Less is More? What Minimalism Can and Can’t Teach Us

must have always been a minimalist at heart. As a teenager I would periodically initiate a purge of unused and well-worn clothing. I would also routinely clean out my closet, throwing out the old to make room for the new. Now as an adult, I still enjoy the art of decluttering. I feel alive when I can throw together bags for donations or toss something in the trash. When I was first married, I impressed my decluttering ways upon my husband, helping him loosen his grip on baggy clothes from the ’90s, which he kept for sentimental reasons. (Interestingly enough, my husband has always had double the number of shoes I’ve had; when he was single, he would buy a pair of shoes a month.) Now my husband always wants to get rid of things too, though I still have fewer shoes and clothing than he does.

I guess I was cool before it was cool to declutter, or, as some like to call it: simplify. Now minimalism could be called a trend or a movement. And though it is about decluttering and simplifying, it is also much more. One of the leaders in the minimalist movement, Joshua Becker, defines it this way: “Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it” (25). For most of us, the term minimalism conjures up images of stark white walls, a solitary chair in the living room, bare countertops, and a cold hard mattress on the floor. It’s an extreme picture, though it could be true for some who call themselves minimalists. What Becker and others like him are trying to do is make minimalism more balanced and fit for everyone, not just bachelors. Minimalism is not just about decluttering, but owning less. It’s about letting go of your possessions before they possess you. It’s about simplifying your life and schedule, not just physical objects around your home. But all of this is done so you can pursue the things that do matter in life, whatever it is you value.

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At Home and at War: How a Woman Fights for Her Man

My four-year-old son loves to help. And I love involving him in helping me, even though it will usually require more work and patience on my part. When he helps me clean, I still need to clean up after him, and when he helps me bake, he needs more help than I do.

The word helper can conjure up these sorts of images of a small, weak child. No wonder we squirm when we hear a wife is to be her husband’s helper. It might make us think of a second-rate position hardly worth valuing. Cultural stereotypes of the “happy housewife” passed down from the 1950s have infiltrated the church and given us a reductionist view of a helper’s role. No wonder we see a helper as someone subservient because her position looks similar to the hired help of a cook and maid. Domesticity is one avenue for support and service in our homes, but often it is the only focus given to wives from the church.

The role of helper should take on a more holistic approach than just domesticity. We’re not just providing for physical needs, but emotional and spiritual needs as well. Our help is not limited to the kitchen and laundry room. God has designed us in such a way to help our husbands in multi-faceted ways.

God saw that Adam needed something else besides him. Adam was not fully equipped on his own. “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’” (Genesis 2:18). God is distinctly calling women here to share in his work. We have a unique way to showcase a part of God’s character — the way God helps his people.

Spirit-filled help in marriage looks like God, not like a four-year-old.

God is calling us to be a helper like he is a helper. If God himself is a helper, then we know what he has called us to is something founded in power and strength. A helper who follows God’s pattern of helping pursues her husband, fights spiritual battles in her home, and loves with a strange, but real, formula of boldness and meekness.

Read the three points at Desiring God >>

Dream Weddings and Our Search for Wholeness

The gleam of a sparkly new ring, the rustle of satin and lace, promises made in tender budding love, and the glistening eyes of the groom as he beholds his bride are what make up the wedding dream. It’s the archetypal story of the princess who finally found her prince charming, and it all feels so perfectly magical. Weddings have long been a symbol of covenant relationship, but they seem to have morphed into something different, something more of an obsession. The dream wedding has become the utopia we all long for. It’s become the mirage we all envision and long for in this dry desert of a world—we think surely this will make me happy; surely now I will be complete. But as we walk through to the other side, we find ourselves still in the desert. We find ourselves still battling feelings of being incomplete, undone, and unsettled. Was it the wedding that failed to deliver? Was it the wrong bride/groom match-up? Was it the wrong timing? Nagging doubts demolish the fantasy of the dream wedding once real life resumes. The whole thing sets us up for a very disappointing post-wedding reality, scattering around us the casualties of disillusionment in the form of divorce.

