Minimalist Believer

A blog about minimalism and the Christian life

The Resurrection

Luke 24 is one of the most triumphant chapters in the bible. It tells about the resurrection of Christ. It is nothing short of amazing. Even as a 21st century reader familiar with the story, Luke 24 is still an emotional whirlwind.

The chapter begins with women, hearts heavy with grief, going to the tomb of Jesus to anoint his body. They arrived to find the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. Two angels appeared to them asking why they sought the living among the dead. The angels reminded them that Jesus foretold his death and resurrection on the third day. Remembering Jesus’ words they went to the disciples to deliver the good news. The disciples didn’t share their excitement. They didn’t believe them at all.

Later, two of the disciple were traveling on the road to Emmaus and discussing all the recent events with heavy hearts. Jesus appeared to them and joined the conversation while hiding his identity. The relayed to him all the recent happenings in Jerusalem. Jesus’ response is classic: “O foolish ones, slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” He then explained the scripture to them, telling him how all the scriptures about him had been fulfilled. The disciples urged him to stay with him and he did so. As they ate together that night Jesus broke the bread.When he blessed and broke it they realized that it was Jesus and he disappeared. They got up and went right back to Jerusalem to tell the eleven disciples.

While they were talking Jesus appears in the room. The see and touch him and they share some food. Jesus then opens their minds to understand the scriptures. He then charges the disciples to proclaim the forgiveness of sins to all in the name of Jesus, beginning in Jerusalem. He blessed them and was carried into heaven. From then on, the disciples worshipped and were continually in the temple blessing God.

Luke 24 tells a story of triumph but it also tells a story of unbelief. The disciples had been told what would take place and yet the did not believe. I can almost feel their grief. Then there is the wonderful news that Jesus upon seeing Jesus. They thought it was over, but everything changed the instant Jesus appeared. He had conquered death and hell. He rose! One beautiful thing about this chapter is that it doesn’t end with the news that Jesus rose from the dead. We read about his interactions with the disciples and his instructions to preach the gospel. Even better, the bible goes on to tell about the early church and how we are to live as followers of Christ. What the disciples thought was the end was only the beginning. History was forever changed and life would never be the same.

The disciples had no idea that this would happen. The didn’t believe. Unfortunately, I am often among the foolish ones — slow of heart to believe all that God has promised. I see promises in the bible but I wonder if God will really do what he says. Will he deliver me this time? I am even slow of heart to believe all that God has spoken to me personally. Why are we so reluctant to believe? The problems of life loom large and we lose sight of the promises of God. We also lose sight of the faithfulness of God.

I believe that is the real message of Easter: God is faithful. He promised from the Garden that he would redeem humanity. He foretold that he would rise from the dead, and so he did. God is faithful to do all that he says no matter how improbable. We can be forgiven and healed and empowered. We can live lives of freedom because God is faithful.

As Easter approaches, I look forward to commemorating the resurrection of Christ and celebrating the faithfulness of God.

Spring Cleaning

It’s spring! At least that’s what the calendar says. It’s still a bit chilly in Chicago. Still, it’s a time of hope and renewal.The days of winter are over and the season is changing. There’s something about spring that makes people want to change too.

Most people take advantage of the change in weather to shake things up. Everybody prepares for summer differently. Most people, however, use spring as a time for cleaning and rearranging their homes and lives.

The Changing of the Wardrobe

We are expecting 50’s and 60’s this week so the time for the wardrobe change is drawing near. It will be time to exchange the sweaters and turtle necks for tee shirts and tank tops. It will be time to exchange boots for sandals and pants with shorts. I am waiting to break out the summer skirts because that’s of my favorite things about summer.

This wardrobe change is a great time to purge. There are two things you want to do before putting winter wear into bins. First, examine your wardrobe. Is there anything you don’t want to wear next year? Are there things you’re just tired of looking at? If so, donate them. Also be sure to check the condition of your items. If you have sweaters that look worn and socks with holes now is the time to throw them out. Don’t bother storing things that belong in the trash.

