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Less Is More, More or Less

9 Sep

“Wait, don’t throw that away!” I yelled. “I’ve got an idea!”

I love Pinterest, except for one thing. It makes me not want to throw anything away. I mean, I Hoarding_LOLwithGod_ToiletPaperRolls_Pixabaymight need that toilet paper roll or bottle cap or empty Styrofoam tray later to make something wonderfully creative!

I have to confess: I used to pin ideas on how to organize my house. But I never got around to actually organizing my house, and it was pretty impossible anyway. When you run out of places for stuff, it sort of spills out all over your home. 

People hoard everything from yarn to stuffed animals to hammers to makeup. (I know, because I saw all that on a Pinterest board about hoarding!)

I also saw a greeting card the other day with a room full of hoarded things on the cover. It read, “Congratulations. You’ve made a huge mess for me to clean up after you die.”

I’d laugh, except it’s not really funny. We are a nation obsessed with stuff, spending our abundance on things we don’t really need, and leaving it all for the next generation to deal with.

It’s no surprise, one of the hot topics on the Internet is the “less is more” craze. From authors to TED talks, from organization specialists to fashion consultants—everyone seems to be talking about eliminating excess and owning a richer life with less stuff. 

In some cases, the less is more crowd is advocating the opposite extreme of hoarding!

One lady I read about proposes we keep only 10 items in our wardrobe. Another decided to live in a mini-house and pared down all her belongings to practically nothing. Then she went out to buy some of the things she got rid of in her haste!

My philosophy is:  less is more, more or less.

And here’s what I mean.

First I tackle my stuff by asking tough questions:

1. Have I used it in the last year?

Why not? Why store stuff I’ll never use? (A few things, I wasn’t sure about, I put in a box to evaluate again later. A FEW things.)

2. Do I truly love it?

Does it make me smile or leave me sighing in frustration? Am I keeping it because someone gave it to me? Am I just struggling with how to let it go?

(Yes, I kept some special “just because” treasures—only OK because I have room for them.)

3. Do I have a reasonable location to keep it in my home?

Are things just piling up? Would I have to buy a storage unit to store these things? Why? Is that wise?

If I really love it, is there something that can go to make room for this?

4. What are the memories associated with it?

Are there good memory reasons to keep it (possibly for legacy purposes, or for the next generation)? Does it have any bad memories associated with it—and am I ready now to deal with those memories and move on?

(For some people, everything they touch has an associated “memory”—good and bad memories—and that can lead to hoarding. I’m not talking about that issue here. That may require counseling.)

5. Do I have more than one of this item?

Why? Is that realistic? (I counted more than a dozen pair of scissors in my home, and I’m not talking about those fancy craft scissors.)  I’m learning life does not consist in an abundance of possessions (Luke 12:15).

6. Could someone else use this more than me?

Especially if I’m not using it and don’t need it, I need to think missions, the homeless, Goodwill or Amvets, a needy neighbor, etc. (1 John 3:17)

Maybe you have some other questions that help you.

I recently decided to take all my boxes of stuff stored in the garage and place similar items on a white cloth on my dining room table. I took pictures of the similar items in groups. Then I sent those pictures to family members. 

“If you want it, let me know,” I said. “Otherwise it’s going in a garage sale and to Amvets.”

It’s amazing how little they wanted. Why did I think they would?

I’ll admit, it was hard to decide to let some things go. The six questions helped me.

But it’s not just “stuff” that concerns me.

Sometimes our biggest stressors are excesses in the stuff life is made of.

Life is made of Time. Schedules. Activities. Relationships. Things like that.

Less of some things is good. 

But then again, more of some things is good too.

 It depends on what we’re talking about.

For example, being busy is good; it means we are engaged and occupied in a (hopefully) worthwhile activity, but being too busy means our priorities may be out of whack. And busywork is seldom good.

A full calendar can reflect a good life, but too many things on our calendar is not good. It eventually can lead to burn-out. We have to learn to balance work and rest. We can’t go through life like tightly-wound springs. 

This is even true in our spiritual life. While ministry and service are good, if we constantly give out and never take in, that won’t work.