But that sad reality is not what we think about, often because that’s not what the culture-at-large focuses upon. Our cultural wedding obsession is evident in the vast amount of reality shows dedicated to the big day. According to psychotherapist and divorce coach Micki Wade, “Shows like ‘Bridezillas’ and ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ have encouraged a cultural fascination with weddings, but it is our own entitlement that causes us to obsess over a one-day event…There is a much more materialistic emphasis today on the wedding.”

If you’ve ever planned your own wedding, or helped someone planned one, you know the cost is high. Each year in the United States, about 2.5 million people get married, and the industry is estimated to be $60 billion ($300 billion globally). The average wedding cost in the United States is $26,645. Couples typically spend between $19,984 and $33,306, but most couples spend less than $10,000. Money is where it’s at in the wedding industry. A quick scroll through Pinterest will help you find anything and everything wedding related: centerpieces, dresses, bouquet arrangements, photo booth ideas, favor ideas, themed cakes, table settings, and the perfect candy and dessert table spreads. Weddings are no small affairs and become the focal point for a couple once they decide to commit.

“The wedding is, on the one hand, a healthy way of making a public commitment to each other and acknowledging that you’re part of a web of family and friends that helps to nourish the relationship,” says Stephen Fabick, a consulting psychologist who specializes in conflict resolution. Planning the big day together can also build teamwork as a couple, preparing for a unified life. But when the main focus is the wedding, and not growing together as a couple, then the couple is set up for disillusionment, just like Fabick continues to say, “But on the other hand, it preps like a cancer, where the focus is on the show and not the long-term or reality of the relationship.”

In addition to the burgeoning wedding industry, we can also see this wedding obsession play out in the tabloids littering store checkout lanes. Personally obsessing over our own weddings isn’t enough; we also obsess over the preparation and planning of countless celebrity weddings, even those across the pond. Remember Prince William and Kate Middleton’s royal wedding? They literally embodied the archetypal story of Prince and commoner-turned-Princess; hopeless romantics everywhere swooned. And then there was the highly publicized wedding of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries the same year as Kate and William. Although Kim and Kris are far from royal status, their following is just as grand. Both weddings were major media events, with coverage on everything from the dresses to the guest lists to the receptions. Sadly, it only took 72 days for the Kardashian–Humphries marriage to end in an equally publicized divorce. And here we have the cultural dichotomy of wedding obsession and the common reality of painful divorce.

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Book Review of Enjoy by Trillia Newbell

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I would never have thought I would need to be told to enjoy things in life. I have the opposite problem: possibly enjoying things so much that they replace God. (Also known as idolatry.) But in her recently released book, Enjoy: Finding the Freedom to Delight Daily in God’s Good Gifts, Trillia Newbell doesn’t take us down the road of idolatry, but helps free those bound by the shackles of fear and guilt. This book is for those who are too busy to enjoy the things of earth and heaven now, for those who feel like enjoying the gifts of God in material objects and activities are not spiritual enough or below Christian status, and for those who feel guilty to engage in and fully enjoy the things God gives us here on earth. Trillia is doing the Braveheart war cry here; her pages cry, “Freedom!”

Trillia does an excellent job connecting our enjoyment of God’s gifts to the giver himself being the ultimate source of enjoyment. She makes these connections with the gifts of relationships, intimacy, work, rest, play, money and possessions, food, art, and creation. Every chapter ends with The Enjoy Project, which is an invitation to apply the concepts of each chapter and ultimately to practice enjoying the giver and his many gifts.

The book opens with Trillia talking about a special racing bike she purchased, but how she felt that simply enjoying the bike itself didn’t seem right to her. She felt that her cycling needed to have a greater purpose, so she legitimized her hobby by training for a triathlon. But then it turned out to be too much. Trillia says, “I began to ask myself why I felt I couldn’t have a hobby solely for the purpose of enjoyment.” She began to discover that leisure activities can be a legitimate and deeply meaningful way to glorify God. “And my prayer is that in learning to better enjoy, recognize, and appreciate these gifts, we’ll learn to more clearly see and more passionately worship the provider of all these good gifts.”

