Posted in focus on faith, minimal moments, need a laugh?

How was 2017?

Perhaps Hobbits live in northern Greece? This door is waist high.

Happy New Year gentle reader! Have you had a chance to look back over the last 12 months and reflect on all that was? Or wasn’t?

Nah? Me neither. I’m more of a doer than a contemplator; I seldom take time for deep reflection. Of course, because we all admire what we’re not, I wish I were that type of person so I would have deep insights to share. But I’m not. And I don’t.

For the rest of you who are just like me and you don’t set aside time for all that hard thinking, let’s take a mo right now and look back over 2017.

How is your health? Go ahead and take your pulse, in case there’s any doubt you survived the dawning of another year. Did you get through the year with all your parts intact? Nothing removed that you think you still need? Or something removed in the nick of time so you can hang around this planet a while longer? I had my first root canal and I truly don’t know why people use that as a measure of how BAD something can be…”I’d rather have a ROOT CANAL than host my relatives for Christmas!” In fact, the specialist who did my root canal hummed through the 20-minute procedure while earning enough to pay off his Porsche! It was fast, painless (except for the wallet), and simple. If your health is good, then 2017 was good to you.

How is your relationship with God? Did you move closer to Him or further away? Did you hear from Him…about anything? In my first time through Freedom Session with a group of my peers, I dealt with some issues, made some apologies, came out of denial about a couple things (Yikes! I found out why they call it “denial.” It should be called blindness), and enjoyed the love and acceptance of God in a wonderful way. I am now facilitating another Freedom Session group in my home and dealing with my fear in practical ways. If you moved God-ward too then 2017 was good to you.

How is your primary relationship going? In my case, that’s my husband. In yours, it might be a spouse, parent, partner, child, best friend, or…? How are you getting on? Friendly? With kindness? Mutually enjoying time together? Helping each other? Sharing some laughs? Supporting one another through tough times? Committed? Contented? Challenged by the relationship to be the best YOU you can be? If your “first” relationship is still your best then 2017 has been good to you.

How is your family? Is everyone still speaking to everyone? Don’t laugh (or cry). You know as well as I do that the people we love the most can become the ones we most resent. A chilling silence can fall over a relationship so quickly it’s shocking. And once you stop talking, neither person wants to be the one to break the silence. This happened to me with one of my beloved family when I allowed resentment to build up and a gulf formed between us. Thankfully, we both made an effort to bridge the gap, make our apologies, and renew the relationship. I have too many friends who come from fractured families where people have stopped talking and they no longer see one another. If your family is intact and people are still attempting to communicate then 2017 has been a good year.

And finally, because I am a minimalist, I must ask, how is your junk? I am pretty sure no teen boys read this blog so there won’t be any insane laughter… By junk I mean the stuff that goes into landfills. Do you have more or less junk than last year? if you are in the first half of your life you are still in the accumulative phase; you are still acquiring. Building up your kingdom. Padding your castle. If you are on the downward slope, like moi, you are merging and purging, slashing and burning, tossing and recycling. Just yesterday I hauled 10 boxes, yes TEN, out of my tiny office! All of the magazines, newspapers, scrapbooks, book drafts, speaking notes, completed bible studies and never-to-be-read-again books are now gone! I am going through my junk and asking myself, “Who will have to deal with this once I’m gone and will they appreciate it?” The answer is, my kids, and they will NOT want to read my old journals, look through my scrapbooks, or peruse the first draft and multiple edits of my published books. So I finish with this, if you have less junk than last year, then 2017 was a good year.

If you want a deeper reflection on the New Year visit my friend who pastors two small churches in Watrous SK and be blessed. It was that post that inspired me to connect with you today. I pray that 2018 will truly be a good year for you. Focus on the things that matter most — your relationship with God and your besties. Enjoy your health while you have it; nurture your body with real food and moderate exercise. But keep your junk to a minimum!

Posted in minimal moments

Go Big or Go Home. Says Who?

Go big or go home. It’s the mantra in Nashville and Hollywood. It’s the clarion call to working women from Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook and author of Lean In. It’s the hope of athletes and Olympians. This message has trickled down and seeped into the hearts and minds of us all.

