Image "My Friend" by Helen Thomas Robson https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/helenthomasrobson.html(Used by Permission)
Minimalism from a Biblical Point of View —

Biblical Minimalism© is "a complete, whole-person release of anything unlike Jesus, a letting go of everything that hinders us from following Him wholeheartedly and single-mindedly, and a relinquishing of all that brings us under bondage to this earthly, very temporary life." Cheryl E. Smith

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Biblical Minimalism ~ The BOOK is Published!!

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life."
Proverbs 13:12
(NKJV)

Hello, everyone!

I love the above verse, and it surely applies to the news I am sharing with you here today.  As many of you know, my family and I have been on a mission of minimizing our lives over the past few years, and the Lord laid it on my heart to write a book about it and include the many spiritual lessons He has taught us along the way.  

When I finished writing our family's story, I knew we needed a powerful cover for our book—one that would portray the compelling call of Jesus to follow Him wholeheartedly and without reserve.  I couldn't imagine what that would actually look like, until the day, Zach, called to me and said,  "Mama, you HAVE to see this picture I found online!"  I can hardly put into words the emotions that washed over me as I stood behind Zach staring at the computer screen.  It was my first time seeing Helen Thomas Robson's amazing photo, "My Friend."  I was so overwhelmed as I said, "That's it, Zach!  That is the exact epitome of everything I am trying to say in this book!"  

He and Kevin both agreed, and the quest was on to find out who took that photo.  After some searching online, I found Helen, and soon, we were on the phone talking like old friends.  I told her some of our story and how deeply her photo moved us.  I began to inquire about obtaining the rights to use her photo as our book cover, even though I was no where near ready to publish.  The book needed a thorough, professional edit, and the cost was inhibitive.  Helen, so graciously allowed me to use her photo as the banner of this blog, and we agreed that I would call her back if and when the time ever came that the book would be published.

After a long waiting process, the Lord made a way, and the book was finally edited and recently prepared for publishing. I contacted Helen again and was able to secure usage rights for the book cover!!  Zach applied his amazing graphic design super skills, and he designed the cover so beautifully.  We could not be more pleased with the outcome! 

Here it is!


Yesterday, I completed the laborious task of publishing, and our book is now available for purchase—both in paperback and ebook form by clicking HERE!!

Truly, I am just speechless and SO very grateful to God that this long-held dream is now a reality!

Please join us in giving praise to God for making it all come together, for providing the finances needed, and for miraculously making this happen!

Many, many thanks and blessings to all of you for being so loyal and supportive to us on this amazing journey!  May God bless each one of you in a special way.

Monday, May 4, 2020

How Minimalism has Prepared Us for Such A Time as This

"Redeeming the time, because the days are evil."
Ephesians 5:16


Starting with an identity theft nightmare that also served as a wake-up call in 2015, my family and I have been on an intense mission to simplify our lives.  We sold our home and two acres of land, let go of about 90% of our physical possessions, paid off all our debt, and removed everything on our schedules that was enslaving and overwhelming us.  Three years into our minimizing journey, my husband’s job was unexpectedly outsourced, and what followed was a long stretch of multiple medical issues and 21 months unemployment.  These life-altering changes have come together to produce a surprising, yet beautiful shift in paradigm— we now spend most of our time at home.

It is interesting to look back and see that our journey has been preparing us for such a time as this.  Except for “essential” and thought-out, purposeful reasons for being out and about, we are already used to being home.  Home is the core of all our activity and the place we most long to be.  I find an enormous sense of peace in knowing my little family and I are all together, safe, inside the walls of our home, and to tell you the truth, I don’t miss one bit of the fast lane hustle and bustle.  For years, I craved this sense of calm.  It has already become our norm, so I can honestly say that little has changed for us during this time of lockdown.

I am not in any way diminishing the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic.  My heart goes out to every person who is ill, has lost a loved one or their job, or been otherwise adversely affected by all that is happening.  Standing on the other side of all my family and I have walked through, I just want to point out that positive change and good things are happening, too.  Ecclesiastes 7:14 says, "in the day of adversity consider."  Here are some things to consider during these times:

1. Social distancing from others is revealing how socially distant we have become from God and the people we love most. Being forced to stay inside is presenting an amazing opportunity to spend more time in Bible reading and prayer.  Staying indoors with our families is giving space for reconciliation and restoration of fractured relationships.  Families are staying inside their homes—together.  For the life of me, I cannot find one negative in that.  We have been handed a precious gift in the form of time and limited options on how to spend it.  It warms my heart to drive down our street and see a family in their yard playing together, couples walking hand in hand on the trail behind our home, and children standing in line (at a safe distance, of course) outside the ice cream truck that comes through our neighborhood each evening.  It reminds me of my childhood when life was a whole lot simpler and easier to navigate.  Home is our personal haven.  No matter what is going on in the outside world, we can close the door at home and realize that we are right where we are supposed to be.  Though we are “sheltering at home” mandatorily, maybe we should consider making “home-sheltering” a voluntary way of living and spending more time there when this is all over.  There truly is no place like home.

