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

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A Bath & Body Works GIVEAWAY at Homespun Devotions!

"You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, to the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever."  Psalm 30:11,12

Our other blog, Homespun Devotions, recently passed its 8th Year Blogiversary Smilestone!
So, as a way to thank all of you for your loyalty and support all these years, we are offering a little giveaway there!

HINT:  It has to do with wonderful Christmas scents, a warm cup of tea, and a little angel mug mat/doily.....


TO ENTER just click HERE and leave a comment for us!
HURRY...the winner will be randomly chosen on Sunday, 11/24!!!
We can't wait to hear from you!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Letting Go of "If Onlys" and "What Ifs"


"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."  
Jesus' words in John 14:27

How many times have you uttered the two little words, “if only?”  “If only I hadn’t gone so far into debt.”  “If only I had been more respectful of my parents and their needs.”  “If only I had spent more time with my kids.”  “If only I hadn’t gained so much weight.”  “If only I hadn’t spoken such unkind words.”  “If only I had chosen a different path.”  “If only I had listened to wise counsel.”

How about those other two little words, “what if?”  “What if the bottom falls out?”  “What if something bad happens?”  “What if I try again and fail again?”  “What if other people talk about me?”  “What if this relationship doesn’t work out?”  “What if I never find my purpose?”  “What if we can’t make ends meet?”

Your “if onlys” and "what ifs?" may be worlds-apart different than mine, but there’s a good chance, if you have lived very long at all, you have amassed a huge pile of “if onlys” and "what ifs?" all your own.

These are the things “if onlys” and “what ifs” are made of.  “If onlys” communicate remorse and regret over the past.  “What ifs” convey fears and anxiety over the future.  Both prevent us from living in complete joy in the present.  If you are like me, you may teeter between the two on a regular basis.  It sort of feels like an irreconcilable, futile tug-of war, lamenting one minute over things I wish I had done differently in the past and dreading unforeseen potentially bad things that may or may not happen in the future.

Can you envision just for a moment how much happier and more serene present life would be if we decluttered all “if onlys” and “what ifs” and never uttered those four words again?  “If onlys” and “what ifs” are a complete waste of time and energy because the truth is, we cannot go back and make alterations, nor can we see or control what happens beyond the moment in front of us.  “If onlys” and “what ifs” hold the power of rendering us incapable of experiencing joy in the beautiful parts of our own reality and they rob us of being able to live the peaceful life we all crave.

Remember the serenity prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference?”  (Written by Reinhold Niebuhr)

Acceptance, courage, and wisdom are quite possibly the three main qualities we all need on this path to a minimal life.

Acceptance of the things we cannot change—

What we sow will grow, and it is impossible to go back and unearth any of the seeds we have planted.  We will never find a sense of peace until we make the choice to let go of regret and embrace that what has already happened cannot be undone.  Regrets are past deeds for which we refuse to forgive ourselves.  Surrendering the grudge we are holding against ourselves is extremely liberating and conducive to peace.  It is completely okay to finally forgive yourself for doing the things you wish you hadn’t, leave the past where it happened, let it go, and walk on.

Courage to change the things we can—

Since we can’t rewrite the history of our own actions, why not focus our energy on learning the lessons our regrets have taught us and start courageously applying that knowledge to present and future behavior?  Why don’t we stop obsessing over what we can’t do and redirect that energy to what we still can?  While we can’t change the way we may have treated departed loved ones, we can recklessly and wholeheartedly love and care for the important people who are in our lives today.  Whenever possible, we can say we’re sorry to people we may have hurt along the way.  We can nourish relationships with our children and do our best to make up for lost time with them, regardless of their current age.  We can scale back on unnecessary commitments and obligations and set our current priorities in order.  We can pay off past debt and stop buying things on credit.  We can make better eating choices, start exercising, and lose excess weight.  We can do whatever it takes to change career paths and start doing something we really love.  We can start today by mustering the courage to do the things we wish we had done in the past.  Life is incredibly short, no one is getting any younger, and there is no time like the present.  Start today to make the changes you wish you had made years ago.