Second, you should wash everything you intend to put away. If there is a chance that you wore it be sure to wash it. Moths are attracted to body oils, perspiration, and saliva. You don’t want to pull your items out in the fall only to discover that they are full of holes. Once you have pared down and put things in storage it will be time to continue cleaning elsewhere.

Down and Dirty

This is the time to give your home a deep cleaning. There’s just something about a good deep cleaning that feels good. Here are some ways to clean yourself happy.

Focus on the furniture. I may dust from time to time but in the spring I like to polish the furniture. I also go through the pile of mail that accumulates in my bookshelf. I also evaluate old magazines to see if I still want them or if they should be recycled. I like to make things neater as I go into summer. Make sure to vacuum your furnishings (sofa, chairs, etc.). You may even want to move things around for a new look.

Next, clean out the cabinets. Check for food that has gone bad. Look for boxes and bags that have been opened and check to see if the contents are still fresh. If they’re stale, throw them out. If there are nonperishable goods you know you won’t use donate them to a local food pantry. This is also a good time to clean the shelves and the doors of the cabinets.

Do some mattress maintenance. This is a good time to vacuum your mattress (dust mites!) and to rotate it on your bed. You can turn it, flip it, or both. If you use a mattress pad be sure to wash it. Mattress pads take a while to dry so be sure that you start early enough in the day.

Consider cleaning the carpet. If you have a carpet shampoo machine this is the perfect time to clean the carpets of all the salty residue from the winter. If you don’t have a machine, consider having your carpets professionally cleaned.

Washing windows? Some people do it, some people don’t. If you are among the latter, consider hiring a professional.

Prune your plants. Check for any dead leaves and pull them off. Also check to make sure that your pot is big enough. Your plant may need to be repotted. If you’re ambitious you can attend to your plants in your yard and garden as well.

What about the random things? Shower curtains can be washed, linen closets can be purged and organized, freezers can be cleaned out, and refrigerators can be sanitized. If you’re really ambitious you can even tackle the attic or the garage.

Clean Inside

This takes Spring Cleaning to a whole new level. A friend of mine does a body cleanse every season to remove any toxins from her body. She does fruits and vegetables, and supplements with protein shakes. I have done a similar cleanse in the past. I haven’t decided whether I will do it this year but I am thinking about it.

Check In

This time of renewal is a good time to reevaluate your Life Plan and see how you are moving toward your vision. Making good progress? Great! Keep it up. Is there room for improvement? Don’t beat yourself up. Just make some adjustments and move forward. Spring is a great time of year because it holds so much potential. New things are coming. Get ready. Make this your best Spring Clean ever.

Rest and Refreshment – Getting The Most From Your Weekend

Weekends seem to come and go way too fast. By the time you finally get into the swing of things it’s time to go back to work. If we are not careful the entire weekend can be filled with activity, leaving us tired and irritable on Monday. This makes the work week seem even longer.

I used to have a teacher that prayed that we would have rest and refreshment over our weekends. For a short while I thought that this was just a nice phrase. Soon I began to see the wisdom of those words. We need to feel rested and refreshed at the end of our weekends. That is what weekends were created for. It is essential that we make the most of our weekends. It is even more important if we work on one or both weekend days. The time that we do have must be spent well to ensure that we go into the work week feeling rested.

With the weekend being only three days away, I thought I’d share some tips for making the most of your weekend.

Protect your time. Don’t take on any commitments you don’t need to. The work week is busy enough. Don’t feel pressure to fill every moment of your weekend too. Leave time for you.

Slow down. Everyone has stuff to do on the weekend. There are things to take care of: laundry, groceries, shopping, cleaning. Some people take on additional activities such as remodeling the bathroom or painting a bedroom. These things are great, but they can take over your weekend if you let them. The key is to limit these activities and take time to slow down. Plan some time where you aren’t shopping or cleaning. Set aside a block of time for rest.

Take a Sabbath. If possible, take a complete Sabbath. If you are not familiar with the Sabbath, it is a day of religious observance and rest. No work is done on a Sabbath. The Jewish Sabbath is Saturday and the Christian Sabbath is Sunday. The Sabbath is a time of rest and connection with God. I will write more on how to observe a Sabbath in a later post.

