these books. I am enjoying all of the learning that is taking place!

Now, about the changes that will affect you. Next week I will share my final post related to “A Place Called Simplicity” by Claire Cloninger. Then beginning in July and for the remainder of 2019 I will be posting just twice each month. One of my posts will be my response to the Recalibrate Life books I am reading. The other post will be about practices I have incorporated into my life or more about what I am learning as I make life application of some new practices. On occasion there may be an extra post I will share, but that will only once in a while.

I will decide at the end of 2019, how I will proceed with posting for 2020. I am learning so much and really feel so many positive effects in my life. Recognizing this makes me want to spend more time in the actual practice of what I am learning. But I also want to continue to share how it is changing my life. So this is about really finding a balance.

Thank you for being here as I learn and share about this journey. I enjoy your comments and encouragement very much.

Minutes or Moments?

Time, is there ever enough of it? It doesn’t seem like it. My to-do lists always seem longer than the hours in the day.

This month my Recalibrate Life read is A Place Called Simplicity: The Quiet Beauty of Simple Living by Claire Cloninger.

The feeling that we lack time seems to complicate life; it leaves us frustrated, overwhelmed and worried. As we click through the to-do’s on our lists, our eyes are constantly on the clock.

When I am really busy I often time-out my chores on paper from the time I need to be done to the time that I am beginning them, working backwards. This is especially true if I am having guests over for dinner and I want to be sure all of the food is ready at the same time.

Cloninger speaks of two types of time in her book. One is “chronos” which is the Greek word for “clock controlled” time. The other is “kairos” which she describes as “God-controlled time measured by moments rather than minutes.”

I know there are so many times throughout the course of a week that I think or say aloud “I need more time.” Especially when I see the day going by too quickly and only half of my list completed. Cloninger asks an important question, she wonders, “[w]hich kind of time are we really craving when we hunger for more time?” Is it more clock time or “more boring hours that never seem to pass, more frantic minutes to spend rushing around and racing against our deadlines? Or are we really hungering for more meaning-filled God-time, more of the deep, sweet contentment that fills us when we are able to rest for a moment in the timeless present?”

I know I definitely don’t want more frantic frenzied moments, yet I do want to get my work done. But even more than that, I want “more meaning-filled God-time.” I need more of what I call “breathe-deeply moments.” Time where I know my heart rate slows and I take long deep breaths as I totally relax.

I am enjoying some breathe-deeply moments as I write this post. I drove 40 minutes this morning to hear a baroque concert; violin, cello,and flute music. So I am sitting outside on this cloudy, cool morning sipping a cup of creamy, hot coffee and enjoying the smell of the flowers around me. The birds are singing loudly with the music that is being played. Music from the 1750’s-1820’s. I am breathing deeply, watching the birds fly around, looking at the people seated here in the courtyard, just taking in the beauty and holiness of this moment. I am in the courtyard of an Italian renaissance style villa.

It is in being fully present here that I realized the truth of the statement,”the beauty and holiness of the moment.” When I sat down here, the musicians were practicing, the birds serenading, and the reality of the peace I felt within overcame me as tears filled my eyes. The Lord is in this place. He created the beauty that surrounds me, visual and audible. I am all here and writing this post seems so timely as I soak in this God-moment.

Cloninger says “we cannot manufacture a kairos moment.” It would be possible for me to be in this place anxious and fretting over what the rest of my day holds, and not be all present. So it isn’t necessarily about the time and the place. There are times I sit out on my patio and breathe deeply and other times I only see all the weeds that need pulling in the surrounding gardens. It is really all about the way we look at life. We must choose to look at it in a new way.

I almost didn’t come here this morning. I had planned it for a few weeks but that was before I knew about the dinner plans we have tonight, which means for four hours of driving later today. So last night when I looked at my planner, I thought about how I really didn’t want to be gone that much. But this morning when I woke up I felt extremely sad thinking about not going, and I knew how much I would regret it. This concert is something I have really been looking forward to, so I decided to give into the desire. I set aside my time-monitoring for the day and came anyway.

I tend to worry too much about time. Cloninger says, “[w]e should make our plans, commit them to God and then determine to receive today like a 24-hour treasure to enjoy and celebrate.” What a beautiful way to think about time and take in the moments gifted to us by God! She also makes other suggestions of how we can help ourselves find more kairos moments, I will share the ones that resonate most with me.

I know I miss all too many moments because of my rushing about. Cloninger reminds us that God’s Word tells us, in Ephesians 5:16, that we are to make “the most of every opportunity.” I get to choose, will I continue to rush around or will I breathe deeply and allow my soul to be filled as I enjoy the precious gifts God has graced my life with? This morning’s concert was a choice, it was an opportunity I almost missed out on. I am so glad I chose to come!

Cloninger also encourages us to “not wait to be happy.” So often we put off things to some day, and end up missing out. Like the dress you are saving for some special occasion because it was an extravagant purchase. Or the antique dish you refuse to use because it may get broken so it remains wrapped safely in the cupboard because it is too precious.

I get it, I have done those things, but I am choosing differently. I have some of my Omah and Opah’s old china in the cupboard, and I have let it sit for many years, until about a year ago. One day I was having a dear friend over for lunch and decided to eat off the plates and sip coffee from the tiny cups. It gave me more pleasure than I can even tell you. It brought back memories, and led me to share stories and tears. It was a beautiful time, kairos moments for sure. I breathed in deeply the memory of the comfort of being close to my precious grandparents.

The author also encourages us to “slow down, to stop rushing, and to stop focusing on on the destination and begin enjoying the journey.” I am totally focused on the destination all too often, and missing the journey. This is definitely an area I need to work on. Life is all about the journey, but we miss it looking for something better in the future. Be present, be here now.