Wisdom to know the difference—

There is a sense of relief that can be found in the mere act of compartmentalizing the things that bother us.  Just as it helps us feel more productive to place unwanted physical possessions into minimizing boxes that are labeled, “Donate,” “Sell,” “Trash,” and “Put Away,” tossing troublesome “what ifs” and “if onlys” into the “Things I Can Change” and “Things I Cannot Change” categories will help us feel that we are making progress and taking a step in the right direction.  Making the distinction between what we can change and what we cannot change empowers us to take control over hypothetical circumstances and realign our thoughts with what is real and doable.

The enemy of our souls wants to steal, kill, and destroy everything good in our lives.  If he can convince us to dwell on "if onlys" and "what ifs," he can take our eyes off the blessings God so faithfully and bountifully pours into our lives.  Jesus came to give us life.  Not just existence, but life that is abundant.  "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."  John 10:10

“If onlys” produce regret.  “What ifs” generate anxiety.  Both are toxic to our well being, and regardless how much progress we may have made in minimizing stressful situations and letting go of excess physical possessions, they can rob our newfound peace and cause our otherwise simple lives to feel unnecessarily complicated.  The next time you are tempted to say, “if only” or “what if,” make the intentional decision to think of something about present life that you are thankful for, turn your eyes upon Jesus, and thank Him for that instead.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Living Life Looking Forward

"And Jesus said unto him, 'No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."  Luke 9:62 (KJV)


It is no secret that the sentimental layer of minimizing has been the most agonizing for me.  I associate things with people and memories from the past, and it just feels so wrong to let the associated thing go.  Somehow, I feel like I am betraying my precious parents if I dare to donate the gifts Mom bought for me or all the decoupage pictures Dad took so much time to make for me.  After all, there will be no more gifts from them.  I miss them so much and holding on to the things they gave me during their time on earth brings a great deal of comfort.  Or does it?  Sometimes, it all starts to feel heavy and seeing certain things seems to accentuate the blatancy of their absence more than make me feel the sense of comfort I felt the day they were given to me.  Because it is not that day anymore.  Many moons have passed, and a lot of water has flowed under the bridge during the 19 years since Dad went to Heaven and the 7 years since Mom followed him there.

Due to circumstances beyond our control and completely against our will, we recently had to move again.  As we packed and prepared for the move, I was completely dumbfounded as to how we could STILL have so much stuff!  As you will know if you have been reading here long, we began downsizing in earnest four years ago, sold our 4-bedroom home with the oversized garage, and released about 90% of our physical possessions.  We moved into a 2 bedroom, furnished rental that provided very little storage, have continued downsizing the entire time we lived there being intentional about not bringing new things into our home, and yet, when we got ready to move again, I was completely overwhelmed by all we still own.  How could this be?

As I unpack boxes and crates in our new place, it occurs to me that a lot of what I am unpacking is sentimental in nature.  Oh, there are the things that we actually use, need, and want to keep, but there are a lot of other things I am still clinging to simply because I feel guilty letting them go.  As I contemplated all of this, the light of these epiphanies dawned on me.

1. Sentimental things are tethering me to the past.  They are beginning to feel like an anchor holding me back from fully embracing the now and what is to come.  I cling to them because I want to maintain a bridge to yesterday, but that bridge is an uncrossable, unrealistic fantasy.  Holding on to the things that belonged to or were given to me by departed loved ones will never bring them back or transport us back in time.

2. When an item evokes more sadness than happiness, it no longer deserves a place in my life.

3. I no longer want to be reminded of what used to be but will never be again because I want to enjoy today and the memories still to be made.

4. These sentimental things are no longer making me feel joyful.  They bring pangs of heartache when I look at them, and as I watch my husband and son lug these crates around, I cringe thinking about how my sentimentality is the cause of their sore muscles and backs.

5. I am not betraying my parents (or anyone else) by not keeping every greeting card they ever gave me or holding on to every, single thing they ever bought for me.  I don’t have to give up everything, but I don’t need to keep everything, either.  It is unhealthy and unfair to the loved ones who remain and mean the world to me.  Thankfully, I have the option of keeping choice, meaningful reminders of my time with them and still feel okay about not clinging to the rest.  I can almost hear my very practical, sensible parents telling me it is not only okay, but it is high time to let go.

