Image "My Friend" by Helen Thomas Robson (Used by Permission) https://www.htrbydesign.com/
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

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Minimizing Excess Weight Through Prayer & Fasting

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."
Romans 12:1 (emphasis added)

You may wonder why I am talking about weight loss issues on a blog called Biblical Minimalism.  I realize that this will not apply to many of you, and chances are, you have no weight to lose and/or have already overcame in this area of minimizing.  Even if obesity is not an issue for you, I hope you can bear with me.  Maybe the stuff we talk about here will apply to another area of excess in your life.  Or perhaps you are struggling with another type addiction, unrelated to food, and maybe the things God is teaching me will be beneficial to you for something totally different.  At any rate, I trust you won't give up on me, as I use this space to work through this journey.

I recently published this very raw, unedited, transparent post concerning my ongoing struggles with obesity.  From the number of private emails I have been getting from different readers I have never heard from before, it turns out there are far more of you who share in my struggles than I imagined.  My heart goes out to each on of you because no one else could ever understand or feel your pain more than I do right now.  I want you to know I am praying for you and believing alongside you for victory for every, single one of us.

In our new book and in this post, I talk about the Whole Person Pie©, how our lives are made up of eight "slices" and how God should be the center.


One of those eight "slices" is called "the physical," which, in my opinion, falls right next to "the spiritual" slice of the pie in order of importance.  The physical slice of the pie is broken down into two parts - physical possessions (which you can read about in this post),


and our physical bodies (which I talked about here.)  I say that the physical slice is right next to the spiritual in order of importance because, as Christians, our physical bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit.  "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?"  I Corinthians 6:19


One of the parts of the "physical slice" that I focused on in that post is obesity.  


I'll be honest.  I hesitate to write about this at all because I am SO unqualified to talk about it.  Not that I am the authority on ANYthing I write about, but at least I can testify to the chain-breaking power of God and how He enabled us to sell our home and release about 90% of our physical possessions, liberated us from all our indebtedness, and performed so many other wonders in our lives.  Those are areas that I can see such blatant, visible proof as to what He has literally done, and my family and I have walked through those things and can see tanglible victory.  The gray slice you see in the pie chart above called "obesity" is a whole other ballgame.  This is where I am.  This is reality, and this is where I have gained zero victory and why I feel completely unqualified to share since I am still in the throes of this struggle and seeing no success.

When I stepped on the doctor's scale a few months ago and saw that glaring, shocking number staring me down, I could hardly believe it.  I told the nurse who stood next to me that I couldn't believe it.  Bless her heart, she struggles with the same and told me that after she steps on the scales and sees the number, she goes and gets something to eat and forgets about it!  I love her to pieces, but that is not exactly the most helpful medical advice I've ever been given, and it sure didn't encourage me to get this weight off.  When the doctor walked in, and I mentioned my weight gain to him and let him know how distressed I am about it, he began ordering testing, and sure enough, they found issues.  Those, piled on to the other physical conditions I have dealt with for years, in all fairness, are formidable opponents to my weight loss efforts.  Add medically-confirmed menopause to the mix, and you have a sure fire recipe for weight loss sabotage, and to be honest, this has all felt so hopeless.  I have felt completely trapped.

But, " Is any thing too hard for the LORD?"  Genesis 18:14 - this question was raised in reference to God's promise that Sarah would conceive and bear a son at the ripe old age of 90.  Can you imagine how incredulous and impossible this had to have sounded to Sarah?  I don't find it odd that she laughed when she heard that the following year, she would have a son. 

If God can open the barren womb of a 90-year-old woman and give her and her 100-year-old husband a son, can He not help me lose weight, in spite of medical limitations?  Their age was a mighty formidable opponent to childbirth, yet God miraculously fulfilled His promise to them and gave them a son of their own.  

My obesity is a stronghold that looks as impossible to me as having a child must have looked to Abraham and Sarah.  Yet, Jesus said, "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible."  Matthew 19:26  

2 Corinthians 10:4 says, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds."  Obesity, for me, is a strong hold.  It is a place in my life that I cannot seem to break through and change through any carnal weapon I have been able to get my hands on.  My many failed efforts in making this happen are living proof that I cannot do this—alone.  

