day 31: resources for purposeful simplicity.

31 days-1

Well friends, we made it. Thank you very, very much for journeying along with me this month, through peeling back layers of noise to find a quiet heart, through applying Purposeful Simplicity to different areas of life. It’s truly been a pleasure.

I leave you with just a few of the resources that have helped me move me toward a life of Purposeful Simplicity. I highly recommend all of them. Happy end-of-October!

Crazy Busy, Kevin DeYoung

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, Tim Keller

Sensing Jesus, Zack Eswine

The Nesting Place, MyQuillyn Smith

One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp

Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne

A Praying Life, Paul Miller

The Mitford Series, Jan Karon

the novels of Marilynne Robinson, particularly Gilead, Home, and Lila

Lara Casey’s Powersheets goal-setting system

——————————

purposefulsimplicity-4

day 30: simply bible study.

IMG_5802

Sometimes the hardest thing about reading my Bible every day is not knowing where to begin. So I thought I’d tell you about my very simple Bible reading plan this year, which David shared with our church a few months back.

We’re reading through the letters of Paul in the New Testament, and if you read two chapters a day you can read all of his letters 8 times in a year. Here’s how it works:

There are two lists to read from each day, the first is Romans – 2 Corinthians, and the second list is Galatians – Philemon. I started by putting a bookmark at Romans 1 and Galatians 1 and reading a chapter from each a day. When I finish list one (i.e. arrive at the end of 2 Corinthians, I begin the list again).

Sound confusing? It’s really not. Because the lists are uneven in length, you’ll never read the same two chapters together. I’m loving this plan because of it’s simplicity, it’s brevity, and because of all the unity to be found in Paul’s writing.

I though I’d go ahead and tell you how I spend my “quiet time,” not because it’s the only way to go about it, but sometimes hearing what someone else does sparks an idea in your own mind.

I do my Bible readings with a cup of coffee and notebook in hand, and choose a verse or two each day to copy out when I’m done. This makes me slow down and reflect on what I’m reading. I’m always surprised at how often the verses I copy are exactly the truth I need to hear that day.

After this, I pray. My prayer life was revolutionized when I started writing out my prayers. This works for me because I love writing and it helps me concentrate. I either do this in my notebook or on my laptop in a Word document. I don’t over-spiritualize my prayers: praying is just talking to Jesus. I tell Him about my life, the highs and the lows. I thank Him for his gifts. I ask Him for help — for me and for other people. I ask Him to weave the words I read that morning into my heart and make them apart of me so I will be more like Him.

I love my time with Jesus now, I look forward to it, I go to bed earlier and wake up earlier for it. It’s my lifeline.

I close with a word to moms of very young kids who are just trying to snatch what sleep they can get — forget waking early for Bible reading. Way back when I had two kids under two years old and was in the same boat, my counselor told me, “Julie, just choose a verse a day and if you can, copy it out on a note card. Hang it above your kitchen sink and let that reading be your quiet time. This isn’t about checking something off a list; it’s about spending time with Jesus throughout the day.” That was immensely comforting to my harried, exhausted soul.

My prayer for you today is that you come to know your need to spend regular time with Jesus and that you find great joy and help in it.

COFFEE-2

day 29: purposeful simplicity is spending time with jesus.

IMG_5788

We’ve talked all month long about Purposeful Simplicity and some of the barriers that keep us from it. I’m learning that the one vital thing that helps me remember my purpose is spending time with Jesus.

There are voices all around me and voices inside of me beckoning, tugging me away from Purposeful Simplicity: telling me there’s no happiness to be found there, no joy, no fulfillment. They tell me I need to prove my worth by how I look and who I know and what I do. They tell me to compare myself to women around me to make sure I’m doing better. They tell me there’s no way God’s Word is relevant to what concerns me here and now in 2014.

But they’re wrong. Those voices are dead-end streets, promising many things and delivering emptiness and heartache.

In the end the problem isn’t with the voices; it’s with my own heart which so desperately grasps at anything that will give me comfort and a sense that I’m somebody special. My heart is like a writhing, tantruming toddler, demanding what I want and totally blind to what I need.