6. One day, when our son has the unpleasant job of sorting through our things after we are gone, the memories associated with the things we leave behind will not be attached.  These are our memories, not his.  It won’t make sense to him why I kept a restaurant receipt from a meal Mom, Dad, and I shared when I was a teenager.  He wasn’t there, nor will he understand its purpose.  So, why burden him with it?

7. Most of the sentimental stuff hasn’t seen the light of day in years.  I just keep it stashed away in crates that are never opened and keep moving it from place to place kind of like dragging a ball and chain behind me.  Opening it now feels like reopening an old, painful wound.  I don’t want to do that anymore.  How can I completely heal if I keep reopening the wound?

8. As I purge the sentimental, I start to realize these same truths apply to relationships that may have at one time been healthy but have become toxic.  Clinging to a detrimental relationship out of sheer guilt is counter-productive to my new forward-looking life.  As I am assessing every, single thing I take out of boxes and crates before finding it a place in our new home, I am analyzing each relationship to see if it still brings benefit, joy, and enrichment to my current life.

Sometimes, as Christians, we develop the mindset that we are never to encounter or engage in conflict or eliminate any relationships.  This could not be farther from the truth.  There are times that our walk with Christ will be the very catalyst that requires the severance of a relationship.  I talk a lot more about this in a post called "Minimizing Detrimental Relationships."

It feels good to shed what is no longer healthy.  From now on, I want to live life looking forward.  I feel excited about changing my perspective from mourning for yesterday to anticipation for tomorrow.  After having gone through some scary medical stuff lately, I have been freshly reminded just how fragile life is, and I don’t want to waste any more time longing for what has already been lived.  Life is such a precious gift, and I feel like God has handed me a new lease on life.  With deep gratitude to Him for more time, I want to embrace this moment and all future moments, living each one to the full with an outlook of eagerness and expectation of good things ahead.  I want to trade in the old for what is new and still to come.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

How to Stop Over Complicating Simplicity

"So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content."
I Timothy 6:8 (NLT)


It is no secret that I long for the old days.  I crave simplicity and yearn for the way life was before electronics burst on the scene and so intrusively invaded our lives.  I miss pay phones, quiet rooms with no TVs or background noise, and watching children use their imaginations while playing with real toys.  As crazy as it sounds, I love to sit in a dark room and listen intently to the sounds of silence.  There is nothing I enjoy more than the things that do not cost anything at all.  Take a walk with me, share your heart, and listen patiently and with genuine interest while I pour out mine, and I’m blissfully content.  I often feel that I was born over a century too late, and I am forever searching for a bridge to propel me back in time to that place where I feel I most belong.

Unfortunately, I have yet to discover a time machine, and sadly, there aren’t many things I can change about this chaotic, fast-moving age of “enlightenment,” but I have discovered that I don’t have to alter the world around me, I just need to change my world.  No one can force me to live in a way that makes me uncomfortable in my own skin, nor can anyone else put forth the effort required for me to swim upstream against the current to live in a way that is counter-cultural.  If I am going to live a simple, minimal life, I am the only person who can make it happen.  Society will not conform to my ideals, and since I will never find contentment trying to squeeze myself into its mold, we will have to part ways and agree to disagree. 

Perhaps you find yourself yearning for the old days and would like to join me on my journey?
 
Here’s how:

1.     Identify how you want to live.  What is it that you long for most?  What about your ancestors’ way of life calls to you the loudest?  Is it the silence?  The close bonds and family values?  Their deeply rooted faith in God?  The joy they found in doing a hard day’s work?  The way they had time to help others?  The lack of clutter in their homes?  The fact that they only owned what was meaningful and what they needed and/or used?  Their small houses?  The way they grew their own food? 

