Image "My Friend" by Helen Thomas Robson (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

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

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!