So I ask…”Says who?” (or whom? Whatever!)

Some people you and I know personally are “big.” Kudos to you. But most of us aren’t. Not being big can feel like we’ve somehow failed or under-achieved or even quit.

Some people we know are intentionally not big, never wanted big, chose small, or just wound up small and are happy. Kudos to you too.

Last weekend I flew on a small airplane (four other passengers) to a small town in northern Alberta. I thought I was going to a small event but 225 women showed up so by their standards (and mine) it was big.

A first draft of this blog was handwritten as I flew and as soon as I landed, I lost the courage to post it. But God had other plans.

One of the first people I met was the “missing” brother from a famous country band. Three brothers started singing together as teens and their talent and drive took them to Nashville and the top of the charts. They got BIG. But when I saw a photo of the band recently I noticed there were only two brothers.

The sound man at my event was a local, a husband and father of three young kids and his day job was IT. He looked familiar ( I attended a live concert several years ago when there were still three brothers in the band) and a few questions revealed he was the missing brother.

“What happened?” was my (possibly rude) question.

“My wife and I wanted to come home,” was his gracious and courageous answer.

He told me they had been home three years so I asked how he felt about the decision now. “I’ve never regretted it,” he said with a smile.

In other words, he chose “small.” He achieved the big dream and it didn’t fit him or his family very well so he chose a new dream.

Meeting him gave me the courage to share my own truth:

I have been on the road speaking since 1999 and I have had a few “big” moments. Some of my peers who began speaking at the same time or even years later are now BIG. Kudos to you. Sincerely.

In my field as a speaker, big is large audiences, wide acclaim (people drive several hours to attend your event), more invitations than you can possibly accept, top dollar, publishing deals and many books, huge blog following, TV and radio spots or even your own show, world-wide travel and more.

I think you can figure out what small is on your own.

I believe small is God’s dream for me. Small just fits me better. I can do small without the chasing, the driving, the madness, the climbing, the people-pleasing, the selfies with “big” people, the crowded calendar and airline gold status, the FB posting of where you are and where you’re going next, the marketing, the jumping-through-hoops that are always flaming, the online products and ever-bigger blog following, the new and fresh ideas ever day…the lonely hotel rooms, the cities you’ve visited but can’t remember being there, the people you’ve met who’ve poured out their heart to you but you’ve forgotten everything about them, the panic attacks, the thousands of FB “friends” that are not real friends, the stress of delayed or canceled flights, the numbing exhaustion, the hordes of people who admire you mostly because they don’t really know you, the missed celebrations and crises back home, the texts from your kids and grandkids asking when you’ll get home … wow! I didn’t know I had so much bottled up angst but there it is humble reader — my rant on why big doesn’t work for me.

Does that mean that we “small” people don’t have the talent to be big? Maybe. But not always. The “missing brother” had enough talent and I have plenty of evidence to indicate my speaking gift is sufficient.

Choosing small means we don’t have the will. Those of us who choose “small” do not like the price that must be paid to be big. Small works for us. Small fits.

Choosing small in one area creates space for other big things–family, health, spiritual wholeness–that might get overlooked or sacrificed or ignored, or postponed or devalued or lost while you are chasing big.

Five years ago when I flew home from a Rah-Rah conference with a head full of ideas and a plan to write my next book about “simplifying your life” I discovered my husband of 30+ years was inches away from burnout.

God whispered a new dream into my heart. Or perhaps it was the dream that was always there but I was too busy chasing to hear it.

“Gerry needs a wife,” said the voice in my head. I put down my author’s pen. I made other changes. I have a few more to make. It has taken almost five years for me to fully embrace God’s newest dream for me but in the end, instead of writing about simplifying, I simplified! I chose small. And I don’t regret it.

Posted in minimal moments

Minimal Moment — does anyone still Spring Clean?

Is the concept of Spring Cleaning outdated? I don’t know anybody younger than me who does it. Growing up, it was an annual ritual.

