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Christian Living

Towards Simplicity

Photo by Steve Minor via Flickr (Creative Commons)

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,

‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,

To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come round right.

Simple Gifts – Elder Joseph Brackett, Shaker

This has hardly been our theme song for 2010. Yet, Kristen and I have made some serious moves towards simplicity this year. Ever since I read Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, I’ve been fascinated by the concept that less is more in my life.

The Simple Things

  • Quantity time with the kids, individually. As the kids are getting older we are making sure to schedule time for mom and dad to spend big chunks of time with each of us 1-on-1.
  • Gardening. I can’t tell you how many deeply simple Biblical principles have been illuminated to us through our garden this year. For me, the biggest one has been– You have to prune daily, you have to weed regularly– Otherwise good things will take over your life and bad things will choke out your growth.
  • Staycation- I suppose not everyone lives in a vacation destination quite like we do. But there was something so beautiful about renting a house 45 minutes away and spending a week with family.
  • Financially sound – I was shocked when I looked at some graphs on Mint.com the other day. I told Kristen, “We did a really good job this year. We’re ahead in every category and on target or ahead in every goal.” It’s amazing what can happen if you’ll just live within your means. In 2010, we were able to give or save 25.4% of our income.
  • Meaningful roadies- In November, I lamented a lot about being away from home 14 weeks in 2010. (27% of 2010) At the same time, most of those trips were really meaningful. And not all of that was away from family. (Including the mission trip with Kristen, probably the most valuable trips of our marriage.)
  • Friendship – It’s incredible to have a life full of friendships. (Or as a co-worker calls them, “Adam’s bromances and brarriages.”) While having a bunch of great friendships is huge to me… nothing has made me more excited than to see Kristen develop some deep friendships with a few women in our community group.
  • Real food – We’ve far exceeded our desire to buy/grow 25% of our food from organic sources in 2010. While it might not sound immediately like a step towards simplicity: Going to the farmers market (and even visiting the farm where our food comes from) has not only connected us to where our food comes from– we feel a lot better. There’s nothing finer than enjoying a salad or eating fruit that you’ve grown yourself.
  • Acting on convictions – Putting what you believe to action really is a step towards simplicity. That might not sink in at first, but remember that regrets and the conflict caused by sitting idly on your convictions creates stressful complexity. All year long I’ve asked myself, “Am I making the most of this opportunity? Am I acting on my convictions? Will I regret it if I don’t say that?”
  • Towards a small world – No doubt, I have many friendships all around the country and around the world. But taking the step to try to focus some of that energy onto the block we live has been rewarding. We’re looking to allocate more of our time/resources towards that in 2011.
  • Journalling – I’m headed into my seventh year of journalling my life online. This little discipline has transformed my life. It’s really interesting when I interact with people who are thinking about starting a blog. “When will I have the time? What will I say? Will people read it?” I come at it daily with the exact opposite thoughts. The time I spend journalling brings me life. What I write just comes out of my life. And I don’t care if anyone reads it.

It’s funny how simplicity is different for everyone. When I think of my life, filled with a calendar full of meetings, digital gadgets, hours online per day, on and on… I still consider it grounded in simplicity. Perhaps that makes me a digital simpleton?

I don’t have grandiose plans to drive this further in 2011. With baby #3 coming soon I think we’ll just be happy to hold on to the progress we’ve made in 2010. You know, keep it simple.

What steps towards simplicity are you taking? What are things you’d challenge me towards in 2011?

By Adam McLane

Adam McLane is a partner at The Youth Cartel, co-author of A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media, blogger of 10+ years, and a fan of all things San Diego State University Aztecs.

4 replies on “Towards Simplicity”

Giving away or throwing away stuff. For me, downsizing has been the theme this fall and will be this winter. In part, a factor of age. At 55 and living in a very large parsonage, I am aware my time here is limited (10 to 15 years max). When we leave, it will be to a much much smaller place. My children will not want 10% of what I have accumulated (especially church books and stuff).

I also very much aware of how much time it takes to take care of all the stuff – even in my office. To simplify, I need to deal with the stuff – files, books, and other items – and that is just in my small office. Creating a more welcome and less cluttered space is a current goal.

The second part is to be smarter on what I accumulate – some purchased, other stuff given to me. Have been getting rid of stuff through donations and selling, and lots of paper to recycle. That’s me.

As to a challenge to you – first to keep folks like me on my toes with provocative notes and posts. Second – in the areas of ministry, how do we consume less and share more? I don’t need more books, but I need more opportunities to share creatively. Of course, that means I spend less and for some companies, that is not good for the bottom line.

Thanks

For me it is exercise, journaling, blogging, and making sure I choose wisely in my time with family vs other”stuff.” My decision to make sure I am with family has forced me to slow down my pace and helped me to recoup. I keep searching for more ways…thanks for some of these ideas!

Foster also has a book titled “Freedom of Simplicity”. It will blow your mind.

As for my fam, we are focused intensely on paying off our debts (should be done in Feb. this year) and eliminating unneeded possessions. This last part means we have yard sales as often as possible and force ourselves to stock it with our stuff. We also don’t buy crap we don’t need.

As for a challenge, I think it’s important to view simplifying as a spiritual discipline, which it sounds like you are. I know for me, our journey toward simplicity has had profound parallels (and direct connections!) to my spiritual journey over the same time. They are intricately intertwined.

Foster gives great permission in Celebrating the Disciplines. He speaks about the pressure we can put on ourselves to master each discipline, which for many can flirt with legalism. I like your post and the disciplines that you are celebrating. It sounds like they are bringing freedom to your entire family.

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