I started this book thinking I was already good at enjoying the pleasures of God’s own gifts, but Trillia helped me see my lack of enjoyment in my mothering. I love being a mom and I love my children, but there are many times I don’t enjoy them and instead view them as a bother. Trillia says, “What’s interesting about relationships is that in order to fully enjoy them, we must be focused on others.” Sometimes our enjoyment comes through sacrifice and self-denial. Enjoy helped me see my occasional lack of enjoyment in my children as a selfish act. Because typically when I’m not enjoying my children I am focused on myself. I do enjoy a lot in life, but I’ve learned there are some things I need to enjoy more and that can take discipline.

Infertility in the Arms of the Church

I was a miracle baby. After fighting infertility for two years, my parents’ prayers were answered. I grew up, got married, and had babies of my own, but around me were friends crushed by the heavy hand of infertility. I’ve known suffering, but not the specific suffering of those struggling with the deferred hope of children.

My parents’ story is the one we like to share, because it has the happy ending of God answering prayer and fruit born of long-awaited desire. Like a neat, clean, and perfectly tied package, the happy ending is satisfying in film, literature, and even life.

But what about the stories of continued suffering? Stories that leave you hanging? Stories with loose ends?

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

Marriage is Not About Me

All my girlfriends were in a desperate frenzy to find a husband, and I was the fish swimming against the current. I gave a resounding “yes” to Paul when he said, “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another” (1 Corinthians 7:7).

But my upstream swim was due to a dark cloud of fear blocking my vision. I was afraid of marriage. I was afraid of getting hurt.

Though I wanted to remain single (sometimes selfishly), God kept putting marriage on my heart. I sensed he wanted to give me a gift, but in my heart I kept resisting him. To me, marriage looked mostly bleak and dark. I didn’t want to be put in a vulnerable position, because I wanted a life without personal pain and heartache.

Then I met my future husband.

As I confronted my fears in our dating relationship, I kept walking ahead with faith in my Father. God gave me peace to trust him on that path, and the end result was marriage.

But a few years into marriage, I began to question again whether it was truly a gift. Aren’t gifts supposed to make you feel good?

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

Duty and Desire in The Crown

There is a complexity of ideas at play beneath the authentic scenery and elegant costumes of the new Netflix series The Crown. This tactful English drama set in post-war Britain centers on the rise and reign of Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy). The camerawork and creative writing take us into the hidden realities of relationships between monarchy and family, monarchy and parliament, and monarchy and church. At the heart of it all is the interplay of duty and desire.

Read the rest at Think Christian >>

The Identity Beneath Your Identities

I was strongly rooted in my singleness. I was content in that season. I had grown up in the same city for thirteen years with many friendships built along the way.  I was a leader among the youth and singles in my church. But then I married my husband, which meant moving out of my parents house for the first time and leaving the rest of my family and friends to move out of state. When I moved from Orlando to Philadelphia I didn’t know anybody unless they were friends of my husband, and everybody knew me as his wife. I had also just graduated college and couldn’t find a good job in my new city. I experienced a multitude of quick transitions at once, and I had an identity crisis. I didn’t know what to do with my life except clean our one-bedroom apartment, wash and dry our clothes at the laundromat, grocery shop, and attempt cooking. Growing into a wife away from home was lonely.

When I did finally find a job I was pregnant two months after I started. I stayed home after our first son was born, and just when I was getting comfortable with the new me, my identity changed again. I had a traumatic birth experience and a battle with baby blues my first month home with my newborn. On top of that I was adjusting to the constant demands of a nursing baby who kept me up at night. I was being stripped of my independence, learning about true sacrifice and the strength of a selfless life.