  • Beds were dismantled, bed frames scrubbed, mattresses whacked and aired outside.
  • Walls and baseboards were washed.
  • Cupboards were emptied and scrubbed.
  • Closets were cleaned out and unused items were purged.
  • Area carpets were taken outside and thumped soundly.
  • Wood furniture was waxed.
  • Silver was polished.
  • Wood floors were stripped of wax and rewaxed.
  • Doilies were removed, washed, starched, ironed and returned. Oh my, yes!

Nowadays, we don’t spring clean. We move.

If we don’t move, we try to keep up all year long when our jobs, kids, and social media release us for a few moments.

If you are ready to grab your home by the throat and show it who’s really BOSS, keep reading. Sue Anderson, a professional organizer and friend, asks Six Great Spring Cleaning Questions that do not include rubber gloves in her latest newsletter; I would like to share these as today’s Minimal Moment.

  1. Have I used this lately? If you haven’t used or worn something lately, chances are you’re not going to use or wear it anytime soon either!
  2. Are you really going to do that project? We all buy things we think we’re going to use for this or that but we never really get around to using them. If you haven’t used something as planned, and it’s been hanging around for an extended period of time, it’s time to let it go!
  3. Do I even like this? Notice your entire physical and mental response to this question as you ask yourself this about each item. When your entire being lights up at the thought of something, you should hold on to it. When you find yourself trying to talk yourself into why you like something, those are the items that should go.
  4. Does it serve a purpose? As you look through your stuff, be realistic with yourself about whether or not something serves a real purpose in your life. If you’ve had something sitting in the very same spot for more than 12 months, chances are it’s not serving any purpose for you and should be donated.
  5. Would someone else benefit from owning this item more than I do? This is usually the question that helps push people past the point of holding on to things they are having a hard time letting go of even though they know they don’t need it. There are TONS of people out there that need your stuff. (See The Stuff Stop.)
  6. How many of this item do I have vs how many of this item do I really need? If you have 20 pair of blue jeans and wear the same 2-3 pairs all of the time, you probably don’t need 20. (We wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time.

Visit her, sign up for her newsletter and order her book, The Truth about Clutterhere.

Posted in minimal moments

To Nuke or not to Nuke: do I really need a microwave?

a microwave-sized hole in my kitchen
a microwave-sized hole in my kitchen

Our microwave died a slow death. Because I am of the “if it ain’t broke…” club, I did not begin to shop or even research its replacement during its slow demise. I just watched it die.

Once it was well and truly dispatched, Gerry unplugged it, but we left it sitting in its designated spot for a couple of weeks. We were traveling. It was not a priority.

I’ve been home about 10 days. We’ve had three dinner parties, from two guests to 10. I have not missed the microwave. Hmmm. Why not?

Probably because it’s not a washing machine. Or dryer. Or freezer. Or stovetop. Or oven. Or flush toilet! I cannot fathom living a day without any of these much loved appliances.

Well, if you don’t miss it, you probably never used it much anyway, you might think. You would be wrong. I nuked several times a day. Every day.

So why don’t I miss it?

The simplest answer is because now that I don’t have it, I have found new/old ways to eat! I discovered I can live without a microwave by:

  1. planning ahead: take the meat out of the freezer the night before…
  2. finding alternatives: put the grandbaby’s bottle in boiling water for a few minutes; wrap the kabobs in foil and warm in the oven; saute or steam cold cooked veggies; slice leftover cold meat into a salad…
  3. adding some margin to my meal prep time: instead of dashing into the kitchen at 5:30 frantically hoping to be eating by six, I add at least 30 minutes so I can get things heating in the oven or on the stovetop while I chop up the salad…
  4. thinking like a minimalist: get rid of, or don’t replace, stuff you don’t actually NEED. Instead, use what you already have and enjoy the extra space.

If you work outside the home OR have tiny children OR have older children on tight after-school schedules OR rely on a lot of leftovers in your meal planning, a Nuk-less kitchen might not be for you. When I was teaching middle school and had two school-aged kids and a husband who worked full-time in ministry while obtaining a Master’s degree, my first microwave arrived amid a chorus of heavenly angels singing HALLELUJAH!

But if you work from/at home or have a flexible schedule and fewer time constraints, you might discover, like I did, that living without a microwave can be kind of fun. A challenge. A blast from the past–like the fried potatoes I grew up on but never made for the last 30 years because I could warm them quicker in the microwave.