Silence. Our world is filled with noise and activity. A number of sounds assault our ears each day; televisions, cell phones, conversations, and traffic noise to name a few. Getting away from the noise goes a long way in promoting relaxation. Instead of stressful sounds, try to spend some time in silent reflection.

Quality time. Weekends are a great time to connect with friends and family. Quality time with loved ones can fill us up. Laughter, affection, and connection are just a few things that family and friends offer us. These connections make us feel good and help us to feel purposeful.

Limit technology. Technology is all around us. We have laptops, tablets, and smartphones. We can be connected to the internet almost everywhere we go. These things can be good, but they can also suck up valuable relaxation time. In fact, they can, and often do, add to the stress of our day. To really maximize weekend time we need to pull away from the glowing screen and be present to those around us. We need to be in the moment. We cannot do this with our eyes glued to a screen.

There are many ways to get the most from your weekends. These are just a few. The important thing is that we get the rest that weekends are supposed to provide. In order to do that, we must balance rest and activity. How do you get the most out of your weekend?

 

For My Birthday

I had a Birthday! Gon’ Party Like It’s My Birthday! I have survived another trip around the sun. In the past I have done life lessons for every year of life. This year I want to do something different.

This year I just want to write about one thing. There are several principles that guide my life, but there is one experience that has impacted my very deeply. I can honestly say that it has changed my life forever.

I’d like to tell you a story. I have always been a great student. My family places a high value on education so there was no question that I was going to college. Of course, I was really excited about college and looked forward to this period of my life. I planned to major in Biology because I loved it and I planned on going to medical school after undergrad. My plan made perfect sense.

Like many high school seniors I read all the brochures and catalogues that came to the house. I searched through the lists of best colleges and wanted to go to a prestigious school. My top choice was Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. I interviewed for a spot in the next freshman class. I was overjoyed when I was accepted. Then something happened that changed everything: I was awarded a $100,000 renewable scholarship to the University of Minnesota.

My heart said go to Wellesley. That was my dream. My family (and just about everyone else) said to go where the money was. Such generous scholarships are hard to come by. Being only eighteen and very inexperienced, I went with the money. In the fall I started as a freshman a the University of Minnesota.

That was a first in many aspects. It was my first experience with depression. I hated every day. I can honestly say that it was the most miserable year of my life to date. U of M was huge. There were as many people in my General Chemistry class as there were in my whole high school. My grades were mediocre. I was miserable. Worst of all, I felt hopeless. I thought that my dreams of going to medical school (or anything else) were ruined. It was awful. It wasn’t worth the money at all. I felt like I had sold my soul for $100,000. $100 million would be one thing. That might not even be worth selling out on your dream. But I felt like a fool for selling out for a measly $100,000.

Every day, I regretted going there. I wished that I had gone to Wellesley, or anyplace else. I did survive the year in Minnesota but having that experience changed my life forever. I had felt the pain of regret and for the rest of my life I would remember it. Since that time I have let that pain guide my decisions. When considering a big decision I always stop to think, Will I regret it if I don’t do this? Will I look back and wish that I had taken a chance? If the answer is yes, or even if I suspect that it might be, then I jump in. I use this thought process for making purchases, taking jobs, having difficult conversations. I am always trying to avoid regret and I feel that it has guided me pretty well. Because I refuse to live with regret I am pursuing God’s calling even though I do not know where this path will lead.

Not that all of my decisions have been perfect, but overall, I live free of regret. I want the same for you. Follow your dreams. Don’t be ruled by fear. Don’t sell yourself for money. Do what scares you. Take a chance. It makes all the difference.

Live with no regrets.

 

Productivity At What Price?

I am sitting down to my laptop feeling a sense of guilt and a bit of irritation. I didn’t get nearly as much done this afternoon as I wanted. I feel like I wasted time that I could have used for writing or job hunting.

