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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Living Intentionally or on Autopilot

Psalm 86:11 “Teach me your way O LORD and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name.”

How would you describe your life — are you living intentionally or are you running through life on autopilot?

I have been working my way through the book “He Restores My Soul” by Jennifer Kennedy Dean. This past week focused on having a steadfast heart. She talked about setting our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2). A steadfast heart is an undivided heart. It is a heart with deliberate and intentionally focused on God and His Word.

In Jan Johnson’s book Abundant Simplicity, she states, “We allow purity of heart to grow by willing one thing only –an ever-expanding life with God. Our falling in love with God should be what decides everything in our lives. Johnson goes on to say that “[the] single-minded person does the next single thing that is needed in order to focus on God instead of giving into the automatic response of the past. To treasure God is to have a single-focused life (Matthew 6:19-23).”

Living in simplicity is all about focus, and as a Christian it is about focusing on God. My life to this point mostly would not be described by the word “simplicity.” I am sure busy, overwhelming, exhausting, and distracted are words that describe my life much more accurately. But on the road to recalibrating my life I am seeking simplicity in all of it. And in order to get there it will much more about being intentional, rather than living on autopilot.

So, just how do they look different? I think autopilot is all about doing what you feel you need to do, or what you know needs to be done. And sometimes that means running scattered as you put out fires. When we lack intentionality Johnson says we “[scatter] our time and energy among things that don’t fit with what we really want. And in doing so we live in frustration. Johnson attributes our frustration to not responding to God’s longing within us. In my last post I shared about how I was Learning to Long for God.

I have felt like I have lived on autopilot, racing through life with an endless to-do list and my pencil to check things off. And for the most part, without a thought about my longings or God’s longings. I only know I got to the end of most every day feeling very frustrated. I guess I always attributed that to not accomplishing everything on my list of to-do’s. But I am realizing it as more about my divided heart living with unsatisfied longings. This left me feeling discontent and restless. It always felt like there should be more. But who could fit one more thing into the day?

My endless to-do list kept me so busy that I had no time to listen to God or to the longings of my heart. But the discipline of simplicity gives us an invitation to “lay aside every weight that hinders us” (Hebrews 12:1). Sometimes the things we need to lay aside may be “good things” but they are things that lead us to be distracted and keep us from being focused. Whereas living intentionally, Johnson explains, “means replacing autopilot by living “deliberately” as Henry David Thoreau called it.”

When we choose simplicity and live with intentionality we have to take time to do some re-evaluating. I think the first step in this is taking time to soul-search deep within to better understand our longings. And from there we seek the Lord to help us learn how are longings lead us back to Him. We have to take time to hear Him speak into our hearts and lives.

Then once we have taken the time to allow our longings to lead us back to God, we can begin to choose deliberateness in life, and we can choose what we want to be intentional about. Those choices become our focus. We stop running in twenty different directions and choose a few things.

I look at our home and see closets filled with various projects left undone. Books fill my bookshelves, many I began reading and never finished. It seems life on autopilot follows any whim. But recalibrating my life now means choosing intentionality. So I am being deliberate about what fills my home, my mind, my calendar, and all of life. My longings, the ones I followed back to God’s heart lead me. I have chosen a few important points of focus for my life right now.

1- Loving my husband and those closes to my heart with the love the Lord lavishes on me.

What this means for me is that I deliberately choose what demonstrates that love, and as I do I feel the Lord feeding and satisfying my love-hunger. The Lord is love, yet I have consistently tried to earn love from people in this world by striving and manipulating and sad to say, it has mostly left me empty. So my longing for love leads me to the only One Who can satisfy my heart with His love. And He leads me in learning how to love others.

2– Writing (blogposts and hopefully, a book.)

I have loved to journal and write from little on. But again writing can become another place to strive– a place to earn accolades. And so when I take the longing of writing to the Lord it becomes about sharing His truth. I see that what so often turns into pressure to grow an audience or complete a book or just write more to say I did. But now it is no longer about those things. I am finding joy in touching one heart at a time with God-truths as He grows faith in me and helps me to know Him more and more. It goes back to letting the Spirit nudge my heart with a verse or a word that prompts a post or a chapter. It’s about learning of Him and His love and sharing that. What feeds my writing is being deliberate and intentional in spending time with Him and in His Word.

3– Making a simple life by simplifying my home.

Clutter leads to anxiety and chaos. And seeing closets full and boxes filled with old projects or unnecessary on-a-whim purchases that have gone unused leads me to long for a simpler way. I want to focus on what we need and what is easy to keep clean. I want our home to only hold within its walls things that we love which have meaning and usefulness. Overwhelm and busyness can be created in part from having to constantly organize and clean stuff.

So taking my longings for peace and quiet in life to the Lord has led me to see all I can give away. And, in doing so, it makes room for so much more. No, not more stuff, but more time to enjoy what I have and those I love and the things I want to do. Wanting more, trying to fill the empty hole inside is a sin-sickness that I am taking to the Lord. I can never fill that hole and find contentment on my own. The contentment comes from the One Who satisfies my soul as I seek Him for gifts that really matter.

As I took my surface longings to the Lord, I found that my deeper longings are about being treasured and cherished, listened to and seen, being loved and having community, and about knowing peace and contentment within. Yes, there are definitely outward things I desire but I cannot make them satisfy my deeper longings– only God can. And it is in being intentional and focused on my life in the Lord and His Word that I can grow in my day-to-day life finding joy in abundant simplicity of my own choosing.

I am trying not to live on autopilot anymore, but instead, in this season, I am trying to recalibrate my life by living intentionally. What about you, are you living in autopilot or are you living intentionally?

*Featured image photographed by Paul Varnum on Unsplash.