But, God has been showing me that I CAN do this through His strength, and He is consistently bringing Matthew 17:21 to my mind, "Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting."  Sometimes, prayer alone is not enough.  There are some strong holds that cannot be pulled down through any other means than the mighty weapon combo of prayer and fasting.  Fasting requires self-denial and discipline, and I think that is precisely what I need right now.

I mentioned in my last post that I have been reading Kalen Bruce's new book, "10 Branches of Growth," and how Kalen talks about the discipline of intermittent fasting.  I had heard of it, and Kevin, Zach, and I had even tried it for a short time quite a while ago, but I had forgotten about it.  Full disclosure- I am not a doctor, nor am I saying that intermittent fasting will work or even be healthy for everyone.  Please seek the Lord for wisdom, and know that I am only sharing this as my own experience and testimony.  

A few days ago, I started the disicpline of intermittent fasting from 7:00 PM until at least 11:00 AM.  By God's grace, it is my goal to exercise this discipline until it becomes a habit that continues until the excess weight is gone.  I am not making a vow, and I know that I am continually subject to fall off the wagon, but this is my goal.  

Here's the best part.  Through the years, during times that the Lord has called me to fast, I have always been so amazed at the level of intimacy and spiritual depths I am drawn into while fasting.  There is just a special closeness and communion with God that has happened every, single time.  When I began this intermittent fasting a few nights ago, that was the farthest thing from my mind.  My sole purpose in doing this, in the beginning, was to lose weight.  But, the other night it occured to me that I am feeling that amazing sense of closeness to Jesus during the hours of 7:00 PM - 11:00 AM!  This is not just helping me physically.  It is helping me spiritually.  I feel a drawing to steal away in the evenings and go up to our room and enter into extra prayer time.  I am feeling that sense of His presence that is so much more overwhelming than usual.  The sheer act of denying myself those guilty pleasures of snacking and unnecesary food consumption at night is working and producing something good in my soul.  This is a win/win!

As I felt led to write this post, I asked the Lord if it is really necessary for me to share my struggles.  After all, this isn't the easiest thing in the world.  I got an immediate answer and confirmation that He wants to use my intense struggles to help someone else.  I have surrendered my life to Him to use as He sees fit, I have handed the reins to Him, and my life is a living sacrifice.  If He can get any glory out of my issues and discrepancies, and if they can reach out and let someone else know they are not alone, then here I am Lord, send me.  

I deeply appreciate your continued prayers that I will stay strong and be faithful to God in bringing this area of my life under subjection to Him.  This slice of the pie is every bit as important as decluttering the house, giving away possessions, and getting out of debt - in fact, it is even more important than all that because as I said before, this has to do with the very temple in which God's Spirit dwells.  It is my "reasonable service" to do all I can to make it as healthy a dwelling place as I possibly can.  You are my accountability partners, and your prayers mean the world to me.  God bless you all and help you with whatever you may be struggling with today.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Weight Loss Confessions

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us."  Hebrews 12:1 (KJV)

Hebrews 12:1 has literally become our minimalism journey anthem.  The laying aside of every weight and besetting sin is our constant pursuit, and it is ever on my mind and foremost in my walk with the Lord.  With all my heart, I want to please Him and live out the plan He has ordained for my time on this earth, and I know I cannot do that successfully while weighted down with excess.

I think often of the analogy the Apostle Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians 9:24.  "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain."  Anyone knows that in order for a runner to run a race at optimal speed and efficiency, they have to cast off every ounce of unnecessary weight.  To think that a runner could win a race with heavy objects strapped to his/her back, let alone excess body weight, is absurd.

Photo by Aaron Burden

It is no secret that I have struggled much with physical weight issues for several years.  It is a constant source of distress for me, and I have tried so many things to lose the weight, only to fall off the wagon and end up gaining even more.  Can anyone relate?

This morning, as I spent time with the Lord and begged Him once again to help me, He began to remind me how far He has brought my family and me in other areas of life.  He led us to sell our four-bedroom, three-bath home with a huge garage that was overstuffed with excess and release about 90% of our physical possessions.  He brought us out of extreme debt bondage to a place of being 100% debt-free.  He released us from untold layers of spiritual bondage and the spirit of legalism.  He has opened our eyes and drawn us out of so many weighty, encumbering, besetting sins, all glory to God.  So, why is it so hard for me to get a breakthrough on the stronghold of obesity?

