The Simple Life – Simple Abundance and Prosperity

“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.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1 KJV
Photo by M.A.D.

The Simple Life _ Healthy Living

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.

Simplicity comes in many shapes and form.

The Simple Life – Joyful Faith

Photo by M.A.D.

When we moved, we took a leap of faith. We knew that we would have tons of work ahead of us, limited resources, and no permanent income, as we had left our jobs behind. Looking back, it was a stressful period; however, there was a degree of excitement, unpredictability and change, but mostly, we operated on faith. I think that part was the one that counted and kept us going until we finished the job. I will not pretend it was easy, totally the opposite, but our faith in the Lord Jesus kept us going day by day, from sun up till’ sun down, and the job was done. We would wake up before sunrise and head back at sundown, every single day. We had to make a dilapidated house a home in a short time with a very tiny budget (You can see our progress in Restoring an Old Farmhouse series of posts).

It is easy to forget challenging times when things flow to our contentment and life seems balanced. Living a simple life draws a great deal from living by faith. Learning to trust that all things work for the best to those who trust in the Lord is part of it.

Romans 8:28“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Knowing that when the future seems far away, and things are not as perfect as one would want, faith bridges the gap and brings what is needed to accomplish the task at hand, whether one has energy or not, resources or not. Somehow, it all falls in divine order, one step at a time, one miracle at a time. The simple life is full of small miracles day in and day out. Joyful faith keeps all the essential pieces of the puzzle together until one is able to see the whole picture. Living in joy and by faith, even when things are in disarray for a season and not as perfect as we wish, is done by keeping our eyes on a higher power and not solely on the circumstances that surround us.

In my journey, I had to learn many new things, leave many behind, and have the disposition to embrace new ones. When days seemed too long, energy and resources at their end, I took my eyes off these things and learned to trust that it would all work out for the best. It is not easy, but faith and prayer fill in the gap in those moments. Simple days are shaped by faith. As someone whose faith rests in Jesus Christ, I can tell you that I have seen the hand of God working alongside me, even when I thought I was holding on to the last string. Whatever was needed at the time materialized in a perfectly timed and orderly fashion. Today, I view faith as an intricate main part of my simple life. When in doubt, I remember, I pray, and I give thanks. Joyful Faith is another important part in living a simple life. Hope you enjoy this post.

The Simple Life – Simplicity vs Lowering Your Expectations

Simplicity is at the core of living a simple life, along with frugality (not to be confused with poverty or lack), best use, gratefulness, and beauty, among many other things that I will write about on this blog, according to my experience. When pondering about this topic, it occurred to me that many people do not want to live a simple life; simplicity does not entice them, and that is fine too. Other people may have a misunderstanding of simplicity and may think that by embracing simplicity, or overall, a simpler existence, they will be lowering their expectations, standard of living and even quality of life. That is a misconception that may scare them away from simple living.

Simple living is about appreciating every aspect of one’s life, environment, and possessions. It is about only allowing what serves us now in our spaces and enrich our lives. It is about enjoying those aspects/things that will best fit our lives and also, making room for those things, dreams, aspirations … that will enrich more our life and the lives of others by default.

When we live a simpler, balanced life (not perfect) in turn, we can give more to others, whether that is materially, in time, or by giving of ourselves. For me, that is the opposite to lowering one’s expectations; on the contrary, it is about raising the bar because I am operating from a place and disposition, of generosity and gratefulness, and not of lack or disillusion. To put it in terms of the material as an example, when we live simply, we will bring into our environment that which we value (not necessarily monetary value). If I value durability in a product (clothes for example), I might forgo cheaply/fast made items which will cost less and will be easily affordable in quantity, and instead, bring one piece that will last for many years but will cost a bit more. This can be applied to every aspect because I am operating from a value system, what is important to me. This is far from lowering one’s expectations in life. Living simply opens space, time, and energy (mental, physical, even emotional) to welcome new opportunities and enrich our existence. This is far from lowering expectations.

Simplicity can be beautiful and breathtaking. (Photo by M.A.D.)

How Do You Begin Anew?

Photo by M.A.D.

For many, the start of a new year signifies a blank canvas, a new opportunity, a fresh start, a chance to do better than in previous years, a hopeful outcome. It is a chance to start anew, new beginnings, a chance to erase, to forget, to try once more, to take inventory of one’s life, and to view the new year with fresh eyes. It is why so many people receive a new year with joy, new hope, and a refreshed outlook. Somehow, it signifies leaving the past behind and moving forward. Rarely one views the start of a new year with a gloom and doom outlook; most likely, it is viewed in a positive way, hopeful.