We need to refuel. We need to sit at the Master’s feet and learn of Him. We need to be still and take time to meditate on scripture. We need to rest (Matthew 11:28).

To be honest, I didn’t even see all of this until the Lord set me apart for a while. I couldn’t be busy. I couldn’t keep up with my calendar. I couldn’t even do ministry.

I could barely breathe.

I came apart because I failed to “come apart” with the Lord to evaluate my life and my priorities.

My loving Father God showed me all the excesses in my life, and where my life had become too lean. 

Now I am learning not just to “pace” myself, but to give myself more grace.

And I am oh, so thankful for God’s grace, lifting me up when I stumble in this new walk with Him.

These days, it’s not simply a matter of less is more, but rather, “What do YOU want me to do today, Lord?” I’m following the example of Christ. Jesus only did what the Father wanted Him to do (John 5:19) and I want to do the Father’s will too (Matthew 12:50).

Some days it’s less; other days it’s more—but every day, it’s just right when I lean on Him for direction.

Where are you struggling with too much? In your home? In your schedule? Something else? Will you bring that to the Lord and ask Him for direction? And will you obey Him?

– Dawn

Graphic, courtesy of Pixabay

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A Simple Blessing after Christmas

27 Dec
I always think of Christmas as a time of blessing, but I read these “Christmas Facts”* from the United Kingdom (written after Christmas, 2009), and said, “Oh my!”
Here are just a few of those facts:
  • Hospitals in the UK reported four broken arms after “cracker pulling” accidents. [I cannot imagineChristmasCrackers_FreeFoto this… holiday crackers (see right) look so benign!]
  • Three people die each year testing to see if a 9-volt battery works on their tongue.
  • Thirty-one people died (since 1996) by watering their Christmas tree while the tree lights were plugged in. (The UK apparently calls them “fairy lights.”)
  • Nineteen people died within a three-year period, believing that Christmas decorations were chocolate. (Huh?)
  • One hundred and one people (since 1997) had to have broken parts of plastic toys pulled out of the soles of their feet.
  • One hundred and forty two people were injured, just in 1998, by not removing all pins from new shirts.

May your Christmases always be accident free … especially from those silly things!

I’ll keep this short. Christmas is over and you’re probably exhausted from church and family events. But your heart is full, right?

But if your house is like mine, after the holidays, my house feels a bit chaotic. I keep wishing one of my Christmas gifts was a housekeeper!

HeadingInto2015

I want to share a simple blessing I read in Dianne Barker‘s great book about organizing for the maximum life. **

“When life becomes hectic and harried,

   may you find calm in the chaos.

If your floors don’t sparkle,

   may the glory of the Lord light your face.

If grime streaks your bathroom sink,

   may it never corrode your heart.

If you’re racing the clock and losing,

   may you choose the important over the urgent.”

What a great way to head into the New Year – (1) embracing a calm perspective (by focusing on the  peace of God), and (2) living for God’s glory with (3) a pure heart and (4) right priorities.

[Simple scriptures for meditation on these points: Philippians 4:7; 1 Corinthians 10:31 & Ephesians 1:12; Matthew 5:8; Matthew 6:33]

Take a moment to think about your life right now. Which of those four areas needs a little work today?

Working on even one of them over the next few days might prepare you for the New Year a lot better than a list of resolutions.

– Dawn

Photo of Christmas Cracker: Image Supplied by FreeFoto.com.

* “Christmas Facts” from Sparkpeople.com, 12-26-09

** Book by Dianne Barker: I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! (Crossroad Books, 2014),p. 179.

 

Hat Check

10 May

Humorist Erma Bombeck had a special hat. “It is graceful and feminine and gives me a certain dignity,” she said, “as if I were attending a state funeral or something.

“Someday, I may get up enough courage to wear it, instead of carrying it.”

It does take a certain panache to wear a hat. Singer Frank Sinatra told people to cock their hats (like Kate Middleton is doing, below), because “angles are attitudes.”

Though I don’t wear them, I’m totally fascinated by extravagant hats. I’m intrigued by the hats sported on opening day at the Del Mar racetrack in KateMiddleton_BlushHatSouthern California. Every year I see the “best of the best” on the news and think, “Did they really wear that?” They remind me of the sometimes-outrageous British hats at the Royal Ascot horse races.

