Some days are like that, even for a Minimalist

This morning I experienced my first minimalist fail in two years: I threw away our extra coffee pot. I don’t know when I did it, though I know it was sometime during the moving process. I don’t know why I did it, possibly some form of moving delusion or purging euphoria. What I do know is that I wanted coffee and thirty seconds prior to discovering my purging error, the bottom cracked out of what I now know to be the only coffee pot in the house. . Fortunately I had not disposed of the camping coffee cups my brother purchased for us the year four hurricanes marched through Florida and we went weeks without power. Eventually, a lovely friend came to the rescue with a spare coffee pot, the result of a very recent marriage and the joining of two households.

Then my power when out.
Then my internet went out once the power came back on.

I looked outside to see if the sun had turned red or a black hole was forming but that didn’t seem to be the case.

Oh, and right now, I’m blogging from my phone.

Normally I would simply grab my things and head to Starbucks for a few minutes of wi-fi and maybe a bagel. Instead I’ll be taking my daughter to chemistry lab in a few moments. After which my mom is arriving from Tennessee.  This is why going to Starbucks is out.

It also means that once again, I am delaying the “kids stuff” post. But I do have a few observations in the midst of my first world crisis. Often times we, yes even me, hold on to things “just in case.” It’s why I kept a spare coffee pot for two years.  But there comes a tipping point in our lives where we have to decide if we are to continue to rely on the accumulation of stuff and money as wards against just in case, to keep life constantly convenient, or are we going to stop grasping so tightly to everything but the one thing that will keep us from drowning?  Let it go. We cannot be prepared for every blip, bump and eventuality. We sure can’t guard against real catastrophe with stuff and money.  When chaos strikes, and it will, it won’t be our stuff that saves us. It is entirely possible we won’t be saved at all but will have to walk right through the fire from beginning to end. When that happens, it will be what we’ve gained  in the letting go that carries us: the relationships, the family, the friends that have taken root and flourished in the open spaces of our lives.  We weren’t meant to get through life on our own, but we keep building these imaginary castles of self sufficiency on foundations of a greedy American dream at the expense of the people who are simply waiting for us to need…something.

I’m not at all saying that today was a catastrophe. It has been particularly frustrating.  Take it from me, home school becomes exponentially challenging when there is no power on a heavy technology day.  Frustration, catastrophe, these things happen no matter how many coffee pots we store in the closets.   But had I only needed to reach for a spare, I would have missed out on the pleasure of allowing someone to touch my life in the simplest of ways.   I’m glad I threw my old junk away after all.

***Edited to add: after I typed this with my thumbs on my phone, I couldn’t get it to post no matter what I did.  It took the Hunky man coming home and unsnarling all the technology to finally be able to say anything at all.

Numbering

I lost another friend today, a sister (sistah to be specific).  We probably would never have met had we lived normal lives in the normal course of time. Instead we got cancer.  Sheryl died leaving behind a husband, a nine year old daughter and a nineteen year old son. Because we shared so much for so many years, I can’t help but put myself in her place and wonder what I will think of my life when I reach the end of my days.

When I was twenty-two, I became mortal. Oh sure, we’re all mortal but there aren’t many twenty year olds who stare it in the face. I lost my hair and my eyelashes and my health and my dignity and for time we thought I’d even lost my fertility.

When I was twenty-four I became immortal again at the birth of my daughter, the first of three in the next three years.  I bargained with God for days and months. To see them be born, to see them walk, to live long enough for them to remember my smile.  I counted them off as though they were prayer beads, “Thank you Jesus, full of Grace for one more day.”

But time passed, and I began to count less frequently. Children walked and talked and ran. Days passed into years, even into decades.  I count infrequently now. Birthdays and anniversaries inspire me to look behind me at the string of beautiful shining days filled with so much more than I dared hope for so long ago when a gentle doctor spoke deadly words with tears in his eyes.

So many days.

These days are why I am passionate about living with less. It isn’t really less at all but a way to honor all the answered prayers for days I didn’t earn or deserve by living them with joy and love, not wasting them with grasping and fear.  I’m holding loosely to things because one day I will be like Sheryl, on my death’s bed looking back over my life. It won’t be the fashionable clothes or the investments or the cars or the rooms filled with things that I will want near, but the people I have made space to love deeply, the memories we have created and all the experiences I wasn’t to busy to do and enjoy.

