There is no “perfect life,” only life surrounded by circumstances and what one makes of it all. A simple life is as simple as one makes it, and as sweet as one wants it to be, despite the ups and downs that living on this imperfect world brings. One can do it alone or approach it simply with faith. It is then that it becomes sweet. As a person of faith, I understand that there is so much I can do on my own, and when my efforts are not enough, I give it all to the one that makes things sweeter and simpler, Jesus Christ.
Realizing my human limitations and weaknesses has made me understand my spiritual strength and power in Jesus. It truly changes perspective and expectations. We are about to enter a new phase for this country and the world. Depending on your stance in faith you will find it a blessing or not. Simple living isn’t devoid of challenges and troubles; it is not perfect, but it can be sweet. The difference is simply faith. The shifting of one’s focus to see the everyday blessings instead of the troubles, and the certainty and knowledge that God is always a prayer away, and that is next to you.
The pursuit of a simple life is what you make of it, and you don’t have to move to the country to find it. It is a knock-knock away, when you answer His call.
I hope you have enjoyed The Simple Life series of posts, and that somehow you have found simple inspiration. I wish for you a blessed life of sweet satisfaction.
One important aspect of living a simple life is realizing the blessings that one receives every single day. It leads to gratitude and gratitude leads to abundance. When one realizes how abundant life is (abundance doesn’t equal money) the natural response is the desire to give, to bless others. A blessing comes in many forms like helping someone in their hour of need, monetary or not, materially or not, or giving of yourself in whatever capacity you can do so. Whether you help someone cut their grass, share the fruits, veggies, or flowers of your garden with a neighbor, lend a hand or console someone, donate food, money, or a service … it is all giving.
These days are calling for people to bless others. Inflation in every area of daily life puts households in a very tight spot and many people are having to cut basics such as food, heating, cooling … One way in which anyone can benefit is with the gift of food or basic staples. If you don’t have much but want to bless someone, having a blessing box with basic supplies on hand is something you can do. You never know when you will meet or hear of someone who is in need. A blessing box is simple and not necessarily large or expensive. It is filled with a few items that a person can use. It can be any size. Here’s an example of a simple blessing box.
A can of milk
A box of crackers
A jar of peanut butter
A package of rice
A can of beans or veggies
A jar of jelly or cheese
A can of meat or tuna (spam, chicken …)
A can of soup
A box of pasta
A can of sauce
A package of flour
A package of sugar
Tea or coffee or powder drink
These are staples anyone can use, and last long in storage. Whether your blessing box contains four items or more, it will be appreciated by the person who needs it. Having one at hand facilitates a blessing for someone. This is just a simple example on how one can be a blessing to someone else. A blessing box can contain anything useable (school supplies, paper goods…) but food is important and always welcomed.
Sometimes, we hold back blessings because we think that we have to be rich, prosperous, or have it all together to be able to start blessing other people. An act as simple as putting a can of soup in your town or church’s food bin is a blessing to another. We are conditioned to think that bigger is better, instead of thinking that blessings come in all sizes and for all people. Living simply is understanding that you can be a blessing in many ways, in unlimited ways. When you give of yourself you are blessing someone, but also blessing yourself.
One practice that I did not think I would take on was keeping a journal for gardening. I did not think I needed to keep track of plants or make notations about it. The practice started out of necessity. The first year I started a veggie garden, many things did not take or survive. I was puzzled because I never had a problem growing flowers and had a healthy garden in Jersey near the beach, a challenging soil. I assumed growing veggies from seed was challenging, but also found out that the crazy changing on and off weather here in Southern Virginia had a lot to do with it. I decided to start a journal to track what I did, and the results. By doing this I identified many things I could do differently and others that did not work, but also, things I could improve on. The second year was much better. I was pleased and decided to keep the practice for a few more years.
This little garden journal has evolved quite a bit from where it started. Today it serves more than one purpose. It helps me plan the next year garden, holds sketches for garden projects, and other things garden related. I carry checklists that represent garden goals for the year, materials needed, and the goals that were not accomplished by the end of the gardening season will go on next year’s list. Something so simple ended up being an important resource for me. It has also become a very enjoyable pastime.