And so my heart needs help. It needs help every single day. It needs to pour out all these burdens and desires and dead-end-road stories to Jesus. And then it needs be still and listen, because God’s voice is quiet and He will never force Himself on me. That’s not the way He works. His love is gentle — not like the other voices that bombard me and clamor for my attention. His love is patient and He will wait. But I won’t experience the blessing of hearing Him if my heart is noisy.

I can make a plan, I can become organized, I can research and learn. But in the end none of it will work without the One True voice.

That’s where I find a life of rest. That’s where I find Purposeful Simplicity.

I run in the path of your commands for you have set my heart free. – Psalm 119.32

kevindeyoung

day 28: purposeful simplicity is learning who I am.

Yesterday I wrote about finding contentment in knowing my place.

One way to find that contentment in the here and now is through learning who I am.

It’s so funny, in my late teens and early twenties I would’ve told you I dreaded my thirties. Getting older sounded so . . . boring. I felt like fun needed to be had as quickly as possible before I got old.

Isn’t that silly? The greatest surprise so far of my thirties is how much I enjoy getting older. Sure life has way more responsibility know. But lately I see so much value in growing up.

I’m not quite 33 years old, but thus far my thirties have found me living in a new kind of settledness. I think it’s about me learning: 1. Who I am, and, 2. Finding peace with who I am rather than trying to be someone else. It’s about me letting go of what others think about me. Now I’m excited to see how much more settled I’ll be in my forties and fifties and beyond. I hope I never stop growing and changing and becoming more settled in Christ.

don't live

I’ve begun to learn to take responsibility for my own well-being. I’ve begun to learn not to lose myself in motherhood but to be my own separate, unique, growing person. I’ve begun to give my husband freedom to do the same. I’ve begun to learn how to be fun. Doing this has the benefit of helping me love my family even more. It also inspires our kids to see their parents enjoying life and being interesting people rather than racing around catering to their every whim.

This is a process, friends. Some of it has happened through suffering, through God taking away things I thought I needed to give me what I really need. Some of it is finding people I look up to, who are living quiet, interesting lives at peace with who they are. Finding someone who lives in that settledness is a beautiful thing. I ask them lots of questions. I learn from the lessons they’ve learned.

Some of it has happened through trial and error. I’ve tried out ministry and failed at it. I’ve tried it and been able to do it but found it draining. And then other things I’ve tried and loved.

The same is true with hobbies. I read an article about how the very act of trying new things regularly stretches our brains and makes us healthy. So I both want to continue hobbies I love (like reading and writing), and regularly try new things (like crochet or camping). Even uncomfortable things, like public speaking, have allowed me victory over fears and I have a greater peace with the person God made me, and also the way He helps me take risks.

ordinary activities
source

David and I are in a season of wanting to have fun with our friends. Intense spiritual conversations are valuable, but what about going bowling or going to the movies or a day at the zoo? It’s deciding to play a game together instead of turning on the TV. It’s taking a break from a myriad of house projects to go see a matinee with our kiddos. We’re learning that shared experiences add to our memory banks and that laughter is good medicine.

For me part of learning who I am is not taking myself so seriously. I’m a perfectionist and want to get everything right the first time. Which, clearly, does not happen. So I’m in a process of learning to laugh at my own self-introspection and lighten up a little.

It’s also learning my personality style and living within those natural limits. I’m such an introvert that after an evening out I most certainly need an evening in to read and go to bed early. After a couple busy days filled with people, the kids and I need a whole quiet day at home where we don’t see anyone and just focus on being together. Finding peace with the personality God gave me brings rest and joy to my life.

sayingnosource

Finally, learning who I am means facing my weaknesses and asking for help. It’s realizing the ways I’m most tempted to sin and to believe lies, and seeking accountability and people who will speak truth to me. It’s accepting that parts of who I am need to change so I will be more like Jesus.

What are ways you’re learning who you are, right here and now?

31 days-1

day 27: purposeful simplicity is knowing my place.