The headgear at William and Kate’s wedding certainly made a news splash, and the lovely Duchess of Cambridge continues to spark interest in fashionable hats.

In recent years, I’ve seen hats that look like a hot dog, frog, pizza, cow, fruit bowl, lobster, watermelon, kitchen sink, bacon-and-egg plate … you name it, there’s probably a hat for it!

DogInPinkHatI have to admit to passing on photos of dogs wearing hats (to Facebook Friends).

Maybe my obsession with hats began as a young mom, reading Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat to my boys. I was amazed how that crazy cat balanced a teacup and an entire birthday cake on top of his striped stove-top hat! (And I just remembered:  Seuss also wrote The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins!)

But stacked hats. That always makes me smile. Have you ever seen people trying to balance a stack before everything comes crashing down?

So like my life.

Balancing is always a challenge.

Women normally do, I think, wear a lot of hats: woman, church member, wife, parent, child, sibling, employee, employer, volunteer, friend, mentor, care-giver, volunteer, mediator … you can probably think of many more.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of learning to balance what God has given us.

In that case, there I think there are five steps to keeping balance:

1. Determine biblical priorities and what you value most. Figure out what kinds of tasks and responsibilities come with those priorities. Don’t forget your priorities and values – no matter what comes your way.

Consider these Priorities:  God (Deuteronomy 6:5); Your personal Spiritual Growth and sanctification through the scriptures (John 17:17); your Spouse (Ephesians 5:22, 25, 33); Raising godly children (Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4); caring for elderly parents (Deuteronomy 5:16); Ministry to Believers (Hebrews 10:24 and many other scriptures); and the Gospel outreach to the world (Matthew 28:19).

Also consider your physical and emotional Health—which can affect your ministry. (Some add finances and career to these priorities, but be sure these two don’t overly influence the other priorities!)

2. Decide to say “no” to whatever detracts from those priorities—even if it’s temporary. (In other words, is there a hat you can put on a “hat rack” until later?) But sometimes the “no” will be more permanent. Beware of things that distract, even good things that can seem important at the time. Weigh your choices in light of your priorities. Do you really have time, energy, resources for something else?

TooManyHats3. Delegate what you can to others—especially when a task fits their priorities better than yours! You may be robbing them of a blessing!

4. Dump “flashy hat” thinking. Learn to be content with doing your best and relying on God to help you. When you try to impress others with “hats” that don’t fit well, or try to impress others with a “superwoman” hat, you’re bound to end up disillusioned, exhausted, maybe even bitter.

5. Delight in your true priorities. If they genuinely are important, plan time for them! Rejoice in them! Glorify God in them! (In other words, if your family is a priority, spend time with them. If your health is a priority, make wise choices. If God—your Creator and Lord—is truly a priority, put Him first!)

But sometimes … I wear a lot more hats than God ever intends for me. Maybe you do too.

A couple of years ago, I took on more and more, all the while insisting that I could “handle it.” Long story, short—my collapsing health proved I couldn’t.

A woman I deeply respect says: “Jesus only did what the Father told Him to do.” Maybe she gets that from John 5:30. Jesus said, “I seek not my own will, but the will of him who sent me.”

More likely, she was quoting John 17:4: “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”

I never get the impression that Jesus wore too many hats.

Sure, He was busy. There were times He even chose to “escape” the crowds, the people who had their own agenda for His life. Even Jesus needed to rest. But He was purposeful, intentional, passionate about doing the Father’s will.

That’s what I want my life to look like. When I wear my hats, I want to be sure they fit. I want to be sure they are God-designed for me.

When I was overwhelmed by the hats I wore a few years ago, I knew some of them had to go. There were tough decisions to make. I wept over one of them. But they were decisions based in right priorities, wisdom, and a desire to obey God.

HATS OFF to you if you are living out your God-given priorities with obedience and joy! But don’t assume you’re “in balance” because the hats aren’t falling … yet.

It’s good to do an occasional hat-check.

Do you need to ask God for help in balancing your hats? Do you need to ask Him if there are any hats He’d like you to remove?

 

 

 

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