2.     Figure out what is distracting you.  What in your atmosphere prevents you from living that kind of life?  For years, my husband worked in the banking industry in very high-stress positions that robbed him of time with our family.  Our indebtedness forced him to earn a certain salary and kept him bound to a job he detested.  We view the outsourcing of his job last year as a merciful blessing that freed him to be a more hands-on father and to participate in finishing our 13-year  homeschool journey with our son.  Now that he has accomplished that long-term dream, he is looking forward to getting back into the work force, but this time, it will be on far different terms.  All glory to God, He has enabled us to make the drastic changes required to eliminate all debt, and by my husband's choice, he is planning to find a job that will be less brain-taxing, more physically active, and with little to zero stress.  What society deems “menial” has become something very attractive and desirable to him.  The pay will be far less, but it’s okay.  Thankfully, we don’t need what we used to need to survive, peace is more important to us than money, and prestige is not something we seek to attain.

3.     Do what you have to do to make it happen.  If you long to be more present and engaged, break up with social media.  Start pouring your heart, time, and energy into the ones who mean most to you and socialize with those with whom you can talk face-to-face.  Leave your phone out of sight and only use it when absolutely necessary.  Refuse to be drawn in to keeping up with everyone else’s online life and be more intentional about your own.  Sell what you have to pay what you owe, so you can work less.  Change jobs to reduce stress.  Gracefully bow out of toxic, unhealthy relationships.  Reduce overwhelm by learning to say no.  Weigh what you long for against what is preventing you from having it.  If simply is the way you want to live, you will find a way to muster the courage to make every necessary change.  It is just plain worth it.           

4.     Prepare yourself for criticism.  Not everyone is on board with wanting to live a life of simplicity, and you may or may not garner applause and support along the way.  This is where you have to decide whether or not you will be true to your self and the values that are important to you, or if you will live bound to the opinions, expectations, and approval of others.  A few years ago, my family and I made decisions that seemed far-fetched and radical.  We sold our home, released most of our physical possessions, moved into a small rental that includes yard maintenance, and resigned from ministerial obligations that were more than we could handle.  It took steely determination and a strong resolve to stay the course, but as we look back on our journey from a place of deep contentment, we realize it was the right thing to do and worth every mile.  Like Christian in John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress,” sometimes you just have to put your fingers in your ears and run for your life.

Far too often, we overcomplicate simplicity and completely defeat our own purpose and desire to slow down and live a minimal life.  Minimalism is the polar opposite of complexity.  The very basic, but remedial truth is that the power to change lies within the wellspring of our own choices.  Through His help and strength, we can follow Jesus from a life of abundance to that more abundant life He came to enable us to live.  "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."  John 10:10

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Reaching for the "Little House on the Prairie" Kind of Life

"And having food and raiment let us be therewith content."
I Timothy 6:8
(KJV)


I grew up in a household without a television.  I’m glad I did.  Mom and Dad put a lot of emphasis on family time, and they were careful regarding their stewardship of keeping our home free from profanity and bad influences.  There was one particular TV show I was freely allowed to watch, however, with their full blessing.  Every Monday night, you could find us visiting my sister, Sandi’s house, my eyes glued to her TV screen as Laura, Mary, Carrie, Pa, and Ma Ingalls carried me away to their little house on the prairie situated in a much simpler, more sensible time.  To say I loved that show is such an understatement.  I felt like the Ingalls family were my own very dear and close friends.

Fast forward to now.  My family and I have been renting the "Little House on the Prairie" DVDs from our local library and cherishing our time binge-watching them together.  Thankfully, I have forgotten most of the episodes, so it is like watching them for the first time.  As I watch them gather around their kitchen table, listen to Pa play his fiddle, and see the girls climb into their loft bedroom to kneel and say their bedtime prayers, I continually feel a sense of deep loss and longing as I compare their uncomplicated, well-balanced life to the cluttered, chaotic world in which we now live.

I am so weary of the invasive domination of consumerism, the self-promotion of social media, and the modern demands we all feel we have no choice but to succumb to.  Why do we feel that way?  Have the basic human needs changed so much over the years?  Is it still possible to live like the Ingalls family lived, or is it just nostalgic fantasy?  I ponder these questions, and I realize that I wouldn’t want to give up electricity, a landline phone, indoor plumbing, air conditioning, or a car, but other than those five modern conveniences, there truly wouldn’t be much else I would miss.
Here are some lessons we can all learn from the Ingalls on how to live a simple life.

