Falling Up While Looking Down

Photo by MAD

The title of this blogpost may seem a contradiction, however, it is not. This blogpost is about when one experiences a life changing event, a sort of “life crash” that changes not only your life, but everything around it. A life crash might be different for every person. It is that event that touches your core, your inner being, and it can make you or destroy you. It usually comes in the form of a loss, whether of health, possessions, relationships, finances … It turns your world upside down.

In the midst of mourning your loss, and while you are still falling, it is then when you will make the most important decision. On that defining moment, when you feel that you have reached rock bottom, you will decide whether you will continue to fall up while looking down or you will stay down and never look up. If you decide to mourn your loss on your way up, you will still feel the fall and hurt, but you will be on your way to regain your balance, and later on your strong footing. With every small and unrushed decision that you make, your stance will become stronger, even when you are still hurting from that fall.

During that time of healing and recovery, faith will surely provide a foothold and a stronghold; however, still looking down on your way up is not easy but requires trust in other than yourself because you are broken down and vulnerable. Faith in a higher power and force will be the bridge that will make a big difference in recovery. Recovery of what, when your world is broken and upside down? Recovery of your self-esteem, your “feeling again,” your courage, your values, your determination, your self-knowledge, your humanity, and ultimately, your heart and soul.

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Martin Luther King

“I shall walk in a wide space, for I have sought your precepts.”

Psalm 119:45

Looking Up to God

Photo by M.A.D.

Have you ever felt so discouraged, disenchanted, challenged to your maximum breaking point, and ready to quit it all? I believe that at one point, every one of us will confront “the big test” of life, and if you haven’t, then count your blessings because these are many. It doesn’t matter how responsible, good person, perfectionist, excellent planner … you are, one day your challenge will come. It is only designed to make you better, to teach you, if you are willing to learn, to show you, if you are receptive, to open your eyes, if you want to see. However, when human strength and courage doesn’t match your hope, look up to God, and accept the help that is already there, waiting for you to extend your hand and grab it. God will see you through; He will help you conquer your challenge.

I once heard a speaker say, “It is not over till’ you quit.” “It is as you will it.” I believe it is so, but when my human strength fails or doesn’t seem enough, there is peace in knowing that the one who made me stands beside me.

I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.

Jeremiah 1:5

The Crossroad

Photo by M.A.D.

One of the joys of living is not being able to tell the future. In that sense, today is the most important day of one’s life. People live and die, and whatever they live in between, that “life road” is different for everyone, even for the most dedicated and perfectionist planner. Life doesn’t give you guarantees but it may give you surprises, good and bad. How we interpret and respond to those surprises will determine the road we will take when in a crossroad. Some people go through more challenging times than other people, but no matter who you are, at least one time in your life you will be standing at a crossroad. Sometimes, the options are more generous and better than other times; however, there are times when none of the perceived options feel right.

When going left or right doesn’t seem to make sense, there is always a third road. It is the one you make when you don’t like the options. It is like leaving the paved highway and cutting through the tall grass to get to the other side. It might be rough, full of weeds and stones, and you might even encounter a few snakes here and there; however, it will be the right road taken, that is, for you, because you will pave that road with every step you take and with every lesson along the way. In the end, the solution was part of the journey. “You have arrived.”

When Your World Crumbles and Your Truth Vanishes

I didn’t plan to write this blogpost, but deeply felt that I needed to write it. Life is just life; it is not perfect, and it is not guaranteed; it just is. Life can be all that when we decide that we want to receive all the gifts that God has readied for us. Life can be a real mess, or it can be sweet. This world is far from perfect and expecting others to be perfect is expecting something I cannot deliver myself; I am far from perfect. I can only love because God loves me first, otherwise, I wouldn’t even know where to start. I am an imperfect decent person that once thought she had it all together but did not. I am happy that I found that out. When your perfect world crumbles, when your beliefs, habits, everything you knew as truth, or everything you knew as “you” comes toppling down, the only thing left is the real you, sometimes, the real scared you. That is a good thing; believe me, I have been there. Now, you can sweep away the pieces (don’t even bother to pick them up) and continue your journey (don’t even have to start a new journey, there is no such thing, just your journey).