If God can enable me to let go of things that had become such idols, to leave the home that meant more to me than I could even put into words, to completely stop using credit, and to walk free from the entanglements of so many levels of spiritual bondage, why is the tackling of obesity any different?

"Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?"  Jeremiah 32:27

"Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear."  Isaiah 59:1

My being physically overweight is no more God's fault than our being in debt up to our eyeballs was His fault.  This is something that I have allowed to let happen, and this is something that I am going to have to put forth the necessary effort and self-control to change just as much as we had to let go of the home we loved and say good-bye to so many beloved physical possessions.  Those possessions made their way into our house over years of accummulation and with our consent, just like these excess pounds made their way into my physical body with my permission.

Over two years ago, on June 1, 2018, I wrote this post.  On June 5, 2018, I published this post introducing The P.O.W.E.R. Tool©.  (You are more than welcome to download your own P.O.W.E.R. Tool© by clicking HERE.)  To say I wrote those posts over two years ago and to see the state I am in today fills me with incredible remorse, even shame.

One thing about tools, they only work and help you out if you pick them up and use them.  We have an electric washer and dryer in our basement.  It is there, at our disposal, to use any time we want 24/7.  We can either gather the laundry from the clothes hamper in our bedroom closet and the laundry basket on Zach's closet floor and walk that laundry to the basement, sort it, drop it in the wash machine, add laundry detergent, and turn the knob for it to begin OR we can leave our dirty laundry upstairs in our closets and allow it to pile up to the ceiling.  We can complain about how much we hate the piled-up dirty laundry, or we can implement our washer and dryer to help us get the laundry clean.

When the Lord inspired me to design the P.O.W.E.R. Tool, I had every intention of picking it up each morning and using it to help me stay on track.  Somehow, over time, I have completely stopped using this tool, and it shows—in very obvious, unhideable ways.  When I wrote this post, I needed to lose 60 pounds.  Yes, I said 60.  Imagine my unimaginable shock when I stepped on the doctor's scale a few months ago to find that my weight had balooned up to an unthinkable number, and suddenly 60 pounds didn't sound like so much to lose.  I am SO ashamed.  Just being real here ~ sorry if this post is too transparent.

Obviously, I didn't have to write and publish this post.  No one is standing over me with a gun to my head demanding I tell the whole world about the horrible stronghold I am dealing with on a daily basis.  I could pretend that I have been faithful and self-disciplined and stayed right on track.  I could lie, either by telling you those things or by saying I have steadily lost weight and have now reached my goal (OH, to be able to say that!) or I could just omit the truth and avoid the subject all together.  There is nothing compelling me to write this post, other than a sincere desire to help someone out there who is dealing with and fighting against obesity as much as I am.

I want you to know that you are not alone.  Today, I want to say to you that I am right there with you - even more overweight than I was on the day I wrote the post announcing to anyone who wanted to read it that I was 60 pounds overweight.

I wish I had a magic potion to offer you - believe me, if there were one, and I could get my hands on it, I would have already done so.  I wish I could tell you to click on a link that would guarantee a miracle cure for your obesity.  I wish I could hand you a simple solution that wouldn't require any type of effort on your part and would enable you to wake up tomorrow morning and see your ideal weight number miraculously appear on your digital scale.

I don't have anything to offer you but this ~

Sincere, heartfelt, genuine empathy because I am in the same, exact boat.  I hate the fact that I have wasted all this time and fallen into such weight-loss apostasy and gone completely off the rails.  TWO YEARS later, I am not only in the same, exact boat, "the boat" is straining even more now because I weigh substantially more than I did two years ago!

In my head, I KNOW all the right things to do.  I have even made vows to God (it really, really sobers me to realize and admit this), and I have repeatedly and shamefully broken those vows.  I can't begin to tell you how grateful I am for grace.  Without it, I would have been cut off a long time ago.  Why does He continue to forgive and put up with me when I consistently fail, fall short, and break my promises to Him?

"But thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness."  Nehemiah 9:17

"For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon Thee."  Psalm 86:5

"He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities."  Psalm 103:10

It's a good thing, huh?

I'm not sure why I entitled this post, "Weight Loss Confessions."  I think I should have called it "Weight Gain Confessions," because weight loss doesn't show up in any of this equation.

