Category Archives: The Simple Life

Medal in What Matters: A Bride-to-Be’s Perspective on “Stuff,” Living Generously, and Holiday Giving

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Where are your treasures? Where do you spend your time and resources? In the following guest post, my friend, author Kristen Hogrefe, shares some encouraging (and convicting) insight on how we can focus on what matters this holiday season and throughout the year. 


My walk-in guest closet had become a black hole of catch-all, and the time had come to face it. The less “stuff” I have to move after my wedding, the better!

Most of the boxes stacked there centered on my childhood, so maybe that’s why I had put off going through them. Don’t ask me why tossing childhood memorabilia is so hard for me, but it just is.

As I opened a heavy cardboard box, I found myself facing my high school Bible quizzing trophies. I had worked hard to earn them and been so proud of them! However, they’ve been boxed up for years, and I never plan to set them out on a bookshelf again.

Maybe you have your own trophies or keepsakes, and if you’re not ready to part with them yet, that’s okay! Tangible motivation has its time and place. But cleaning out my closet reminded me of a truth or two I don’t want to forget.

 

Realize what matters in the long run.

What matters more than the medals themselves is what they represent. I spent my high school years memorizing chapters and books of God’s Word. Today, I can’t quote the Bible like I used to, but I believe that these Scriptures will not return to me “void” (Isaiah 55:11 NKJV) but that the Holy Spirit will bring to my “remembrance” those promises just when I need them (John 14:26).

These medals will ultimately deteriorate (faster now that I’m contributing them to the trash), but those Bible verses will resound in my memory. As Isaiah 40:8 says,

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (NKJV).

 

Choose wisely what we treasure.

As a visual society, we often focus on the tangible. We see our cars, our houses, our vacation (or wedding) plans, and our Christmas gifts under the tree. While those things have their place—and I’m certainly grateful for them—they’re just a shell compared to what’s more important: the spiritual conditions of our hearts.

What do we truly treasure? Oftentimes, we can find the answer by watching how we spend our time and money. That’s some self-examination we all need to do. As we consider our answers, let’s remember Jesus’ words:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV).

 

Live generously and enjoy God’s blessings today.

Yes, the holidays are upon us, and most of us enjoy giving and receiving presents. There’s nothing wrong with sharing and enjoying gifts, as long as those “things” don’t claim a higher place in our hearts than they should. Regardless of our financial status, we should keep our trust in God alone and enjoy what He has given us. I like how Timothy poses this challenge to his readers:

“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy” (I Timothy 6:17 NKJV).

Wow! God gives us all things “richly” to enjoy. Really, that’s no surprise, considering He has also called us to live abundantly (John 10:10 NKVJ).

Paychecks aside, let’s consider how we can bless others this Christmas. Sometimes, the best gift is our time or simple ways we can express thoughtfulness and God’s love.

This holiday season and every day, let’s medal in what really matters: living for God with everything we have.

~ By Kristen of KristenHogrefe.com

3 Truths to Set You Free From Anxiety

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The Problem

No one likes to feel anxious. As soon as worry sets in, your heart races, your palms sweat, and your lunch turns sour in your stomach. Over time, this feeling can become debilitating, causing a downward spiral in your health and social interactions.

Yet God tells us repeatedly in His Word that we should not fear. In fact, the only thing we are told to fear is God Himself—and that kind of fear is a holy reverence, not a fearful fight-or-flight response. (See Deuteronomy 6:13 and 13:4.)

Still, we deal with fear every day. Here in the U.S., many of us struggle with fears like these:

1. That we don’t have enough stuff.
2. That we don’t have what others have.
3. That others want what we have, so we must guard it carefully.
5. That we have to hoard a lot of stuff to ensure we’ll have it when we need it.

In other words, we’re consumed with consumerism.

We serve it like an idol, both afraid of it and compelled to act on its behalf. (Read more in my recent posts on fear and simplicity.)

The Freedom

In his book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster states that we can experience freedom from consumer-based anxiety by practicing the spiritual discipline of simplicity:

“As Jesus made so clear in [Matthew 6:25-33], freedom from anxiety is one of the inward evidences of seeking the kingdom of God first. The inward reality of simplicity involves a life of joyful unconcern for possessions. Neither the greedy nor the miserly know that liberty. It has nothing to do with abundance of possessions or their lack. It is an inward spirit of trust.”

Once you’ve put God first in your life, you can begin to see your possessions in a new light. To help you exorcise the anxiety and find freedom from consumerism, I’ve developed the following list of truths based on what Foster calls the “inner attitudes.”

1. “Everything I have is a gift from God.”

Think of everything you value—not just your phone and your car, but your family, experiences, education, and job. You may have worked hard to get where you are, but don’t be fooled into thinking you did all this by yourself.

Ultimately, it was God who gave you these things. It was His breath that gave you life. His spark that gave you intelligence and emotions. His desire that filled your heart, and His grace that keeps you going. (See Psalm 37:4-5, Matthew 7:7-11, and 1 Timothy 4:4.)
Thank God for all the wonderful things in your life, for they are a sign of His mercy and love for you. Then let your thankfulness turn to the deeper emotion of compassion for those who live without the luxuries you enjoy.

2. “God is the Boss.”

When you have a job, you’re responsible for showing up on time and getting your work done. But when you own the company, you’re responsible for everything—from keeping the lights on to employee safety.

Fortunately for us, God is the Boss in His Kingdom. You may have belongings to maintain, a career to develop, and relationships to nurture, but you perform these tasks as a manager. At the end of the day, God is the Architect and Protector of your life and everything in it. (See Psalm 127:1.) Your job is to show up and be obedient. (See Luke 12.)

