So, minimalism wasn’t such a big stretch, really, because my life is already pretty minimalised.  I did learn a few things, though:

1.  I hang onto photos, papers, and sentimental pieces more than I thought I did.

2.  I’m not as minimalist in food as I’d like to be.

3.  Minimalism is on-going; just because I’ve reached the end of the 21 days doesn’t mean it stops here.

As I move on, I was thinking about not only what I’ve learned from this, but also where I should go from here.

What’s my mission?  Strictly speaking, it should be the Great Commission:

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.  Mark 16:15-16

My mission field is a little closer to home; I have four amazing children who need to know the gospel well enough to withstand the pressures of this world around them.  I also have friends and other family members who aren’t saved.  This, not some exotic, foreign location, is my mission field.  But my mission is also the care of the earth, something that a lot of Christians are known to let slide, and the care of this body, God’s temple.

How do I perform my mission successfully?

1.  Make sure my job, if not enhancing my mission, at least doesn’t deter from it.  Is it just a job (gotta pay the bills), a career (love what I do, although it doesn’t utilize all my talents), or a mission (this is what I was made to do)?

2.  Make a list of what I want to be remembered for.  I want to be remembered through the people my kids become, but I also want to share my music and writing.

3.  I have to eliminate debt if I want to focus on my mission.  Right now, I have to focus on paying people.  I have no freedom to do what I want/need to do.  I want the kind of success found in Proverbs 11.

I’m not sure I’ve attained minimalism, but I think I’m closer.  Maybe I’ll return to this lesson one day; maybe I’ll just keep growing in it as part of my daily life.  Either way, I hope I’ve learned a little bit about cutting down consumption and appreciating what I have, but also about having a goal and striving to get there.  It’s all baby steps.

Advertisements

After spending so much time and effort on my health, I can’t end this series without focusing on how minimalism relates to my health.

There is a lot out there about how to best stay healthy.  There are costly creams, expensive supplements, and organic foods.  Gyms, exercise equipment, and workout DVDs are another expense.  It can be exhausting just to try to stay in shape.

Staying healthy shouldn’t be that complicated.  It just shouldn’t.

My workout is pretty simple.  I run 2-3 days a week.  I bike 9 miles commuting to and from work.  I try to do a weight workout for every part of my body two times a week.  Soon I’m adding swimming.  I still don’t love yoga, but am trying to use some of the moves for flexibility.  Okay, it sounds complicated, but it usually works out to two workouts in a day (usually back-to-back) and one day completely off each week.

I’m trying to simplify my food.  I stopped worrying about the Clean 15 and focused on the Dirty Dozen.  I cut a lot of meat out of my diet and put in quinoa (cheaper).  I drink less “milk” and most of it is almond milk.  More importantly, though, I cut out most baked goods and refined sugars, coffee, and soda.  Those things up my grocery bill without providing any health benefits.

My goals in minimalist health are as follows:

1.  Observe the Sabbath.  There is a rest day proscribed in the Bible for a reason.

2. Create a minimal menu, where I eat the same type of food at certain meals each week.  No need to recreate the wheel.  By this, I mean have meatless Monday, fish Friday, soup Sunday, etc.

3. I currently need my gym membership in order to swim (and I got a good deal), but I’m trying to buy very little.  I can use what I have, buy used, or do without.

4. Figure out what supplements I truly need, what I can get from food cheaply, and how to do t inexpensively.

Beyond this, I think worrying too much about health will actually be unhealthy, so I’m going to (try) to stop.

I think it can be done…

I was rarely in debt when I was younger (meaning ages 18-36).  I had no school loans, paid cars off with alacrity, never kept a balance on my credit card, and even paid my mortgage aggressively.

Then I went through a divorce.

I now have a sizeable amount of debt.  I am working on paying it down.  I refuse to claim bankrupcy.  It may be the right option for you, but I can’t see it being the right option for me.

This month, I get to pay off two debts completely.  I’ll still have several other ones, but the feeling of completing something (even if they’re the two smallest ones) has more value than just getting rid of the bill.  I can do this.  I now believe.

I’m not going to just go cancel these cards; apparently this will kill my already terrible credit.  But I will take them, put them in a drawer, and not touch them.  Maybe for an emergency, but nothing else.

There are plenty of great plans out there to reduce debt and I’m not a financial maven, so I’m not going into it.  But if you’re in debt, you need to get out.  Period.  It can be done, even if you’re poor.  The only real excuse is if you can’t get a job.  Otherwise, you just have to move more slowly than other people.