Finally, I can’t discount the pleasure of doing something counter-culture. Going against the flow. Stepping backwards while the world rushes forward. Slowing down!

In this hi-tech age, where your bedtime routine now involves recharging a phalanx of gadgets, it feels so satisfyingly simple to slice a few cold potatoes into some sizzling olive oil and enjoy the sounds and smells of edges getting crispy. No flashing lights. No humming. no alerts.

Other than the aesthetic need to fill the microwave-sized hole in my kitchen, I do not know if I will replace it. I will need to find that one valuable task or food that cannot be enjoyed or appreciated or even used without a microwave before I will fill that hole with another microwave.

Posted in minimal moments

Six easy ways to Minimize spending

Are you hoping to buy a house but don’t have the downpayment? Been there. Are you planning a wedding for a daughter or sending a son to private school but don’t have a special savings account or any savings account? Been there. Do you have a line of credit that has crept up and up until you wonder of you can pay it off? Been there.

Are you in a money pinch and looking for a way out that doesn’t include adding more hours of work to an already full schedule?

I’m no financial guru and in fact I’m not even very good with money–

  • I have bought things on impulse, especially where children were concerned.
  • I have spent more than I made.
  • I have lain awake on Dec 25 wondering how we’ll dig ourselves out of this one!

But there is one thing we have done, over the years, that has resulted in saving up a down payment, paying for weddings, and paying off credit lines. And it works every time. Are you ready for it?

We radically reduce our spending.

Perhaps I use the word radical carelessly. I once knew a Judy who needed about $50,000 to pay off a debt (she lost half her farm in a divorce and wanted to buy it back from the ex).

She stopped spending. And I mean stopped! Literally, no withdrawals were made from her bank account.

  • If she didn’t grow it or raise it, she didn’t eat it.
  • If she didn’t already own it, she didn’t wear it or use it.
  • If she needed it, she borrowed it or went without it.
  • In two years, working a very small farm, she bought back the half she lost.

So if Judy defines radical, then I should say we simply reduced our spending. Here’s how:

  • we stopped eating out. If I was invited to a girlfriend’s birthday bash at a restaurant, I ate at home, ordered tea at the party and paid my share of the birthday girls’ meal. I was the token “talker” while everyone else ate.
  • I gave homemade gifts like sweets, crocheted dish cloths, the gift of help (painting, cleaning)….
  • we stopped coffering out. No more designer drinks from convenient drive throughs. Remember the humble thermos? Dust it off, or buy one, and make your hot drink at home.
  • always carry food in your car. (It sounds like all I do is eat!!! Sorta true). I have a ziplock bag of roasted nuts and another of energy balls in my car at all times. Chocolate melts and fruit freezes so be wise about your car menu.
  • I stopped buying clothes and started shopping in my closet. It’s amazing what you can find there when you really start looking. Put things together in new ways. Accessorize with different scarves or jewelry.
  • I borrowed stuff, including clothing. If you have friends or relatives who let you borrow from them then you can handle weddings and galas like a pro. Plus, no one will see you in that outfit again–oh the shame!–because you will return it to the rightful owner.

These are simple things anyone can do. Simple but effective. You will be shocked at how much money you can accumulate in a short time. You’ll pay for the wedding, get that downpayment, reduce your credit line, and more.

Let me remind you, my husband and I are in Christian ministry and our income is not large  so don’t presume that this method is only for people with large cash flow. It’s not. This will work for you too. This is for the rest of us!


