A Journey through Chaos

It started out simple and what I thought was harmless. I told myself: “As long as I am home with my kids, why not do daycare and earn some extra money to make life a little easier? Besides,” I reasoned, “I would also be providing playmates for my kids.”

Then, after about four years of doing daycare, I decided I needed just a little more money and some adult interaction. So, I decided to sell Tupperware “just a couple nights a week.” I figured I would do paperwork during the day when all the kids were in school and hold a couple parties in the evenings. However, little did I realize that I would end up working around the clock – doing daycare and paperwork during the day and running the kids around to activities and doing more Tupperware parties at night than I had expected. I, of course, was following the carrot – the more parties I held, the more money I made. I got caught in a trap and lost my way. I was working so hard that I even earned a free van.

I finally came to a point in my journal where I said: “all I do now is fight for time, complain, worry about what people are going to do, and cringe every time the phone rings. I’m suffocating. I need to get out of the hole I’ve been sucked into.” I desperately wanted time to sit and talk with my husband and read to my children at night. I finally realized that I had to simplify my life. I quit Tupperware and started meditating on:

1) Trusting God to provide and learning to not worry so much (Matthew 6:25-34)
2) Watching out for greed and having to buy stuff I did not need (Luke 12:15)
3) Focusing on what is important. In the long run, I knew I would never feel as though I had enough money and I knew money would never satisfy me (Matthew 6:19-24)

One month later, I wrote: “I am so thankful for the time I have with my children now that I’m not doing parties, recruiting, training and interviewing. Simplicity took a load off my shoulders. It gave me freedom from worry and anxiety – my beliefs and values are finally in line with what I am doing.”

Because of these principles, we never moved out of our starter home into a bigger house. Therefore, we were able to build equity and were not affected by the housing collapse. Since we had the equity and have always wanted a cabin on a lake in Northern Minnesota, we decided to look at what was available and see if God would provide. We found the most affordable area and called a realtor. It took only two weekends of riding around with the realtor to find the perfect place for us. Since it did not have electricity, it was the only property we looked at, in our price range, that already had a cabin on it. It was exactly the adventurous getaway we were looking for. Having a place like this was a step toward simplification for us. I knew from visits to my grandmother’s cabin as a child that sitting in the middle of nature with no city noise or TV blaring would be relaxing and a great reminder of the important basics of life. Time and time again, I am in awe that God provided this place where we can detoxify from the stresses of life and sit back and marvel as His creation. This picture gives a small glimpse into its tranquility:

Over time, I came to realize that God provided during those times when I trusted Him and when I was not busy getting in the way. I have learned that I make better decisions when I stop, pray and wait for clear direction. As I outlined in my History posts, God has always provided what I “needed.” I may not see it right away but it becomes clear later down the road. Hindsight has also shown me that what I wanted is not always what I needed.

This wasn’t the end of my struggle to find simplicity. However, it was a great start because I had identified and acknowledged the fact that it was a problem so I can now face it head-on whenever busyness once again tries to invade what is more important.

Now that I have identified my worth in God and the need to trust that He will provide, next week I will talk about my journey towards contentment.

Still Waters.

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A Note to my Adult Children

For me, the 1990’s were a decade of self examination, spiritual growth and transformation (Romans 12:2). I had a lot of catching up to do and was responsible for three young lives. I was serious about making life what I had always hoped it could be but it took a lot of humility and dependence on God to discipline myself for the growth (Hebrews 12:11).

As I read my journals these past couple weeks, I noticed three main topics emerge during these years of transition from my 20’s to my 30’s: learning about and appreciating who God created me to be, living a life without chaos, and being content with each day and the circumstances God gave me.

As I think about my own children entering this stage in their lives, I hear the discouraging rhetoric that takes away their hope and tells them that this generation’s circumstances will make it difficult for them to live healthy and fulfilling lives. Therefore, it left me wondering if they are being dealt a hand that is more difficult than my generation. After reading about my own struggles from 20 years ago, I do not think it is more difficult. It is just different.

My struggles with negative self image, simplification, and contentment are still as relevant today as they were back then but the one thing that makes them more complicated is technology. Technology has made dealing with these issues so different that we get confused trying to figure out new ways to define and deal with them. For instance, marketing and the internet has inundated us with more and more creative messages about who we “should” be and what we “should” look like (self image); we have come to believe we “need” more technology so much so that we cannot even sit still or be quiet enough to hear God’s leading (simplification); and, therefore, we feel we need more money to buy more technology, clothing, beauty products and things that we have been convinced will make us successful and happy (contentment).

There are now so many online forums to talk about society’s struggles that it gives the impression that this generation has more to deal with than any previous generation. For instance, with all the talk about binge drinking and the crack down on drunk driving, it appears that it is worse now than it has ever been. However, Americans were consuming 10.5 liters per capita in 1980 and it is currently down to 8.3 liters per capita. That is why Mothers Against Drunk Driving was established in 1980 and, since then, alcohol related traffic fatalities have decreased by 44%. I am not saying that alcohol abuse and drunk driving are not still big issues; I am saying that it has always been a problem.

Every young person throughout history has had to make personal choices; and now, technology has given us more options to choose from. That can be a bad thing when you consider the increased access to gambling and pornography or it can be a good thing when you consider the fact that we have choices to more positive alternatives. I can remember our only alternatives to house parties in the late 1970’s were roller skating and bowling. Back then, we didn’t have electronic games, “good” movies at the touch of a button, or cell phones and Facebook to talk to our friends.

As far as the hopeless rhetoric about the economy is concerned, the unemployment rate was as high during the recession in the early 80’s as it is now. In addition, when my husband and I purchased our home in 1983, our interest rate was 12.25% and our income was only 15% of what it is now. Sure, we struggled but working hard and growing together as a couple is what makes a great marriage.

Just like terrorism, there has always been something to fear. However, my hope is that my children and their friends would be encouraged to see that there is hope by observing those who have gone before them to live fulfilling lives without giving in to fear and hopeless rhetoric.

In my next few posts, I am going to talk more about these age-old topics of self worth, simplicity and contentment in light of my own past experiences. God can give peace and fulfillment when we look beyond the every day rhetoric, images and distractions of 2012 (Psalm 146:5).

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