Post Proverbs 22:7 somewhere:  don’t let the lender rule you.  Let God be in charge of your life.

I’ve been worrying about this day for most of the challenge.  I like my photos and documents.  I like to have things around me that nudge my memories of the past.

Maybe I’m hanging onto the past too much.

After all, as Matthew 6:19-20 says, my treasures should be in Heaven (in the future), not here on earth (in the past).

How do I learn to treasure these things less?  Maybe by not holding onto them so tightly.

I haven’t gotten rid of everything, but I did toss a lot of mementos I thought I really needed.  I’m going to get my photos all digitized and backed up at some point.  I’m working on having solely digital copies of my movies.

After all, I have the rest of my life to get the right attitude perfect.  Right now is just about taking a step… one baby step… in the right direction.

 

 

I’ve gotten way to grasp-y with my stuff.  I hold onto things I don’t even really need.

For example, today there was a man panhandling.  He looked like he could use the money.  I had $5 in my wallet.  But I really didn’t want to give it to him.

Thanks so this minimalism period, I did convince myself to go do it, but it was hard.  How often do I hang onto things just because I might need it when other people really do need it?

Proverbs 21:20 says the wealth have luxury, but the fool spends whatever he gets.  I don’t really want luxury or wealth, but I do want to stop just spending whatever I get on frivolous things I don’t need.

As a reminder to myself and you: I need to be out of debt to have the most freedom with my life.  I need to have a small savings account to have less worry in my life.  I need to be generous to have the most blessings in my life.

I want all three of those, but I won’t get them as long as I’m being foolish and making my money disappear like morning fog.  Time to get hard-core about this.

I don’t want to tell my kids that we need to cut out spending for a while, but I need to… the rewards are too great.

Time to make the changes that make my life worth living.

I’m not a stress eater, which has been a blessing for me in many ways.  When I’m stressed, the last thing I want to do is eat.  I am, however, an emotional eater.  Eating is more comfort than stress-release.  I don’t like cookies, for example, but if I’m hurting, I will eat an entire box.  Bleh.

I need to start applying the same “want” versus “need” to my food.  How often do I eat something I don’t really need out of gluttony?  Coffee house tea drinks (now that I’ve given up the coffee drinks, at least), anyone?

Gluttony isn’t my only concern, though.  How often do I eat because it’s time to eat?  Societal norms say I should have breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  What’s wrong with fasting through a meal now and then? 

I also eat some foods that I don’t ever need.  My body has absolutely no need for refined sugar.  If I am craving sweets, my body probably needs fruit (and the nutrients in fruit).  If I’m craving a burger, maybe I need iron, protein, or healthy fats.  I need to be conscious of the food choices I’m making.

Luke 12:15 warns to be on guard against greed.  I’m generally not too greedy… except in terms of food.  If life “does not consist of an abundance of possessions”, maybe I should be careful to not let it consist of an abundance of food, either.

I’m going to give up eating out for the last eight days of this challenge with two exceptions.  First, I have a date with my second son this weekend.  I already know he wants to go out for ice cream.  This is his date, so we’ll do what he wants.  I also had planned to have pizza with my kids on Friday night, just to make the commute easier.  I may change that one to not be eating out, but the date will stand as-is.  Other than that, I’m done eating out.  I mean, it’s eight days.  I can do this.

I’m learning more about nutrition every day.  I need to make a list of what my actual food needs are and post it somewhere conspicuous.  It’ll be harder to justify a large chai tea latte when I see that the only thing it has that I actually need would be better obtained in other ways.

By the way, I’m not suggesting you can’t occasionally have a treat.  Even the Bible has its feast days.  I just thing we’re so focused on the feast that there’s no longer true enjoyment in the specialness of it.  Time to regain that.

I am grateful that I have never been truly hungry in my life.  I’ve had limited food on occasion, or tight food budget choices to make, but I have never once been in danger of starving.  That’s pretty blessed.

[Sorry that I’m late posting.  My commute kicked me in the backside a few times yesterday.]

If you’re not growing, you’re dying.

Really, if you think about it, even if you’re growing, you’re dying, but at least you’re also growing.  The point, however, is that unless you grow, you stagnate. 

Studies have shown that being sedentary, sitting all day, may have more of an effect on our health than smoking, drinking, or eating poorly.  Movement is what keeps us alive and healthy, physically.

Movement is also what keeps us alive and healthy mentally.  The best way to ward off memory loss and aging is to keep learning something, anything, new.