When I think about it, I didn’t actually waste the day. My aunt fell and twisted her ankle this morning so she couldn’t drive herself to the store. We decided that I would drive her. First, we had a lovely lunch at Cracker Barrel. Then, we went to the grocery store where we got food for the week (including lots of healthy foods). While we were there we met a delightful 93 year old lady who reminded us that the secret to having a good life is trusting Jesus. When we got home we found that the snow plows had blocked our driveway so we then had to shovel a path just so that we could park.

All of these things took longer than expected. I came home feeling so much pressure to get things done that I was momentarily paralyzed. I didn’t even know where to start. The guilt I felt was oppressive. I felt like I had wasted my whole day.

I didn’t do the things that I wanted to do but my day was not wasted. I helped my aunt with errands that she couldn’t do alone. We got groceries for the house. I stopped to take some pictures of the winter wonderland that is outside. I helped my family clear the driveway. All of these things had to be done. So why do I feel so guilty?

I think that the problem is that I am very task oriented. I want to do something. I am not accustomed to going with the flow. I want a schedule and I want to be able to see measurable progress. I want results. I want to write for two hours and then see that I have written 1,000 words. I want to know that I have sent 10 good resumes. I want results that fit my definition of productivity.

How often do we miss the everyday events of life because we are trying to keep a schedule? How often to we miss opportunities to connect with friends and family because we want to get more done? Life is made of little moments. If we don’t notice those little moments, who will? If we are not present for the moments as they happen they will be lost to us forever.

My message today is simple. Choose wisely. My day was not good from a productivity standpoint but it was great from a family standpoint. I connected with my aunt. I made sure that we have ingredients for our meals. I helped to move a ton of snow. I was there for my family today. I chose them.

Yes, it is hard to deal with distractions. Yes, your To Do list will be screaming in the back of your mind. Yes, you may have to deal with guilt when everything doesn’t go exactly as planned. Yes, yes, yes. But you may also experience a moment you would not have otherwise had. I would never have gotten those lovely pictures if I had been chained to my laptop all day.

We have to choose. How will you spend this moment? This hour? This evening? This day will never come again. What will you do with it? Choose wisely.

Why You Should Slow Down

We live in a world that is addicted to speed. We have quick rice, quick oatmeal, and a while host of other convenience foods. We have a plethora of fast food options for when we want food on the go. We routinely sacrifice quality for speed.

All this rushing around is not good and it is not efficient. It has bad effects on our health, our emotions, and our overall productivity. We all need things done but rushing from place to place and activity to activity is not the answer. Instead, it is counterproductive.

It creates stress. Rushing from one task to another creates stress. There is the pressure to hurry and get one thing done so that we can dive right into the next task. It makes us drive like madmen. It makes us feel guilty when things when things take longer than expected. All this stress builds during the day and when it’s time for sleep our brains are still buzzing.

It is less effective. Benjamin Franklin had it right: haste makes waste. A rush job often has to be redone. Why waste the time? If it is worth doing, it’s worth taking your time and doing it right the first time.

It prevents you from enjoying the moment. Rushing around keeps you focused on the next thing. It keeps you focused on the clock. It packs your schedule so full that you don’t have time to enjoy anything. We miss beautiful moments with our family and friends. We miss the beauty that is around us. We miss the opportunity to reflect, think deeply, and absorb all that God is trying to teach us.

How can we slow down?

Simplify your schedule. You must control your schedule or your schedule will control you.  Do not take on too many commitments. Sometime you have to say “No.” Choose only the things that are most important to you.

Plan properly. Be realistic. Don’t plan errands on opposite sides of town and leave no time scheduled for transit. Include things like driving time, meals, and meal preparation into your schedule.

Build in time for relaxation. Despite what the messages on television tell us, we cannot do it all. It isn’t healthy. It is not healthy to rush from place to place and collapse in bed exhausted at the end of the day. Many things that we do during the day deplete our physical and mental energy. Each day we should take some time to fill ourselves up. I usually do this by journaling or reading. Some do this by meditating. Find a way to recharge your battery every day.

