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Friday, January 29, 2016

Doing more with less.

In August of 2012, I took the second most impactful trip of my life. The first was a six week trip in Ukraine to adopt our two children Daniel and Lydia. The second would launch me into a future I had only dreamed of. Traveling for two weeks in Ukraine leading a group of missionaries and researching the launch of a Transitional Home for orphans I began to catch a vision for what would later launch a ministry called Vision for the Children International. Underneath the surface of it all was something, that I believe helped change our lives and make this new vision and journey a reality.

I have a profound respect for those I have met who live outside our western culture. Most families I have encountered in Eastern Europe have lived in apartments and homes about a third the size of our home I live in with simplicity, contentment and gratitude for what they have. I have been the guest of those who have given their last chicken to bless us with a dinner. I have slept in beds that sagged so much that I have felt I was sleeping in a hammock. And in every instance I have seen eyes full of love, hearts of gold and a contentment with what they have been given and yet I could not understand or grasp how this could be when they live with so little? How could living with less bring so much contentment?

Perplexing as this was for me, I began to be overwhelmed with a simple truth that I lived in the exact opposite realm as they did full of stuff, excess and clutter. My life was packed. Every room, closet, drawer and hour was full to the brim. For years I had been asking to be used by God but the reality was how could he. I had no time left for him. A simple realization happened, for us to be used, we needed to make the space and time for it to happen. Needless to say, it was not easy to un clutter our lives but fast forward three and a half years and Monique and I are living a much simpler life, having greater impact than we have ever had and learning to be content with what we have. Much of this has been a result of four major changes we have implemented in our lives.

1. Turn off the TV. 5 years ago I just stopped watching it. I needed more time and it was a simply way of gaining more time in the day. Besides, If you haven't noticed, TV is loaded with constant commercialism designed to make you discontent with what you have and desire something more. That said, it doesn't mean I don't watch movies. I love my Netflix and the ability to choose what I entertain my time with when I want to disconnect and just relax.

2. Simplify your home. In other words, get rid of the excess. This has not been an easy one for us and has been full of great learning experiences and periods of unhappy times as I learned you don't thin out excess in certain areas ( like the kitchen ) without full agreement from your wife. A lesson I learned quickly and will never do again but it's been worth it all in the end. Learning to live with less has been such a huge freeing experience. Life flows smoother when you don't have to maintain a house full of excess stuff. Things are easier to find and areas are easier to keep clean. It also allows your stuff to go to those who might need it more than you. It also enables organizations to do so much good through the profits made by selling your unused stuff and as a bonus you just might get a tax break. Simply rule of thumb. If you haven't used it in the last two years, give it to those who might.

3. Simplify your life. Find ways to make it easier. Set up all your bills to be paid automatically and cut back on unnecessary events. Learn to say "No" to every request for your time. And, a hard one for me, stop being a control fanatic and allow others to share your load. For you to be used by God you must free up time for that to happen.

4. Be still. You can't find direction and contentment without pausing for times of reflection and peace. This is one of my biggest weaknesses so I decided to challenge myself in 2016 to take a baby step and consistently set aside 10 minutes a day to sit, be still, pray, meditate and just listen. So far these ten minutes are my favorite part of the day and often lead to more than ten minutes as I enjoy my mornings times in meditation.

5. Lastly, Be positive. The bible says to renew our minds. Focus on the positives. Take time to thank God for the good in your life and the promises he has given us. When we do this, our focus changes from the have nots to the haves. I generally do this in the morning and it is amazing how this sets the tone for the rest of my day.

The ultimate purpose of all of this is to allow for the space, time and change in mindset in your day to day life to allow God to enter into it, speak into you and fill it with purpose and direction. If you find yourself with barely enough time, these few suggestions might be what you need to change your future and impact others in the process.