2. When my husband’s 35-year career in banking was brought to a screeching halt, he came to realize he never enjoyed that kind of work, and he began to open his mind to new possibilities.  He was eventually offered an amazing opportunity to do something he can physically handle, and he is now settled into a meaningful job he really loves.  If you have lost your job, I feel your pain.  I know how the threat of homelessness feels.  I am keenly aware of the panic of looking into an empty freezer.  But a beautiful new life is hiding behind the loss of your job.  Something better is coming to you.  Be aware and watchful.  One day you will find purpose in today’s pain.  There is a reason for this and sometimes the only way out of a rut is to be pushed.  Embrace the possibilities ahead of you.  You were not meant to keep doing what you were doing, and brighter days are coming.

3. Maybe “normal” shouldn’t be normal anymore.  Maybe we shouldn’t be so eager to get back to it.  Maybe you are not meant to stay so busy.  Perhaps tucked into this whole worldwide shutdown is this lesson screaming to be taught – you are not designed to run through life.  You are intended to slowly and methodically walk out your days in a state of peace.  Take a deep breath and instead of fighting against this time of stillness, embrace what it may be trying to reveal to you.  Spend this time reassessing your priorities.  What is most important to you now?  Perhaps it is time to start saying no to commitments and obligations that are no longer serving you and your family’s best interests.  Maybe you need to shed relationships that have become toxic.  Make two lists — things you are involved in and people in your life.  As you write the lists, pay attention to how each entry on the list makes you feel as your hand jots it down.  What brings instant anxiety to you?  What brings a sense of calm?  There is no better time than the present to do this.  Stillness and quiet bring incredible clarity of vision.  Don’t waste this time complaining and wishing for the old “normal.”  Normal has been given a clean slate.  May it emerge from this crisis new and improved and what it should have been all along.

4. Make productive use of time indoors by minimizing, decluttering, and organizing.  Tackle those projects you’ve been putting off because you never had time for them.  Now you do!  Make a to-do list and try to cross off one task each day.

Continually search for the good.  It is happening – we just need to look for it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Seven Productive Ways to Stay Positive During Coronavirus "Lockdown"

"Redeeming the time, because the days are evil."
Ephesians 5:16


If ever Ephesians 5:16 rang true to me, it is now, in these troubled, chaotic times.  Another supporting verse says, "Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time."  Colossians 4:5  

"Redeeming" in the original Greek means "to buy up, ransom, to rescue from loss."  

I don't know how it is where you live, but where we are, things are sort of screeching down to a halt.  It almost feels eerie, as most people are staying in and avoiding public places as much as they possibly can.  It is just good common sense and "walking in wisdom" to do that right now.  

My heart goes out to those who are sick and especially to those who have lost loved ones.  Not only from the Coronavirus, but from the flu and many other diseases and causes.  Our world is in such a state of fearful chaos.  It is all so incredibly sad.  I am often reminded of Jesus' words in Luke 21:26 describing what things will be like in these end times, "Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken." 

As the threat of illness becomes more and more pronounced, I believe we will find ourselves spending even more time inside our homes.  Instead of viewing this as a negative downside, why not "redeem" this precious time and view this situation as an opportunity to focus on being productive, positive, and proactive in accomplishing things we may have been putting off, due to busy schedules that kept us outside the home?  Here are some suggestions to "rescue this time from loss."  

1.  Minimize!  Think about a drawer, closet, crate/container, cupboard, or surface area in your home that is a continual source of stress for you, and start there.  What about it makes it stressful?  Is it a messy area?  Does it make you feel ashamed when outsiders enter your home and see it?   Clear away everything you don't want, need, use, or love from that area.  Put those items in a box, remove it from the room, and store it somewhere out of sight, preferably a garage or basement or shed.  If you don't think about the items during the course of a month or so, get the box out of your home, into the trunk of your car, and delivered to an outside destination.