Posted in minimal moments

Three Ways I’m Minimising in January

As you’ve undoubtedly noticed I am on a minimalist jag. In fact, I have been a minimalist most of my life but it was never in fashion before. I used to be pitied for my insignificant hoard but now I’m considered clever for my sparseness.
Initially my minimalism was forced upon me. I married a preacher. Not the fast track to amassing wealth. But eventually I discovered that owning less was actually my natural rhythm. I abhor clutter and found myself constantly decluttering my own home and the homes of others who turned their back for a minute!
I am reposting a blog by a fellow minimalist I’ve just discovered because she says what I want to say with fewer words–minimalism at its best!
I like her ideas but must confess I still use a laundry hamper but mainly because my husband generates more laundry than a newborn and it needs to be contained somewhere. If, like the blogger, you live alone (she has a cat) you may be able to toss your hamper.
Also, I use homemade laundry soap my daughter makes so instead of paying $20 for a large jug of liquid, we pay about $1 for the ingredients (I will share the recipe in a later blog). I have used this detergent for a few years and I see no difference in the cleanliness or brightness of my laundry.
And finally, I always wear my clothes at least twice or three times before washing them. I live in a cold climate, do not sweat easily, wear loose fitting clothes and always hang things up after wearing them so they can air out. You might want to ask my family if you want the “whole story” but I do not think I pollute the room and my clothes do not wear out as fast. In fact, only children wear out their clothing. Adults “wash out” their wardrobe.
Here is what asmallwardrobe has to say:

Posted in minimal moments

Sharing: the minimalist’s secret weapon

When Polonius counselled his son Laertes, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be”(Hamlet, Act I, Sc iii), he was talking about money, not stuff.

When it comes to stuff, borrowing and lending, a.k.a. sharing, is the minimalist’s miter_saw secret weapon. It can also be a way to bless others and share Christ’s love along with our tools.

If people shared, then everyone wouldn’t have to own everything. My neighbour has been borrowing our extension ladder for 25 years. And our wheelbarrow. We borrow their mitre saw. We borrow another neighbour’s pressure washer and since he has everything and never needs to borrow anything from us, we often share our garden/greenhouse produce in return. We often loan out our truck and we have borrowed others’ vans.

Lending and borrowing can save time, storage space and money. To ensure continued good relations a few simple rules might help.

Greg Seaman outlines The 8 Simple Rules of Sharing: (edited for length)
1. Balance the ‘take’ with the ‘give’
Ideally, everyone in a community has something to contribute to the pool of goods available to share. But in reality, some people have more resources to share while others borrow more often. If you are among the latter group, look for ways to contribute with a service or skill so that the give and take relationship is more balanced. Sharing is a two-way street. Borrowing is a one-way street; stay on it long enough and you’ll drive yourself right out of the neighborhood.

2. Inspect the item before lending it out
There’s an interesting phenomenon that occurs when someone returns a borrowed item – you see it in a new light. The saw blade you thought of as brand new when loaned out now has a chipped tooth that you never noticed before. The pressure canner, upon return, looks stained on the inside but you vaguely remember it as still clean and new looking.

3. Always ask before borrowing
Relations with neighbors may be friendly and casual, and you may have borrowed items from the same person before with no problems. But assuming you can borrow without asking is a prescription for souring relations. The way things go, the one day you borrow your neighbor’s pruning ladder without asking turns out to be the same day he promised it to someone else. Even if the ‘lend-borrow’ balance is in your favor with a neighbor, always ask before borrowing. If the person is not home and you must borrow an item, leave a note which includes when you will be returning it.

4. Return items in better condition than when borrowed
The best way to develop a healthy borrowing relationship with anyone is to spruce up the borrowed item before returning it. A borrowed saw blade can be cleaned with steel wool and lightly oiled before being returned. A loaner truck is returned with more gas then when borrowed. If you return a cookie sheet with a small bag of fresh baked cookies, the lender will welcome your next loan request with open arms.

5. Set a date/time for return
After a task is done, our minds leap forward to the next thing. If the borrowed item is not returned right away, it quickly fades from thought and easily becomes forgotten. It is the responsibility of the lender to establish an ‘end date’ for the transaction. A clear, specific timetable, such as “I need this juicer back by Saturday morning” does a service to the borrower because the loan is not open-ended, making it easier to ensure a timely return.

6. Keep a list of outgoing/incoming shares
It may seem overly formal and structured, but it will make things simpler and prevent misunderstandings if you keep a list of the items you have loaned or borrowed, with corresponding dates for their return. Even smaller items like books, DVDs and cookware which may seem inconsequential when loaned out can suddenly seem more important when you need them and can’t remember who you lent them to. By keeping a list, your mind is freed from having to remember the details of every small loan.

