During this period of admitted restlessness and boredom I’ve been busy taking a mental inventory of how exactly I used to spend my days in a former life of abundant civilization, obviously not in the same category as New York City, but I did have an abundance of entertaining options when I was in need of something to cure a day of impatient monotony. That may sound dramatic, but it feels true for me, especially in an entirely new southern culture which is foreign to anything I’ve ever known before, not at all bad, just completely different. My existence now is in the middle of nowhere. We live down a dirt road that leads to The River, we have one neighbor, and we are surrounded by trees and abundant wildlife including frequent coyotes, deer, snakes, and turkeys, which on a side note can be positively hilarious to watch after a night of roosting high in the tree branches and then ever so gracefully PLOPPING to the ground the following morning.
In my new land I’ve learned how coyotes sound when they’ve captured something late at night, an entirely eerie, almost demonic like glee that escapes their lips and can rattle the calmest soul. I’ve witnessed an itty bitty cotton mouth snake attempt to fight for his life as blood fervently gushes from his wounded body. I’ve seen young cocky bucks act as if they’ve just entered paradise as they proudly stroll upon our fields, standing tall and arrogant, awaiting a parade of 72 virgin does. What I’m getting at is this is my reality. Gone is Hobby Lobby, a source of constant creative inspiration, Costco, a source of all sorts of wonderfulness including unbelievably tasty pizza and equally decadent cheesecake, Jimmy Johns, a source of instant bliss after an intense workout at the gym, the malls, coffee shops, Michaels, and movie theater options. We do, however, have an abundance of churches (having that in common with West Michigan), Dollar Generals, and lawyers. Yes, it’s odd, but there are quite a few attorneys where I live, but I suppose that is probably the case in just about every corner of the world.
I’ve realized that some of the activities that used to occupy my time were genuinely good things: having coffee with a friend, meeting for play dates, helping friends and family, working out at the gym, cleaning, cooking, laundry, lots and lots of laundry, bills, breaking up fights, lots and lots of fights, reading stories, and writing – generally productive, meaningful, accomplishments, but many of the activities that occupied my time were purely time wasters and pretty shallow at their finest hours (Target will you please stand up?) And, if I’m being honest, I bought an excessive amount of stuff that I didn’t need only to return most of it a few days or weeks later, only to then exchange it out for more new stuff, all to keep up an endless façade of productivity. The point being, it gave me something to do, an envelope to easily tuck my precious moments into, something that had absolutely no value, momentarily or eternally, and something that I’m actually happy to have removed from my life (usually).
The quiet of my new life, the lack of entertaining options, is making me reevaluate my days, the moments, and the seconds. The quiet is strangely gleaning out the gold, the stuff that matters, holding it up to a microscope and displaying very prominently how much time I actually spend with my husband, my family, my children, on others, on things that matter and not just motions filling my days as a hamster, spinning round and round on a wheel that leads to nowhere.
What it boils down to is this. Our move has forced me to look deeply inward because the WHOOSH of commercialism is pretty much obsolete and now all I hear is the WHOOSH of the wind (literally) and the eerie coyotes when they catch something and in the process of it all I can finally hear God’s still quiet voice again. He has been stretching this idea of a life of simplicity and what it means for my family. By eliminating, getting rid of belongings, we have actually gained a precious commodity – time. The question has become, what do I do with this time? How do I spend this valuable resource that I have been blessed with?
First and foremost, I’m learning how to relax, to breathe, to think, allowing myself the luxury of rest – seems simple enough but not so much for me. My husband has actually accused me of having no idea how to accomplish this task that seems so simple to most people. I have been engrained with this idea of “work then play” which for some reason, the work part has stuck, probably because I’m never caught up, but the play part is much more difficult for me. It’s an act that I’m discovering takes diligence, the art of being still, hearing my thoughts, hearing God’s voice, a meditation that becomes invaluable as it rejuvenates my inner being.
Second, I need to finish what I’ve started. My book, 9 years in the making, my degree, 7 years in the making, my quilt, 20 years in the making! What the heck?? Wrap it up already.
Third, I need to speak for those who can’t, specifically, my special boy Luke. Baby steps in faith, but I’m starting to do it. Make the calls, meet with the lawyers, dig my nonprofit dream the Lucas Project out of cobwebs, you get the idea. Start and finish something meaningful.
Fourth, cultivating quality family time. With all the stuff stripped away there are no more excuses. I love my family, but at times it feels like they prevent me from doing the meaningful stuff, like all of the above mentioned, really good ideas at their cores, but in reality, THEY, MY FAMILY, THAT’S THE MEANINGFUL STUFF. They zap my energy; spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally, all zapped in one big gulp. They engulf me and frustrate me at times; they require more than I want to give at times, they wring me dry of everything I have some days, but they are my biggest calling right now, my heart beat, the stick of what everything else will be measured against one day. They are IT and by stripping away others that would vie for my time, I’m discovering that my relationships with my children, with my husband, and with my Savior, are rising to the surface, being refined, and slowly being transformed through this quiet life of simplicity.
Just keep livin!!