The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
I wish I could say that living a simpler life is simply easy, but I’ve found that there was (and is) a lot of work involved, dedication as well. For us, it meant to tackle a huge list of things to do as well as learning the other things we needed to learn to do those things efficiently and economically in a limited amount of time. To read more on that you can visit Fixing an Old Farmhouse series of posts. It also meant leaving some things behind, some we didn’t want to leave, and some we did. We also had to deal with the pressures that come with all of that, but most important, we had to work as a team, be on the same page, and define what good work and accomplishment meant for us. We had to realize that each day brought new challenges, and every day was different. The cookie-cut routine was over, and there was no room for costly mistakes. We had to reach a new level of trust as a couple, and trust that “I got your back” was enough. Enough to get the job done and keep on going with the blessing of the Lord.
Hard days behind gave way to plans and possibilities, and a sense of balance, and with it, a feeling of good work and accomplishment, the sweet satisfaction of the challenge. There will always be good days and less than perfect days, and a list of to-dos; however, as long as “got your back” remains our motto, simple living becomes sweet living. Living the simple life entails realizing that each day brings challenges and blessings of its own along with sweet satisfaction.
New challenges are about to test people in this country and worldwide. Our faith, values, and belief systems will be tested in ways we are not accustomed to. As a people, as a nation, we might have to learn to “get each other’s backs” and come together as one.
Sometimes, the desire to live a simpler life leads to the pathway less traveled, and it may require stepping away from the herd a little bit or completely. Sometimes, it means a change in lifestyle, leaving things behind or relationships that might not understand your vision. Stepping away from it might not be the most popular or celebrated decision, but it might be the smart thing to do. It might seem like swimming against the current, and not only will you have to deal with your feelings, but the feelings of other people that are in your close circle. In the end, stepping away will mean doing what’s best for you/family.
Stepping away from a lifetime is never easy, no matter how strong a conviction or how eager for change one might be. Sometimes, the ties that bind you are the ones that must be loosen up, not necessarily broken. Whether the barn is too big or the stall too tight, it is not the right fit anymore.
The work continues in trying to bring back the garden. When we bought the old farmhouse, it was covered in weeds, grass, and a morass of trees growing intertwined altogether. The driveway was covered in tall grass up to our knees and bushes. The house had been abandoned for many years and in disrepair, hidden by the same overgrown trees and bushes. We knew it would be a ton of work, but we were up for it. One by one, we started to remove bushes, weeds, grass, garbage … and we cleaned up the garden. Next, we tried to save any plant we could and revive others. The next step was to create new garden areas. This is a process that will take longer, and some simple planning. We try to add a new area every year. Adding areas one at a time seems a bit more manageable for us. This year, we added two areas. One was created using recycled plants and materials. It is located at the front entrance to the property, close to the year-round lighted pine tree which we have ended up calling The Hope Tree.
The next area was my husband’s pet project. It is next to the small patio area and the faerie garden. This area has been covered by overgrown mixed bushes and tons of weeds. Last December, he took them all out and decided to do a small garden. Most of the area is in the shade with only a few hours of sun, so we had to select plants that required minimal sun exposure. He made the borders out of recycled pallets, and we still have to find and dig a few stones around the property to place them. This area needed a ground cover, after we took out all the weeds. These plants will grow and expand, so we had to leave enough space in between them. We planted bulbs inside the stone circle. Two garden sculptures and a potted plant were recycled from the garden and won’t be missed in the previous area. We added two new solar lights and red mulch. The small cedar tree in the back was already there and will be trimmed so it does not fully grow. This area resulted in a mix of new and recycled materials. It is a very low-cost improvement to this area.
The veggie garden was spruced up a bit, and we decided to use two recycled large containers cut in half for the new plantings instead of building a new box. Eventually, we will change these to a more permanent material like cinderblocks or metal boxes. We started the veggie garden a couple of years after we fixed the interior of the farmhouse. All the materials used on building and setting up the veggie garden are recycled, except for mulch, but sometimes, we use red pine needles from the property when these are available.
