Living The Simple Life

My girls happened to be born eight days apart (three years difference). This means back to back birthday parties every year. This year, I felt compelled too just keep things low key. My youngest is first so we did her little celebration this past weekend. I committed to just going to the store and buying ready made decorations and making some dairy free, gluten free cupcakes at home. I took my almost five year old to the store and let her pick her favorite tablecloth, napkins, cups...all of it. We were going to go with the Frozen theme but it was all sold out. So, we improvised. We had Ariel plates and cups with Cinderella party bags. Now, my overly fussy, coordinated party planner side was cringing at the ridiculously uncoordinated mess of it all.

But my little girl was beaming from ear to ear.

She had a few friends over on Sunday afternoon to celebrate. We had cupcakes, which left everyone with blue teeth and tongues, then we opened her little stash of presents. She received a bubble blowing machine and so, naturally, daddy ran to Target for batteries so we could try it out.  Everyone was delighted.

Bubbles will do that for you.

When it was all said and done, and she was in the bathroom scrubbing the blue out of her mouth with a toothbrush, I turned to my husband and said, "I feel liberated. That was so easy." Indeed, there was no stress in that little celebration of my favorite five year old. Just giggles, blue mouths, and bubbles. When I was tucking her in and I asked her if she loved her party, her response was, "Yes, I want the same party next year!"

And then it hit me...

Jesus talked so much about childlike faith for one reason. It is simple. Children don't over think things. Children get what matters. All that mattered to my little monkey was those blue iced cupcakes and some friends singing, "Happy Birthday." All that mattered was that we took a moment to let her know how much we love her and how glad we are that she is part of our lives. Oh, to have faith like a child! When I say I felt liberated in that little party we had, I mean it. Simplicity never looked so beautiful to me as it did in that moment. You know what happens when I complicate things?

I miss what matters.

I was not so busy with my party plans this year that I couldn't see the delight in my little girls face when we sang to her or when she opened her presents or when she chased bubbles in the backyard. I was not so stressed that I couldn't just enjoy my little girl, who will only be little for a while longer. Oh, how much I miss when I pile list upon list of what I think must be done! Don't get me wrong here, I think parties are fun. I love planning them and being crafty. I love seeing it all come together...but I don't want to do any of that because I think I must.

I look at the world around me and I see a lot of worn out families, complicating life because they believe the lie that enough just isn't enough. I see a lot of mommies burdened by guilt because they don't, "do it the way she does it." I see a lot of daddy's working over time to buy the latest and greatest and to take those dream vacations.

I see a lot of complications.

God used my daughter's birthday to show me the beauty of simplicity. Simplicity means focusing on what really matters in the moment I am living in. I'm not very good at that. I am always thinking ahead. In fact, I think I've always pictured God and I running a race and me lagging behind, trying to catch up to him. I think I've had it wrong, though. I think, instead of running ahead, he runs alongside me so that we can chat along the way and so he can help me if I happen to stumble.

I have decided to embrace simplicity. It scares me a little, but I am learning that if I feel a little fear, I must be headed in the right direction. I think simplicity will mean changes in some habits, some choices...and definitely in some thoughts. Yet again, I am drawn back to my biggest weakness: my need to perform for my worth. I have a feeling living simple means choosing not to perform and meet that imaginary standard. I think the scary part of it all is choosing to live in the now instead of the tomorrow.

Really though, can any of us live in the tomorrow?

I don't think we can. Today is all we can see, all we can comprehend, and so it is where we are called to live. I am learning that serving Jesus means being dependent on him. The more I lean into his voice, the more I need him. I want to love well in this life. I want to laugh a lot. I want to live in every moment that I am given. This means shedding guilt over the complications I have created for myself. It especially means shedding guilt over what others might think, how I might measure up in their eyes. I think I'm done with that way of living, though. I like the idea of living in the now, living in my weakness instead of my supposed strength.

Indeed, simplicity means letting my weakness radiate.

My oldest daughter turns eight next week, so we are celebrating this weekend with a few friends. Ice skating and cupcakes is all we have planned. She wants Frozen cupcakes so we are going to bake white cupcakes and put white icing with blue sprinkles on them. We are going to make a mess, lick the bowl, get icing under our nails, and probably eat a couple fresh out of the oven just because we can't resist. We are going to keep it all very simple, and have a marvelous time doing it.

For the past year, I have been in a different place than ever before. My schedule has been less crowded, I've had less obligations. I've had time to bake homemade bread if I want, to sit in the sun and rest if I want, to visit with a friend for two or three hours if I want. I didn't have peace about all this at first. My toes were tappin', my fingers were drummin'...I just knew I was missing something I was supposed to be doing. I just knew God was freeing up my schedule so he could fill it with new things. I've discovered, though, that He is more interested in teaching me how to be still, how to rest, how to live in peace, than giving me a to do list. Finally, after all these months of nail biting worry and thinking I was not doing enough, I realize that I am doing just what he wants. I am shedding the unnecessary, the tiresome, the heavy burdens.....and I am learning to live in the now. What's most exciting about it all is that I am hearing his voice clearer and clearer, not because he speaks more but because I am making time to listen. Simplicity; it sounds like a breath of fresh air, a stream trickling over rocks, the wind rustling in the trees. It sounds like something created by God himself....and you know what?

I think it is...

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