Slowing down is the only way to retain your sanity in this crazy world. Slowing down helps us to be more productive. We can think ahead about ways to do things properly and allows us to execute that plan in a way that creates quality results.

Slowing down allows for more happiness. When you take your time eating you can really savor that slice of cheesecake. If you take your time on the drive home you can admire the beauty of nature. If you take your time you can really engage others as you talk to them.

In a world of speed, it pays to slow down. Take a walk to decompress. Do some yoga. Read a chapter of your favorite book. Schedule some time to relax each day. Get out of the rat race and take some time to slow things down. You life will be better for it.

Simplifying Your Morning Routine

I really hate mornings. I am a natural night owl and getting up before 9:00 am is a painful experience.  Surely hell is a place where it is always morning.

However, we live in a culture where a lot happens in the morning, with many starting their business day at 9:00 am, if not earlier. What is a night owl to do?

Since I have to function in the morning, I want my morning routine is be as simple as possible so that I can get through it quickly:

Here are some ways that I simplify my morning routine.

Proper nighttime preparation. This one is huge. A morning that goes well is  dependent on proper preparation the night before. Do as much as possible before the morning even begins. Pick out clothes the night before. Make sure you have what you need. Morning is not the time to discover that you have no clean underwear. Check these things at night and plan accordingly. Take your shower at night so that there will be one less thing to do in the morning.

This also includes packing your bag or backpack, or your kids’ backpacks. Have all the books and papers you will need packed away and have that bag waiting for you in the morning.

Get to bed on time. Most people don’t factor this into their morning. However, if you don’t get to bed on time you are more likely to oversleep which will wreak havoc on your morning routine. Everything will be rushed, and most likely, less efficient.

Leave the TV off. When I was growing up my mother would allow me to watch TV in the morning. If I was taking too long though, she would turn it off. I couldn’t focus on the task at hand with the TV on.

Though I have grown up nothing has changed. I cannot be effective with the TV on. The TV is very distracting. It compels you to watch it. Often you get so caught up in a program or the news that you sit and watch even when you need to be doing other things. Be proactive. Unless there is inclement weather and you need weather and traffic updates, don’t touch the TV.

Keep everything in one place. This one is key. You shouldn’t spend your morning searching for your face lotion. I have a train case that I keep all my toiletries in. That’s where I go for my facial cleanser, lotion, floss, etc. Keeping everything together minimizes sleepy searching.

Automate breakfast. I try to fix breakfast before bed too. The Yummy Life  has some great recipes for overnight refrigerator oatmeal. If this doesn’t interest you then have something ready on hand that you can make quickly. I like grits and often have them in the morning. Fruit is also a good option.

Plan lunch. Where I work taking lunch is really the only option. Having to fix lunch adds stress to my morning. I try to think about lunch at the previous evening’s dinner and pack some away if necessary. It is great to have some cans of soup on hand to take to work. Bonus points for healthy soup choices!

Simple beauty regimen. Makeup is great for going out on Friday night, but it is out of the question most mornings. I opt for simple hairstyles that won’t take much time. Usually, I only apply lipstick in the morning. If I have extra time I will apply eyeliner and mascara only. This is the extent of my beauty regimen. On weekends I usually have time to do full makeup if I want to look extra cute. I don’t dedicate too much time to makeup.

If you choose to include makeup in your morning routine, be prepared. Have all of your makeup and brushes together. Create a simple look that can be done in only five minutes. Get some key colors that work well together and create a look that can be worn with just about anything. Also, have a default look that you can always rely on just in case you get up late and don’t have time to be creative.

With proper preparation, mornings can be smoothed out. Keeping it simple in the morning decreases my stress level and sets a good tone for the rest of my day. How do you keep it simple in the morning?

Who Do You Want to Become in 2014? (How to do a Life Plan)

This post is a bit of a departure from my normal topics. I decided to write on it because the timing is perfect. We are a month into 2014 and it is a great time to evaluate how we are doing on our goals and visions for the year.

I love Anthony Robbins. Love Anthony Robbins. I feel like he has good insights and he is very motivational. I spoke with an Anthony Robbins life coach at the end of December and he really changed my thinking about how to go about creating the life you want.

