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.

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The Catalyst

Too busy, I have been too busy. And although I have been planning and thinking about how to work towards recalibrating my life, taking steps toward doing so have been small.

One thing I have noticed in my busyness, is that my stress and exhaustion have kept me from praying consistently. I think about taking time to pray, and then I get distracted. Or I feel too tired to pray, and I choose to do something mindless, something that I don’t have to think about.

I have been becoming frustrated with myself. I felt stuck as if I wanted to pray but just couldn’t. And then on Christmas Day my heart was touched. We were visiting Mom in her new home and she had some things that she had gone through and was deciding if she should get rid of them. So, I was looking through some containers of jewelry, just checking to see if there was anything I might want to keep. Something silver sparkled in the menagerie of pins and necklaces. I pulled it from amongst the other pieces, it was a silver necklace with a small oval pendant hanging on it. The oval part had folded hands, not etched in the silver, but raised. I flipped the oval over to look at the back, and etched in fine print were the words, “God answers prayer.”

Tears filled my eyes and emotion caught in my throat. How had I let life become so overwhelming that I no longer had time or energy to pray or spend with the Lord? How had I forgotten His faithfulness?

I put the necklace on and fingered the praying hands. My heart felt a tug and something inside released. I had felt as if in a vice grip of anger, frustration, and overwhelm. Resentful! And in the midst of it all I think I pushed God away. It really makes very little sense to me, because He has been working in amazing ways in my life, making things happen that only He could do. Ye I think I felt buried under all that was and is left undone. And somehow I still felt left very much alone. But I didn’t cry out to Him, I didn’t seem to have the focus or the energy to say anything.

This necklace, the folded hands, the words of promise on the back, encouraged my heart and made me feel my need again. My need for the Lord, my need to pray and to share my heart.

It feels like He reached for my hand, for my heart, and reminded me, hey, I’m still here, you don’t have to continue to carry that alone. How had I forgotten?

How very tender and sweet is my Heavenly Father who knows my wayward heart when it feels stuck in quicksand and reaches for me in such an unexpected way. He can use anything as a catalyst to pull us close, to help us feel His love and desire for our intimacy with Him.

Since that day I have been learning of some changes needed in my heart. The Lord is showing me daily where growth needs to take place.

I got together with a dear friend for coffee, to share our responses from a study we are doing together, to exchange Christmas presents, and to chat. We had a beautiful time. Just before we got ready to leave we shared pour personal prayer requests. She shared her struggles and need, then I shared mine. I told her through my responses to the questions and as I verbalized my requests how I had been so overwhelmed and preoccupied that my prayer life had been suffering. I shared how I needed to be quiet before the Lord instead of frantic and rushed.

The next day as I read in my Recalibrate Life read for January, I found myself in a chapter on prayer. Here in Ruth Haley Barton’s book, Sacred Rhythms I learned a little more about “breath prayers.” I saw what I had previously underlined and wrote in the margin. I noticed the breath prayer I had chosen. As I reread a few paragraphs giving instruction in deciding on your personal breath prayer, I noticed that I had missed an important part in how I wrote mine. I had not voiced a need, instead I had just made a statement. The self-sufficiency of that so-called prayer glared at me. How could I have missed that? I knew the need was the same, but this time I would voice the neediness. I wrote my new breath prayer in my prayer journal. “My Sweet Abba, Help me abide.”

I can’t do it alone. In order to continue to grow in my relationship with the Lord I need to find that quiet place of abiding on a regular basis. I need that place of intimacy and rest.

I closed my eyes and whispered my breath-prayer, tears immediately filled my eyes. At first it seemed puzzling to me, but a picture came to my mind. When a small child is in need of a nap but is fighting you as you attempt put him down, and the chase is on. Then, at last, when you catch the little one and hold them tight, usually tears ensue in the midst of the wrestling for calm. The child recognizes the comfort they have found, and their exhaustion catches up with them. They finally find rest.

There I was, tears sliding down my cheeks, recognizing I was where I needed to be. My tears came because I have wrestled so long with self-sufficiency and at last there in the abiding I found what I needed. A peacefulness settled over me. And the Lord brought a few verses to my mind.

Psalm 91:4 NLT “He will cover you with His feathers, He will shelter you with His wings, His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”

Psalm 63:7-8 NLT “Because You are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to You; Your strong right hand holds me securely.”

When I abide in the shadow of His wings, in His loving presence, I find there I can stop striving. I can just be there without words. A sweet place to rest. It is my hope to find this place often throughout my coming days. To just sit with my Lord. I have known this place before, but busyness caused me to lose my way.

The verses above are now printed in my planner on a page just before my daily pages. A small reminder of my neediness. I see the folded hands necklace every day, and choose to where it some. It has been a precious catalyst to help me find my way back from the chaos. And my breath prayer is only a whisper away to lead me into the Lord’s presence as He draws my heart to know it’s neediness for Him more and more.

How sweet and gentle is the Lover of my soul! How is He drawing you? What is He showing you that you need? Draw near to Him today to know His love for you more!