Imagine, for a moment, all the belongings and relationships in your care. Now, add God to the picture—not as a bystander but as the Boss. You’re His representative, but He’s the One in Charge. You can trust Him to take care of you and to give you direction. Let that fact permeate your spirit until you’re filled with His peace.

3. “My belongings have a purpose.”

Clothes and shoes are meant to be worn, books are meant to be read, and furniture is meant to be used. Yet we fill our closets, basements, and storage units with these valuable items. We spend time organizing them, we pay to insure and store them, and we agonize over what to do with them. Meanwhile, there are people in our own communities who go without.

God calls each of us to be generous but, before you can do that, you have to realize that your belongings have a purpose. It’s certainly not sinful to have multiple pairs of shoes or a stack of unread books (I sure do). However, it is important that you become aware of the needs around you and your power to fill those needs with the very items God has entrusted to your care. (See 1 Timothy 6:18-19.)

Here’s a short prayer to help you foster these inner attitudes of simplicity:

“God, thank you for all the belongings, experiences, and relationships you have given me. I didn’t earn them, and I don’t deserve them, yet you have given them freely to me. Now, please give me wisdom to manage them appropriately, and help me to acknowledge that you are the Boss, not me. Please soften my heart to those in need around me and give me the means and courage to help them as you see fit. I surrender my anxiety to you and gladly accept your freedom. In the name of Jesus, who gave all He had for me. Amen.”

 

[Click to Tweet: Don’t be consumed by consumerism. Seek spiritual #simplicity. #faithlife #bigsisterknows]

 


This post includes content from my book Girls with Gusto (click here to learn more). It comes from the section “Practice Simplicity,” which is step five of eight in the spiritual journey.

 

The Not-So-Simple Simple Life—with Larry the Cat

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Meet Larry.

He’s a short-haired tabby. We figure he’s about 7 months old but, judging by the size of his paws and the length of his tail, he’s going to be one big tom cat!

He wandered up to my sister’s place a few weeks ago, crying for food. Madeline took pity on the skinny kitty, bought him some cat food, and named him Larry. Showing his appreciation, Larry asked to come inside and love on Madeline, but her dog wouldn’t allow it. It didn’t take long for Larry’s constant mewing and sweet nature to win over the whole family, but no one was in a position to take him in. He was an inside kitty stuck in the cold, outside world.

As you can imagine, news of Larry (complete with flattering pictures) made its way to Robby and me, but we had dozens of reasons not to take him. We already have one kitty, and we weren’t sure how Penny would react to having another one around the house—especially a tom cat! Our lives are relatively simple and uncomplicated, just the way we like it, and a new animal would upend that for sure. Not to mention the expense of adopting a new cat. Perhaps it was best to leave Larry where he was. It just wasn’t ideal to bring him home.

But that rationalization couldn’t hold up to the image of a kitten freezing in the cold, especially one as lovey as Madeline described. We had always wondered if Penny would do better with a playmate. Maybe this was God’s way of expanding our little family?

So, we took a cat carrier with us when we visited family this weekend. We met Larry. We pet him, held him, talked with him. Then we brought Larry home.

 

Larry Finds a Home

Larry is currently curled up in a soft bed in the basement. Robby and I are taking turns going down to feed him, play with him, and love on him. (He’s definitely a cuddle bunny!)

Penny, the queen of the house, is more playful than cuddly. But she’s our little girl, and we don’t want her to feel upset or defensive. Thanks to Jason Galaxy’s YouTube videos (you probably remember him from “My Cat from Hell”), we’re learning all about introducing cats and plan to do so slowly over the next week or two.

Yes, bringing Larry home has made our lives more complicated. We don’t have all the answers, and we don’t know how this is all going to turn out. But we do know that we saved a little kitty from the cold, and that feels good and right.

 

 

Larry Enjoys the Simple Life

A few weeks ago, I shared with you that Robby and I are pursuing “the simple life.” We’ve begun to simplify, minimize, and declutter our lives. So, how does adopting a new cat—with all the complications and expense that entails—fit into the simple life? It fits because of our goals.

You see, the first step to the simple life is outlining your goals and desires; only then can you be sure that you’re spending our resources on what you value most.* For Robby and me, we value life, so we always strive to help a creature in need, whether it’s a family member, a stranger, or an animal. We also value family and, for us, that image expanded to include two cats in the house in addition to the hen in the coop. Now our home feels complete, even if it is a bit more complicated than it was before.

 

Simple Encouragement for the New Year

Larry reminds us that the simple life is anything but simple. And it’s certainly not easy. It’s about finding what we value (like family and lost kittens), and then putting our resources on those things. If I need to work a few extra hours this month to cover the vet bills, that’s fine. At least I’m working for things that matter to me.

As you start the new year, I encourage you to write down what is important to you and what you want out of life. Then make sure that you spend your time, energy, and money on those things that matter most to you. Above all, make sure that you make God your number one priority and that your desires align with His will for your life. (See Matthew 22:37-39.)

What matters most to you? What does your ideal family look like? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment below.

 

[Click to Tweet: #thesimplelife is all about spending our resources on what we value. #bigsisterknows #caturday]

 

[Click to Tweet: Yes, you can have pets and still live #thesimplelife! #bigsisterknows #caturday]

 


*In his book, The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own (Colorado Springs, Colorado: WaterBrook Press, 2016), author Joshua Becker defines minimalism as “the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from them.”