I shared my goals with the coach and the first thing that he instructed me to do is focus on what I know. Focusing on what you don’t know is not helpful. If you look at successful people you find that they took action based on what they knew.

The coach urged me to think about the following:

VISION – What do I truly want?

Don’t just give a mechanical answer (write a book, lost 30lbs) for this question. No. Dig deeper. What will these mechanical things give you? Take some time and meditate on this. Think about what you really want in life.

PURPOSE – Why do I want this?

Once you know what you want, you need to know why. If you don’t know, you won’t follow through. There must be a BIG why. This is called leverage. Why do I value this? What will my life look like when I have this?

ACTIONS

What are the actions I need to take to make this happen? Determine 2-3 action steps. Any more will overwhelm you. Make your actions steps reasonable.

GOALS

In order to be successful, you need a mile marker. You need to know in 30 or 90 days that you are on track. These are your goals. Is your goal to pare your wardrobe down to 50 items in 30 days, complete a manuscript in 3 months, or lose 30 lbs in the next 6 months? Your progress lets you know whether your actions have been effective.

Most focus on the bottom two: actions and goals. That makes a glorified To Do list. The majority of your efforts should go to Vision and Purpose.

The actions and goals change as you go along. Vision and purpose rarely change.

Putting the four areas together is the process of creating a life plan. This is something that you will use every day.

In order to make your dreams reality, you need to make a decision. You need to draw a line in the sand and say “I am going to do this – with everything I have.” If you’re not willing to do that, then you need to get a new vision.

So far, I haven’t had much success in 2014. I have been writing, but I haven’t been eating well or exercising (due to injury). I was thinking about this as I wandered around Target this weekend. I am not hitting my goals because I haven’t been taking action. I haven’t been taking action because I haven’t been using my life plan. That is the key: keeping the vision in front of you.

If you haven’t thought about your life and goals this way I urge you to try it. Take some time and really create a life plan that reflects what you want.

Tell me about some elements of your life plan in the comments.

Act

I have to admit: I am a collector. I especially love to collect books. I recently found yet another magazine about getting your writing published. Counting the one I just bought last week, I have five such magazines. I have a few things published, but I would like to do so much more. I have collected a lot more information about publishing than actually doing work to get published. This makes absolutely no sense.

Likewise, I have been collecting vegan cookbooks for far too long. I have recipes. Sometimes, I have ingredients. But I don’t make any of those recipes. Why am I not taking action?

I think it’s because gathering information makes me feel like I have accomplished something. I bought a book. See? I’m making progress.

The only problem is that getting more information is not progress. Getting books about writing will not get me published. Only writing will. Similarly, getting vegan cookbooks will not make me a vegan. Only making the necessary changes will.

Sometimes we can become so obsessed with getting more information, even when we haven’t bothered to act on the information we already have.

Apparently, this is not a new problem. And I am not alone in not doing what I know God has instructed me to do. The bible talks about people hearing but not implementing what they hear. James says that those that don’t follow hearing with action are deceiving themselves (James 1:22).

That is exactly what I have been doing: deceiving myself. In this case, I am deceiving myself into thinking that by gathering information I am doing what God wants me to do. The key is the doing. The key is to take action. I will never know everything. Ever. At some point I have to put into practice all that I have learned. Learning is great, but information is useless without action.

It is so easy to deceive ourselves into believing that information and action are the same.  God wants me to write and he wants me to change my diet in a big way. Collecting information about these things is not the same as taking action.

 

Start

Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started. Sometimes the initial step is the hardest. It is very easy to stand back and see all that you need or want to do and feel overwhelmed. I have a million things I’d like to write: books, articles, blog posts, journal entries, and the occasional poem. It’s easy to look at this list and feel paralyzed by indecision.

I have found, however, that the best approach is to just start somewhere. What is one small step that I can take today that will help me on my way? Identify one small step to take right now. Remember, you can always build on it tomorrow. But choose a small step and take it. You then have something to build on. It’s okay to start small. As long as you start.