My promises in this area don't really hold their "weight," pun intended, but I am going to openly proclaim that I am going to TRY to get back on the wagon today.  One of the things that is motivating me very much right now is Kalen Bruce's new book, "10 Branches of Growth."  Kalen is a USAF Soldier who writes from a perspective of being extremely disciplined.

And, that is the key.  The Lord is showing me while reading Kalen's book that this all comes down to that one word - discipline, of which "disciple" is the root word.  I call myself a disciple of Jesus, and true disciple of Jesus I am.  I love Him more now than I have in my whole life, and believe me, that is a lot of love because my heart has been tender toward Jesus for as far back as I can remember.  These days, I can hardly speak His name without tears.  He has brought my family and me through SO much, and He means everything to me.  I am His disciple - with all my heart.

But, physical weight is an area in which I am completely unhinged and out of control.  I am so NOT under His subjection in this slice of the Whole Person Pie©.  I can see so many areas of progress - I even feel (with much humility and realization of the fact I am subject to fail or slip at any given moment) that I have some slices of the pie completely minimized and under total submission to Jesus and His perfect will.  Obesity is a continual reminder of the fact that when it comes to the physical slice of the pie - that important slice that includes the fact that my body is His temple - I am so far off track.  It feels impossible to ever minimize this slice, but today, I am relying upon the truths in His Word.

"But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible."  Matthew 19:26

"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."  Philippians 4:13

"Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us."  Romans 8:37

I am going to TRY to start picking up the P.O.W.E.R. Tool© each day and check off the boxes as I complete them.  I am going to TRY - try being the operative word - to start drinking the necessary amount of water each day and to get back on an exercise routine.  One of the things Kalen talks about in his book is intermittent fasting, where he only eats between 11 am and 7 pm each day.  He fasts during the other 16 hours.  I really think I can do this.  I think one of the pitfalls I have identified while reading "10 Branches of Growth" is late-night eating.

So, this is my accountability post, and this is me, asking you to please, please pray for me, will you?  I know without a doubt that some of my health issues would improve or even be elminated if I weren't lugging around this load of excess weight.  I long to follow Jesus in ALL areas of my life, including this one, and oh, my, in this one I am failing so miserably.  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."  I desperately need His help in becoming an overcomer in this area of my life, and your prayers are a Divine gift!

If you would like to get your own copy of Kalen's new book that is helping motivate me so much, click HERE.  


Kalen recently granted us an exclusive Inner Views interview, and you can read it by clicking HERE!


And, just a reminder, if you would like to order our new book, "Biblical Minimalism," click HERE.



May God bless each of you on your journey, and I deeply appreciate your prayers for victory in this area of my life!

Friday, July 17, 2020

How to Stretch a Pork Roast

 "Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful."
1 Corinthians 4:2


Living a life of Biblical Minimalism causes us to see the necessity of being frugal, good stewards over what God has entrusted to us.  Never before in our generation have we seen the need of this more than now.  The coronavirus pandemic has caused the whole world to stop, take a pause, and reconsider what needs to be changed about our way of living.  

Today, I am sharing an excerpt from a recent Homespun Devotions post because it really fits into what it means to live a frugal, simple life of Biblical minimalism.  

"One thing I've learned over 32 years of marriage is how to be frugal in the kitchen, and one of the neatest ways that allows me to call forth my creative side is by challenging myself with making meals that will feed my little family and me for more than one meal.  The goal is to always stay in competition with myself to see just how many meals one dish can stretch into!  😂

Upon leaving a comment over at Deborah's blog, "The Beautiful Matters" (by the way, I love, love, LOVE her blog ~ you should check it out and subscribe - she published a beautiful book review of our book recently ~ you can read it HERE), it came to my mind that I should share here what I was sharing in that comment.  So, here goes!

First, though - I'm sorry I am not one of those super-talented foodie bloggers.  I have no photos of the food to show, but I can promise you that these recipes work, they will stretch your grocery dollar until it screams, and you will hear lots of "mmms" and see smiling faces at your supper table!

One of the ways I cook something that stretches into feeding our family of three for nearly a week is by starting out with cooking a pork roast in the crock pot.  