For me, this year represents much of that but also, the opportunity to look at different areas of my life and be humble, honest, at answering crucial questions: What works? What doesn’t? What would I like to change? What doesn’t fit my lifestyle anymore? What should I simplify more? What are new areas of interest? What would I like to learn? What needs improvement? What needs to be left behind?

These questions can be applied to any areas of one’s life, even projects, or household management. The answers will vary and change throughout a lifetime because we are always evolving. These simple questions help me focus on the year ahead, but also free me from remaining stuck in something that doesn’t “fit” anymore, and also, in not viewing issues as failures thus bringing discouragement into the new year. I do what I can, my part, but also rely on my faith to seek direction/guidance from God when things might not be as clear. For me, starting anew is asking the question, answering honestly, and following through in faith.

Future Projects

I should call them intentional endeavors because I would like to work on these as soon as possible, however, experience has taught me different. There is a small backlog of stories that are begging to be written and I am planning on tackling those, one by one (I am no James Patterson, and my mind can only handle one story at a time) and maybe some will end up as part of a compilation of short stories I am planning to publish. A book of poems (poetry book sounds pretentious) is another project I would like to handle in the near future. Although I have made a considerable dent on my reading backlog, I have yet to clear my shelves. A few book reviews  will be included as posts. I find that I have neglected that side. This takes me to my art, which I have neglected as well, but intend to resume, and share a bit of it on this blog. I find it so difficult to separate my interests because I see them as a whole, each fueling one another. I had purposely made this blog a writing blog, and eliminated many posts about the farmhouse restoration and other interests, and I am not sure if that was the best thing to do. I miss that part of it. If you have been with me for a while, you probably saw these disappear, and I regret not saving or printing them before deleting them for good. Oh well, those are gone.

On the home front, there are countless projects, many of which need to be finished and date back to when  I moved to Virginia. We still have work to do on this old farmhouse and its surroundings. The small potager is almost completed, but needs some more planning. The hard part is done. The garden is in what I consider the early stages, according to what I imagine it will become. Knowing the morass and wilderness it was, I should pat myself in the back (and my husband too) because we really have worked hard on it. This is obviously a long term and ongoing project. I think a place grows with you through the years, and one grows with it as well, complementing each other. A house whispers what it wants. We intend to live here for a long time so there is no rush.

I have many personal goals I would like to see to fruition, and these are just that, personal. They range from personal development, education, wants, and other. My point is that all these things take a considerable amount of time, money, and effort. Some are implemented right away while others take years to materialize, and I must learn to recognize the difference. I used to make life maps from time to time. Months ago, I found an old map I had created many years ago (more than a decade). When I looked at it I was pleasantly surprised. Most of the things on that map had become reality, and according to it I was where I was supposed to be. I had forgotten about it. On this map things where scheduled to happen faster, but in reality they took much longer. However, the outcome was the same. This made me reflect on something very important. It is all about vision and faith, speed and time are relative, and these adjust accordingly. So many times we chastise ourselves (I am guilty of it) when life doesn’t go at the speed of our dreams and planning, and we end up feeling sad, frustrated, disappointed, disillusioned, and even as failures. Society tells us to achieve, multitask, perform like an octopus in fast wheels, and shapes our minds from an early age. When we fall short according to this timing and expectation, we blame ourselves, sometimes by being to harsh and even unkind. Many people keep going at that speed until the end, others crash along the way, while other souls learn to apply the brakes from time to time, and even take the scenic/panoramic way along with rest stops.

A day has 24 hours, one’s life has none defined. Longevity is a mystery and no one is guaranteed another day. If we happen to live it, it is a wonder in itself.

 

Crossroads

Happy New Year to all!

As a new year starts, many times, we feel a sense of renewal, a chance to do over or start fresh. Sometimes, it feels as if we can erase the past year and welcome a brand new life. It is the start of new goals, the opportunity to encourage new ventures and new dreams. The first few weeks of the new year we either follow our plans/goals or we settle back into our old routine. However, a new year is still a new year, and comes full of opportunities, and that is great in itself.