Another suggestion involves remembering to spend the time we set aside on things that are meaningful. One thing that my journey in recalibrating life is teaching me is to really evaluate my choices. Are they adding to my joy? Are they part of my God-given purpose? Cloninger says that we need to weed out what does not add to life–like time-gobblers. This is something I am also learning. I need to look for the things that lead to rest and renewal. It is obvious that some things are non-negotiables, but there are others that we get to decide on. And with those I am choosing the path of rest and renewal.

I recently read a book that spoke of how the woman knew how to live life with “uncomplicated abandon…” that means spontaneity, not planning every single minute. I am not good at that, but I am going to start setting aside moments in my day to live just that way, and learn. It will be slow, I know, but I have to start somewhere.

Well, the concert is over, and I don’t want to leave. I don’t want these moments to end. I know how quickly I fall back into living with the clock as my taskmaster, and forgetting to find joy in living my God-given life. Change is hard, and slow, but learning this is well worth the effort.

How are you living life? Mostly frantic in the busyness of the minutes in your day or are you enjoying moments that only God can give? Take time to look for the kairos moments and find rest and renewal in your days.

Choices in Simplicity

“If your life is rushed or stressed or complicated. You may feel that circumstances or fate have somehow trapped you in your crazy lifestyle. But I would challenge you to look very closely at your life and see how often your choices are dictating the simplicity or the chaos in which you live.”

This statement makes me realize that more often than not I am the maker of my own chaos. I am looking for better choices. This month my Recalibrate Life read is A Place Called Simplicity: The Quiet Beauty of Simple Living by Claire Cloninger.

This is an older book. There are many recently published books on the subject of simplifying life, downsizing, and decluttering. But I chose to reread this one because it isn’t a how-to book, instead it’s more of a change from the inside-out book. Simplicity begins within us.

When we finally get to the place that the chaos of life overwhelms us and we decide something has to change, I am happy to say we have some choices. We have to learn to make “simplifying choices.”

One of the choices Cloninger shares is that of choosing “to limit our options voluntarily.” Sometimes our options are limited by circumstances, but when they aren’t, we may need to set our own limits.

So, you may be wondering what would that look like. First, you need to decide what you want to set limits on. Will it be the number of the activities you’re involved in? Or will it be limiting your possessions in some way? Or maybe you need to cut back on how many relationships you’re involved in? Or possibly it is necessary for you, like me, to set limits in all of the areas.

There are so many things I just want to have or have felt the need for. There are so many activities I want to do. And there are so many interesting people with whom I want to be involved with. But there are not enough hours in the day.

One of the choices I have recently made has involved a book club I am a part of. I like the people in my book club, but haven’t enjoyed the books being selected. I considered quitting, and then decided not to go every month because I didn’t want to lose touch with the group. So now I am only stopping in occasionally. I don’t read the book, but instead go for the sole purpose of reconnecting. I stay for the first part of the meeting and when the book discussion begins I leave. This has been working very well because I get to stay in touch without a big time commitmentment.

Cloninger says, “Simply paring down the number of things that draw on our time and energy gives us a heightened excitement and a deepened caring for the select few that remain.” This is so true. I have two close friends that I consistently meet with for coffee. We share deeply and laugh hard, and I leave feeling connected and refreshed. There are many other people I want to add into a time slot on my calendar, but being so busy really only leads to me feeling frantic and overwhelmed. I am deeply nourished by the two I meet with regularly. And that is the best I can do right now with the other commitments I have in my life.

I am also making some choices in the area of possessions. We are going to be moving in a few months and I’m working through closets and rooms, deciding what to keep, and what I just need to get rid of. I could pack it all up, but there are so many things that I haven’t used and really do not need. So, boxes of extra, non-essentials are going to Salvation Army and some things are just being put in the garbage or into the recycle bin.

This move is changing my shopping habits as well, I’m choosing not to buy things because I don’t want to pack them. So I choose to buy the necessary and the essential, not the on-a-whim purchases that just catch my eye.

I also am using up leftover shampoo, detergents, and cleaners, as well as other consumables. As I recycle the empty bottles our shelves are slowly looking less cluttered.

Cloninger suggests that our paring down be guided by “a positive organizing principle.” We have to consider “what essential priority…motivates our choices.” She says that, “Each life revolves around it’s own central belief system.” Finding this principle is, “a vital step toward simplicity.”

Unfortunately, I think my belief system has been centered around filling the hole inside, feeding the hunger with things that comfort. And with that belief system, the many purchases that initially brought a few moments of comfort have led to more clutter, as well as, more stress in my life.

Cloninger says that her belief system was all about “people -pleasing”. And it left her feeling “scattered and fragmented.” I am right there with her, running in too many directions with too many things and too many ideas I want to try.

I am also realizing the importance of my “hunger” being filled by the Lord’s unconditional love. I have mentioned this before and Cloninger brought me back to this important truth, I need Him to “quench my thirst.” I need Him to fill the emptiness within. I know this to be true, but so often I get pulled back into the needy-thinking.

Finding the place of simplicity is an ongoing journey with day-to-day, moment-by-moment choices. And it means continually returning to the Lord to find my all-in-all in Him rather than in possessions, activities, or other people. Only He can fill the emptiness and meet the needs that our souls cry out for. No other choices will satisfy.

Next week we will be focusing on the subject of time, specifically, chronos-time versus kairos-time. The subject fascinates me, and I know which I currently live in and which I want to live more of my life in. I hope you will join me.

*The photo is from Unsplash.