Keep faith strong.  No matter what hardships the Ingalls family faced, they were deeply rooted in an unwavering faith in God that grounded them and was the governing force and anchor of their lives.  Each Sunday morning, they loaded into their horse-pulled wagon to attend the country church, and prayer was an integral part of their every day life.

Get rid of everything unnecessary and unwanted.  If you think of it, there was nothing in the Ingalls’ home that wasn’t being used or enjoyed.  Remove the clutter.  Just let it go.  It may hurt at first, but only for a short time, then you won’t even miss it.  The freedom and lightness that follows releasing the unnecessary is invigorating.  If you don’t need, use, or want something, remove it from your life.

Reduce to a smaller living space.  Now that you have only what you need, use, and want, it just makes sense to downsize your living quarters.  One of the qualities of the Ingalls family that I admire the most is the closeness of their relationships.  I love how Mary and Laura talked each night before going to sleep and how the small space necessitated family members be in the same room and look one another in the eye.  Since my family and I sold our 4-bedroom home and moved into a much smaller space, we now have a combined kitchen, dining, and living room area.  We spend most of our day in the same room together talking, homeschooling, cooking, eating, visiting, and cherishing one another’s company.  I wouldn’t trade that togetherness for all the big houses in the world.  Sometimes it still feels like we have too much space, and a 400 square foot Park Model RV is looking better to us all the time.  Love really does grow best in small houses.

Turn off the noise.  The Ingalls’ home was quiet and peaceful, and fostered the kind of atmosphere that naturally invites the pouring out of hearts, sharing of the day’s stories, reading, meditating, and listening.  Pa and Ma always shared what was on their minds right before going to sleep, and they always knew what was going on in each other’s lives.  What bothered one concerned the other.  Instead of keeping up with everyone else’s facebook feed, they fed their relationship by making each other a priority.  Their marriage was strong and solid because they communicated everything and never allowed distance to exist.

When is the last time you turned off your phone, laptop, and TV and allowed the night sounds of crickets to lull you to sleep?  Say no to online.  Leave electronic devices outside your bedroom.  Unplug and disengage from the artificial to nourish what is real and in front of you.  Just because the whole world is absorbed in noise and social media doesn’t mean you have to indulge at all.

Genuinely love others.  Pa and Ma Ingalls were never too busy to help a neighbor, visit the sick, lend a hand, or do a favor.  There was this genuinely authentic quality in people back then that automatically rose to the occasion of another’s need without counting personal cost.  They even reached out to those who didn’t necessarily agree with their religious or political views, simply because it was the right thing to do.

Avoid debt.  Remember how Pa always hated owing the Oleson’s Mercantile and how he paid off those debts as soon as possible?  He believed in buying only what he could afford and living within his means—wisdom we would all do well to follow.

There is so much about their life that calls to me.  I am encouraged to discover that through the choices my family and I have been making since beginning our minimizing journey, we have unwittingly been reaching and edging closer to replicating that kind of life.  Surprisingly, we are finding that the bridge between our life and theirs isn’t really all that wide across, after all.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Make Your Needs Your Wants, and Your Needs Few

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."  
Matthew 6:33


Is that even possible?  In 2019?  In this consumerism-obsessed, materialism-driven age of time?  Is it possible to make a complete mental transition from being obsessed with what we want to being content with the simplicity of what we actually need?  Can a person truly make their needs their wants and their needs few?

I am here to tell you that yes, it is possible and far easier than you might think.  My family and I have been in the throes of making this transition over the past few years, and we are amazed when we compare our mindset today with what it was when we began this journey.  We are learning what it means to be satisfied with what we need, and it is a beautiful thing to find that the things we want and the things we need are harmoniously one and the same. 

There is enormous freedom to be found, if you just know where to look.