 

No Pressure

I know one of the things that stops me from starting is the pressure to be perfect. I experience this with the thought of becoming vegan. I fear that I will slip up and have an egg and that will make me a bad vegan.

At breakfast this morning my friend just removed that pressure from me. She said that progress may look like two steps forward, one step back. It’s not a straight line. The road to success might be jagged but it is headed in the right direction.

Similarly, I feel like my first draft has to be perfect.  I can sit staring at the blinking cursor paralyzed with fear of not choosing the perfect word. As of late though, I have been learning to let myself do a crappy first draft. The first draft is just a start (there’s that word again). I will have the opportunity to revise and make my work better.

 

Address the Fear

Another thing that keeps me from starting is fear. Sometimes it’s the fear of failing. It could be the fear of the unknown or the fear of rejection. However, we have to take chances. Some things are learned along the way.  I decided that I was not going to be ruled by fear. Fear is a cruel master. It can make you do crazy things or prevent you from doing anything at all. Either of these can ruin your life. I refuse to come to the end of my life full of regret that I didn’t try because I was scared.  It would be one thing if I didn’t have the ability or resources to do something. But fear is not a reason for not taking action. I refuse to go out like a punk.

It can be hard to take action, especially if it’s something big and life-changing. You feel like the whole world (all your friends and family, at least) will be watching and waiting for you to fail. In truth, some might be. However, you can’t let that stop you because there are others that are cheering for you to succeed. There are still others that will follow in your footsteps. Don’t give in to the pressure and the fear. Just make a start. You can always improve. But you can’t improve if you never start.

From Materialism to Minimalism

About 8 years ago, an ex-boyfriend diagnosed me with a severe case of materialsm. We were functionally engaged: the guy and I were planning to marry and he introduced me as his fiancèe, but we had no wedding date and I had no ring. It turns out that we were all wrong for each other and marrying him would have been a big mistake. I had several hesitations about him, and he had several about me. One of his hesitations was that he thought I was very materialistic.

When he said this to me, I scoffed at him and told him that the problem wasn’t that I was materialistic. The problem was that he was broke. I believed that he was intimidated by my stuff because he couldn’t afford that lifestyle.

Part of the problem is that I was listening to some theology that promoted the accumulation of stuff.  They advocated hoarding, calling it “abundance,” and taught that more stuff and more money indicated God’s blessing.

A few years later, I learned proper exegesis, and I realized that the theology I had embraced was questionable at best. I learned that money was not an indication of God’s blessing. I learned that God loves the poor and that he expects us to do the same (rather than condemn them for their lack of “faith”). I had a paradigm shift.

In 2011, I stumbled upon a website about minimalism. The idea was foreign to me, but somehow it struck a chord with me. I realized that my focus shouldn’t be on getting more and more stuff. My focus should be on living life to the fullest and helping others to do the same.

Since that time, I have embraced minimalism and have been working to root out materialism. Materialism is sneaky though. It has many faces. Sometimes it shows itself in our tendencies to stock up when there is a sale. We buy six bottles of shower gel because three just won’t do. It can show up as a desire to compete. Your friend has a stunning new purse and that makes you want one too. Materialism can show up as fashion obsession. We have to have the latest fashion items in the latest color, and we have to have them right now.

For me, contentment is the key to curbing materialism. When I see and appreciate what I already have it makes me less likely to get obsessed with what I don’t have. Yes, it would be awesome to have that new Too Faced eye palette, but I have a really nice palette already. I love the colors that I have. Why do I need more? Contentment says, “What I have is enough.” This attitude is like kryptonite to materialism.

Practicality also combats materialism. Yes, another purse would be nice.  But how much use will I get out of that purse? Where will it be stored? Would the money used to purchase it be better used elsewhere? Sometimes thinking things through is enough to redirect that desire to have more.

Embracing minimalism has brought me face to face with my own materialism. While I feel that I have made great progress, I still struggle with materialism sometimes. I still want things. The difference is that I have learned to be more content and to think more practically. These have been most helpful in rooting out materialism in my life (this is an ongoing process). What has helped you?

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