Category Archives: The Simple Life

Our Controversial Valentine’s Day

Standard

 

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and Robby and I have made a controversial decision: we’re not buying anything for each other. Nothing. No cards, no cutesy teddy bears, no plastic hearts filled with candy, no bouquets of flowers.

Why is this controversial? Because the media would have us believe that excess is best, that stuff leads to happiness, and the only way we can show our love is by buying gifts. But this year, Robby and I are saying NO to commercialism.

Here are a few reasons why.

1) Budget

Now that we have a little one in the house, we’re tightening our belt more than ever. Sharing gifts is nice, but it just doesn’t fit into our budget this year.

To help keep us on track, we’re using the app GoodBudget, which is like an electronic version of the envelope system. I definitely recommend this app if you’d like to monitor your spending and establish a budget this year.

2) Minimalism/ Simplicity

As I’ve shared before, Robby and I are trying to simplify our lives, and minimalism is a big part of that. We’ve come to realize that we have way more than we need, and we certainly don’t need to add more trinkets that we’ll need to store, dust, and organize forever.

If you’re interested in simplifying your life, I recommend the resources by Joshua Becker on his site www.becomingminimalist.com. (Read my review of Becker’s insightful book, The More of Less, on my goodreads page.)

3) Zero Waste

Something that’s recently come to my attention is the Zero Waste movement. The idea is simple: reduce the amount of waste we produce so we can leave a cleaner, better world for our kids. This starts by turning our shopping habits upside down, first by buying second-hand items or hand-making gifts. If it’s necessary to buy new products, then care should be taken to buy ethically-sourced items. For more info, check out the various Facebook groups dedicated to Zero Waste, such as this one.

What are we doing?

This Valentine’s Day, Robby and I will enjoy a nice dinner at home with the little one. We may also exchange handmade gifts, such as homemade cards and handwritten notes. I might try to make a nice dessert, and Robby can pick me a bouquet of flowers from our yard (hint, hint, honey!).

The media wants you believe that you have to spend money on stuff, even if you don’t want it or can’t afford it. But Robby and I are choosing a simpler way this year, even if that seems a bit weird or controversial, and I encourage you to do the same. Say no to the ad agencies and enjoy Valentine’s Day (and every day!) in a way that brings you joy and not debt. If you’re looking for more ideas, check out this article I wrote, “To Romance Your Wife, Consider Her Love Language.”


What are your plans for Valentine’s Day? How are you incorporating your ideals, such as sticking to a budget, minimalism, and zero waste? I’d love to hear your plans and DIY hacks!

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

Standard

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

Standard

 

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.