2.  Make that phone call you've been putting off.  You know, the one you never quite get around to.  Maybe you know it will be a long-winded one, so you never have enough time to devote to it.  Perhaps you know it will be emotionally draining, so you keep avoiding it.  Now is the opportune time to pick up the phone and dive in.  Give that person your full, unlimited attention.  Make them feel they are the only person in the world.  Listen to them and hear them out for as long as they need to talk.  You just never know how much they may need you or what it might mean to them to know you care enough to make them a priority.  Just do it.

3.  Fill out that card you've felt prompted to send.  You know, the one you bought a while back with a particular person in mind, but just never got around to exerting the energy required to let your pen convey your heart.  We are so used to doing everything online and through a keyboard, we are losing the beautiful art of handwritten communication.  You don't know what may be going on in that recipient's world, and going to their mailbox and finding your heartfelt words may be just the shot of courage they need to keep pressing on.  Put aside your laptop, and go fill out that card.

4.  Finish that project you've never had time to work on.  You know, the one that nags at you each time you look at it.  It's time to shush the nagging voice and face it head on.  Dig in and do a little at a time until you are completely finished.  Imagine the feeling of relief and accomplishment you will feel to know you have seen it through to its fruition. 

5.  Spend that quality time you've been intending to spend.  Let's face it.  Marital relationships drift apart when they are neglected.  Children grow up way too fast.  Shower them all with love and unrivaled attention.  Put away electronics, and play a board game as a family.  Set aside time to sit in your child's room and listen to them talk about what's going on in their life.  Work a jigsaw puzzle together.  What a great opportunity to cook a homemade from scratch meal, try out a new recipe, or make your family's favorite dessert!

6.  Clean that area that has been far too long neglected.  Few things are more rewarding than to know that a spot in your home has been deep cleaned, and not too many things can make you feel more productive.  Now that you have some extra time cooped up inside, break out the cleaning supplies, and get to work!

7.  Draw near to God.  Redeem the time by spending it in His Word and in fervent prayer.  There is SO much to pray about and so many to pray for.  My dear Mom used to tell me that prayer is a long-range weapon, and even though you may not be able to get out and about to visit and/or be of service to others, you can pray right where you are at any time, day or night.  God is listening, and sometimes He has to pull us aside to get our attention.

May He send comfort to each one of your hearts during these troubled times.  Remember this—HE is in complete control, and He will always be.  Be still and acknowledge that He is God.  Nothing has ever surprised Him, including COVID- 19.  He is bigger than even this.  Trust Him, and know that He will never leave nor forsake you.  I am praying for each one of you as I type these words.  Many blessings to you all!

Monday, March 2, 2020

"My Minimalist Mindset" - Guest Post by Jarm Del Boccio

"And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment."
Mark 12:30
(KJV)

Graphic Design by Zach Smith

"It's been over ten years since I decided to cut down on clutter, both physical and mental, in order to live a more meaningful and less stressful life. I was feeling its strain in so many ways, pulling me to keep track of more and more, and causing less and less satisfaction. In fact, it was distracting me from my goal to write for the glory of God.

I felt at times that I couldn't breathe — my clutter was controlling me, hovering over like a drone, controlling my every move. Piles of papers here and there, my clothes hanging in two separate closets. Books filled the ten bookcases in our two story home, many of them unread.

And my schedule! I felt pulled in all four directions, ready to split open. Rushing here and there — I had convinced myself I had to be everywhere for everyone, but unfortunately, least of all for myself. I couldn't decide where to focus next — on the stacks of articles I had cut out, or the emails from my personal and business account I must open. No breathing room to read a magazine or a few pages in a novel.

And although I was fairly disciplined with social media, even that was a distraction. As an author, I needed to be on social media, but six — posting each day on all of them?

What had I done to myself?!

All my life, I have loved to travel. It's a source of inspiration to me. Especially as a writer. But this past year, due to our financial situation, I have not had the opportunity. And it's been extremely difficult to be content. How will I get my inspiration? My joy?

That's why, in 2020, my word for the year is CONTENTMENT. I desire to be fully content with whatever God has in store for me. My guiding verses are:

"Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."  Hebrews 13:5

"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."  Philippians 4:11-13 (ESV)

Well, in being content, I found little ways to inspire me that were within my reach—

— Going on short ”author’s dates” to local museums or events.

— Visiting little-known buildings, sites, or towns with historical significance.

— Watching historical fiction.

And then, I was asked to become a blogger on Midwest Almanac site, reporting about places in my state to explore. What an opportunity! Yes, this would add to my schedule, but it also fed my love of travel and developed writing skills.