IMG_5633

. . . that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. – I Tim. 2.2.

I’m coming to learn that a life of Purposeful Simplicity is understanding my place in the world and finding contentment in it.

I think most people — especially women — bristle at any reference to “knowing our place” because it’s reminiscent of the 1950’s propaganda that a woman’s place is in the kitchen.

That is not what I’m talking about. But. It may be a little what I’m talking about.

Let me explain.

We’re fed the belief from all around us that we can have it all and that we should have it all right now. We should have an awesome marriage (if we want to be married) and healthy, talented children, and a great house, and a job that’s fulfilling. We should get to pursue our dreams.

The form this message takes in the Christian world is the push to “make an impact” or “change the world.” I understand that the sentiment behind these phrases is for us to look outside ourselves and reach others. But sometimes in focusing on changing the world we can start focusing on making a name for ourselves. We can strive for a bigger and better ministry than God wants to give us. We can forget that following Christ is leading a peaceful and quiet life, being faithful in the little ways that no-one notices.

IMG_5184

Not all of us get to have awesome marriages. Not all of our ministries are successful and growing. Not all of us have healthy and talented and thriving kids. Most of us wouldn’t say we live in our dream house or even that our job is always fulfilling. Some of us are involved in the, let’s face it, very mundane work of keeping house and raising children. Life seems to throw constant curve balls and just when we take a step forward financially we seem to take two steps back.

We can begin to feel like this isn’t what we signed up for, this isn’t our “happily ever after,” that this isn’t “making an impact.” We can be frustrated and bored and unfulfilled. We can look ahead to a better season of life when we really get to pursue what we want.

IMG_2876

I know I’ve felt that way. If you asked me 12 years ago, graduate school was a non-negotiable. It wasn’t “if” I’d go, but “when.” But I got married and needed to work so we could have health benefits while David did ministry. A couple years later I got accepted to a graduate program in Philadelphia, then got pregnant with Judah and decided to be a stay-at-home-mom. We’ve considered grad school on and off over the years but I’ve never felt a deep-down peace about it.

So I’ve set aside my dream — maybe forever — for the dream that God has for me. Of following my husband in ministry and being home for my kids. And yes, actually this new dream very much involves my place being in the kitchen. I’ve chafed and resented this at different points, but lately I’ve come to find peace in it. It’s the place God has for me. Why am I striving for more?

I love to write and to blog, but have a very specific sense that this is not the time to promote my blog. I don’t regularly check my stats. I don’t promote it on social media. I don’t think those things are wrong, but deep down I know they’re wrong for me right now. They’re striving beyond the place God has for me in this season. He’s given me this opportunity to write, but He’s said, “Your place is to be small and to find freedom in being small.”

I love to do ministry and have intentional relationships with women, but because I’m homeschooling two grades I can do very little of that right now. My mentor said to me, “Julie, there will be years when you have time and space to pursue women; now is not that time. Will you accept that? Will you accept that God can use other people to disciple women right now and that He wants to use you in a different way, in your home with your family?”

IMG_5641

I share these specifics in my life, but of course  your place may be completely different. That’s the beauty of how God made us all.

Maybe you’re a working mom, and so your place is accepting that you can’t be really involved in your kids’ school or in many other friendships right now.

Maybe you have very young babies and your place means you have to say “no” to regular serving in church.

Maybe your marriage is struggling and your place is to accept the struggle and reach out and ask for help.

Maybe your husband works crazy hours and your place is knowing you can’t practice hospitality in this season of life because you need any family time you can get.

Maybe you’d love to go to graduate school but have a sense that you shouldn’t be taking out more student loans, so you wait until a season when you can afford it.

Maybe your place is finding contentment in plodding along in a mediocre job, working hard to get out of debt before you pursue your dream career.

I think having dreams is fun and good. But demanding dreams is bad. Pining for dreams can be bad. It makes us miss the gifts and the calling God has for us here and now. It can make us miss a life of purpose.

God offers so much freedom and fulfillment if we humble ourselves and accept our place, if we accept that our lives and our families may very well look unremarkable to the world and that’s okay.