This world is loud and fast; don’t pace yourself to it. This world is unfair; don’t expect fairness or righteousness from it. Instead, be for others what you were expecting for yourself. Don’t let the noise be louder than your faith. Faith in what anymore? In the only one that lived through it all, the unfairness, the rejection, the let-downs, the hate, the noise of the times … Jesus lived through it all. When in doubt, ask Him directly in a real imperfect but sincere prayer; He will answer you. I know. If you want to know Him a bit better, find him in the chronicles of His life (in the pages of the bible.) Don’t take anybody’s word for it; you find Him yourself! If you really want to know Him, you ask Him for help, and it will be given to you. He will reveal who He truly is to you. You’ll get your answer.

So don’t let this imperfect but beautiful and lovely world rob you of your peace, light, and love, instead, live like you have never lived before – connect through Him. It makes all the difference.

Love and light.

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 – Simplifying Your Space

In the pursuit of the simple life, most likely, the first thing we focus on is our physical space, our home. For the purpose of this post, I will refer to “space” as not only the physical aspect, but also, the space that extends to the mind, being that anything that occupies an important part in our life – goals, dreams, values, interests … I am not a minimalist, neither a tightwad, although sometimes I would like to be, but someone who likes and enjoys simplicity and strives for balance.

The desire for simplicity moves us to start decluttering our physical space. We start with the things we own, and by the time we are done, we find ourselves looking into other areas of life that go beyond – our future plans, finances, work, habits … In my experience, letting go of things could be overwhelming, more so if circumstances at the moment challenge other areas of my life. Change is never easy, even when it is welcomed. Sometimes, there is a catalyst to that change, an event, a person, or any other circumstance that might induce change at a quick or slow pace, and of course, that comes with a set of emotions and responses attached.

When striving for a simple life, decluttering our space is a good place to start. Letting go of what doesn’t serve us anymore or doesn’t honor our space anymore is a first step in the pursuit of simplicity. This step will prove challenging but necessary because it will exercise our will, as well as test it, and serve as training for when we move into other areas of life that are more complexed – habits, finances, goals and dreams, health … It is a process that will take some time and varies by individual. It is also continuous because we evolve in time. I can say that I am still in the process of letting go.

The items that are the hardest to let go are sentimental items, or represent a memory, even when these don’t serve us anymore. Instead of owning the sentiment or memory, we have placed it on the item. Letting go of gifts or things that cost much money is also challenging. Things that represent for us an ideal place or time in life are difficult, especially if it is something that we see ourselves doing/being in a future that is generally not planned for or mapped. We tend to internalize that ideal life as part of us even when it has not materialized. Even when we know that these things do not fit our lifestyle anymore, or are not being used anymore, or ever used, we want to hold on for fear of losing the dream. One thing that helped me in letting go of items in those categories was realizing that I was hoarding an item that someone else needed, and I did not need. When we can easily meet the need of another by letting go of something, we operate from a place of generosity as opposed to selfishness. Understanding this concept makes it easier to let go of these things that have a hold on us but do not have a place anymore in our home and life. During this process, I understood that I owned much more than I needed. I understood that my physical space should be a representation of where I am, not where I was or some distant place in my mind. That would be like living in my past or in a future that has not/will not materialize. This can be tricky because if my present circumstances are crappy or less than ideal, I don’t want things to be a representation of that; I want out of it. That is when the process of simplifying helps. Instead, I surround myself with the things that serve me now, have a purpose, fit my lifestyle better at the moment, and honor the person I am now. There is no shame on it; we all want to be better, and even when circumstances are not ideal, we can certainly “make room” in our lives to welcome better days. Living now doesn’t mean to stop dreaming and hoping. It is a spiritual journey, undergoing change.