That's what I had to decide. What were my main goals in life, keeping in mind the gifts God had given me? Pondering that thought, these three stood out:

— Fostering relationship with God and His Word.
— Encouraging my own family and those in my church body.
— Developing my writing skills and sharing them with the world.

Everything I did from now on had to reflect and further those goals. . .

Simplicity was my word for 2018. I was dedicated to cutting the clutter and making room for creativity to blossom and grow — and freeing up time to write for the glory of God. Every word.

I asked myself: Will what I’m about to think or do help me achieve my goal? I must chip away at anything that is unnecessary, to reveal what is most important — that ‘one thing.’

Things like:

- Too much time online. Do I need to watch all those episodes in the next few days? Keep up with my friends three times a day on social media? Or chase every link in an email? Probably not. So, I made the choice to go on social media once a day.

- Anything that clouds my vision, or distracts me. Things that steal my peace. I want to breathe freely! Things like a too-busy schedule. Do I really need to attend all those meetings? Each event I’m invited to? I looked at my goals. Will doing all the things on my schedule help me to reach them? Or do they work in conflict?  I needed to leave room to breathe!

- What about unnecessary shopping trips? Do I pass a resale shop or clothing store and stop, just in case they might have a scarf to match my latest outfit? (Yep. I'm guilty) Or, do I wander through three grocery stores to search out the best deals? Is saving a few dollars worth the hassle?

If possible, I vowed to go out of the house only once a day. Or run just one errand after work. Or, attempt to combine errands in one location to save time and energy.

- Do I purchase things I don’t really need? Can I use two blenders at once? Wear three black skirts in one week? Do I need another pillow on my couch? Or a set of dishes for every season or holiday?

I was struck with the contrast between this Indian family below from Peter Menzel's book, Material World and the sum total of their worldly possessions. Now that's simplicity. If a fire consumed all they owned, it would be unfortunate. But to lose their most precious possession, their children, would be devastating. I'm sure they treasure their irreplaceable gifts most highly.


Although this photo below, captured in Menzel's book is from 1994, I'd say things haven't changed. If anything, we own more. But I must hand it to the Millennials who seem to have this Minimalist mentality down pat.


Why do humans have a need to collect? To buy? Maybe even to hoard?

Truth is, the more stuff we own, the more time and energy it takes to take care of them. I was determined to declutter a drawer at a time — and vow to get rid of one item for each I  purchased.

Is it my goal to outdo Martha Stewart? Will my friends notice if I simplify my centerpiece or offer only two side dishes? Or (for heaven’s sake) care if I order out healthy fare once in a while?

I don’t think so. They would much rather have a happy hostess! I have two easy-to-prepare meals (one for spring/summer and the other for fall/winter) I can serve without stressing out.

I wonder if I expect everything in my life to turn out perfectly? If I really and truly examined my heart, I'd have to say yes. I do. Well, it's not going to happen. Sorry. Not in this life anyway. That's the purpose of storing treasures in Heaven - to enjoy them forever!

I need to be willing to lower my standards when perfection is not required. My loved ones will still support me, especially if I explain my need to simplify (and I do, often). I may get that tiny house yet — but not until I get my hubby to agree!

Do I have too much on my mind? Do I feel so stressed I can’t think?

That tells me it's time to take a break! Here are a few simple ideas I've tried:

Taking a brisk walk- and breathing in the fresh air.
Reading a calming book or magazine.
Praying, meditating or reading (listening to) Bible passages.
Listening to an encouraging podcast.
Stopping for a cup of calming tea, a tall glass of lemon water, or piece of fresh fruit.
Inviting a friend out for tea.
Taking a detoxing mineral or essential oil bath.
Lying down with cucumbers over my closed eyelids and listening to dreamy music.
Doing something that calms my spirits — painting, baking or, believe it or not, decluttering.
Downloading the "Pigment" app and coloring away or being mesmerized by the "Silk" app.
Keeping a Gratitude List.

I am no where close to being a full minimalist, but I am on my way and down the road a ways. As each situation, possession, or decision comes my way, I now make it with a minimalist frame-of-mind.

What about you? Are you tired of the race? Want some peace? Consider cutting down the clutter in every aspect of your life. Give it to God. Your vision will be clearer, and your future, brighter!"

Bio:  Jarm (‘J’ pronounced as a 'Y') Del Boccio finds her inspiration in everyday life, but in particular, when she travels the globe, observing the quirky things that happen along the way. Focusing on lives of characters from the past, Jarm is devoted to breathing new life into the pages of history.

Jarm Del Boccio has a background in elementary and high school education, and served for seven years as a school librarian. Grateful for the opportunity, she taught three missionary kids in an isolated area of Papua New Guinea. She is part of SCBWI and American Christian Fiction Writers, and has published articles in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine."