My identity changed when I moved and became a wife and then a mom…

Read the rest at For the Church >>

Jesus Wept for Sia Too

“Jesus wept.” This is the shortest verse in the Bible and also the title of a new single from Sia’s deluxe version of the album This is Acting. The verse is a unique portrayal of Christ’s humanity. Sia’s single gives a true depiction of humanity with a hint of hope. Together, the verse and the song show us how light can overcome the darkness…

Read the rest at Think Christian >>

Missional Motherhood Study: Weeks 5 & 6

Today was the last day of my moms group and I thought I would cover our discussion from weeks 5 and 6. Two weeks ago we mainly talked about the “thousands of little deaths to self” we do as moms everyday. This idea is drawn from 2 Corinthians 4:11:

“For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

We also discussed the idea that evangelism is a mom’s work, but the giving of faith is Gods. There is freedom in knowing that it isn’t all up to us to save our children. We do have a great influence on them, and God uses us in mighty ways in our children’s lives, but only God can make blind eyes see and awaken a sleeping heart.

In today’s group we talked a lot about homemaking and the difference between making our homes an idol and making them a place to display the gospel to others (in our family and outside our family). Gloria says, “Titus 2 is not about how Christian women need to be domestic goddesses; it’s about how Christian women point people to God.” We manage our homes, in our own unique ways, to love and serve and give freely to others. Gloria speaks to this as well, “Homemaking is a strategic everyday ministry designed by God to adorn his gospel in this age….We don’t manage our homes because our homes are our hope. We manage our homes because Christ is our hope.” 

We ended the discussion today with the assurance that God will fulfill his mission in the world and in his Church, because he tells us so in his Word, and has made it evident through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and by giving us the Holy Spirit. He designed us and equips us for missional motherhood to our own children and other disciples. It is his work.

 

Missional Motherhood Study: Week 4

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This last Monday in group we mainly talked about Gloria’s take on mothering being a ministry of the priesthood. She references the Old Testament priesthood. The old sacrificial system involved one man, the High Priest, entering the Most Holy Place once a year to make atonement for the people’s sins (and is own) using animal sacrifices. This was the basis for the old covenant God made with his people. It was the provision God enabled so his people could draw near to him in a limited way. But this old way of sacrifice was also a foreshadowing of God’s ultimate plan to make final atonement for his people through the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He instituted a better covenant and his sacrifice was more effective. Since Jesus was a perfect High Priest he could sacrifice himself, and his death would be sufficient for all eternity.

It is on this basis that now we each have direct and unlimited access to God through our great High Priest Jesus. And because of this we are all priests ourselves:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. – 1 Peter 2:9

Now God calls each of us a priest; he qualifies us for the priesthood through Christ’s priesthood. This is where Gloria brings our everyday mothering into perspective as an act of the priesthood we are apart of. In her book, Gloria connects the incense offered by the priest in the tabernacle to the prayers of a mother being a fragrant offering to the Lord. We go before God on behalf of our children to offer up our incense of prayers. God has had mercy on our children by providing a priest in the next room offering up prayers for them. Mothering is part of our priesthood.

Missional Motherhood Study: Week 3

I was recently traveling with my family, so my moms group met this past Wednesday instead of Monday. Only two ladies were present, but we spent a long time talking about Gloria’s take on seasonal obsessive disorder (which is not a real disorder) and comparing it to our lives. In Jesus’ day the Jews were ‘obsessing’ about their season of oppressive Roman rule and they expected the Messiah to deliver them. But while the Jews were looking for someone to deliver them from their temporary situation, they were overlooking their greater need for eternal deliverance. In much the same way, we as moms can obsess over the season of parenting we are in with our children and pine for a different season.

I know lately I’ve been pining for a season when my boys are more independent from me. I can day dream about having more freedom, especially with my two year old who clings to me day and night. And yet my eyes are set on the temporal circumstances of my life when they should ultimately be set on hope in Christ and his return. Gloria reminds us that we are all in the larger season of life, which is wrought with hardship. In every season we find ourselves in, and in all of this tumultuous life, Christ is the anchor for our souls. What a solid truth to hold fast to as a mom called to daily nurturing of little bodies and souls.