7. Keep money out of the equation
When it comes to borrowing and lending, transactions involving money are best left to banks. Unlike other items being shared, money disappears when used. It does not sit around, like a borrowed pipe wrench, as a visual reminder that it needs to be returned.

I’ve seen otherwise sensible people go absolutely snarky over an overdue cash loan, so it’s best not to put people in this position. 

8. Accept the deviations from the rules
Sharing embodies a culture of trust within the community, and the value of this culture exceeds the value of any loaned item. Some people may not follow the rules or will fall short of expectations. It’s usually best to view any problems in this perspective, and not let the sharing process be tarnished by anyone who plays by their own rules. If you follow the advice “Don’t lend out anything that you aren’t prepared to lose”, it’s less likely that the process of sharing will result in disappointment.

What about you? Do you like to share? Could you share more? What’s keeping you from sharing? Feel free to share your views on borrowing and lending!

Posted in minimal moments

A Simply Better Christmas

Christmas 2003 was the big turning point for me. Prior to that year I had always done Christmas big! And I had usually done it solo because I was so fussy and particular my “elves” quickly abandoned the project. Including Papa Elf.

Simple Tree
Simple Tree, just lights

So I hung the lights on the eaves, the fence, the trees. I set up a lighted tree on the deck. I took the kids out to cut down a tree early in December. That usually ended badly.

I did the baking, the cleaning, the buying, the wrapping. I sent gifts to teachers, neighbours, and friends near and far.

I wrote the Brag Sheet full of merry lies and sent it to the multitudes. We bought new duds and took the photos. I decked the halls, heated the nog, wore the red hat and squeezed a bitter Ho Ho Ho from my pinched martyr’s lips.

I was NOT having fun.

Then our firstborn picked January 3, 2004 as her wedding day. It was the crisis I needed to bounce me out of my tinseled rut. I knew I could not do Christmas like I had always done it and marry off the princess with flair a week later. Something had to change. I did.

And I’ve never gone back to the old ways. I have enjoyed reading Kathy Howard’s suggestions for a simpler Christmas.  She has lots of practical suggestions for de-stressing your Christmas, things like quitting the things you don’t want to do — outdoor lights — and buying cookies for the homemade cookie exchange. These ideas and many more can be found at her blogsite.

Every year for the last 12 I have simplified and eliminated. Last year, I put up a tree with nothing but lights. Our two-year-old grandson a.k.a. World’s Cutest Tornado was coming for Christmas and I knew that he would strip the tree as fast as I could festoon it. I chose to enjoy him instead of hovering over him or fencing off the tree so none of us could get to it. It was the right choice.

My entire Christmas now fits into three plastic bins and every year I don’t use it all. Some of the other things I have done to simplify are:

  • Instead of the Brag Sheet I find a family photo (or make a photo collage) and use Apple iPhoto to make a postcard with bullet points on the back hi-liting family news for the last year.
  • I limit baking to two things we can’t live without at Christmas — poppycock and butter tarts.
  • No outdoor lights. I hang a wreath on the door so people will know it’s not the Grinch’s home.
  • Hold on to your Santa hat for this shocker…I don’t hang stockings. Now it’s only Papa Elf and me at home these days and he sure doesn’t care. All the grandkids have stockings at home so they don’t care. But for the last few years our kids were at home I hung their stockings but didn’t fill them. Do they still love me? Yes indeed.
  • I leave my tree “decorated” and store it under the stairs in the basement. Nowadays that means lights only until the grandkids are older and out of the tree-stripping phase. Obviously it is an artificial tree. I light pine scented candles! No one notices.

I love Christmas now! We walk, we ski, we watch movies, we play crokinole and other games. Papa Elf does all the shopping and only quits when the plastic card starts to smoke. I have time for handmade gifts again — homemade jellies, knitted articles, goodie bags, hand stitched baby items and more. Simplifying Christmas creates the necessary margin so we can keep the main thing the main thing — celebrating the birth of our Saviour Jesus.


Posted in minimal moments

How do you want to be remembered?

11698666_10153696669291756_7834115627973984371_nMy little sister Caroline stepped into heaven July 28. She was five years my junior and this old photo (circa 1980) captures how I remember her. Spunky, fun-loving, innocent, witty. To her things were simple and life was good. Even when it wasn’t.