We find freedom when we accept that there are dreams we may never get to see realized. We find freedom when we give to God the unfulfilled places in our life and let Him fill us up with Himself. I think this sort of simple acceptance is the path to joy.

COFFEE-2

 

day 23: community.

IMG_4124

The best way I know to forge ahead with a life of Purposeful Simplicity is by doing it in community.

I don’t think any one thing has changed me as much as living and growing and learning in a community of Purposefully Simple people. Here are a few thoughts about this kind of community:

1. You have to seek it out.
Even if you’re surrounded by people modeling Purposeful Simplicity, you have to intentionally seek out these relationships. Usually purposeful simple people aren’t flashy, they aren’t broadcasting their life choices for others to see. They don’t do that because they don’t need outside affirmation to be at peace with where God has them.

I learn purposeful simplicity from a wide variety of sources, not just one person, and I look first in places where my path naturally crosses with others': my family, my church, my neighborhood, the kids’ home school friends. That way I’m already running into these folks and able to have snatches of conversation naturally without adding to an already full schedule. I think this is what it means to find your community: community is the people around you.

Rather than formally asking people to meet together or mentor you, use the little natural bits of time when you see each other. That’s living with purpose. The best way to draw people out is to ask lots of questions, and then listen. Share with someone, “I’m learning about this, how does it look in your life?”

IMG_4125

2. Look in unlikely places
You will need to look in unlikely places for the kind of friends to help you on your journey. They typically aren’t attention-getters and they’re often overlooked, even in the Christian world. They’re humbly living for Jesus day by day. They may be way older than you or way younger or in a season of life wholly different than yours. They may not be eloquent or dress like you or create Pinterest-worthy quotes. But the great difference is they’re living it out. You can watch them, it’s in the little everyday choices. There’s much power in finding friends like this because it’s the little choices that make a life.

3. You may have to start it.
Have you considered that you may be the one to influence others toward a Purposeful Simple life? If not, think about it. Now, what I’m not saying is to be the broadcaster and the opinion-giver when no-one’s asking for your opinion. I’m saying, if you’re living as a learner and growing and being changed, and most of all if God is filling you up with peace and joy, then that’s attractive to other people. Look around at people who you can share what you’re learning with in different areas of life. Read the same blog posts. Listen to the same podcasts. And then discuss what you’ve learned. Take this journey together.

IMG_4140

4. Remember where you’ve come from.
We don’t judge folks who aren’t in the same place on this journey, because we always remember where we’ve come from, and how far we still have to go. We spend much more time confessing and repenting of our own failings and learning new habits than in critically examining the people around us. In our Purposefully Simple community, we live as a fellow-learners, not as the teachers who have all the answers.

In this blog series I’ve become painfully aware, over and over, how much I need the very words I’m writing. Just ask my husband or friends. I don’t write as one who has arrived, but as one who’s learning, in fits and starts, right along with you. There’s freedom in understanding this rather than trying to hold together my image as a “teacher.”

5. You should be friends with all different people, but who influences you?
Of course we can’t surround ourselves with people who feel the same way about Purposeful Simplicity and shut out the rest of the world. We all have people in our life who think very differently. I think this is one of the biggest gifts and also obstacles to Purposeful Simplicity.

I can’t tell you how many friends I have who are caught up in the American rat race of more, busier, and better because they’re looking at their family, their neighbors, fellow parents at their kids’ school. They are looking at the wrong friends. If all you have is one kind of voice speaking to you, that voice will shape you. So don’t necessarily cut those friends out (unless the relationship is just plain unhealthy), but let the voices that you listen to be different.

IMG_4142

6. You are going to have to open up.
If you want to make any progress on this journey, you’re going to have to be transparent. This comes easier for some of us than others. I just don’t think our learning turns into real growth unless we open up to other people about where we are and let them speak into our lives. That’s what God created the Church for. We can’t do this on our own.

I’d venture a guess that if you even opened up to some of the “wrong voices” I mentioned above, you may find more people like you than you realize, who deep down are weary and burdened by going with the flow, who long for the wide open spaces and fresh air of a Purposefully Simple life. It’s worth a try.

