Abundant Simplicity

Randy Alcorn explains in his (highly-recommended) The Treasure Principle, “The more things we own—the greater their total mass, the more they grip us, setting us in orbit around them.”

We sense this, I think. We sense that where our treasure is, there our hearts will also be. That the holes in our lives are never filled by more stuff, more food, more activity.

(I want to admit freely at this point that sometimes my inner “Martha” sometimes cleans the clock of my inner Mary, leaving poor Mary bruised and dazed.)

Richard Foster observes, “To attempt to arrange an outward lifestyle of simplicity without the inward reality leads to deadly legalism.”

Simplicity begins in inward focus and unity …. Experiencing the inward reality liberates us outwardly. Speech becomes truthful and honest. The lust for status and position is gone because we no longer need status and position. We cease from showy extravagance not on the grounds of being unable to afford it, but on the grounds of principle. Our goods become available to others. We join the experience that Richard E. Byrd, after months alone in the barren Arctic, recorded in his journal, “I am learning … that a man can live profoundly without masses of things.”

Simplicity is a way of cutting out the “McNuggets” portion of our belongings, our schedule, our talk, and our preoccupations that connive us into thinking we’re nourished, full, and happy.

To live simply is this: to find the freedom, joy, undivided heart, and gut-level satisfaction from lives untethered by excess. We can train our minds and hearts away from our constant appetites and the idea that more equals happiness, comfort, and convenience. (Find more practical ideas on how to live simplicity here.)

The gifts we keep

My family—as much as it breaks me—is preparing to move back to the U.S. in two months. Though there are so many intangibles I get to keep from Africa’s benevolent hands—I am mentally sliding our belongings into piles: Pack. Sell. Give. And as much as it pains me to enter this process again with its losses (my beloved children’s-book collection!), Uganda silently lays in my arms a parting gift in dark disguise. After landing here with 18 bags (each weighing in exactly at 51 lbs.) and six bulging-to-the-point-of-grotesque-deformity carry-on bags, I again am required to cut back; to choose leanness. (…Er, leaner.)

I’m reminded of my friend Ashley, who shares a compound with Monica. Ashley has a cutie-patootie four-month-old, and their home is far simpler than mine. I recalled to her my first trip to Babies ‘R’ Us, and distinctly thinking, “How did Adam and Eve do this?!” I love that Ashley is giving their son a gift far better than all the little gadgets and mind-stimulating toys that, perhaps, mimic the outdoors her son will actually grow up in. She’s giving him the gift of less stuff.

Now that’s what I call a baby gift.


For more thoughts on simplifying, read Janel’s post here

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2 thoughts on “Abundant Simplicity”

  1. Oh my goodness. Mom’s everywhere are struggling with this even when they don’t acknowledge it! Freedom is great in this area of life!

  2. Janel. I started reading this post and thought, “Wow. This is really resonating with me.” And then I got to near the end of your post and realized (part of) why. My husband, four kids (12 and under), and I also just moved back from Africa. Chad, actually. And your second-to-last paragraph could have been written by me. The 18 bags, 51 lbs. each. The ridiculous carry-ons. And even with all of this, feeling like we had given up so much in America. Then, 5 years later to have to redo this exact same painful process as we left. I felt like I had to learn the lesson all over again. I somehow felt that if we couldn’t bring everything we loved back with us from Africa, we would “lose” part of our experience there. But God reminded me again that possessions are NOT the memories. They may serve to remind us visually, but they are NOT the person who gave them to us, or the place we got them. We don’t invalidate or dishonor our relationships or experiences by parting with the physical remnants of them.
    Here is something I wrote last year as we were preparing to leave Chad and move into our new home back in the U.S. I, too, wanted to remember that home is more than possessions. I hope my reflections bless you, as yours have blessed mine.
    I have dreams to fill this house; to make it a refuge and a place of beauty for all who enter. But let not my dreams be so short-sighted that they are limited to bed linens, picture frames, and Ficus benjamina.

    I have dreams for You to fill this house, Lord.
    Fill it daily with people, with love, with peace, with laughter. And with tears at the right time.
    Fill it daily with learning, with teaching, with working, with improving. And with rest at the right time.
    Fill it daily with welcome, with hugs, with kisses, with words of encouragement. And with words of reproof at the right time.
    Fill it daily with communicating, with listening, with singing, with rejoicing. And with stillness at the right time.
    Fill it daily with forgiveness, with compassion, with humility, with grace. And with Your Spirit at all times.

    Father, come fill this house. And make it Home – because You dwell with us.

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