February 4, 2013

A simple life

Truly blessed. That's how I feel after a much needed week away on the island of Maui. It was needed for Michael who hasn't taken more than a couple days off in the past two years (and those days were for the birth of Levi!). It was needed for the kids to spend some quality time out of their comfort zone and see new things. And it was much needed for me to reflect and be reminded of the things that are truly, truly important in life.

The simple things.

Growing up my dad always told me to "keep life simple." I knew what his words meant and I tried to take them to heart as I got older. But you know how it goes: kids get older, schedules get busier, and life slips away. Before I knew it I felt like I could barely keep my head above water. For months I felt this way. I tried to find out what was wrong by looking at my organization, my systems for running our home and couldn't pin point an answer. But after much soul-searching this past week away I realized that our lives had ceased to be simple. 

We were maxed out. Filled to the brim with too much going on, pulled in too many directions with our time and our resources. And it happened without us even realizing it! An event here, a run there, piano, ballet, the holidays, and on and on. These things are not bad or wrong but add it all up and there aren't enough hours in the day! Let alone enough extra hours to just be a family. Not enough hours to snuggle up with books and play at the park and walk to the coffee shop on a Saturday morning. I felt like my time was more devoted to managing "stuff" and fitting in our schedule.

Insert vacation here.

For 8 days we survived on 500 square feet. Bed sharing. 5 outfits each. And nothing but beautiful, sweet family time. Sure, vacation can be magical and I'm aware that life can't alway be spent playing in the pool or going on turtle hunts. But the Lord spoke to me so deeply during our time away and if I let His words dissipate amongst the busyness of life back at home, then I will lose a treasure. For the Lord reminded me that I can have the same peace of paradise back in my own little home - by cutting back, simplifying, scheduling time for just us 5, not chasing after success or stuff or admiration or the next big thing to make me happy. Because the times that I am truly happy are when I have little, experience much, and am not pulled in a million different directions. I realize a lot of my stressors fall on my own shoulders: not using my time wisely (especially because we are so busy) and just being too busy in general. So I have no one to blame but myself in all this. But no matter the cause I have a plan and a rededication to cultivate a simpler life - a life that moves a little bit slower, is filled with less stuff to take care of, and is full of life enriching experiences on all levels.

I also realized something about myself during our time away that I've kind of known all along but had no idea how to reconcile with "real life." You see, a part (a big part) of me wants such a simple life that I long to give it all up. Everything. (Not the kids or the husband part, duh.) But everything else, yup, you can have it. I am most at peace when I have just the possessions I need and nothing more. For in these times there is such freedom and a reliance on God to provide the rest. That and there is less time putting things away and tidying and mending and fixing and worrying that there is actually time to go out and enjoy life!

So how do I reconcile this desire to live simply with where we are at right now? I'm not completely sure but I know it has to do with owning less, giving more, committing to fewer activities, and being really intentional. It means executing the goals we set out for our family this year and being open to where the Holy Spirit draws us.

During vacation we had a couple rainy days and the kids played inside with two blankets, two chairs, and three pillows for the entire morning. No complaints of not having toys or anything else. Simple things. Simple joys. I packed really weird and only two of my shirts went with anything else. (So much for packing early!) But I didn't care because I wasn't worried about clothes. The important things of spending time together and enjoying the beauty of God's creation were at the forefront of our minds and nothing else mattered. And boy was it refreshing.

So, short of selling it all, moving to the islands, and living in a small condo (believe me, we've thought about it...) we do what we can to live this simple life now - to live out the call of the Beatitudes to be poor in spirit, to be meek and pure of heart. For in all these things the Kingdom of God is found. And if the Kingdom of God is anything like a Hawaiian sunset I'll trade it all in here and now.

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