Jarm is content with the journey God has placed her on, and lives with her husband, adult daughter and son (when he lands at home) in a tree-lined suburb of Chicago. You can connect on her author’s website/blog at Jarm Del Boccio.

"My Passion is to Make Scripture and History Come Alive for my Readers: Illuminating the Past. Making Sense of the Present. Offering Hope for the Future.” Jarm Del Boccio

“The Heart Changer,” her debut MG historical/biblical fiction, released with Ambassador International April 26, 2019.

Order "The Heart Changer" HERE!

Monday, February 24, 2020

"For When You're Living in a Fantasy World" - Guest Post by Linda Stoll

"And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
Luke 12:15
(NKJV)

Graphic Design by Zach Smith
Image by MichelleHaswell from Pixabay

"Do you have a "fantasy self?"  The incredible culinary whiz.  The super-fit, all-star athlete.  The award winning musical virtuoso.  The fabulously creative entrepreneur.

Acquired a whole lot of stuff along the way to becoming someone you never quite became?

Kitchen cabinets jammed with stacks of unopened gourmet cookbooks and expensive cooking widgets {that were maybe used once or twice}.

A garage packed with all manner of big-ticket sports equipment {from at least a generation ago}.

The cache of musical instruments stuffed in the back of a musty closet or two {from way back in elementary school}.

Overflowing boxes laden with dusty, unused craft supplies {from the '80s}.

Clothes bought on a whim stored in a rarely-opened garment bag {with the tags still attached}.

Painful piles of memorabilia from a love, a friendship, a relationship {that's long since departed}.

Writer and blogger Francine Jay muses,

"Do you have a fantasy self?  And if so, how much of your clutter belongs to it?

All too often, we hold on to stuff because it represents who we think we should be, rather than who we are.  Sometimes our fantasy selves are meant to impress others; sometimes they’re relics of our past; sometimes they’re fantasies about our future.

Whatever the case, it’s important to remember: acquiring stuff for your fantasy self doesn’t make it a reality.  Most of the time, it only leads to a lot of “nice” clutter you never actually use."

Check out her list of 10 fantasy personalities.

I've said good-bye to the pasta machine I used once.  Hundreds of carefully cut-out, never used magazine recipes stashed in wrinkled old folders.  The dozens of once-loved cross-stitch books.  The piano that saw hour after hour of faithful practice.  Stacks and stacks of paper and cards and notes from eons ago.  Photos of people I couldn't even identify.  My husband's trumpet from high school.  Some collectibles and lots of tchotchkes that have long since lost their charm.

Most recently it was a whole, dusty file drawer of every note and test I ever took, every handout I ever laid my eyes on, everything I ever wrote through college and graduate school. {Yes, I saved a few papers ...}

There's lots more to go. 'Cause I'm not now who I was then.

You, too?

What kind of stuff is heading out your door these days?"

(This article was first published HERE and submitted by author for this Biblical Minimalism repost.)


Bio:  Linda lives with her husband of almost 44 years,Tim, in a little town tucked between the ever-changing bay and the deep blue ocean in Massachusetts.  She loves her work as a pastoral counselor to women and remains enthusiastically devoted to nurturing her online blogging community.

Her dearest claim to fame?  Two daughters, their husbands, and seven grandchildren, the littlest who is now living in heaven with Jesus.

Linda would absolutely love for you to visit her blog right here and check out her favorite online discoveries on her LinkedIn site.

Monday, February 17, 2020

How A Job-Outsourcing Has Enriched Our Biblical Minimalism Journey

"But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:19
(KJV)

Graphic Design by Zach Smith

After 35 years, 5 months in the banking industry, my husband’s steady, good-paying job was outsourced to an outside company, and he, along with his co-workers, lost their jobs.  In his last position, he worked from home 3rd shift in the IT Department, processing the data for 100+ bank branches.  We were warned about the outsourcing for months ahead of time, but when the night finally came for him to shut down his computer applications in his office space in our living room for the last time, we all gathered around and felt a tidal wave of mixed emotions.

This was a new experience.  In our nearly 30 years of marriage and long before we were married, he had had a steady job and had only changed work places twice —once when we made a long-distance move and once after a departmental downsize reduced his working hours to less than we could afford.  Both times, he stepped right into another position, so there was never even so much as a lapse between paychecks.  I had left my own career in banking several years before to raise and homeschool our son, Zach, so my husband’s job was our only source of provision.