With that in mind, I want to keep growing, mentally, physically, spiritually, and relationally.  (If that wasn’t a word before, it is now.)

My goal today is to make a list of five concrete ways I want to grow and three steps each to get there.  Lucky you, you get to come along for the ride.

1. Do a triathlon- I’ve wanted to do a triathlon for a long time.  I’ve been a runner most of my life and I used to teach swimming, so it’s really the biking that has been holding me back.  I’m terrified of crashing into someone in that crush of people.  However, now that I’ve been riding my bike everyday in my commute and, oddly enough, now that I’ve had two good spills, I’m less afraid of that potential crash.  So this year, I plan to do a triathlon.

  • Step one: Find a triathlon.  I’ve already picked out the one I want to do.  If I’m going to swim in the ocean, might as well do it where it’s beautiful.  I plan to do the Malibu triathlon in September.  I still need to actually sign-up, but at least I’ve picked it out.
  • Step two: Get a plan.  I could probably go out today and finish a triathlon… and be sick and exhausted for weeks afterwards.  Instead, I’ve got a 28 week plan to get me not only to the finish line, but hopefully get me to the finish line with some fuel still in my tanks.
  • Step three: Follow through.  Now I need to start doing my regular workouts.  I need to practice some hardcore self-discipline.  This step will be a work in progress.

2. Read the entire Bible- I’ve done this once before in my life, but I did it out of order and over a two-year period.  I want to see the grand plan laid out step by step.

  • Step one: Find a plan.  I use YouVersion on my phone, so I always have my reading with me.  There are a lot of plans to choose from, so narrowing it down took some time.
  • Step two: Read daily.  I can catch-up on the Bible reading, but I’ve found that the further behind I am, the more likely I am to skim-read instead of really spend the time digging into what I’m reading.
  • Step three: Post about my reading on Facebook as a way to hold myself accountable… and be sure to finish what I started.

3. Get back to learning- I miss school.  I do tend to learn new things on my own, due to my love for the library, but I need to make a practice run at school to see if I want to go back and actually get another degree.

  • Step one: Find a course to ease into.  I chose the EdX free class from Harvard on Greek heroes.  I love Greek mythology; my kids currently love mythology thanks to the Percy Jackson books.  This is a good way to get started with no real pressure.
  • Step two: Figure out where I want to focus my attention.  I think I’d like to do something with either holistic medicine, nutrition, or personal training… but which do I choose?  I can’t do all three (which is what I would’ve chosen if I were twenty years younger).  I need a focus.  This one I’m still working on.
  • Step three: Get funding and find a school and get enrolled by fall.  Yipes… that’s not long when you consider that admissions is open for many schools and will close soon for many others.

4. Figure out what is best for my kids- I went through a pretty nasty divorce and my kids currently live with their dad.  I wish I thought this was the best thing for them; he certainly is better off financially than I am.  But he has three of them on medication that I believe they don’t need, seeing a therapist with no plans for getting them off therapy, and not interested in working with me to raise them.  Because of this, I’m strongly considering going back to court to fight for custody, even though I’d really like to stay out of court.

  • Step one: Talk to my ex one last time about working together.  If he’s willing to work with me, then take this as a sign not to go back to court, no matter how much I miss my kids’ daily lives.
  • Step two: Do the research.  Don’t go into court.  Get a different therapist to evaluate the kids.  Figure out the legal procedures before I ever take a step.
  • Step three: Follow through and go to court in a calm, rational manner.  Keep my focus on why I’m doing this, rather than the anger that will very likely be directed at me from my ex and his family.

5. Share myself- I don’t connect well with people initially and I tend to have a very small group of people I’m comfortable being intimate with (unless you count blogging).  I need to cultivate a few good friendships and consider whether or not I want to pursue dating.  Bleh.  Okay, I don’t want to pursue dating, but I do miss being in a committed relationship.

  • Step one: Evaluate the friends in my life right now.  Who should I be cultivating?
  • Step two: Stay open to new things and meeting new people.  Maybe someone out there is just waiting to be friends with me as well.
  • Step three: Don’t be afraid to make the first move.  Yes, rejection hurts, but maybe the pain (to paraphrase a Lady Antebellum song) isn’t as bad as the emptiness of being alone.

There it is.  Five areas to grow in and three concrete steps to get there for each one.  But, whatever happens with these, I need to not stress over them.  As it says in Matthew 6:19-33, my treasure is in heaven… so why worry about what is down here?

I’m grateful for having something more than just this earthly life to look forward to… no matter how bad things may get here, there is always good at the end of it.  I just need to remember that.