I season the outside of the pork roast with my "go-to" seasoning combination.  I use this blend for SO many recipes.  Here are the stars of the show:

Seasoned Salt 
(I used to only buy Lawry's, but I have found that the Aldi brand is just as good and usually less expensive.)
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Black Pepper
Note:  I also sometimes add paprika or even steak seasoning, (depending on what I am cooking) to this "go-to" seasoning.

So, after I rub the outside of the pork roast with the above seasoning combination, I put it in the crock pot (fat-side down), and I take the handle of a wooden spoon and poke holes all over the roast, making sure to twist the spoon handle to make the holes bigger.

Next is where an amazing secret comes in concerning cooking a pork roast!! 

The liquid I pour over and around the pork roast is ~ not water, but apple juice!  The apple juice permeates down into the holes and flavors the pork as it cooks, and oh, my!  Let me just say that it takes this already delicious dish to a whole new level.  It also makes your gravy a beautiful golden color and gives it a distinctive flavor.  (recipe below)

And, here is how I start stretching a pork roast into enough to feed us for about a week:

Meal #1 from cooked Pork Roast

~ Pork Roast, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Corn, and Green Beans ~

After the roast is done, remove the meat from the crock pot, leaving the broth behind.

Cut the meat into servings and place it on a pretty meat platter.

Strain the broth by putting a colander over a large bowl and pouring the broth from the crock pot into the colander, making sure to sift out everything but the luscious, rich broth.  Set the strained bowl of broth aside.

Then, make homemade gravy, just like this:

Start out by melting one stick of butter in a large saucepan.

To the butter, add some flour to make a nice, rich roux ~
(Sorry, I don't have the exact measurement on the flour - I use the old-timey Tupperware scoops, and it usually takes about 2 to 3 of those heaping scoops to one stick of butter.  The general rule for a roux is equal parts fat and flour.)

To the roux, add the "go-to" seasoning mix above (to taste) and stir the butter, flour, and seasonings together until everything is smooth.

Then, pour the entire bowl of broth into the roux and stir vigorously.  You will want to have your heat up pretty high during this process.  Let it bubble, and stir continually until the mixture starts to look like real, homemade gravy.  Oh, my goodness!  This is SUCH good gravy!  It thickens to a beautiful texture, and the taste is just amazing!  If any remaining lumps bother you, you can use an immersion blender to break them up.  (I LOVE my immersion blender!)

For this meal, I also make homemade mashed potatoes, canned corn seasoned with butter, and 2 cans of green beans.  I pour the 2 cans of green beans into a pot, add two beef boullion cubes, and let them cook until all the water is cooked off (about 10 minutes or so).

After this original pork roast meal, the creative fun begins!  From that leftover pork roast, the following recipes spring forth!

Meal #2 from cooked Pork Roast

~ Open-faced Pork Roast Sandwiches ~

Toast two pieces of bread, while heating a portion of pork roast and gravy, separately, in microwave.

Butter the toast, then layer the pork roast on the buttered toast.

Pour the warm gravy over the open-faced sandwich.

Serve with some of the leftover mashed potatoes, corn, and green beans, if desired.

Meal #3 from cooked Pork Roast

~ Pork Ranch Barbecue Nachos ~

Ingredients:

Cool Ranch Doritoes
Shredded Cheese
Can of Chili Beans, heated
(I pulverized the beans with an immersion blender as I heated them, but you could also smash them with a fork or potato masher.  Chili beans are what we had on hand, but you could also use refried beans or some other type of canned beans.)
Leftover Pork Roast, reheated
Diced Tomatoes
Sour Cream
Ranch Dressing
Barbecue Sauce
Diced Onions (if desired)

Spread a layer of Cool Ranch Doritoes on a dinner plate.

Spread shredded cheese over the Doritoes.

Spread warm chili beans over cheese.

Spread warm pork roast over beans.

Shred another layer of cheese on top of the pork roast.

Top with diced tomatoes, dollops of sour cream, onions (if desired).

Squirt ranch dressing in a criss-cross pattern over the top.

Squirt barbecue sauce in a criss-cross pattern over the ranch dressing.

You could also add jalapeno peppers, black olives, pico de gallo, salsa, or any other toppings you'd like.