As Zach and I stood behind my husband that night and watched him close out application after application on his computer, the realization that we were, for the first time ever, without an income hit us like a ton of bricks.  We knew we would be more than okay for a while, due to a very generous severance package from the bank and our savings, but what would happen after that?

What we didn’t know that night is there was a long line of unexpected health issues ahead of us that would keep both my husband and me from being physically able to work, along with several other life changes that would literally rock our faith to its core.  I think it is for the best that we are not told the future ahead of time.  It is enough to deal with what we need to face one day at a time.

Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 6:34, when He said, "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."

The time of unemployment that began that night ended up stretching out for a total of 21 months to the day.  Thankfully, through much prayer and faith, we worked through the many health issues, walked through a series of hard times, and have made it to the other side.

During the 21 months that we were without a regularly earned paycheck, our minimizing journey took on a whole new meaning as circumstance forced my family and me to take an even closer look at not only our possessions as we came to terms with selling things that were not true necessities, but also at the people who were a part of our outer and inner circle.  If you are going through a similar time of difficulty and uncertainty, I hope the sharing of what we have learned will inspire and enrich your own minimizing journey.

1. Hard times inspire fresh examination of physical possessions.  There is nothing like a shut-off notice to motivate a minimizing re-start.  Threat of homelessness will cause you to realistically look at that extra vehicle with a new set of eyes and ask yourself, “do I really need to cling to this just because it belonged to a cherish loved one when letting it go would pay two months’ rent?”  Practicality and sensibility rise to the surface and overwhelm sentimentality during desperate times.

2. Hard times prove who deserves and who does not deserve to remain a part of your life.  Nothing reveals who truly cares about you more blatantly or powerfully than adversity.  Pay attention to the one(s) still close to you when the chips are down, you are struggling to keep your head above water, and it seems all hope is lost.  Identify who was there and who was not.  Who proved their love?  Who got their hands dirty?  Who showed up when everyone else turned away?  Who showed authentic compassion?  Cherish those who loved you when it was anything but easy.  Treasure those who stuck it out, held your hand, and withheld judgment.  The ones who show up and are still there after the storm has passed are the people who are true-blue and have earned the opportunity to occupy stall seats in your life’s gallery.   Minimize relationships with those who minimize you and the legitimacy of your predicament.  Shed liaisons with those who interject blame and condemn you for what they know nothing about.  Even in familial relationships.  Just because someone is a part of your family does not mean they should be a part of your life.

3. Hard times draw you closer to the ones you love most.  Leaning on the “true-blues” in your life through times of suffering strengthens bonds.  Drawing support from those who share your sorrow deepens connection.  Crying alongside those who are loyal through seasons of difficulty cements ties. Simultaneously experiencing pain and hardship solidifies camaraderie and a sense of shared accomplishment when the trial is over.

4. Hard times generate gratitude.  While that statement may sound contradictory, it is true.  Walking through days where it feels like your whole world is turned upside down makes you appreciate the immeasurable value of an ordinary day.  There is a wellspring of truth in the words of the song recorded by Dennis Marsh that says, “The Hard Times Make the Good Times Even Better.”  When dire necessity forces the sale of things you thought you could never part with, you realize you are left with what matters most because you still have each other.  Thankfulness emerges from the realization that no matter what you have lost and given up, as long as you are still together with the ones you love, all is well.

5. Hard times prove God's faithfulness.  It is easy to talk of "living by faith" and "trusting God" when paychecks are regular and substantial, 401k balances are increasing by leaps and bounds, and your bank account is secure.  But, what about the moment you realize every single safety net and back-up plan has been exhausted?  When your savings account shows a zero balance, the severance package is depleted, and all other means of financial support has been pulled out from under you, only God is left.  Then, and only then, are you in a position of being able to prove whether or not He will be faithful.  In that moment, you come face to face with the reality of finding out whether or not what you have "preached" and believed in for so long is really authentic.  Will God show up and supply your needs?

Living in the realm of the miraculous requires finding yourself in the place of the humanly impossible.

In 2015, during the time of our identity theft nightmare, so many times the Lord would whisper to me in prayer, "I want to be your all in all."  I would immediately say, "Lord, you ARE our all in all," only to feel instant conviction prick my heart as the untruth of my words washed over me.  A steady, good-paying job, credit cards galore, and money in reserve doesn't exactly paint a true picture of GOD Himself being one's "all in all."  As each source of self-sustenance was stripped from our grasp, we began to steadily learn what it means for God to be our one and only source.  Still here—standing on the other side, I can now say that God is faithful.  One day, perhaps He will inspire us to tell of the many ways He has proven His faithfulness and the fulfillment of His Word in our situation.