1. Identify Your Greatest Need

What is it that you really need?  For the moment, let’s lay aside the necessities of food, shelter, clothing, and good health, and let’s talk about the internal part of you.  What is that one need that when left unmet throws every other part of your life out of balance?  Identifying this is of utmost importance because no matter how much stuff you accumulate, how many avenues you explore, or to what extremes you go, you will never be fully happy until you identify and fill that one, basic, greatest need.  One of the first necessary steps to uncover this is to reconnect to your childhood self.  Remember that person?  For me, it is a little brown-haired girl with pony tails, hazel-green eyes, and a heart full of hope that learned early on to rely heavily upon prayer and a connection to God that was authentic and integral.  I personally found that my most pressing need was and continues to be a spiritual one.  One of my earliest childhood memories is kneeling beside my bed to pray and finding a rare sense of comfort and deep-seated peace.  That basic, deepest need as a three-year old is still my greatest need at age 52.  So simple, yet so profound.

2. Identify Your Second Greatest Need

For me, it is to live in peace and spend as much time as possible with the ones I love.  The older I get the more I see the brevity of life and feel a deep need to make the most of every precious moment.   I find that I cannot function well when I am at odds with anyone in my inner circle, and it is important to me to keep communication lines open and do whatever it takes to make them a priority.

3. Identify Subsequent Needs

Perhaps you feel an intense longing to serve others, create, travel, explore, learn, or teach.  Think about what fulfills you and makes you feel complete and identify what is preventing you from doing these things.  Answering these questions will help you to find your true calling and purpose in the Kingdom of God.  What stands in your way of living out that calling?

As you are identifying your greatest needs, are you seeing a pattern?  Are you noticing that true needs are not “things” at all?  Authentic needs are matters of the heart, the inside of you.  As your thought process is transformed to focus on what is internal, you realize that to fill those needs you will find it necessary to eliminate much that is external. 

Just a few years ago, my family and I “owned” a 4 bedroom, 3 bath home, with an oversized 2-car garage on 2 acres of land.  Our house, garage, attic, closest, cupboards, and drawers were stuffed to the brim, we were up to our eyeballs in debt, the continual upkeep and maintenance of physical possessions robbed time and energy needed to nurture our spiritual walk with Christ, and our lifestyle required my husband to keep his nose to the grindstone bound to a job he detested.  He felt a deep sense of nagging guilt over watching our only son grow up too quickly and not being able to spend enough time with him.  We didn’t need much of what we wanted, and our wants were preventing the filling of our heart needs.  Our epiphany happened when our identity was stolen, and we were forced to face the reality of all we owed and the toll we were allowing excess to take on our lives.

We sold our home, released about 90% of what we owned, became 100% debt-free, and moved to the mountains.  We switched from the fast lane to a slow-moving pace that is conducive to the nourishing of our souls, and instead of going back into debt, we made the choice to rent a small, furnished home that someone else is responsible for and owns.  Several months after our move, my husband’s job was outsourced, and he is taking time off to finish our 13-year home school journey.  There was a time we would have been devastated and lost everything we “owned” because of the unexpected job loss but making our needs our wants and our needs very few ahead of time enabled us to be able to rejoice over being set free from such bondage.  My husband is now completely involved and the hands-on father he has always wanted to be, and we are free to explore and do things together that we could never have experienced before.  This is our journey from a life of abundance to a more abundant life, and we have never been happier or more free.

Life has a way of blurring the lines and injecting unwanted, uninvited distraction to the filling of our deepest needs.  It may take some hard work, intense soul-searching, and deep digging to find what your greatest needs are, but there is great wisdom in finding your true self.  It is there, probably buried under a heap of cheap substitutes, insufficient fillers, and the inadequacy of excess physical possessions.

It all comes down to what matters most and the choices you are willing to make.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Softening the Pain of Letting Go

"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful."  Colossians 3:15 (KJV)

First of all, I want to apologize for my lack of posting lately.  Secondly, I'd like to welcome all of the new subscribers!  I am so thankful for you and appreciate you taking the time to stop and read what the Lord lays upon my heart.