For most of her life, she battled the complications and residual affects of a brain tumour discovered when she was a newlywed. The treatment destroyed her health and stole what would have been a normal life.

She spent her last 13 years in a nursing home, confined to a wheelchair, sometimes unable to feed herself or brush her own teeth. When anyone visited her, and I am not exaggerating, and asked how she was, she gave the same reply. Every time. Sometimes it was a croak, sometimes a whisper, but the words were the same: “really good.”

Caroline and Kevin have a daughter, Chelene, who wrote the most poignant eulogy for her mother that I have ever heard. Chelene’s tribute made me think — how do I want to be remembered when I am gone? As we all know (but easily forget amid the bustle and challenges and competition of life) it is the simple things. God has been calling me to simplicity for years and Chelene’s tribute to her mom typifies that call.

I didn’t know my Mom before 1981 – obviously – the year I was lucky enough to be born her daughter, but what I learned from her in the last 34 years could fill a novel. I would like to share some of her with you, since I believe everyone that had the privilege of knowing her was truly blessed. If I could summarize Mom’s philosophy on life into three categories, they would be:
Live Simply – Mom appreciated what she had, fully embraced each and every day, and was perfectly content with the life she had built. She loved Carrot River, she loved being a homemaker and stay-at-home Mom. She was the most amazing mom, and growing up would spend hours reading, playing games, teaching me, and taking me on outings. Once I was in school full time, Mom volunteered her time at the school helping children improve their reading, she loved volunteering her time to such a worthy cause and impacted the lives of many students.
Knowing how much I loved board games, Mom would play them whenever I wanted, for however long I wanted, no matter how ridiculous (I remember one game involving cardboard pizza slices and toppings that I made her play regularly!). Games became a frequent family activity. At one point she, Dad and I had a year-long ongoing game of Michigan Rummy that we would play over lunch when Dad was home from work and I was home from school. We used plastic poker chips, since Mom would never be comfortable gambling, even with pennies!

Over the years Mom had many hobbies – Cross-stitch, needlepoint, sewing, crossword and jigsaw puzzles, and once we got a home computer, her love of mahjong was born!

Love Deeply – Mom lived this with every breath. The love she had for family, and for God, knew no bounds. Not a single day has ever or will ever go by without feeling Mom’s love all around us. Her family was everything to her, there was nothing she wouldn’t do for us, and we always knew that we were her whole world.

When it comes to my Dad – anyone who doesn’t believe in soulmates never met my parents. Everyone who crossed their paths could attest to this. Mom’s favourite person was my Dad, you only had to look at her face when he walked in the room to know the depth of her love for him and his for her.

Mom always made an effort to embrace our hobbies simply because she’d rather spend time with her family than anyone else. We were the three musketeers. She became an occasional fisherwoman (and often caught the biggest fish!), enjoyed riding on the “bikes” (ATVs), and spending hours at the baseball diamonds watching Dad play ball. The three of us could often be found riding in the truck, three across, listening to the latest cassette tapes (once our taste in music started to diverge, Mom usually got to choose the music!). We took a memorable vacation to Minot, ND where many memories were made.

In 2008, Brian (officially) became part of our family after being around for 10 years, and Mom loved nothing more than reminding him that hats are not to be worn at the table – ever – not just at mealtimes! Mom found a kindred spirit in Brian, as she finally found someone who ate as slowly as she did. Many games of Sorry! were played as a foursome, with Mom usually winning by launching a sneak attack when the rest of us were too busy trying to beat each other. Mom’s presence at our wedding is one of my fondest memories, and one that I will treasure forever.