While we would never have asked for the downsizing of my husband’s job, what looked like a disaster in the beginning has deeply enhanced our walk with Christ and accelerated our Biblical minimizing journey in the most profound ways.

I don't know what you may be walking through, but I want to encourage you to keep looking up.  Keep pressing on.  Keep the faith.  You can trust God.  He has you in the palm of His hand.  He will not fail you now.  This song is my life anthem, and I promise you if you "lift your life up" in full surrender to God, He will absolutely prove Himself true and faithful to you in all of life's circumstances.  May He bless you and reveal His awesome power to you today!

Friday, February 14, 2020

"What if Jesus Had Snapchat?" Guest Post by Avra Schmitting

"Then said Jesus unto His disciples, 'If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.'"  Matthew 16:24 (KJV)

Graphic Design by Zach Smith

"There are so many wonderful Bible verses that pertain to minimalism, living a simpler life (like Jesus), and remaining focused on that is true. Here, I share my thoughts on digital clutter, specifically social media.

“…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you,” 1 Thessalonians 4:11

Surely, if Jesus were to be human, living in today’s world, He would not have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat etc. Can you imagine if He did? Would He be taking photos of His food all the time? #blessed. He certainly wouldn’t be flooding our news feeds with the latest selfie after a shopping spree, unboxing of mail-order product service or showing before and after photos after being on a keto diet for six months and claiming “keto is life.”

So, if we are called to live like Jesus, why do we do all of the aforementioned things? I am just as guilty as the next person. Yes, it’s fun, and it can be entertaining and something to talk about socially with others. But it breaks my heart when I think of all the time we waste scrolling. I once heard a statistic that the average person scrolls the length of the Empire State building daily. That’s 15,000 inches! Or the height of Mount Everest, at a whopping 348,350 inches, annually! Now, I choose to relay these distances in inches, not to make it seem astronomical (while it still is),but, to me, it is more relatable to what we are actually doing when reaching these distances. Think about it. Each post on your screen when looking through your Facebook or Instagram feed is a few inches, would you agree?

What are we missing when we are doing this? I don’t have any children yet, but some of my closest friends do, and boy, are they quick! And they grow up quickly, too. I don’t want to miss that while looking at what everyone else is doing.

“What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.”  1 Corinthians 7:29-31

In my mind, there are two large categories that many fall into when posting content on social media - self-inflation (Look at me! Look what I did ! Look what I bought! My life is perfect, etc., etc.) or self-loathing (woe is me, my life stinks, everything is against me, feel bad for me, etc.)

“This is what the Lord says: Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this:  that they have the understanding to know Me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord.”  Jeremiah 9:23-24

This leads to something else the Bible talks about, and that is comparison.

“And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”  Ecclesiastes 4:4

Comparison hurts all of us.We hurt ourselves trying to keep up with the Joneses (who are the Joneses anyway? I’d like to speak with them!) and living beyond our means. Telling ourselves, and maybe even our loved ones, that we aren’t good enough. Feeling worthless because we didn’t get enough “likes” or adoring comments on that new gym selfie.

“Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’”  Luke 12:15

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”  Galatians 1:10

There is an increased number of people (of all ages) that are becoming mentally ill or engaging in these behaviors which trigger things in the mind that create mental issues of depression, anxiety, and other harmful conditions. While I am no doctor, I experience this first hand. I know that if I sit and scroll for too long on any platform, either frequently in a period of time or for a long time after time away, I begin to feel my depression creep up on me. It’s like something is pulling me back down into the darkness I have worked so hard to climb out of and stay out of.

There are many days that I wish I didn’t partake in social media. I pray that one day I feel and can know that I don’t need it! It’s the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) taking over when I just can’t bring myself to get rid of it. Much like I challenge myself, I challenge you, what are you really missing out on when you are scrolling?

Not only that, but there is also this sense of fatigue. Information overload. Don’t get me wrong. The internet and even social media are great things. When, just like many things in life, they are used in moderation.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:1-2

I love that verse. In this day and age, anyone can watch what one is doing. Let’s show the world the love and faith of Jesus.

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  Micah 6:8

Often times I ask when there is a newsworthy data breach, what could those folks do with their skills if they were using them for good in the world? What could we be doing instead of scrolling through our newsfeeds? Reading the Bible, praying, teaching others, volunteering, and the list can go on.

