Tag Archives: simplicity

Our Controversial Valentine’s Day

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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

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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

A Little Peace and Quiet

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Thanks to author Kristen Hogrefe for hosting this week’s post on her blog at KristenHogrefe.com. Check out her site for more godly encouragement.


 

I’ve always had a sensitivity to noise, but it’s getting worse. I think that’s because the world is getting noisier. Every store I go into is blaring the latest top 40 music (as if I want to hear about some teenager’s sexual exploits while trying to buy a carton of eggs). When Robby and I pay good money to eat out at a restaurant, we often have to talk over the music and several TVs, all tuned to different stations. At doctors’ offices (which are stressful enough), the TVs are usually tuned to daytime talk shows showcasing the worst humanity has to offer.

In traffic, the guy next to me will inevitably blast his music because he thinks it makes him look cool. (It doesn’t.) Even at home, a neighbor will often turn up his favorite station until I have to shut my windows for a little peace and quiet.

And that’s what I find myself seeking these days: peace and quiet.

 

Peace

When I was little, I loved to stay at my grandparents’ house. Papa liked to have the TV on all the time, whether he was watching it or not. But whenever he would go outside, Grandma would immediately turn it off. I thought it was the perfect opportunity for us to finally watch what we wanted to watch, but to Grandma it was an opportunity for some peace and quiet.

Looking back, I don’t remember any of those TV shows, but I do remember Grandma singing hymns in the kitchen while the washing machine thumped along in the background. To me, this is what a peaceful home sounds like.

I understand now what Grandma meant when she said she needed quiet time to hear herself think and to hear God speak to her. By seeking silence, Grandma was able to tune out the world and tune into God.

 

Quiet

How can we expect to hear God’s voice when we can’t even hear ourselves think? How can we focus on what’s important in life if our attention is constantly switching from one song or show to the next? Why do we feel the need to stuff ourselves with entertainment at the expense of our own peace?

Author Richard J. Foster addressed this issue back in 1978 in his book, Celebration of Discipline: “Our fear of being alone drives us to noise and crowds. We keep up a constant stream of words even if they are inane. We buy radios that strap to our wrists or fit over our ears so that, if no one else is around, at least we are not condemned to silence.”

Foster goes on to discuss the Discipline of Solitude, which he states is inseparable from inner silence. “Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment… There is a solitude of the heart that can be maintained at all times… if we possess inward solitude we do not fear being alone, for we know that we are not alone. Neither do we fear being with others, for they do not control us. In the midst of noise and confusion we are settled into a deep inner silence. Whether alone or among people, we always carry with us a portable sanctuary of the heart.”

That’s what I want! Don’t you?

 

Discipline

Fortunately, solitude is something we can attain through spiritual discipline. Foster states that one way to “step into solitude” is to “take advantage of the ‘little solitudes,’ that fill our day,” from quiet early mornings to being stuck in traffic. We can also develop a “quiet place,” such as a special room in the house where we can shut out the noise for a bit.

Robby and I discovered this inadvertently when we canceled our cable. I’d like to say that we were being super-spiritual, but the truth is that it was getting too expensive. Although we still have internet-based TV, the format is different. Instead of streaming one show after another, we have to select each show we want to watch. Since we have to be intentional about it, we find ourselves watching less. We also avoid the hamster wheel of 24/7 news and weather; this change alone has removed stress from our home. We even avoid commercials now, which are manipulative by default.

Now, Robby listens to the news for a few minutes in the morning and evenings so we can stay current on important events. When he gets home from work, I’ll turn on something soothing like light jazz or Christian music, and we’ll enjoy our dinner at the dining table (not in front of the boob tube!). On weekends we might find a show or movie to watch, but for the most part, we prefer to piddle around the house or read. We tune out the noise of the world and make room for each other and for God.

 

Unplug

As we’ve quieted our home, I’ve felt a quietening within my spirit. Yes, I still have to contend with the noise of the world, but I’m learning to develop that inner silence Foster speaks of—and you can too!

I encourage you to watch your habits this week. Do you reach for the radio, the TV remote, and the phone without even thinking about it? Do you always have something on, even in the background? Do you feel uncomfortable with silence, even in your own home? If so, it’s time to make a change. Unplug for awhile. Fill that time with quiet rest, housework, or a hobby. Even better, read your Bible and pray. By carving out some time for a little peace and quiet, you might begin to hear God speak to you like never before.

~~~

“And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-12 KJV).

Sometimes, God prefers to speak in a still, small voice. Can you hear Him? [Click to Tweet!]