Having less has made life easier and simpler in many ways; however, I am not done. I honestly can say that if I were to place all the items that I have let go in the past seven years in one location, I would be able to open a small thrift store. I am not proud of that. Although I am not a minimalist, I do live simply, and what is in my home has a purpose and is being used at the moment. When an item stops fulfilling its purpose or functionality, now I know it is time to let it go. When everything has a defined purpose and a place, I end up with less things to handle or that occupy my time and energy. At this point, I am comfortable with letting go of anything I don’t use. That includes things that will only have one use. For example, a kitchen gadget that I let go was a garlic press. It is something that has a single use, but not necessary, as I can do the same thing with something else. Another one was a lemon squeeze gadget. For me, these were not necessary items. Now, if I had a problem with my hands, arthritis for example, those items would be needed and would make life easier. This is an example of how individualized this process is.

The longer one lives, the more things one accumulates, and most of those items are not used anymore or do not fit an actual lifestyle. That is a green light to let these items go. Things that bring to mind bad or sad memories, regrets, guilt, or any less than positive feeling don’t belong in my space as well. Those feelings occupy valuable space in my mind/heart, space that is better filled with positive and good feelings/emotions. So where did I start? For me, clothes are one of the easiest things to let go as long as I keep only what fits me now, feels comfortable, and looks good on me. Anything else must go. Most likely, what has not been worn in a while will not be worn any time soon, another sign that it stopped serving its purpose and must go. If you don’t know where to start, this is an easier and less painful way to start.

We are conditioned to own things since childhood, and it is also in our nature as gatherers and collectors. Many of us follow patterns throughout the years, and for that reason, it is harder sometimes to let go. Where we come from, culture, socioeconomic status, country of origin … it all has to do with how we deal with stuff. If we want to live a simpler life, we can start one day at a time, one item at a time. One thing I understood and found interesting during this process is that there are items that we own out of habit or conditioning. An example for me were metal dishwashing pads. Although I found that they clean well, I really did not like them that much but used them and kept buying them. I did not like the metal/rusty smell and that some rusted fast. These also hurt my sensitive skin when I washed dishes. I don’t wear gloves and do not own a dishwasher. I was using these out of habit, but most important, there was a beautiful memory attached to these that I wasn’t aware of until I asked myself this question, “If I dislike them so much, why do I keep buying them?” The answer surprised me. It was the memory of my grandmother. She used them all the time, and I could visualize her in my mind, washing dishes in the kitchen. These metal sponges or pads had a pleasant memory attached that I would revisit in my memory every time I used them, whether I realized it or not. Once I understood that, I was able to keep the memory and ditch the sponges. That is just a simple example of how we end up keeping things we don’t even like in our space. Sometimes, it goes beyond the “use it or lose it” because it goes deeper than that. I was using the metal sponges. That is why looking for our responses to these situations is important and an eye-opening experience.

Moving to this place was a new beginning to a much simpler life. Every year I let go of more. Despite all the items I let go before the move, I feel that there is more room for improvement. So far, I have let go of many things since moving here, and over the past month I have boxed many more things that I don’t need anymore. We are planning a yard sale in the spring, and the proceeds will be used to fund a new workshop. The things that did not serve a purpose anymore will have a new one – make us some money for that project. These objects will serve a purpose in other people’s homes, whether these are sold or donated. These objects get a second chance, and so do I, living a much satisfying simpler life, and what can be simpler than that?

Whether clutter or habits, getting rid of these gives us space in our lives for inspiration, creativity and the pursuit of a more satisfying life.

The Simple Life – The Process

Photo by M.A.D.