This is why I am a minimalist.
Because life and time are finite, but they don’t have to be filled with finite things.

Teach us to realize the brevity of life,
    so that we may grow in wisdom. ~Ps. 90:12

31 days

Treasure

Yesterday I talked about minimalism and money. Today, I’m blogging over at Middle Places about my treasures. The simple fact is that we are all living for something regardless of your faith or belief system. My family lives to give back to the world. It is who we are at our core, and it’s the foundation for our lifestyle.

Compassion

 We want a little bit of Jesus; enough to get our sorry souls into heaven. We don’t want too much of Jesus; not enough to change the world. ~~Brian Zahnd

In my heart I am a missionary.  I didn’t know this about myself until I was married with children, which I don’t think is the lesser choice by any means. I dream of scooping up my family and setting sail on a Mercy Ship or relocating to the White River reservation in Arizona.  I conspire ways to sell everything and walk away together into the grasslands of Africa.  I wonder what the future will hold for us when so much of the world still so desperately needs Jesus.

For today, these options aren’t mine to choose. I can’t physically drop it all and leave town, so instead I raise children in my soul and in my heart…

Read the rest of today’s blog ‘Treasure’ by CLICKING HERE
If  you have questions about Compassion International or about a minimalist lifestyle, feel free to drop me a comment.

 

31 days

The Bottom Line

Why am I blogging for 31 Days about minimalism? Find out HERE.

Yesterday my Hunky spent some time reorganizing the budget. We’re having another child this month, so we needed to figure out where that money would come from.

Oh, I’m sorry? Did you not know I was expecting?

We won’t actually bring a baby home from the hospital at the end of the month, but we will become financially responsible for our third Compassion child.  This may seem off-topic for a minimalist series, but the truth is, I can’t fully explore minimalism without talking about the financial bottom line.  There are many reasons that we have wholeheartedly embraced the benefits of this lifestyle, but one of the most compelling reasons for my family is what it allows us to do with our money.
We essentially live debt free.  We’re working hard on one pesky student loan from a masters degree that is dormant now that the Hunky is in ministry, but other than that, we don’t owe. We rent our home and continue to feel that home ownership is not in the foreseeable future for us.  We seldom buy new things; we seldom have a need  for them. We drive cars well into their second and third decades of life.  We choose this lifestyle because for us, the bottom line is about giving back.
Money, like time, is a finite resource. We can only make it go so far. We can bend the rules a bit, maybe even use another institution’s money, but in the end we’ve only got so much.  One of the most appealing aspects of the minimalist lifestyle is the self-examination that accompanies life stripped of excess.  The more I have scaled back, pared down and thrown out, the more my priorities are revealed.  It’s easy to say something is a priority when it’s so obscured by the details and busyness of life that no one, not even we, can be sure whether or not it is true.  But in a minimized life, it’s easy to see what we hold most dear.
I read a statement several years ago made by  Jennifer Hatmaker: If we truly lived like we love our neighbors as ourselves, wouldn’t we give away half of what we earn? (paraphrase).  That struck me hard.  I say I love my neighbor as I love myself, but am just I saying it, or am I living it? The bottom line will prove if my words and my life match.   We don’t give away 50% of our earnings, by the way. We aren’t able to do that, yet.  But we are trying every day to ensure that our lives align with our words and our faith.  Because we examine our lives closely, we are able to make choices that reflect the type of people we profess to be.

Not every person has the same bottom line as we do.  My point today isn’t to heap judgement on anyone who has debt, who barely makes ends meet, who doesn’t have any idea what is they want or believe, or who knows what they want, and it doesn’t have anything to do with giving away money. My point is to say that you can  have the freedom to live an authentic life and for my family, minimalism is a tool to accomplish this.  A minimalist lifestyle isn’t one of stringent rules and constant sacrifice; it has proven quite the opposite. Because of our choices we are able to be extravagantly generous..  We have not only financial security, but abundance to do with what we choose.

This month, we’ve chosen to have a child with Compassion.
I can hardly wait to see his or her little face for the very first time.

(If you are interested in learning more about Compassion International, feel free to leave a comment, or stop back by tomorrow when I will talk a bit more about it. I’m always happy to answer any questions.)