If you would like to read more on the process of fixing this old place, please visit a series of posts under Restoring an Old Farmhouse or Restoring an Old Garden. I hope you enjoyed this post.
“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
Hans Christian Andersen
I love the above quote. It is the opposite to “own nothing, be happier.” However, sometimes we flutter more around the pursuit of too many flowers and forget about the freedom we have to enjoy the sunshine.
In the pursuit of a simple life, I’ve realized that the accumulation of flowers is not the most important aspect for me anymore. There was a time it took center placement. Losing a lifetime’s lush garden all at once taught me that my focus was off centered and gave me the freedom to pursue a life full of sunshine. The sunshine after the storm is usually the most beautiful. With countless sunny days ahead, the heart can only rejoice about the simple abundance that surrounds me. I have learned to count my blessings, and there are oh so many. Prosperity takes the form of more than the material, those blessings that were missed when the “little flower” was ignored, in pursuit of an entire field. Like the caterpillar, I was transformed, and like the butterfly, I find delight in the offerings of every new day. Sometimes, sprouting wings is painful, but without them one cannot appreciate the beauty of that single flower up close.
Prosperity comes in many forms, an integral part of simple abundance. We tend to think of prosperity from the material/financial point of view only, but there is so much more to it than money or things. These two are important, but not most important. Simple living involves the realization that there is much more abundance around us that what we perceive in the material/monetary realms. These riches are unlimited, countless, and continuous. The true meaning of prosperity can be found in a single flower.
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
In learning to live a simpler life, I had to become a bit more mindful about my health, physical, mental, and even spiritual. A switch in lifestyle required me to do more physical work than what I was accustomed to, and to realize what things I could not perform as well anymore due to age and a lifetime of 9-5 and beyond workdays, little time for physical development, along with my dislike of exercise routines and doctor appointments (dislike the term wellness visits). I realized that peaking 60 meant a need for creating a simpler health routine that I could keep. It is as simple as eating as healthy as I can, take vitamins and supplements, and keep on moving, along with my yearly checkup.
A far as what I do, I cook 95 percent of my meals but also, I don’t deprive myself of something I would like that does not fall under my regular nutrition. I don’t pay attention to brands, organic or not; I just cook balanced meals and don’t overeat. Exercise takes the form of chores, some heavier than others, walking, stretching every morning, and staring at a stationary bike when I don’t feel like using it. I am up early, at 5 am and that works well for me. Part of simplifying my way of thinking about exercise was to accept my dislike of it and stop blaming myself and feeling guilty for not liking it. How freeing. My most hated class as a kid in school was physical education; truly hated it. That mental switch made a difference because the battle was over. As a Christian, understanding that our bodies are a temple for the Holy Spirit, also made a difference, hence respect it and treat it as well as you can, so I take care of myself as best as I can.
You can eat well and exercise till’ the cows come home but if you do not take care of your mental health the rest is wasted time and calories. Mentally, I try to keep myself healthy by being aware of what’s going on, reading, making art, taking on projects and learning new things. I don’t welcome negativity in my life, whether in the form of news, people, or propaganda … I don’t like gossip and will stop it at once. That doesn’t make for making many friends. I don’t watch trash on TV anymore; I rather do something else, but still enjoy some TV time (sad that most of it is trash these days). I don’t play the politically correct game and do not compromise my values. I also accept and admit when I am wrong. It keeps my peace of mind. I try to be true to myself and others, but mostly to operate from a place of love and understanding, even when that may seem very hard to do. Understanding to give it all to God when I can’t has made a big difference in my life. I live by Christian values, and in my case (I need to make the distinction) I had to learn to separate Christianity from religious indoctrination/history in order to understand the way – Jesus. In my opinion, if you want to know him better, go straight to the pages of the Bible and read in between the lines as well. It answers the question What would Jesus do? and the answer is always the right one.