Process – A series of steps, actions, or operations used to bring about a desired result. (American Heritage Dictionary)

For today’s post, I want to write about the process in pursuing the simple life. If you read the above definition of process, for me it was all that, and more, and I can honestly say that the process continues. It continues in the material, the mind, the physical, and the soul. If I go back to some of my posts about the simple life ten years ago, I see part of that process taking place in between words. For me the process was/is long, and I compare it to separating bolts and nuts into groups by size and form. Each person goes through their own bolts and nuts situation when pursuing simplicity in life. Although I am pretty sure that it might have started earlier than that, I can pinpoint the journey about over 10-12 years ago. Like any person with a brain would say, looking back, I could have done things much better, but that is always the case, isn’t it? Whatever brings you into the process, I have found that it is better to embrace the upcoming change with an open mind, in faith and hope, and focus one day at a time, whether that day brings a challenge or rest. Although not easy at first, a grateful attitude, and prayer, helps a lot. Depending on how you came into the process, willing or not, attitude is key, and it might make all the difference. Process will take as long as it has to. I can honestly say that now.

During the process, there will be highs and lows, a natural flow, and supernatural as well. Awareness is important, but many times our radar is a bit cloudy, and that is when prayer and a good honest attitude with ourselves help. I think that we are about to go through many challenges as citizens of this country, and of the world as well. It will be a process, in which we’ll need those two. But going back to my personal experience, I can say that this process started with the need of letting material stuff go, and that was the first tangible step that I took. I started decluttering my physical space, and eventually, decluttering other areas of my life as well – spiritual, financial … You have to start somewhere, right?

During this purge, the material stuff was the easiest to let go off, although not necessarily too easy. We accumulate things through a lifetime, and those things have memories, emotions, and feelings attached to them, so that is not so easy at times. The more we live the more we accumulate. I am still letting go of stuff, believe me. Every step takes you closer, and the more you let go, the freer and more satisfied you feel, to the point that you actually feel that there is nothing you really need, except for the important things in your life like God, people and values, beliefs… the not so tangible stuff. I can honestly say today that I could walk out of this house if I had to, and take nothing with me, and I will be fine, material stuff that is. I can appreciate beautiful things, like them, and enjoy them, but I am not tied to them as I might have been before. In the pursuit of the simple life, you learn to appreciate the good, the bad, and the ugly, although in the beginning you might not even like it or realize it, and even fight against it. The aha! moment comes later on, at least it did for me.

In ridding myself of much material stuff, I had to do it systematically, one step at a time; it was what worked for me back then. The process was a process in itself, if that makes sense. The method I used was to go room by room, and divide items into donating or give, selling, and trash. There wasn’t much in the trash category, but I started by selling stuff in three steps. We would use the money to put towards our upcoming move out of state. That added to the motivation. First, I sold things online. What didn’t sell online ended up on various yard sales, and what did not sell in a yard sale, we sold at a flea market in two occasions. At the end, we gave away the stuff to sellers that did that continuously for a living, and they were appreciative. I also gave stuff to family and donated an entire room full of stuff to a veteran’s organization in three different load trips at the beginning of the process. It took time and effort, and it certainly did not feel good in the beginning. Once we moved out here and were settled in the home after fixing up the place (you can check out that process under the topics farmhouse restoration, the simple life, or restoring an old farmhouse) I realized that there was still much more to let go, and I was able to give and donate much more. This process continues until today. After living here for about 6 years, I find that there is much more that I can do in this area. After all, it is a different space and a different lifestyle, and the time was necessary to understand what works and what doesn’t work in the new setting. It also let me explore new possibilities and understand why some of the stuff is not a good fit anymore. I will write about that in much detail. The next blogpost will be about simplifying your space, and it ties to this one. I hope you enjoyed this post.

The process continues until today.

The Simple Life – Awareness

Awareness – (aware) to be mindful or conscious of; cognizant. (American Heritage Dictionary)

Amid a world on fire by chaos, the need for a bit of normalcy, balance, and peace grows in the heart of many. This growing desire for a more meaningful existence starts many times with the quest for simplicity. The desire for a simple life, to rid ourselves of the unnecessary things that capture our time, attention, and crowd our vision, to make room for what we consider important, whether that translate into experiences, values or the desire to own less, becomes stronger. Our focus changes, many times from wanting stuff to the need for setting ourselves on another path, sort of a spiritual awareness, a disposition for change.