31 days

10 Reasons You can’t be a Minimalist Pt. 1

I haven’t been a minimalist for very long, but I have heard a lot of reasons why people can’t be minimalists themselves. The funny thing is I’m not asking anyone to change how they live.  Yet it seems the knee jerk reaction to a going-against-the-grain life style is a defensive position.  I don’t think non-minimalists are evil hoarders intent on undoing the world. I do think that at the very least, we could all benefit from examining why we live the style of life we live. This goes for everyone. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Minimalism is my way of examining my life, continually.  You don’t have to be a minimalist to do so, but I do want to help dispel some of the lies telling us, “you can’t.”  We’re going to tackle this in three parts so it isn’t overwhelming.

1) I don’t have time to be a minimalist.
This is one that I actually agree with at the outset. Time is our most valuable commodity and it’s being used by the minute and the hour, day after day.  All of us struggle to find time for the many things demanded of us.  I’ve been actively pursuing this lifestyle for two years now, and I am still making loaded trips to the thrift store with our stuff.  If you want to start minimizing, all you need is 5 minutes and a place to start: a drawer, a room, a closet, a junk box. No one is timing you; it isn’t a contest. Set aside five minutes a day and work on that space for all of the five minutes. Today…tomorrow…the next day, until it’s done. Then pick the next space and do it again.  If you can do more than five minutes, awesome! If you miss a day or three, who cares? Start where you were and keep moving forward. The key is to not let things re-gather in the space after you have finished.  So what if it takes you a month to do two kitchen drawers?  You still managed two kitchen drawers! The further you go, the more time you have because you won’t be constantly spinning trying to find where you left something or figuring out where this thing goes, or tripping over things in the corners.  Pick a spot. Set a timer. Go for five. We all have five minutes.

2) I don’t know where to start
This excuse pairs well with number one so I won’t reiterate everything. There is no template here, no right place to start. Find an area that is manageable and preferably one that yields fast results. The faster you finish the first task, the more likely you are to start a second. Get started.  I have a few cautions. Do only one area at a time. When we start more than one project, we generally create more chaos and are less inclined to finish. One area, any area, as much as you can each day for as long as it takes. You’re practically an expert already! Be sure you have a place for trash and a box for things you plan to give away or sell. This way you aren’t making more piles as you go.

3) My husband/ wife/ significant other/ parents/ dog/ goldfish is a pack rat
This is not an excuse because being a minimalist is only about you. Yours is the life you are examining, not anyone else. No one around you has to change, only you. You go through your things, your clothes, your desk, your toiletries.  We all have areas that are exclusively our own, more even than we realize. Begin with your things.  It’s very likely that after some time, whoever you share your space with is going to start changing as well.  My own husband recently did a major overhaul on his wardrobe before we moved last summer. I didn’t have to nag or make barbed comments.  Change is a gradual process, and people have to want it for themselves before they will join you.  If you want change, then begin changing you. Don’t let what others won’t do be the roadblock in your journey.

4) I have kids
This may be the most common and most disturbing argument.  When we moved from one state to another four years ago, I was absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of stuff my children had accumulated in eleven years of existence.  There were enough clothes for a village, enough toys for a nursery school and enough trash to cause me concern for the future of our environment. Most kids today are absolutely glutted with stuff.  We throw them birthday parties with forty friends and every single child brings a gift. We want each Christmas to be bigger and more wonderful than the last. They are bombarded constantly through the media with the message that they must have the latest, greatest, biggest, best, newest of everything.  It’s no wonder they can’t even keep their room clean, they don’t know where to start either! Your children don’t know it, and they will fight against it, but what they need more than anything in this world is for us to help unburden them from this load piled upon them, help teach them appreciation for what they have, and how to focus on what really matters.  Later in the month I will devote an entire post sharing how we’ve managed minimalism with our own three teen-age girls.  I truly believe that we continue to do our children an enormous disservice if we allow them to be the reason we won’t minimize.

Part 2: HERE
Part 3: HERE

31 days

In the Middle of Breaking

Breakable

 

 

“It’s been a tenuous week.  Breakable things seem to be everywhere: a  friend finds out her mother has blood clots in the brain, cancer finally overcomes loved ones who have been waging war for over a decade, a relationship tears apart .  Trust shatters, hearts crack, tears fall. Breakable…”

You can read the rest at the Middle Places blog:  Just Click Here