It has not happened instantly, but slowly I have made better changes and adjustments in my life in order to live a simpler healthy life. Today, I try to balance those three aspects, but it wasn’t always that way, and it definitely took some time. Living in a healthier way is part of living a simple life, as long as there is a balance of what one likes, believes, cares for, as it honors one’s value system while being respectful of other people who might not think like you.
I love this time of the year. The beginning of Spring, when bugs are still half asleep, and the garden is awakening. The temperatures are a bit cool enough to enjoy preparing the garden for the rest of the year. That is what we have been working on, setting up the garden. Cleaning up winter’s memories and hoping for a good gardening year. Last year we had a drought, and everything looked sad and dry. I am hoping for plenty of rain.
We cleaned up the veggie garden. Had to discard one of the large boxes; it broke on the sides. A layer of fresh mulch was applied, and containers were moved around to make room for new planting boxes. My husband made veggie markers, and I am hoping to plant much more. Despite the ice and crazy weather, lettuce came back from last year. Two full containers, so I will not have to plant lettuce this year. It survived the frost.
I started two new areas in the garden this year. These are a work in progress right now. One is at the very front of the property, and the other area is next to the faerie garden. This area is covered by lush green moss in the spring, which I love, and the only thing I have been able to plant here are hostas; it is a shady area. We try to add to the garden something new every year. Little by little this garden has been transformed from the original mess of weeds and overgrown bushes to something more delightful. You can see the progress on the Restoring a Farmhouse series of posts.
I am very happy because a small garden center opened in our area, and now we will not have to drive that far to purchase plants or gardening material. After all that hard work, our reward was my delicious version of Fiesta Rice.
The past couple of posts under The Simple Life series have been about my experience in learning to live a much simpler life. Today, I want to write about learning and discovery. These posts are not in any particular order; it just relates to what I have experienced and the many changes I have made in my lifestyle, along with my husband.
Moving from the Jersey shore area to live in the country in Southern Virginia certainly feels very different. It is a different lifestyle but also a different culture and ways to approach and do things. People interact different with each other. There are degrees/rules of politeness in comparison to the open and fast friendly approach of the Jersey shore. Things around here move much relaxed, and also formal in certain circumstances. Overall, people are friendly, welcoming, and very polite. It is not uncommon for people to show up at your home to introduce themselves and know who you are, followed by friendly conversation. Learning to read people and customs has become part of our simple living.
In our effort to fix up the old farmhouse, we’ve had to learn many skills, although my husband has always been very handy with tools and fixing things. I have become his sidekick thus having to learn in order to assist. We fixed up 95% of the place ourselves. If you are interested in reading about it, those posts are under Restoring an Old Farmhouse. We have learned about gardening here, and plants respond very different to the weather and soil here than the sandy soil and cooler temperatures of the Jersey Shore. I had a lovely garden which did not require much upkeep, and I think that gardening is a bit more challenging in this area. There are quick temperature changes as well as weather changes. Spring is bouts of hot and cold with gusts of wind. In general, I have to be more weather alert here. Summer is very humid and hot or humid and wet, and it takes a toll on the garden. Frequent watering becomes a chore sometimes. Surprisingly, I find winters here wet and cold.
Learning about some of the wildlife was a necessity that I honestly did not think about until we had move here. Poisonous spiders, snakes, critters … all of that and more. Right now, I am having to deal with a moth caterpillar invasion; they are just everywhere as if they would fall from the sky, and although I found them cute, I don’t do well with cuteness in numbers. This week I learned that the hair in these caterpillars contain histamine which might give people a rash when in contact with the skin. The falling from the sky part is that they actually fall from trees and the wind carries them via their silk thread. Who knew? Down the shore I only had to worry about the occasional wasps and tons of mosquitoes. We had a mosquito man who drove a truck fumigating the area every year.
The first two years felt like I was in learning mode 24/7 – people, customs, places, wildlife, housework … a bit overwhelming at times but exciting too. The most important point about all this is disposition, our attitude for learning and working together at a different pace and environment. There is much to learn and discover yet but knowing where we stand and having survived the first year of change, gives way to balance, and that is always good.
Simple living is about balance but also, the openness and readiness to welcome life’s lessons, and discover simple, good, and lovely things.