Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Thoughts on the simple life

For many years my husband and I have been committed to living a simple life. We live in a nation addicted to busyness and we both think this has a negative impact on the family. A family that leads an overly hectic life tends to be marked by stress, minimal interaction, shallow relationships and lack of focus. While this may not apply to every family, in our own experience this is where the busy life leads!

One of the biggest factors in living simply is free time. The hours spent working, being at church, engaging in organized activities and socializing can be valuable but they have a downside when done to the extreme. Too much time wasted on these endeavors, even for the benefit of extra money, can lead to lack of time for the important things in life like: relating to your husband and kids, time to "be still" and know God, homeschooling, keeping your house in a livable condition (notice I didn't say "cleaned to perfection!") and getting to know friends and neighbors. While some time periods will be busier than others (like soccer season in our house), our life is characterized by free time to live life and do the things that we enjoy and value.

Another factor is the ability to say "No". I find that because I am stay-at-home mom with a bit of free time on my hands, people assume that I am in need of something to keep myself busy. Wrong! I live my life this way on purpose to avoid the busyness that causes me (and my family) so much stress. My desire to serve and be available for people, needs to be tempered with God's leading. While I believe that doing less than God requires is a poor way to live a life, I also believe it is true for doing more than God requires. My time is precious and valuable because I can never gain more than is allotted to me, it is not a renewable resource. I can not live as if I have 25 hours in each day!

A third factor, maybe the most important, is to be financially free. Proverbs 22:7 states that "the borrower is servant to the lender." We become a slave to whom we owe money, and from experience I know the lender is a harsh taskmaster. Working today for what we consumed yesterday is a defeating way to spend your life. It is better to live within your means even if it translates into making major changes to your lifestyle. Whether you make one large change like downsizing your house to gain a smaller mortgage payment, or you make many small changes like switching to Suave shampoo ($1.00) instead of using Paul Mitchell ($7.99), the sacrifices you make will lead to less debt which in turn leads to more free time.

In our modern lives of constant stimulation and activity, families are in danger of losing two precious commodities: time and relationship. Getting back to the basics and leading lives of simplicity can make great gains in these areas and will lead to a more relaxed lifestyle, one where you can take the time to regularly "smell the roses."

My husband and I have made major changes over the last several years to simplify our life. The harvest of blessing has been great, but we look forward with hope because we know there is much more to come!