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”  1 Timothy 6:17

Okay, so if Jesus was in human form on this earth with us in the present time, He MIGHT have social media (His disciples probably would have set it up for Him!) but He would use it to preach the Gospel and share His love.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Philippians 4:8"

Bio:  Avra lives in Green Bay, WI with her husband Shawn. She has attended Our Saviour Lutheran Church in Green Bay since 1992 where she was confirmed and married. She has served as the youth director and event coordinator. She has played in the praise band since 2005, sings in the choir, and also serves on altar guild and LWML. She has been studying minimalism for about three years now and continues to strive to find ways to live a simpler, more intentional life. She follows content producers such as The Minimalists, Becoming Minimalist, and Biblical Minimalism. She is often able to share her faith and minimalism in her career in the financial services industry. Her hobbies are music (playing and listening to live performances), reading, writing, decorating (yes, even minimally), gardening, board games, golf, watching wrestling, and cooking. 

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Update & An Exciting Writing Opportunity!

"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony."
Revelation 12:11
(KJV)

First of all, I just want to say Happy New Year to all of you!  I truly appreciate your faithfulness and support of this blog and am so grateful you are here following along.  I also want to apologize for my lack of posting lately (thank you for not giving up on me!) and wanted to give you an update on our minimizing journey.

My family and I continue to get settled into our new surroundings after having to make an unexpected move in 2019.  Our new place has a much better, more open storage space, so it is easier for us to have a visual of the number of our belongings.  This is incredibly helpful, as it is a frequent reminder to keep looking for ways to reduce unnecessary possessions.  Making another move also enabled us to more closely consider what we really needed to keep before loading it on to the moving truck.  Both of these dynamics have helped us to keep on track in continuing our downsizing efforts.

It is hard to believe that this month marks five years since the onset of the identity theft crisis we encountered in 2015.  Looking back, that has become something we praise God for allowing to happen because it served as the catalyst of change we needed to confront and tackle our indebtedness and the excess in our lives and home.  Thinking of our lives then and comparing it with our lives now really accentuates the stark differences and positive change that minimizing has brought about.  We could not be more grateful for every lesson God has taught us along the way, and it is our profound desire to continue to share those lessons here and through every avenue God opens and provides.  Which brings me to something exciting that is going on!

As you probably know, I finished writing a book called, "Biblical Minimalism —Following Jesus from a Life of Abundance to a More Abundant Life," and it has been my dream to have it published for quite a while.  One thing that definitely needed to happen before I publish the book is the book needed to be edited.  That can be quite an expensive undertaking, and it truly looked impossible.  But, GOD!  Through my dear friend, Marilyn, I was recently introduced to the book editor God chose to edit my book!  So, the process has begun, and after it is completed, I will pursue the process of self-publishing.  It will be a huge dream come true when it is finished, and I will let you know when the book is available, Lord willing!

In closing, I want to tell you some more exciting news!  Are you a minimalist who is navigating the process of minimizing from a Biblical perspective?  Have you consistently wished for more Biblical reading material to spur you on in your quest to live a life more closely aligned with the way Jesus lived His?  Do you have a burning desire to encourage aspiring minimalists by sharing the lessons God has taught and is teaching you on your downsizing journey?  If you answered yes to any and/or all of the above, would you like a platform to publish your thoughts?

We, too, longed for more Biblically-aligned content when we first started our minimalism journey, and we have a hunch there are many others who feel the same!  Thus, we would love for you to share your Biblical minimalism stories and lessons learned with us here and are offering you that opportunity!  Every story is important, and your story may be just the inspiration someone else is searching for.

We would love to make this blog a more interactive community where it is not only us talking, but YOU are contributing to the conversation, too!

SO, here are the guidelines —they are very simple:

1.  All content should be framed from a Christian, Biblical perspective and worldview.
2.  Suggested ideas for subject matter -
  • How minimalism has enriched your Christian walk
  • Downsizing
  • Minimizing
  • Debt-reduction
  • De-cluttering
  • Creative ideas for ways to dispose of unwanted/unneeded physical possessions
  • Frugality
  • Simple living
  • How you have learned to be happy with less (less income, less stuff, less conforming to "status quo")
  • Ways to avoid consumerism
  • How you have swam upstream to forge a stress-free life
  • Testimonies of social media elimination and reduction & how it has enhanced your life
3.  No monetary compensation will be provided, but we will be happy to promote you, your blog, website, business, and/or social media sites in the post.
4.  Email all submissions via email attachment to homespundevotions@gmail.com.
5.  Please include a bio and a headshot photo to introduce yourself to our readers. 


May God bless each one of you on your minimizing journeys, and we hope to hear from you soon!