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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

Give Me a Break!

12 Mar

When you take a break, be careful where you are!

EagleInTree_morguefileAn eagle sat high up in a tree, just resting and doing nothing—taking a break from soaring in the sky.

A little rabbit observed the eagle and called out, “I really admire how you’re resting up there. Think I can do the same?”

“Sure, why not?” the eagle replied.

So the rabbit sat on the ground at the bottom of the tree. He got himself comfortable. Just resting. Doing nothing,

And along came a fox and he jumped on the rabbit and ate it!

Moral of this quirky story: If you’re going to take a break, make sure you’re sitting very, very high up!

I’ve been pretty stressed lately. In the stress, I’ve caught myself saying, “Give me a break!” I need more planned rest. (Sort of like the old Calgon commercial: “Calgon, take me away!”)

I rationalized that I didn’t have time for a break. Dumb.

It may sound counterproductive, but taking breaks makes us more productive, not less.

In a 2012 article, Phyllis Korkki, a writer for The New York Times, offered words of wisdom about taking breaks. She said taking regular breaks from mental tasks helps us be more productive and creative; and it helps us avoid stress and exhaustion.

She quotes a school of management expert:

“Mental concentration is similar to a muscle, says John P. Trougakos, an assistant management professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Rotman School of Management. It becomes fatigued after sustained use and needs a rest period before it can recover, he explains — much as a weight lifter needs rest before doing a second round of repetitions at the gym.”

jesus_at_rest

Painting by Greg Olson **

We see in scripture that Jesus took breaks in His ministry. In the midst of His busy work, He often withdrew to rest and pray (example: Luke 5:16).

In Addicted to Busy,* author Brady Boyd wrote about Jesus taking many “well-deserved breaks.”

As often as possible, Boyd said, “Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer.”

“He withdraws in order to work through tragic news … to gain insight on important decisions … to enjoy time with his closest companions … as a means of teaching his disciples…

“When He senses it’s time to withdraw, he just goes. … Rhythmic—that’s how Jesus lived. It’s how we’re invited to live too.”

Brady described Jesus’s break strategy as: “engage, engage, engage, withdraw … engage, engage, engage, withdraw.”

We all need R & R (rest and relaxation). Whether a day off, a vacation, or even a short break during our workday, we all need to refresh our energy. We need exercise and sleep, and the luxury of “time off.”

Christ-followers need rhythmic refreshing for more productive, creative ministry. Besides all the things we do for our body and emotions to recharge, we also need prayer and time in the Word of God. We need spiritual refreshing.

“My soul finds rest in God alone” (Psalm 62:1).

We find rest in the presence of God (Exodus 33:14; Psalm 62:5Matthew 11:28).

Ah yes, rest in God. The perfect remedy for stress. 

Is it time for a break? Are you enjoying the rhythmic refreshing of Christ-like living—a pattern the Lord illustrates with His own life?

 * Book – Brady Boyd, Addicted to Busy: Recovery for the Rushed Soul (David C. Cook, 2014).

** Painting: © Greg Olsen | www.GregOlsen.com “Worlds without End. Used with permission.

Eagle graphic: morguefile

Movin’ Too Fast? (Six Ways to Slow Down)

28 Sep

God’s creativity is sometimes the blueprint for our inventions. Think about it … Long before human beings imagined modern technologies, tortoises and turtles had streamlined bodies, hard tops, retractable landing gear and mobile homes!

Think of the word “slow” and you’ll likely think “tortoise.” This sounds like Tortoise humor my granddaughters would love:

Question:  “What do you get when you cross a tortoise with a porcupine?

Answer: “A SLOW POKE!”

Tortoise_SlowDown_smallerI grew up in the era of Simon and Garfunkel, and one of my favorite songs was “The 59th Street Bridge Song” (better known as “Feelin’ Groovy”). You may remember the words:

     “Slow down, you move too fast. You got to make the morning last.

     “Just kicking down the cobble stones. Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy.”

It was a song that always made me smile. When I heard it, I slowed down and “smelled the roses,” so to speak.

As a Type-A+ woman, slowing down is hard for me. It’s easy for me to forget the “Tortoise and Hare” fable – that rushing through life does not equate to effectively “winning” life’s race, and certainly not to meaningful living.

With maturity – and frankly, after a season of illness complicated by stress – I’ve learned to slow down. To intentionally halt swirling activities and say, “Enough!”

Some time ago, Jeff Goin challenged his readers to slow down, and I smiled as I read his challenges. They were exactly the points God has led me to embrace since 2007, when my life spiraled out of control.

I’m still discovering in this process of “slowing down,” but wanted to share six things I do know that help. (And I’d welcome your tips for pulling the plug too.)

1. Be Intentional. Slowing down doesn’t just happen (unless we’re sick, dying, or lazy). We need to make the choice to slow down – to choose with purpose.

2. Reflect and Meditate. Today may be all we have. Reflection and meditation will help us use our time wisely, understanding the will of the Lord (Ephesians 5:15-17). Slowing down doesn’t mean we veg in front of a television all day or cop out from our responsibilities. We seek God in prayer and the scriptures, and examine how we are living. Then, in all our planning for tomorrow, we don’t miss what God is doing this day.

3. Focus. Multitasking has become the norm in many of our lives (I am such a multitasker!), but sometimes we need to weigh the benefits of doing many things at once with the blessing of focusing on one thing at a time. We can ask God where our focus should be today … this hour … right now.

4. Stay Steady. Remember that tortoise. He faithfully plodded down the road and got to the goal. If God has blessed you with a quick and ready temperament, praise Him; but don’t discount times when it’s wise to slow down, stay steady, and see the Lord work on your behalf.

5. Learn to Rest and Wait. With all the input in modern society, the tendency is to feel we must move quickly to use what we’ve just read, heard or learned; to be a part of the forward-moving crowd or to not miss out on another great idea or “opportunity.” Sometimes, God just wants us to sit and stew on things for a while, to take time to let new information soak in. Then we can go forward in His strength (Proverbs 3:5-7a; Psalm 27:14). While it’s important to move ahead quickly to make some decisions, resting in God and waiting for marching orders is usually wise counsel. It’s not passive; it’s active trust.

6. Savor Your Life. Taking time “to smell the roses” is the common metaphor for slowing down with greater sensitivity toward life. We take time to enjoy God’s creation. We notice the people around us and take time to build relationships. We enjoy a meal, sitting down, rather than rushing through a meal or racing through yet another fast-food line. We examine our closets, shelves and possessions, and then we appreciate the good gifts our Father has already given us, rather than racing off to the mall to get “more.”

Are you movin’ too fast? I encourage you to relax and slow down.

You’ll likely add years to your life and accomplish more.

These are the principles that are changing my life, helping me to slow down. Can you share some other helpful tips?

Tortoise Photo: Image Courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

— Dawn

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