I have to admit that this is the first year that I can recall feeling a bit disconnected and at a crossroads. My old self would have had pages of goals and projects waiting to be implemented. The woman writing this post has not written one goal down for this year. It is puzzling to me because I have always been an organized planner/doer. Starting a new year goal-uninspired as if staring at a blank slate is a bit alien to me. Soul searching has not rendered anything new worth implementing this year. Other than reassessing my endeavors and publishing the novel I have been working on for quite a while, I got nothing. Although this is unsettling and a bit of a nuisance, I have to admit that the novelty is sparking my curiosity and I truly long to know where all this is headed. This mystery translates into the feeling of being in front of an imaginary line, and not knowing how to step over it or cross it. For me, this is unusual. It brings on a bit of expectancy and confusion as well, and curiosity. One thing presents true in my mind, and that is my writing – the only sure thing right now.

In the real world I have tons of work to do – home projects, chores, and other duties. Long term goals are “fuzzy” right now, well, more like invisible. In other words, the pond is well stocked but the fisherman is taking a nap. The well is full but the pump is malfunctioning. The inkwell is not dry but the pen is missing.

May this year bring you joys as well as mystery, and if uncertainty shows up, may you embrace it as a path towards renewal. To be continued…

Inkspeare

Photo by Maria Diaz

When Reality Does Not Match Idyllic Expectations

20181008_073059

Crow on a foggy morning Photo by M.A.D.

The shiny crow

One nature’s note

The lovely sound

Of Autumn’s song.

 

We start to dream when we are children. We imagine fantastic worlds, magical places, dream  of toys, and in general, anything seems possible and attainable. As we grow up, we learn that things are not always as we imagined or hoped. We learn disappointment when we don’t get the toy we expected, or pain and sadness when a beloved pet dies. Other children learn these lessons on a more somber note, the death of a parent or friend, hunger, or abuse. Every person experiences life in a different way at a different level. However, we manage to keep on dreaming throughout adulthood, and many, up to the time of death.

We have idyllic expectations in life, and many times we are lucky enough to live many of those dreams. Sometimes what we have imagined, what we have carefully crafted in our minds, does not match the accomplished/realized dream. It is a total let down, another disappointment in life, and almost as if we never learned those childhood lessons. It is the theme of many stories. Writers experience disappointment when books do not sell as well as expected or hoped. In anything in life there are ups and downs, and those are necessary for growth, to take us to the next level through a natural flow. It is called living.

When I moved from New Jersey to Virginia (USA), I moved from the city to the country. I had idyllic expectations of what country living would be like, romanticized ideas as well – green pastures, grazing cows, rolling hills, fresh air, cozy winters … I can go on and on. Little did I know that the first year I would encounter a cloud of migrating lady bugs look-alike japanese beetles in our area, landing everywhere and looking for shelter before winter. These would arrive in waves throughout the day for weeks. At the same time, a large amount of alien bugs (alien to me that is) known as stink bugs was trying to do the same, look for shelter before winter. Autumn, my favorite time of the year had turned into a nightmare. I was not used to these insects nor was I used to these clouds in number, or any other type, as I had lived pretty much insect free for most of my life, being bugged by an ocassional spider or a lonely wasp. Mosquitoes were my only nuisance as I lived near the water. I was afraid to go outside during the “arrivals” and soon I learned to time their peak hours. Luckily their presence lasted less than a month, that is, until next season. Winter became my favorite time of the year. Cold weather meant no bugs. Spring became a bug fest as well, and for the first time I realized that there were so many, oh so many, insects I had never seen. Never did I experience so many types of wasps flying at once. Soon my closest neighbors became used to my screaming fits, and the occasional sight of a mad woman running through the field being followed by a giant wasp.

The idyllic expectations about country living gave way to reality. I told my friend that living in the country seemed to be more work than living in the city. Awareness became important as well. The other day I was heading out the back door to pick up my mail, and as I stepped down only two steps, a leaping deer crossed in front of me followed by another one, a very close call. Farm dogs were running after them, and being terrified, they were flying for their lives. I was so lucky; one more step and there would have been an unfortunate encounter with nature. I have seen the damage deer can cause to cars. On another occasion what I thought was a piece of black rubber left behind was a black snake.

The point to all this rambling is that at one point, when reality does not match idyllic expectations, we get to decide how we are going to set our focus, and that will determine the degree of “happiness or disappointment” as well as our next step in life. Do we focus on the less  than perfect image or do we start seeing the rest of the picture? So many other beautiful and interesting things can be found in it. I am starting to enjoy Autumn once more. Every day I see something different, from colorful and weird mushrooms to even four-leaf clovers. I have found four so far.

I always try to relate every blog post to the topic of writing. Maybe books are not selling as expected, and you are thinking about quitting writing, even when you love it so much. You are a story-teller and writing is like the air you breathe. Maybe you can adjust your focus away from profitability or recognition, and see the beauty in finding words to tell a story that has been sleeping in your imagination. The story that will be shared with the world, whether it makes you money or not. After all, if you love telling stories so much, and these stories have become alive inside the pages of a book, it only takes one reader to make them real. The purpose has been met. When reality does not match idyllic expectations move your eyes away and place them back on another spot.