These days, I think we need it more than ever. The past couple of years have been rough on the entire world, and this year presents itself with great challenges as well. I have been on this quest, brought into it by a series of unfortunate events that by now, I recognize as blessings in disguise. Each day, I take another step towards living a simple life. What started years ago with some significant decluttering, has evolve into spiritual awareness and the desire for simpler times and days. Shelling out stuff was the beginning, and although this process continues, it has shifted from the material into the spiritual. Undergoing this process has inspired a series of blogposts that I will call The Simple Life series. Each topic will be approached from my point of view and according to my experience, and how it relates to living a simple life.

The pursuit of a simple life is different for every person, and it relates to your values, beliefs, and what is important to that person ultimately; it is an individual process, a surrender into the new and unknown, in faith and hope. Awareness leads you to the simple life, and through living a simple life you gain more awareness. I only hope that I can inspire you in your own pursuit.

Photo by M.A.D.

Fearless

Fearless – Without fear; brave. (American Heritage Dictionary)

The word fearless has been overused, thus becoming a “fashion” word, a word that people tend to use without discrimination, a cliché. It has become almost meaningless, just as the word love, used with disregard and abandonment (of meaning).

The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as “without fear.” Without fear does not mean in the absence of fear. One can be truly scared of something or a situation, and be/act fearless in the presence of the object of fear. There is no “fearless” without having known fear. It is a word that I take seriously, rather than “in fashion” because it pertains to something deeper than the outside persona, but more of the internal self, of the condition of the soul, and even spirit.

Fearless is rooted in spirituality, in the condition of the heart. I have been truly scared in some occasions but fearless at the same time. It has only been possible because my strength has come from Jesus, and not from my own efforts or disposition. Faith has a lot to do with being fearless, but also knowing that your supernatural strength comes from God, and that changes the whole meaning of the word.

“For God Had not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

2 Timothy 1:7

Photo by M.A.D.

The Day I Had a Tiny Glimpse of God’s Love

It happened on New Year’s Eve, years ago. My husband was in the living room and we were about to watch the New York ball drop on T.V. (No, we were not drinking). It happened in a matter of seconds, very fast but very profound. As I stood in front of the kitchen sink, about to finish up and join my husband in the living room, suddenly, I was hit with an immense feeling of joy and love like I had never experienced before. It engulfed my whole being. I felt as if I was part of the entire universe, of everything that surrounded me, even the material. I was everything and everything was me, but all of it was engulfed by this immense love, unlike anything else. I heard this voice in my mind, but not audible, just present in my mind, and apart from my own thoughts – “Hold on to the feeling,” the voice said. In an instant, I was back, and I could not explain what had happened. A very small part of that feeling remained in me for the next couple of days, almost like a side effect. I kept thinking about the voice – “Hold on to the feeling” – but I could not recapture it. The greatness and oneness, the immensity of it is hard to explain with words, even today, as I recall the experience.

Much later on, that memory helped me through a very rough time. I knew that I was never alone. I don’t know why, or how, but I think that I was given a tiny glimpse of God’s love and oneness that day. I don’t think that my being would have been able to take all of it; it was sublime, supreme, great and indescribable. Today, I think about that day, and I share it here with the hope that it speaks to anyone who might be feeling alone, unloved, or unworthy. That it speaks about how much God loves us, and His immense kindness and care. You are not alone, God loves you, and you are valuable to Him. The entire planet seems a big giant ball of twine these days. The events happening around the world might be overwhelming to some people; I know these have affected me, however, even when I cannot recapture that feeling today exactly, I reminisce of it, and know that I am not alone, and neither are you.

Photo by M.A.D.