Recovery of a Simple Life {The Grove: Recovery}

Nick and I read a book called the Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family. We worked the steps Lencioni laid out through an engaging story of a family that recovered from freneticism. (Tip: this resource isn’t only valuable for families, but also for individuals and teams.)

Nick installed a large whiteboard on the white concrete wall in our dining room, and I scrawled our newly-crafted value statement there as an ebenezer, a “stone of help”:

We are an affectionate family where parents share responsibilities in all arenas including home management, parenting, profession, and ministry. We strive to work hard and rest well in an atmosphere that promotes environmental consciousness and simplicity. We credit God with all good things and live transparently that others may experience the redemptive nature of our God.

The most spacious word in that statement next to God is simplicity.

I know there is at least one of you out there who also uses Shane Claiborne’s Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals because you said so in a comment, so you’ll know where I’m going. Each month begins with a tribute to someone who embodies a mark of the movement of Christian discipleship called New Monasticism.

This month is Saint Francis as his feast day is celebrated in October. I love Francis’s connection to the natural world. I smile each time the band at church cues the highly recognizable intro to his “All Creatures of our God and King.” What I love most about Francis and Clare, an early all-in follower of Francis, is their detachment from the consumptive and exploitive systems of their day. Having essentials and wanting nothing, they were utterly free. The Church remembers them as restorative and generative mercy and justice workers.

This wasn’t an aspiration for them, or a goal on which they set their sights. It was a current that carried them when they agreed to enter the flow of a different stream.

Overseas workers are partway there. We’ve left homes and cars, upward mobility and gym memberships. We learn to value good enough, and acquire the ability to delight in a simple comfort.

And we brag about a perfectly packed 50-pound bag or ten. Every time we move, we spend massive amounts of time, muscle, and anxiety on trashing, sorting, giving, selling, and storing the small kingdoms we’ve built around us. When we can’t take it with us, we slough it off onto the local culture and the foreign workers who are staying put, making their next move that much more demanding. We work on the assumption that this is the way it goes.

What if it isn’t?

What if we could each distinguish for ourselves what is essential and nonessential? What if for a while until it’s a habit, we intentionally only acquire essentials, pare down the non-essentials we already have, and actively look for satisfactory alternatives: a bike over motorized vehicle; cash over credit; borrow over subscribe.

You’ve probably heard the statement, “Live simply so others can simply live.” It’s a mantra at The Art of Simple and a gateway to silence at the Center for Action and Contemplation.

I suspect you do what you do and live where you are because you desire for others to live abundantly. What if we let our theology on a life well lived trickle all the way down to the material and economic choices that we make each day?

The answer to that question is observable – in Frances and Clare, and others who have moved to the margins and done it better. Most of all it’s palpable in those moments that we ourselves experience simplicity and the spaciousness that it opens to love and to serve, to be and to breathe.

Recovery from a consumptive lifestyle means recovery of spirit and its fruit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control . . . against such things there is no law, or import tax.

How has living overseas positively simplified your lifestyle?

Is anyone else longing for freedom from freneticism? What are you doing to break free and recover?

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This is The Grove. It’s where we gather to share our thoughts, our words, and our art.  So join us in the comments. Link up your own blog posts on this week’s prompt. Click here for details and instructions.

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Here’s our Instagram collection from this week using #VelvetAshesRecovery. You can add yours!

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10 Comments

  1. Joyce Stauffer October 13, 2016

    Thanks, Kim, for sharing! I love this and am encouraged to continue pursuing a “simple life” so that I can focus on what is truly important and help others too. But it sure is a challenge in this world of busyness and consumption…which is so common even among believers.

    1. Kimberly Todd October 14, 2016

      Thanks, Joyce! I love the searching essay you linked for this Grove in a very tender, personal way.

  2. M'Lynn October 14, 2016

    “What if we could each distinguish for ourselves what is essential and nonessential? What if for a while until it’s a habit, we intentionally only acquire essentials, pare down the non-essentials we already have, and actively look for satisfactory alternatives” Yes! I have been on a similar journey during most of 2016 and have a friend who does it way better. But her example of simplifying, de-owning and looking for satisfactory alternatives has continually inspired me to change the way I think about my stuff (and challenged me to reduce the amount of stuff I thought I needed…). I’ve also been on the pursuit away from a frenetic lifestyle for the past few years. Not to say I’ve arrived in either department…but I’m in pursuit!

    1. Kimberly Todd October 14, 2016

      I love this, M’Lynn. It absolutely is a journey and a pursuit. Otherwise, this is just a self-incriminating, hypocritical post. =)

  3. Elizabeth October 14, 2016

    I am in the process of simplifying not physical clutter but mental and schedule and internet clutter. It feels good. I feel more human again. But it’s a long and slow process too!

    1. Kimberly Todd October 14, 2016

      That feels so good! And yes, a process that has to be revisited because all kinds of clutter creep back in, but it must get quicker and easier to identity, jettison, and make better choices the longer we practice.

  4. Phyllis October 15, 2016

    I like this question:
    How has living overseas positively simplified your lifestyle?
    When people ask about life here, I often say or think that I love the way it’s so simple. But how exactly? In what ways is it simple? I’ll have to think about that.

    1. Kimberly Todd October 15, 2016

      Thanks for this comment, Phyllis. I like that a simple question can be a gateway. Enjoy your reflection. 🙂

  5. Renée October 16, 2016

    This was such a great reminder of values we began back in the early 80s when I lived in a Simple Lifestyle dorm at Westmont College in California. I enjoyed Radical too. Living 12 years in rural southern Germany strengthened our value to recycle. Having stores not open on Sundays or part of Saturdays and Wednesdays made us plan more and use what we had. Even since moving to more convenient UK we don’t just run out to shop when we “need” something. We also walk and cycle so much more. We rarely watched TV in Germany. I learned how to cook from scratch more after I learned what everything was in German. LOL! We traveled more on motorcycle even doing a trip from Germany to Scotland. Moving to the UK, we have down-sized three times now! As a sentimental saver, that is challenging, but I am so glad we have. The habits we formed in that time plus now using public transport more – I am already processing how I can take those values of simplicity when we repatriate in seven years or so as the Lord wills. It will certainly be counter-cultural, but I so love the values we have gained. My favorite places to shop are charity shops here so if I can find it used, that is usually my first choice. Reduce, reuse and recycle – love that Jack Johnson song, don’t you?

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