“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Other Writings
This past Saturday night, my husband and I hosted a dinner party with three other couples. However, it was unlike many other dinner parties I have participated in.
The reason is this: as a group, we four couples (and another unable to attend) have decided to meet once a month for intentional discussion and dialogue about matters that are important to us and our families. We have decided to rotate the hosting schedule each month, which duties include not only providing the main part of a meal but also thoughtfully choosing and researching conversational items for discussion.
My husband Joel and I spent time thinking and praying about what we would choose to discuss with our friends. After some time, we decided on the topic of Simplicity.
Joel prepared some notes and talking points and we began to discuss with our friends a few important questions for personal reflection that were similar to these:
Where do I feel overloaded? Where is my family overloaded?
What activities are we engaged in that are not helping us to accomplish our family and individual goals?
Do we have “fallow” or “open” time to be available to neighbors and friends in need?
Where can we cut expenses so that we have more money to give and to invest?
Where can we create more margin in our schedule?
As we shared candidly with one another where we felt we needed to change, amend, and simplify in life, a few ideas rose to the forefront for thought:
To not allow the culture around us (whether at work, in our city, or just in our country in general) to dictate our priorities, but be prepared to “go against the grain” even if that meant being looked down upon.
To share an example of this, one of my friends shared that she likes to take a walk or actually spend some time away from her desk and her work during lunch. In her particular work environment, not many do this. But she knows how much she benefits from this little “breather” and hopes that perhaps others will choose to make the same decision.
We do not want to be controlled by smart phones or computers or television sets.
Many find it difficult to “unplug” from their device of choice…so much so that it can be an impediment to relationships and steal away precious time from being fully engaged in the present moment.
Some solutions to this were offered:
– When you leave work, don’t answer any more emails or work related phone calls.
– Only surf the internet with a specific goal or purpose in mind and, if you have trouble getting “sucked into the vortex,” set a time limit for how long you will spend on the computer when at home.
– Stop caring so much what other people think. One friend found that while he didn’t allow email to rule his life, people might expect him to respond immediately. Meaning, he may offend them. He shared that he had made the decision to stop caring so much or feeling like he had to explain the fact that he has set some healthy boundaries.
I brought up the fact that I want to set an example for my children in how to engage various technologies. I want them to see that their mother uses the internet, computer, television, and phone for specific, thoughtful purposes; That I am not ruled by the device, but I rule the device and use it as a tool and in moderation, not allowing the device to hinder or take precedence over relationships with people.
We talked about schedules as well. How hard is it for a group of friends to find a weekend evening to meet to spend quality time together? Well, it can be very hard in our area for sure.
But we agreed it was important to be purposeful in setting aside extra time to play or spontaneously invite another family over. This is priceless. It also demonstrates to others that they are a priority, that “we aren’t too busy for you…come on over!”
Prioritizing “Sabbath” or rest time and family time is also vital to relational growth. Doing fun things together without being stressed to “get out the door…we are going to be late!” empowers each family member to thrive.
What have you found robs you of the joys of simple living? What can you do this year to ensure that your priorities are in line with your beliefs and values?
As missionary Jim Elliot said, “Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt whatever situation you believe to be the will of God.“