Meal #4 from cooked Pot Roast

~ Barbecue Pork Sandwiches ~

Ingredients:

Leftover Pork Roast
Barbecue Sauce of your choice
Hamburger Buns
Butter
Bag of Cole Slaw 
(Pre-shredded mixture of cabbage & carrots.  We always put ours through our chopper to blend extra-fine.)
Mayonnaise
Vinegar
Sugar

Sandwiches:

Heat leftover pork roast in a saucepan & slather with barbecue sauce while heating.

Butter top and bottom of each bun and brown in a skillet, butter-size down.

Assemble sandwiches by placing a portion of barbecue pork on each bottom bun, then topping meat with cole slaw.  (Recipe below.)

Cole Slaw

Place shredded cabbage mixture in bowl.

Mix mayonnaise, vinegar, and sugar in small bowl.
(I apologize that I do not measure.  I just put about 2-3 large dollops of mayonnaise in a bowl, with a dash of vinegar, and about 2-3 teaspoons of sugar.  I keep stirring and taste-testing and adding sugar/vinegar it until it tastes "right" to me.  😕
I know ~ but this is the country way of doing things and the way Mom taught me to cook!)

Pour mayonnaise, vinegar, and sugar dressing over the cabbage, and voila!  You have cole slaw!

Note:  This slaw is SO good - it takes me back to when I was growing up and Mom, Dad, and I would go into country restaurants and they would serve cole slaw with Captain's Wafers crackers before the meal.  Does anyone else remember that?  

Meal #5 from cooked Pork Roast

~ Cold Pork Roast Sandwiches ~

Slather a slice of bread with mayonnaise and pepper.

Place cold pork roast on bread, and top with second slice.

Yummy and so, so simple.

Meal # 6 from cooked Pork Roast

~ Must Go Soup ~

Ingredients:

Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Corn
Green Beans
Pork Roast
Half & Half
Any other leftover cooked veggies from refrigerator
You can also add any canned veggies that don't require a long cooking time

Dump all into a large pan and heat slowly.  When meat and veggies are warm, top everything with Half & Half until all is covered to a creamy, liquid consistency.  The leftover mashed potatoes and gravy give this soup an amazingly rich base that morphs into a delicious, velvety soup.

Again, I wish I had taken photos of all of this at each step, but I failed to do so.  I was too busy enjoying the process of creating wonderful things for my little family to eat.  

I hope you can find something in this post that will spark a new creative and very frugal adventure in your own kitchen cooking for the ones you love most in the world!

Let me know if you try any of these recipes!  May God bless you as you seek to live a Biblically minimal life!

Friday, July 3, 2020

Sharing Today at "Becoming Minimalist"

"And He said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth."
Luke 12:15
(KJV)

Today, I am SO grateful to Joshua Becker for allowing me to share my heart at his amazing blog, "Becoming Minimalist."  I have been following Joshua for years, and he has been a huge inspiration to my family and me on our minimizing journey.  Joshua was the first person I wanted to interview back in 2015 when God began to lead me to start the "Inner Views" segment of this blog.  I thoroughly enjoyed our telephone conversation, and you can read my interview with Joshua by clicking HERE.

My family and I are finding a deep and meaningful sense of purpose in the "nothingness" God has led us to carve out in our lives.  Our passionate pursuit echoes the cry of John the Baptist's heart in John 3:30, "He must increase, but I must decrease."

A closer walk with Jesus is the driving force behind our letting go of so much of this world's goods, and it is the thrust of our new book, 

(You can order your own copy of our book HERE!)

"I stood in our son, Zach’s room, staring at his cleaned-out, nearly empty closet. 

“The only thing that will be on the floor will be my laundry basket, Mama!” His words were spoken with such pride and excitement, and in that moment, it hit me how grateful I am not only for our minimizing journey but for the timing of it."  

To read the rest of my latest article, "Finding Substance in Nothing," click HERE!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Biblical Minimalism Book Reviews

"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver."
Proverbs 25:11
(KJV)


Book Reviews of our new book are happening, and I thought you may like to know!
It has been an exciting time for us, and how grateful we are to our launch team!  Some of the launch team members have already finished reading the book, and we could not be more grateful for their beautiful reviews.  We are looking forward to all the upcoming reviews, also, and hope to be able to share them with you here soon!

Click on the links below to read what the launch team members are saying!





If you haven't ordered your copy of our book yet, why not do it today?
Just click HERE!

Many blessings to you all!

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!