Practicing Simplicity

Last week I shared about how I was learning soul freedom. Seeing my scatteredness and my many distractions more clearly has pushed me forward in practicing simplicity in my moments. It has encouraged me, even more, in walking with slow-feet in my days.

I have been greatly helped this past week by an online course I am taking. This wonderful course by Mary Gallagher is such a blessing. You can find it on her website Simple Life Simple Faith. The course is called Find Your Simple and it has led me in finding more focus in my life.

It seems that only a few words at the right time can make all the difference. The words I am referring to that resonated with me are these. “Everything isn’t meant for me. I must choose wisely.” Wise words by Mary Gallagher.

After reading, “Everything isn’t meant for me.” I had to ask myself what really is meant for me? It quickly became very clear to me that I only really want my everything to draw me to Jesus, that is what is meant for me as His daughter. Busyness does not do that. Busyness leaves me frantic and distracted. But, I am finding that slowness leads me back to Him throughout my day.

Practicing simplicity in my moments allows me space to breathe. When I stop multitasking and do one thing to completion, I find I am present in that one thing. I am available to His words and the Spirit’s nudges. As I went through my day yesterday, one thing at a time got checked off my to-do list. Running errands, raking leaves (it’s fall), making a vegetable salad with the tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers from our patio garden, cutting back dead flowers, reading a chapter in a book, working through four loads of laundry, folding each load as it was finished, taking a walk, and doing some yoga. I didn’t rush, and I didn’t feel overwhelmed.

What surprised me is that I found I had a spirit of gratitude in my heart throughout the day, (well, most of the day). Overall, I felt gratitude, not frustration. I enjoyed the process, and my joy in that overflowed with thankfulness to the Lord. Besides that, I found I didn’t end up with a bunch of loose ends when my day was over. My tasks were complete and there was order. And that filled me with a feeling of peace and satisfaction.

Focusing on the task at hand gave me space to think, to be mindful of the Lord’s presence, to talk with Him as the moments went by. Not my normal, frantic cries for help, out of frustation, but rather to just be with Him in my day.

I have found a lacking in my ability to concentrate and make good decisions in my rushing and busyness. It begins before I even get out of bed, when I am racing through the coming day in my mind. This crazy-thinking has led me away from my routines. When the day starts out with me thinking about twenty things at once, it is hard to begin the day focused on reading the Word and praying. My mind wanders, and thoughts scatter. I think about all I need to do. It is hard to keep my mind stayed on Him, and to know His peace within.

I recently found that it is helpful for me to write my prayers as letters to the Lord. That too is slow. I write whatever is on my heart. I write about the verses that come to mind as I “pray.” I write responses to what I have read or studied. I write about my feelings, my worries and concerns, and the needs of others as they come to mind. I go back every few days and read through my prayers to mark down His answers.

I wrote my prayers years ago, but this “letter writing” is more relational. Now it is just heart-scribbles in an old journal that lead to connection in the quiet of the morning and in the sleepiness of bedtime. And I am loving it! My soul is refreshed.

I can’t do everything. I must choose wisely what I can do in the given moments of my days. What will draw me to Jesus? I am finding that slowness leads to less fretting, and more gratitude and joy. Practicing simplicity in life gives me space for cultivating connection and creativity. These are good things.

Recalibrating life isn’t just for this year. The learning process will be ongoing. I learn, I try, I fail, I learn more, I try again and again. It amazes me how quickly I fall back into old patterns after I just learned an important truth for my life. But one day at a time, moment-by-moment, I keep trying, I keep learning.

What about you, are you practicing simplicity in your moments and in your days? What leads you back to Jesus as you move through your day?

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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.

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.

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.