When Does Mommy Get to Rest?

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

The words barely roll off my tongue as I bend down to hear my three-year-old son whisper in my ear, “Mama, I want a snack.”

My hands feel around diapers, wipes, and extra clothing items in my bag and then grab onto a small packet of crackers. I tear open the packet and hand it to my son as I resume singing.

Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

I glance down to see my son huddled over his blue sneakers, tugging at the yellow laces that have come untied. As I continue to sing one of my favorite hymns, I plop my son down on a chair to retie his shoes.

This is a typical Sunday morning service for young moms — worship as a mother. We sing praise with our mouths to God, while worshiping by tearing open cracker packets and tying loose laces. It’s Sunday, a Sabbath day for many, a day to rest, take it easy, be refreshed, and prepare for another week of schedules, appointments, and work. And yet my hands are busy at work all day. How can I enjoy rest when caring and nurturing is a round-the-clock job?

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

Book Review of Humble Roots

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What if humility is the key to rest for our weary souls? Hannah Anderson proposes that it is in her new book Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your SoulI’ve already sang my praise for Hannah’s first book, so I was eager to be apart of the launch team for Humble Roots. I was able to help promote Hannah’s message through social media and receive an advance copy of the book, which already released October 4th from Moody Publishers.

I have to say I did not expect to be disappointed with this book, because I already love Hannah’s writing, thoughts, and ideas. And I’m glad to say that I was right. There is something unique about this book on humility. Instead of focusing on the sinfulness of pride alone, Hannah shows us how humility is expressed in acknowledging our human limitations; that we are dependent and created beings made from dust who will return to dust. And once we own this truth, and remember we are not God, we will find rest.

According to Hannah, we are all running around in our own strength trying to do it all and be it all (superwomen and supermen) and weighted down by the burden of stress. Although organization, minimalism, and staying up late to get everything done can help, Hannah offers another avenue that gets to the root of the cultural plague of stress and anxiety. The answer? Humble roots. Remembering who are and who God is. Her book is grounded in this one section of scripture from Matthew 11:28-29:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Hannah helps us make the connection Jesus is making here. When we come to him in our weariness and desire rest, Jesus tells us to learn from him – the one who is gentle and lowly of heart. Finding rest for our souls means going to Jesus and learning about his humility. We must get back to our roots, which is being made in the image of God from the dirt of the ground.

The book also addresses several micro-topics, prescribing humility as the remedy. Issues such as: body image, shame, the gender wars, emotions and feelings, the limits of human reason, wisdom, death, gratitude and privilege, stewardship, our dreams, desires, and plans, and brokenness and suffering. And Hannah takes all of this and ties everything together with the imagery of plants, flowers, and gardening, basically things that are earthy, to remind us of where we come from.  The rural agrarian feel of living off the land, man and nature, that which is simple and natural, is the beat of this book on humility. Replete with wonderfully told stories from her own life and a diverse and interesting use of quotes that support the larger message of the book, Hannah brings our knees to the ground as we dig our hands deep down into the soil of humility.

 

Missional Motherhood Study: Week 2

Today we had our second mom’s meet-up to discus session 2 of Gloria Furman’s missional motherhood. In this video Gloria gave us a sweeping synopsis of the gospel story intertwined throughout the entire Bible. She presents us with the “big story” of scripture and asks us how it fits into our smaller stories of everyday mothering.

The biggest takeaway from our discussion today was the promise of hope we have in Christ. His death, burial, and resurrection gives us a present and future hope in him alone. We see hope in Adam naming Eve “the mother of all living“, the hope of rescue and redemption in the Old Testament as every story points to Jesus, and then the fulfillment of hope in the New Testament and beyond. This hope is not grounded in ourselves and our efforts or the performance of our children; it is grounded in the hope of Christ’s resurrection. Even if our day does not go as planned, we know that ultimately all things will go well (and as planned) for God’s children in the end.

Leave me a comment with your thoughts after you watch the video.