Simply Put

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Hey friends! I’m Mary, a fellow Jesus-lover that’s trying to figure out living this complex, beautiful thing called life for God’s glory, just like you. One of my favorite things over the past few years has been getting to know and build relationships with the amazingly diverse women that make up the body of Christ. I’m a small-town girl who lives in a big city in Asia with my husband, Jakeh. We’ve lived here for 3 years now and I have taught Kindergarten and 3rdgrade during that time. Chats over coffee, traveling to new places, sweet family time, and beautiful views of God’s creation are some of the things I enjoy most in life.

 

When I think of living simply, the first image that pops into my mind is how my husband and I began our married life. A few months after our sweet {but simple, low-budget} wedding, we headed off to our new home in Asia. We started out our lives together with a few suitcases. Our new apartment definitely had the “minimalist” look.

 

My husband, Jakeh and I, often think back and smile about our “humble beginnings.” Our lives were not necessarily simplified by choice, but by God’s call out of our comfort zones and into a new adventure he had planned for us.

 

Fast forward a few months after our big move…the excitement of living in a new country began to wear off and an uncomfortable feeling began to creep into my heart. Discontentment.

 

I would go over to friend’s houses and notice how their home was better decorated than mine, or scroll through social media and see college classmates buying houses and settling down. Comparison can be our worst enemy, right?

 

As I have been thinking on the spiritual discipline of living simply, what the Word says about it, and how I have seen it applied (or lacking) in my own life, I have realized that simple living links directly with being content and living life with Christ-centered priorities.

 

Ironically, just this past week in our character education class at school, our topic was being content. As I was teaching my students these lessons about being content and joyful no matter the situation, I became more and more convicted in my spirit. It’s funny how lessons we teach to children are the same lessons we are still learning as adults. Anyone ever watch Veggie Tales? One of my favorite episodes was about “Madame Blueberry”. I played the song for the kids from the episode that has asparagus singing about how “a grateful heart is a happy heart” and thought about how true that simple message is.

 

Part of living simply is finding contentment instead of living in comparison. The longer I live in my Asian home, the easier it is to accumulate unnecessary things in attempts to satisfy a desire that only God can fill. I find myself thinking that more things will make me feel more comfortable, when in reality only God working in my heart can give me contentment. Finding him as my safe place and home, no matter where I am or what season I am in, is where I can find joy and peace.

 

Paul writes in Philippians 4:11-13 “…For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me”(ESV).

 

 

Friends, simple living is more than just getting rid of things we don’t need. It’s even more than simplifying our hectic schedules. Though these things are steps in simplifying our lives, the root of why we do these things and why we practice the spiritual discipline of simplicity comes down to a heart issue.

 

For me, simplifying requires acknowledgement that my life is not really mine. When the activities I choose to do and how I prioritize my time focuses on my personal wants and desires, things tend to get out of order quickly.

 

When my life is Jesus-centered, and my priorities align with that focus, I find that I am more content. Focusing on him eases anxiety because my perspective is changed in the context of eternity. Even if I have the same amount of commitments on my plate, somehow, they don’t seem so burdensome in comparison to the tasks that were more “me” focused. I find joy not because of what I have on earth, but because of what I have in Him.

 

During these times, I am living out my purpose. Focused on running the race for the prize set before me.

 

1 Corinthians 9: 24-27 says:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control,[b]lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified”(ESV).

 

As we pursue the imperishable, our forever crown and a life spent with Jesus, our lives are unified. The choices we make and the activities we are involved in point to eternal priorities rather than just temporal. The choice to run with the end goal in mind and not run “aimlessly” as Paul says, is a discipline.

 

There’s a great article on living simply that can be found online at theartofmanliness.com (don’t worry, it applies to all the ladies too). The following statement comes from that article and has guided me as I have been thinking on how to discipline myself in simple living. Brett and Kate McKay write:

“To reach these goals, you must invariably do some things less. But there are also always things that you must do more. True simplicity is doing less of what matters least, and more of what matters most. You don’t just empty your life of the bad, you fill it with the good. Having a purpose allows you to discern whether a particular area of life should be constricted or expanded; purpose produces priorities.”

 

Based on the purpose of my life, I can choose my priorities. I have aligned my priorities with Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:36-39 “…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (ESV).

 

If I list it out, I believe my purpose is:

  1. Pursuing the knowledge of God and enjoying him
  2. Supporting and encouraging my husband and family
  3. Showing Christ’s love to those in my community and serving them with a joyful heart

 

Choosing to invest our energy in priorities that matter is simple on paper. But the reality is that it can be messy. It’s so easy to get distracted from our end goals and from the priorities we have set in our lives that align with Christ-centeredness. Simple living can become distant as our plates become overloaded with tasks. We can begin to feel discontent when we see others that are {seemingly} balancing their lives better than we are. I find more often than not, we are not the only ones struggling to figure out the balance in the pursuit of a Christ-centered life.

 

In those times, I’m thankful for a community that inspires me to look to Christ, times of studying the Word with other believers that speak to my heart and guide me to the truth, and a gracious Heavenly Father who loves me deeply in spite of my weaknesses. He loves with a simply unfailing, faithful, forever love. He is peace in the chaos that this life can sometimes be.  As we choose over and over again to anchor ourselves in that love, step by step we can learn how to live and love simply. Following our Savior’s example.

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