 

On Purpose

Finding purpose seems to be a human purpose in itself. The quest that many times keeps us awake at night. What is my purpose in life? I used to ask myself that for so many years, and the answer seemed to elude me always. I engaged in many endeavors; pretty much, what I fancied at the time, I did. It was just a matter of doing it. I failed many times; I enjoyed many others, and so the tiny bits of happiness those endeavors brought. It seemed to me that once I was satisfied and “done” with something, I was on to something else. There was a sense of missing purpose in the back of my mind. Still is, but only at times. It presents itself as a question – am I doing what I am supposed to be doing? I remember telling someone who had been a teacher all her life, that I could not picture myself doing one thing for all my life. She told me, “I hope you find what you are looking for.” Very wise woman.

It wasn’t until I read this biblical verse that things became more clear for me. I had read the same verse many times, and yet I never saw the connection until one day, when I was feeling a bit lost in my current at the time endeavor.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Mathew 5:16)

What could be a bigger purpose than that? It doesn’t matter what I am doing at a particular time, as long as it serves that purpose. It is even bigger than I thought purpose could be for me. It is even intimidating, as filling those shoes is a quest in itself for such an imperfect me. When I read it, I understood that everything I do must cast a light that glorifies my creator. Wow, I thought; this is too big to even comprehend, and yet so simple and straight forward. It changed the way in which I view purpose now.

If you are searching for purpose, wherever you are in life, think about this verse. It will give meaning to it. Purpose won’t feel so far away or eluding you. I have written this verse on a card and placed it where I sit in the morning everyday, just so I don’t forget, because I tend to be an imperfect human who might forget her blessings at times. Someone who thinks that letting her light shine before men is challenging enough.

Everything I Thought I Wanted

Dreams, goals, pursuits, wins and loses, it all starts with a want. As early as we can distinguish between us and the outside world. Our basic needs give way to more elaborated desires. Childhood, youth, and years beyond, all full of dreams and the pursuit of those.

When I was six years old, I saw what I thought was the most beautiful coin bank at our town’s store; it was on display at the main window. It was a ceramic yellow dog with two puppies attached by a golden chain. It was the kind that you couldn’t take the money out once inside because there was no hole at the bottom of it. I remember that instance as being one of my strongest desires, and I had to have it. I remember working on all kind of home chores, and saving every penny so I could buy that coin bank (ironic). Once I had enough money, I told my grandmother to take me to the store. During that time, I was worried that someone would buy it before I could get my hands on it. My grandmother took me to the store, and I became the proud owner of the most beautiful doggy bank I had ever seen. I remember the joy and the feeling of satisfaction that day, a feeling I learned to recognized later on in life. After I admired and played with it, my goal became to fill it with coins until I could not fit one more coin inside. Again, I saved every penny, and asked my two aunts for chores, so I could earn money faster. I remember charging five dollars to wash white sneakers on one occasion. During that time, one thought haunted me – how could I get the coins out without breaking my beloved doggy bank? I loved it as much as the first day I saw it at the store. I agonized over the thought of having to break it.

The dreaded day came when I could not fit one more coin in it. Even when trying to push a coin down the opening, half of it stuck out. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was full of hesitation, anxiety, doubt, and courage. I remember taking an old towel and placing the coin bank on top, on the floor. I grabbed my grandfather’s hammer and I froze for a few minutes, unsure of my next step. I looked at the two puppies; they appeared sad. How could I be so cruel? I knew I had to make a painful decision, and I did. The curiosity of finding out how much money was inside the coin bank was stronger than my love for it. I took the hammer and smashed it against the yellow mama dog. Coins and ceramic pieces spilled on the towel, and a five dollar bill. I looked at the money; I looked at the broken dog, and finally, I looked at the puppies, now tied to an empty golden chain. I remember the silence, the feelings of guilt, and regret. There was only one way to end it all. It seemed fair. I took the hammer and smashed the ceramic puppies. Somehow, I felt better.

The odd thing about all this is that I can vividly remember and relive the moment, but I cannot remember how much money there was in the coin bank or how I spent it later on. I have broken a few coin banks throughout the years, metaphorically speaking. Today, I remember this moment as a bittersweet one, and I smile. Almost a rite of passage. What I thought I wanted, wasn’t at all.