My family and I have been on another downsizing purge, and the process has been a mixture of highs and lows.  I have cried as we have pulled out crates that haven't been opened in a long time and memories of what used to be have spilled out along with the contents of the crates.  Whew!  No one could ever prepare you for the side of parenting that involves coming to a point of being able to embrace the reality that your child(ren) is/are no longer little.  The thing that is finally sinking into me is that keeping our son, Zachary's younger clothes will not magically take us back to those childhood days.  Clinging to every homeschool workbook will not offer a bridge to step back in time and relive those moments side by side, studying, teaching, and learning together.  I have cherished every single moment of this journey, and I will forever be grateful to God for allowing it to happen, but keeping the physical items that remind me of those long days that turned into such short years will never take us back.  We have to live life moving forward.  As hard as it is, we have to let the past go, and a big part of that is the release of stuff we have accumulated along the way.  Stuff becomes heavy.  It weighs us down.  It causes us to worry.  It takes us space, and far too often, it can make us sad.

As I sorted through some things yesterday, the inward struggle was real.  Long-buried feelings and emotions steadily rose to the surface, as I felt a sense of loss over the speed at which Zach has grown up.  How did we get here so quickly?  Where did the time go?  I don't feel ready for him to already be 18, but here we are, ready or not.  I look at our dear boy, and it seems like only yesterday that we were praying for God to send us a baby of our own.  After many years of infertility struggles and 12 1/2 years of marriage, He finally answered those earnest, Hannah-like prayers and gave us the deep desire of our hearts.  I still remember the overwhelming feeling of love and devotion I felt that first moment they placed him in my arms.  It feels like such a short time ago.

As I wrestled with such deep, raw emotions, I took out the little camera I carry in my purse, and I began to take pictures of the things I decided to give up.  As I snapped away, an epiphany that many of you have probably long ago experienced suddenly became crystal clear to me.  Sometimes the most basic wisdom can be so overlooked when it is right under my nose! In case anyone else is struggling, I wanted to share the comfort I found.

1.  Pictures stored on digital cameras or an electronic device take up no additional physical space.  The little camera is no more cumbersome than it was before I snapped those photos.  It still fits neatly in the side pocket of the inside of my purse.  Keeping all of those memory-packed crates, on the other hand, takes up a lot of space.  For some reason, I find an enormous sense of satisfaction in looking into the white space of an empty crate.

2.  Seeing is as good as feeling.  Looking at an item can bring the same amount of joy as being able to physically touch it.  I can take out the little camera anytime I choose, and I can look at the things that have meant so much to me through the years.  Seeing them on a camera screen evokes the same emotions as taking them out of a heavy-laden crate every two or three years and holding them in my hands.

3.  Someone else can make use of the things I insist on hoarding.  There are children who can wear the gently-used clothing that I so carefully stowed away all those years ago.  Christian homeschool curriculum that I have clung to so tightly can come alive again in the hands of another homeschool mama and mold the mind of her learning child.

4.  The lighter feeling I have after letting go is worth the pain.  Lugging this stuff around is cumbersome.  I may shed tears while dropping it, item by item, into a cardboard box headed for Goodwill, but once its gone, I seldom think of it again.  Instead of mourning it, I almost always feel a sense of relief to know that I have less stuff to be concerned about.

5.  In the midst of all of this, it is okay to keep the things that mean the most.  I am holding onto certain things simply because they are comforting and dear to my heart.  Sometimes, it comes down to the simple act of making a choice.  Instead of keeping every single childhood toy, I am choosing to keep a few small ones that hold the strongest and happiest memories.

My dear husband always tells me to do the thing that brings me peace.  I am learning the depth of wisdom in that.  The verse I chose for this devotional is Colossians 3:15.  It gives two basic instructions.  1.  Let the peace of God rule in your hearts.  2.  Be thankful.  I am finding that it brings more peace to let certain things go, and I am deeply thankful for the memories attached to those things.  Giving them away will not remove their memory, and the peace that comes from not having to deal with their weightiness is worth the pain of letting go.

Are you on a minimizing journey?  What are some of the things you are doing to soften the pain of letting go?  I'd love to read your ideas and suggestions!  Please take a moment to leave a comment below before you leave!

God bless you on your journey!

Friday, January 18, 2019

January ~ A Perfect Time To Minimize, Declutter, Organize, and Give!