7. Finally, if you struggle to find a human community that feels the way you do right now, don’t despair. Pray for one, but in the meantime keep surrounding yourself with podcasts and blogs and books by people you look up to. Process them through writing or talking to just one person. In my life, you all, my blog readers, form part of my community. I love your comments, your own blog posts, your emails and our conversations about Purposeful Simplicity. I love learning from you.

 

COFFEE-2

day 22: simple parenting.

IMG_7542

Is it just me or do you feel like parenting today is incredibly anxiety-filled?

There are so many options, so many opinions, so many products to ensure a successful parenting journey. I experience more guilt related to being a parent than in any other area of my life.

I know it’s because we love these kids so much. We want to give them the world. And all around us are voices telling us how to give them world. We just get one shot at this thing called child-raising and we’re terrified we’ll miss the right voice and mess our kids up.

Well on my journey toward Purposeful Simplicity I’ve come to the decision that I’m leaving the rat race. I’m standing up and saying, “I’m not giving my kids the world.” And I’m exiting the field.

IMG_0041

I’m never going to be the best parent: the most creative, the most enthusiastic, the smartest. My kids will never have all the options available to them in life.

And you know what? I’m done with stressing about it.

The rat race makes me tired. I’m tired of looking around obsessively comparing myself and my kids to other people. Are they behind? Are they ahead? Have that had that opportunity? Is _________ choice we made going to mess them up? I’m tired of defending the parenting choices I make to anyone who will listen. Frankly, it’s exhausting. I’m tired of perpetuating a cycle of guilt and worry and striving in parenting.

I’m leaving all of this behind because the voices trying to convince me to give my kids the world are wrong. There isn’t a perfect childhood. There’s just childhood. There isn’t a perfect family. There’s just family. It’s beautiful and complex and broken and we learn as we go and God redeems all of it.

Our job is just to be faithful to steward the souls He has given us. We obey Him. We love our kids. We grow in our own faith so we can love them even better. We show them how to live in submission to God and how to look outward and love other people.

IMG_2698

All the rest is just trappings. Parenting methods. Where they go to school. Who their friends are. What we eat. Whether we travel. What kind of toys they have. How much TV they watch.

Purposeful Simplicity is asking God for wisdom in the trappings. These things matter but they aren’t the end-all. God uses all kinds of parents and all kinds of life circumstances for His glory. We may choose one path in this season of life and choose another path later on.

Purposeful Simplicity is living at peace with where God has my family right now and turning a deaf ear to all the voices telling me I should be giving my kids something else, something better. It’s saying, “God’s voice is the only voice that matters,” and being still enough to actually hear His voice. It’s realizing there’s a world of freedom within the borders of His will.

IMG_6252

Purposeful Simplicity is choosing gratitude over guilt. Guilt says, I’m not doing enough, and it’s crippling, my friends. I know because I’ve lived too long under it. It’s also incredibly self-absorbed. Gratitude looks all around and says, with breathless wonder, Look at all You’ve given me, Father. Thank you. It’s learn to parent out of faith not fear.

Purposeful Simplicity is enjoying my children. Just for who they are, right here and right now. It’s leaving the rat race so I forget about myself and treat them like image-bearers of God. My kids don’t exist for me; they’re not little portfolios to prove my self-worth. They’re living, breathing human beings who will make their own choices and their own journeys. Right now I slow down and quiet myself so that I can listen and get to know their thoughts, their personalities. So that I can find gladness in just watching them be kids. So that I can find joy in being their mom.

Mostly, Purposeful Simplicity is entrusting my children to God. I’m not in control. I don’t know how they’ll grow up, what kind of life they’ll have, what kind of suffering they’ll face. But God knows. And He loves them so much more than I do. Parenting isn’t a formula to get right, it’s a long, winding, beautiful, painful journey of love that will change our whole family in ways I can’t even imagine. I trust Him to take care of my kids. I trust Him to be their perfect Parent.

 

31 days-1