Pieces of Amy

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

4 Useful Steps To Simplify Your Life


The word screams at you from every direction. Everyone seems to say they want a simple life, but not many people I know actually live one. In the blogosphere you find so many articles about homesteading, simple living, gardening pesticide free, and the options go on and on. And then there's the bookstores, the magazines, the talk shows..... everyone feels like life is going too fast and they need to slow down. 

steps to simplicity

How many of you have "Simplify" signs in your house? Come on, admit it.

Did you know that God wants us to simplify? Yep, it's one of those long-lost spiritual disciplines.   Adele Calhoun, in the book Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, says
"Simplicity cultivates the great art of letting go.  Simplicity aims at loosening inordinate attachment to owning and having.  Simplicity brings freedom." 
Richard Foster writes, in The Celebration of Discipline
“Only the simple are free. All others are tyrannized by the ambitious self, the demand for recognition through things, and a preoccupation with the opinions of others.”
As much as I think I live a "simple life", when viewed in the context of the world at large my lifestyle is anything but simple. In that context my lifestyle is extravagant and rich. I am learning the discipline of "loosening inordinate attachment to owning and having".

I'm not necessarily advocating a "Radical" lifestyle where we all sell our houses and move to Uganda, but I know that there are things that we can do. I'm just working to figure out what those things are.  What does simplicity mean for my particular life? What do I need to give up that can make my rhythm of life more simplified?

It seems that there are many of us on this same journey. I mean, why would there be so much information about simplifying our life if we're not all trying to achieve it? Here are the four steps I have been working on the last year to simplify my life that have made a huge difference, maybe they could help you too! 

1.  Define the major areas that bring me closer to God. 
Make these things a more prominent part of my life.  Example: Getting up in the morning to have time with the Lord before the rest of the family wakes up; building relationships; investing in my church; using the gifts that God has given me
2.  Define the major areas that push me away from God.  
Take steps to make them a less prominent part of my life.Example: Focusing too much on myself, especially my physical self; putting too much emphasis on my home being in perfect order; 
3.  Define the simple things I can do that keep my inner life running smoothly.  
The outward things that can lessen the inner stress.  Example:  Going to sleep at night with the kitchen clean; reading good books; writing; focus on friendships; move more/ eat less.
         4.  Get rid of excess. 

          TOO MUCH STUFF SUFFOCATES ME. Does anyone else feel this way? Purge. Constantly.

Just these few steps have made a world of difference. Take some time to define these areas for yourself and you'll be amazed the difference just a few tweaks in your routine can make in your own journey toward a more simple and intentional life. 

What steps would you add?  Do you think working through these things could help you to simplify your own life? I would love to know. 

*revamped from the archives, but still a major theme in my life!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Finding God in the Mess

We age. Our kids get sick. We lose jobs. Our parents grow older. Big, scary words enter our lives like “Cancer”, “Divorce”, “Miscarriage” and sometimes worse. Life can be such a mess.

Finding God in the Mess

Don’t get me wrong, I know that life can also be beautiful. When I look at my daughter’s sparkling eyes, hear my baby giggle, see the sunset in the West Texas sky, I KNOW that life is beautiful. I am blessed more than I ever deserved. 

But sometimes life just sucks. I’ve watched friends and family members go through situations lately that I have had a very hard time finding “joy” in. Sometimes you can dig and dig and all you have is like the sludge at the bottom of a nasty cup of coffee. 

BUT, even when there seems to be no joy, there is always God. 

This is the reason I wanted to change my tag line from “finding joy in the mess” to “finding God in the mess”. God is always there. Always. Joy may be hard to come by, but God is not. 

He’s there at the top and the bottom. He’s there in the beginning and He will be there in the end. He can always be found in our tidy lives and in our messes. There is always an underlying knowing that God is there for us, He cares for us, He loves us.

Wait, I think that’s….. joy.

So maybe there is joy in the mess. The joy is the knowledge of the presence of God.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Who Is The Center Line Of Your Life?

Uncertainty. When I look around at this crazy world we live in, it seems like uncertainty is lurking behind every door. Can I go to church without fear of harm? Can I send my kids to school without wondering if they're safe? Will the things going on in other countries come to our doorstep? Will my faith one day be something I will be in danger because of? Will my children grow up in a world where values that reflect Jesus are hated and shunned? 

same-sex marriage, Jesus, church, love, God

The Supreme Court ruling last week dealing with same-sex marriage has rocked the world. It’s everywhere you look, on every channel, every social media outlet (including this one, obviously....), every place someone could possibly have an opinion. 

The pendulum of opinion, even in the Christian world, seems to swing all the way from all-out celebration to hateful judgement. I feel like that pendulum of opinion has been swinging widely for many issues in the last year and uncertainty is right in the middle of it’s arch. 

This, like so many other things in life, leaves me wondering - How do people deal with serious issues without God in their life?

There has to be a center

If we don’t know where the center is, how do we know how far we have swerved away from it?  If we dig down into God’s word and seriously look for wisdom, cry out for understanding as the Proverbs tells us to, we will find the center. There is a center.

Our opinions aren’t it, sorry.

This principle carries for same-sex marriage, abortion, sex outside of a marital relationship, racism, lying (ouch), gluttony (falls to the floor clutching her head), every sin and vice that exists in man. Read. Search. Dig. Don’t just listen to the incessant voices screaming at you telling you how to think on every side of every subject imaginable. 

If God is not your center, who is? Is it you? If I were my own center, then I wouldn't make it in this world. That’s the honest truth. I cannot be trusted. I am flawed. I fail on a daily basis. I have health issues I have no control over that can cause my own mind to turn against me. I am weak.  If I were my center, my standard for life, then I would be floundering in a pit of uncertainty with absolutely no way to climb to the top. 

Yes, Fox News screams uncertainty at us. Yes, Facebook tells us that one day our neighbor will want to marry a goat and our sister will decide to be a man and all of life will be turned upside down. And you know what? 

They may be right. 

But this world has never been our home. We were not meant to be comfortable here. And that neighbor with a weird love for goats - God loves him just as much as he loves me (and you) and wants me (and you) to show him that. 

That’s not going to happen if I choose judgement over grace. 

Judgement is best left with the One who is the embodiment of good, not my bias ridden hands. Maybe, just maybe, if he sees the love of Jesus in me he will one day realize he wasn’t meant for this world either. 

When you feel uncertainty rising up to swallow you, try to remember who is ultimately in control and is surprised by none of this. Remember who gives us a clear center line to follow. Remember, take a deep breath, and (as Elisabeth Elliot so wisely said) do the next thing.

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