Category Archives: Simple Living

LESSONS I LEARNED DURING FINANCIAL HARDSHIPS: PART ONE

Seek the Kingdom of God

As a young married couple, my husband and I were sailing through life enjoying the comforts of a really good income. Michael was super ambitious and working for Burroughs Corporation in his twenties. I was ambitious, too, and braved three interviews to get hired by Procter and Gamble.

During my first pregnancy, we were in excellent shape financially. We assumed we would be raising our family with a great income. To our surprise though, Michael was laid off due to the merger between Burroughs and Sperry. The two corporations became a new one: Unisys. This resulted in job losses for a number of employees. Michael’s job was cut during a third lay off period, three months before our first child was born.

In the midst of the shocking news, we saw God’s hand working. Christa was born only one day before our medical insurance was dropped. We were grateful for such perfect timing.

After the lay off, we were wondering: What should we do now? The main thing Michael and I agreed upon strongly is that we did not want to place Christa in daycare. My boss understood my situation, and she worked it out for me to drastically cut my work schedule, so I could focus on parenting.

Michael dreamed of being an entrepreneur, so he was elated when his boss retired from Burroughs and asked him to be his partner in starting a computer business. Michael worked from home, making a fraction of his previous income and stayed with our daughter while I worked very part-time hours.

Several years later, Procter and Gamble was transitioning into using computers for processing orders. The training would have required more hours of work for me. With mixed emotions, I took a leap of faith and quit my job, desiring to pour myself into motherhood more than any other job.

It wasn’t long after leaving my job that I learned the old adage is true: “When one door closes, God opens a window.” After leaving the corporate world, God opened new doors for me to earn money. Working as a nanny for other children kept me from having to leave my daughter in the care of someone else.

After my son was born, I was more determined than ever to savor motherhood. More doors opened for flexible part-time jobs, enabling me to be a home-schooling mom.

As my husband and I lived by faith, we chose to reject the popular definition of the AMERICAN DREAM. Our dream transitioned into living more purposefully. We intentionally chose the less popular path of a really simple life.

Our choice was not easily done, but taking the road of faith is never easy. Following Christ is the most fulfilling journey, but it’s not the easiest path.

With determination to stay true to our convictions, we passed through some really tough seasons. God carried us through the loss of Michael’s computer business, several more job losses and home business losses.

At one point, Michael had to deliver pizzas for several years. He worked nights at the YMCA in addition to his day job for a season. And while my daughter and husband attended college during the same time period, it was necessary for me to work weekends and late nights to make ends meet.

Our faith in Christ sustained us through every challenge and led us to new opportunities. In 2010, after two decades of riding a financial roller-coaster, we were elated when Michael earned a Biomedical Engineering degree. In his late forties, Michael began a new career in the medical diagnostics field.

I cannot say I miss the twists and turns of our past, but I would definitely relive all of the challenges over again for the great treasures I gained along the way.

Now that my children are grown—one in college and one college graduate who’s working for a non-profit corporation—I’m grateful I chose the kinds of work that gave me the flexibility I needed as a mother. Looking back, I know I made the right choice for my family. There’s nothing that could replace the value of the time spent raising my children.

I’m happy to share the priceless lessons I learned through experiencing financial hardships. I hope you’ll find encouragement from these truths.

God is the ultimate provider.

Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. — Matthew 6:33 (NLT)

Confidently knowing that Christ is trustworthy is the greatest lesson I learned during our financial struggles. My family received miracles in ways we could not have experienced otherwise. Our lack of finances at times forced us into an infant-like dependency upon Christ. Through our hardships, we got to experience the extraordinary power and provision of God, our Father.

Giving to others is better than receiving blessings ourselves.

We must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” — Acts 20:35 (ESV)

The greatest need as human beings is our need to give. Early in our marriage, Michael and I chose to give in various ways, including sponsoring missionaries with monthly support. After several job losses, our ability to sponsor missionaries was hindered temporarily. However, I learned that generosity doesn’t have to be limited by the amount of money we have. We can give generously by giving our time, our talents, and our love, regardless of our income level.

The greatest joy comes after seasons of waiting.

The Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! — Isaiah 30:18 (NIV)

Instant gratification is not a good thing; I believe it actually limits our ability to appreciate and enjoy things. I learned that waiting is a gift. Having to wait on something actually heightens the experience, simply because the delay makes the fulfilled desire extra sweet. One of my best memories is when we visited Disney World in 2012 after many years of waiting to go together as a family. The joy was multiplied and intensified greatly as a result of the delay.

Christ carried our family through the challenges and then graciously restored our finances above and beyond what we had hoped for.

Christ provides. He restores. He directs our paths.

Be encouraged if you are facing a financial challenge. I am confident that God will do for you what He did for my family if you trust and seek Him wholeheartedly. With Christ, it’s possible to live abundantly in all seasons of life.

PART TWO of this article will be posted next week.