2013 brought the arrival of Blake, Mom’s grandson, and pride and joy. The smile she got on her face when Blake came to visit was second to none, and she couldn’t quite believe he was “hers”. Blake loved visiting Mom at the Health Centre, “playing” the piano, trying out each and every remote controlled recliner, and pushing Grandma up and down the halls. Blake will grow up hearing many stories of his beloved “Grandma Cline” and the amazing person she was. She set the bar unbelievably high, but I strive to be as great a mother as she always was. It will be no small feat.
Laugh Often – Mom never let a day go by without laughter (even at times when it was at her own expense!). Her clever, quick wit could often catch you off guard, and she would crack jokes when you would least expect it. Sometimes she didn’t even expect it! I fondly remember several occasions where Mom and I would collapse in a fit of giggles, to the point of tears – and while I can’t remember the reason, I can hear Mom’s laugh clearly and it warms my heart.
These three statements make up the core of who Mom was as a person and are a sample of the many, many things she taught me. You may notice I did not mention her illness, and I did this on purpose, as Mom never, not once, let it define her. In my entire life, I never heard her complain about the burdens she had to bear, not even once. She met each challenge with courage and her unwavering faith, without complaint or self-pity. It simply “was what it was”, and she never let it stop her from the principles by which she lived her life. Mom’s strong, quiet, and humble faith in God has always and will always inspire me, and I know that she is smiling on us today, joyfully and at peace.

Mom, I am not sure how I can begin to say goodbye to you, and I do so with a heavy heart – but know that I am filled with joy that you are finally free, and know you will be with us always. I will strive every day to live by your example of love, grace, and patience. I am so humbled and honoured to be your daughter. I love you forever.

Posted in minimal moments

Where are you going?

IMG_0618“There’s no point in simplifying your life if you are steering toward an end point that doesn’t matter to begin with.” These words smacked me in the face when I read them this morning in the final chapter of Simplify: ten practices to unclutter your soul.

I am at the bedside of my younger sister as I write this. She is in her final season. Everything that needed doing has been done and she is prepared to exit this planet. Holding her hand, rubbing her feet, brushing her hair, telling her we love her, raising her head so she can cough and one or two other little kindnesses is all we can do for her now. And we do it with joy because we love her.

Hybels, as a pastor, has sat at hundreds of bedsides just like this. “Here’s “what never happens.” none of the dying people have asked him to run home and fetch their trophies, to withdraw all their cash and bring it to them in a large suitcase, to park their BMW outside the window where they can see it, or to print off their companies latest financial statement just so they could see it one last time.

“When people are nearing death, do you know what they want to talk about?” Hybels asks. “Two things: whether or not they are right with their families and whether they are ready to meet their Maker. One hundred percent of the time, these are the conversations I have with people in hospital beds.”

“You simplify your life for reasons that matter to eternity: to give clarity, purpose and power to the things that matter most in this world.” Most of this chapter is spent outlining the futility of “chasing the wind” — Solomon’s words from Ecclesiastes. Hybels lists seven ways we become wind chasers:

1.Physical Health — not that he is against a healthy lifestyle. If you’ve followed this blog you will know that he recommends diet and exercise as a great stress reducer. But he brings startling perspective when he says, “My lawn will outlive me.” Ouch! “Pinning our hopes on longevity is not the key to a simplified and satisfied life.”

2. Education — let it be a means to an end (a soul-satisfied, purposeful, simplified life) not an end in itself or it will leave you with an empty soul and an emptier wallet!

3. Pleasure — there’s a reason college frat parties end. People grow up.

4. Work or Accomplishments — “An obsession with your career–even a career at home–is chasing the wind.” Workaholism will never satisfy and it will rob your relationships of precious years you cannot relive.

5. Wealth — Hybels interviewed Bill Gates and asked why he shifted from making money to sharing money. Gates said he woke up one day and asked himself, “What’s the point?” He knew he could keep amassing billions but for what purpose? He and Melinda decided to switch gears and their philanthropy is literally changing the world.

6. Sex — “There are people who…try to fill the void in their lives by having sex with lots and lots of people. It corrodes their souls and leaves them empty. As the great theologian Mick Jagger said, ‘I can’t get no satisfaction.'”

7. Fame — Michael Jackson. Kurt Cobain. Elvis Presley. Bill Cosby. Marilyn Monroe. Brittany Spears. Princess Diana. Do I need to say anything more?

As you look at your current life and think about simplifying, Hybels suggests you run every decision for change through these three filters:

1. Satisfaction: Will it bring true satisfaction?

2. Purpose: Does it align with God’s purpose for my life in this season?

3. Significance: Does it help me lead a life of significance?

The End.