"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."  Isaiah 43:19


I love the month of January each year. There is just something about that clock striking midnight on New Year's Eve that feels like a reset button has been activated. Everything feels so new, untainted, and like we've all been handed a brand-new start. So, now that we are several days into the month of January, the Christmas decorations are put away, and the dust of party and celebration aftermath has settled, what could be a more perfect time to begin the clearing out of what we no longer need, use, or want?

Though my family and I have released about 95% of our physical possessions, and our minimizing journey has been going on for a few years now, from time to time we feel the need to start at the beginning again and assess the things we currently own. Especially right after Christmas. It is amazing how much stuff can sneak back in and begin accumulating without our notice.

So, in this month of new beginnings here are a few things that I hope will prove to be helpful reminders and suggestions as you begin or continue your own minimizing/decluttering/organizing journey.

1. Imagine you are making a long-distance move in 2019. If you were moving everything you own from Florida to New York, and if everything you were taking had to fit into one moving truck, what would you categorize important enough to squeeze in? Now, even if you are not making that long-distance move, go get started, and de-clutter as if you were!

2. Approach the new year with new eyes. It is amazing how something I felt I couldn't live without just six months ago now seems less important or even insignificant to me. Sometimes, just letting something sit for a while, then revisiting it a few months later creates a whole new perspective. I find this is true when it comes to birthday and Christmas cards we receive. It seems inconsiderate and ungrateful to discard them immediately, but if we enjoy them and reread them for a few months, I feel more at peace in letting them go.

Children are continually outgrowing clothing, homeschool and art supplies, shoes, and toys. January is a great month to reassess their current needs and wants in light of Christmas gifts received and the things that currently fill up their space. What no longer fits? What do they no longer play with? Could other children benefit from the gently-used things they no longer need, use, or want?

3. Don't try to tackle it all at once. Break it down into one drawer, one closet, one cupboard, one shelf, one section at a time. Anything else becomes overwhelming and unmanageable. Doing it a little at a time makes it seem more achievable, boosts productivity, and being able to see the smallest amount of progress is inspiring and encouraging.

4. While decluttering, minimizing, and organizing, keep sets and like-minded items together. Having them all in one place really gives a visual of the number of that item in your possession and allows you to identify areas of over-abundance and excess. After every, single like-minded item is in one place, create three piles. Label them as "needs", "wants", and "keeping only because of guilt". Honestly evaluate and differentiate between the three. Keep the "needs" pile. Analyze the "wants" pile, keeping only what you really love and the things that make you smile. Get rid of the "keeping only because of guilt" pile—the sooner the better.

5. For storage of the things you decide to keep, use up every available permanent, pre-made space, especially what is hidden & out of sight. If there is already an empty drawer, closet, shelf, or cupboard in place, make good use of it. Instead of rushing out to buy the latest organizing tote, crate, rack, or gadget, ask yourself if there is an already-existent area of space in your home that could be used instead. It is already there, taking up a certain amount of space. Sometimes, adding another organizational assistant ends up just creating more clutter and taking up more space. Using what you already have is frugal, efficient, practical, and extremely gratifying.

6. The parts of our minimizing journey that have been the most gratifying and blessed us most are the times we have been able to give something that is still useful to someone else and know that it fulfilled one of their needs. As you sort through the things you plan to dispose of, mindfully and thoughtfully throw out the things you wouldn't consider good enough to purchase today at a thrift store. Chances are, if they aren't something you would want to purchase, they aren't something anyone else would want to receive. Then of those things that remain, give respectfully and freely. Not that we should give in hopes of return blessings, but the laws of giving and receiving are firmly established in God's Word.

Jesus said, "...freely ye have received, freely give." Matthew 10:8

"I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive." Acts 20:35

"Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again." Luke 6:38

"But whoso hath this world's good, and sees his brother have need, and shuts up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" I John 3:17

"He answered and said unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise." Luke 3:11

"This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success." Joshua 1:8

God bless each of you dear readers on your minimizing journey, make your way prosperous, and give you good success in 2019!

Happy New Year!