4 TIPS FOR KEEPING CHRIST THE FOCUS OF CHRISTMAS

Keeping Christ in Christmas

The very essence of Christ is peace, yet we often let the celebration of His birth be filled with stress and chaos. I remember a time many years ago in my twenties when I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off during the holidays and ended up with a pounding headache and so much stress that I barely enjoyed Christmas. That year, I began rethinking my priorities and started making big changes in the way I celebrated Christ’s birth. I put together a list of some ways to truly enjoy the holiday season.

Let Peace Rule the Holidays

To keep from getting swept away in the whirlwind of holiday festivities, we can first set our hearts and our minds on the real purpose of the season. We are celebrating the birth of our Saviorthe Lord of peace who gives us His peace at all times and in every way (2 Thessalonians 3:16). His peace can rule in our hearts and in our holidays as we pray daily and ask Him to fill us with His Spirit. In Luke 11:13, it says, “How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Simply asking Christ to be with us is all it takes to live and walk in His peace during the holidays and during all our days throughout the year.

Make a List of Priorities

If we make a list of what is most important for us as individuals and then stick to those things, we won’t fall into the trap of getting over-extended. For me personally, my priorities are maintaining a peaceful household, spending time with my family, and carrying on a few Christmas traditions like having an Advent calendar and decorating a gingerbread house.

Don’t Try to Keep Up With the Jones Family

It can be so easy to compare ourselves to others and what they’re doing. Just because someone else has the greatest light display in the whole town, doesn’t mean we need to have one too. I actually love and enjoy those beautiful light displays. But I know that with having a full life as a mom, I don’t have time to place an award-winning light display on my home. For me, decorating for Christmas is low on my priority list. I used to spend hours and hours decorating my home. Now, I simply put up a Christmas tree and a few other simple decorations. Decorating in a simple way can be beautiful, yet saves us a great deal of time and energy. For simple decorating, I love the ChristWreath.

As followers of Christ, our identities are in Him, not in what we own or what we accomplish. If we are tempted to play the comparison game, we can pray for contentment, and God will grant us our desires, so that we can maintain our true priorities.

Keep the Gift-giving Simple

Giving at Christmas time represents who our Father in heaven is. He is the Giver and we want to carry out the nature of our heavenly Father. However, we don’t need to stress over it. Every year, I am tempted to worry. Thoughts will fill my mind as I begin shopping. Will I find the perfect gift for every family member? Through prayer, I resist those temptations of worry.

At the times when we don’t have the finances for gift-giving, we can give home-made gifts, write love letters to our loved ones, give our time and talents…on and on the list goes. There are countless ways we can give without stress. In our family, we have decided to minimize our giving to each other and give instead to people who are truly in need.

The Spirit of Christmas is with us always so we can spread our gift-giving throughout the year. This helps us to focus on the birthdays of our loved ones, rather than making Christmas the only time to give.

Do you have any tips for keeping Christ the focus of Christmas?

I pray that your holidays will be happy. May you have a peace-filled and stress-free Christmas season.

The photograph was taken in my neighbor’s yard after a beautiful snowfall several years ago.

Simplicity Changes Everything

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At a time when my life seemed overwhelming, I read an article in the Atlanta Journal about voluntary simplicity. It was a fascinating article featuring several families that chose to leave the rat race behind and live a simpler life like Jesus did. It inspired me greatly. It seemed impossible at the time because I had accumulated so much stuff after eleven years of living in the same house.

It was 1997 when I read the article and began focusing on getting rid of the unnecessary things in my life. Every year, I would clean out clutter by donating loads of stuff to thrift stores and selling some things. My goal evolved from living with less clutter to keeping only what a typical vacation home would have.

After spending many summers working on simplifying, I am reaping the fruit of my labor. Although, I am not 100% at my goal, my house is so easy to keep clean. I spend very little time looking for things, and I have so much more time to do what I love and enjoy.

I am free from letting my stuff define me. I have overcome the “more is better” philosophy of the Western world. I have a new mindset.

It’s so easy in America to fall into the trap of believing that happiness is attained through material possessions. Spiritually speaking, material stuff doesn’t do anything for our souls. Owning too much stuff can even stress and overwhelm us.

A simplistic mindset changes every aspect of life. It frees up our schedules. It makes relationships easier. It allows us to get more things accomplished. It frees us to enjoy the simple beauty of nature. But most importantly, it gives us more time to nurture our spirits. Simplicity truly changes everything.

In this chaotic world, when we take time to be still, Christ beckons us with His love to come and enter into His presence and enjoy His treasures. In the quiet moments, I can hear Him whispering, I have all that your heart longs for. In Me, you will find treasures that cannot be lost or stolen. In Me alone, you will find perfect satisfaction.

We can’t take our stuff with us when we pass on. So why not spend most of our time investing in eternal treasures? No matter how much others are reveling in their material possessions, there is freedom in knowing that happiness grows from within the spirit.

I believe following Christ and simple living go hand in hand. Have you tried simplifying? I pray that you will find peace and contentment in Christ alone.

“Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”  Matthew 6:20 (New Living Translation)

To read more about simplicity, visit my favorite simple living website. http://lovingsimpleliving.com

Photography Credit: Michael von Borstel