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 focus on faith

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

trophy_stanleycuplg-2If you’re a hockey fan, it’s that glorious season when sane people who endured another Canadian winter are outside hugging daffodils but you (and me) are hunkered in front of a screen hollering at the refs and screaming when we score.

We are into the second round of the playoffs. My team, the Calgary Flames, are down two games to one but we’re hopeful, and Gerry’s team, the Montreal Canadians, are trying to pull off a miraculous come-from-behind victory. It’s intense!

By the time you read this, both our teams might be golfing! As a matter of fact, even if one of them goes all the way to the final round and somehow wins the coveted Stanley Cup, I daresay most of you won’t know it, won’t care, and surely won’t remember it longer than a year or two. Well Gerry will remember forever but he’s a rabid lifelong fan. I however, only take an interest if we make the playoffs. Fair-weather fan.

If you follow sports, you know the importance of focus. You know that athletes are taught to discipline not just their bodies but also their minds. They learn to visualize success and to keep their eyes on the prize. According to Bill Hybels in Simplify, believers would do well to have the same plan.

Hybels testifies that having a life verse has kept him focused and gotten him back on track repeatedly in his adult life. His life verse is 1 Corinthians 15:58: Therefore be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your work is never in vain if it is in the Lord.

Do you have a life verse? Is there one Bible verse, in whole or in part, that you come back to over and over again? If the answer is yes, I suspect that verse keeps you focused on the prize but that’s not all. Perhaps, like Hybels, it does more:

1. It clarifies what matters most — it directs my attention to God’s unique calling and assignments, it clarifies for me how my best efforts should be spent. It gives me focus.

2. It calls out the best in me — it minces no words; its marching orders for my life are blindingly clear

3. It brings comfort — knowing that I am competing in the race that really matters (seeking heavenly reward by making earthly sacrifice) might look crazy to those who spend their lives building up their portfolio but having a life verse comforts me, reminding me what to do and why I do it.

Having a life verse is one of the most powerful tools I know for simplifying your life. It keeps you on course. It helps you make wise decisions about where to invest your time, energy, and gifts. It motivates you to ruthlessly trim the waste from your life. It drives you to live each day with fervency and passion.  

ACTION STEP: Find a Life Verse

Maybe you already have one. I do. Mark 14:8 She did what she could. This phrase has rescued, refocused, and comforted me countless times as I battled my way through crippling anxiety, fear and panic in my stumbling effort to follow God one yes at a time as a pastor’s wife, writer and speaker. It kept me moving forward when I wanted to quit. It showed me that even small things matter if they are done for the Lord. It kept me responsible to use, and not waste, my talents. And, best of all, it was short enough that even I could commit it to memory!

If you need a life verse, be on the lookout as you read the Word. Look online. Once you find your verse, memorize it and let it guide, focus, and comfort you.

Posted in focus on faith

How full is your bucket?

isl08062Draw a bucket and put a line to mark where you feel your energy level is right now. Do it. I did. That’s where we begin.

In my blog Simplified Living is Far From Simple  I featured Bill Hybels’ book Simplify and committed to blogging my progress, or lack of, through the book. Wait a sec…I need to grab another cafe latte…it’s my third one. We’ll talk about judging in a future blog!

Okay, let’s simplify! The first of the 10 practices in Simplify is replenishing your energy reserves. This is how you move from exhausted to energized. Ergo, the bucket exercise. This gives you a visual for where you are right now. How full, or empty, is your bucket?

Yesterday, I drew my line around the two thirds mark, say 65 percent full. But now that I’m working on that third coffee, I feel closer to 90 percent! Note to self: don’t be fooled by false readings based on faulty evidence. The caffeine pendulum swings both ways. I’m going with the initial assessment of two thirds.

Leaders are seldom naturally drawn to simplicity, says Hybels. He confesses that simplified living is a learning journey for him too. But he is determined to strive for simplicity because he has personally experienced the damage done to himself and others when he allowed himself to get dangerously depleted.

Depleted people are often:

  1. resentful
  2. irritable
  3. unable to focus
  4. seeking escape in unhealthy ways

Replenished people, however, are usually:

  1. soulful
  2. rested
  3. creative
  4. loving
  5. playful
  6. prayerful

Which list describes you these days? I find myself straddling the fence; not fitting either list exactly, which seems to support my bucket reading of two thirds.

Evidence of being Depleted:

  • Resentful? No.
  • Irritable? No, but credit must be given to HRT.
  • Unable to focus? What menopausal woman isn’t?
  • Escapism? I have been watching more Netflix these days….hmmm.

Evidence of being Energized:

  • Soulful? Not sure what that means; assuming it refers to being driven by non-material pursuits I would give myself a passing grade but not by much.
  • Rested? Usually, because it is a priority.
  • Creative? Not wired that way.
  • Loving? Hope so. Will ask my family to report. If you don’t hear from me, I flunked.
  • Playful? Also missing in my DNA but being a grandparent has revealed hidden reserves, so, Yes. Still not even close to my party-animal sister Lisa but better than I was.
  • Prayerful? If unspoken groanings count then I am a prayer warrior.

Hybels recommends that before you try to fill a depleted bucket you should figure out what is driving you to make holes in your energy bucket. The two main hole-makers are:

(1) getting our self worth from over-achieving (people pleasing)

(2) feeling guilty for taking time to replenish (children are starving and I’m at the beach!?)

Hybels says the path to simplicity requires total honesty: I confess, what others think of me has always mattered. A lot. Probably too much. But I am pretty much over the guilt I used to feel when I worked in my garden, went hiking or skiing, walked a beach, read a book, or did other activities that fed my soul. Like Hybels I’ve learned that I am of more value to others and more connected to God when I have taken the time to replenish. Spend some time thinking about what drives you.

Make a list of the things that replenish your energy. Hybels lists his five keys: connecting with God, family, satisfying work, recreation and exercise (including rest and diet). But he suggests you make your own list by determining what are the replenishing people, dynamics, activities, and engagements that fill you up?

My list mirrors Hybels’ (like I said, I’m not creative!):

  1. connecting with God: Mainly — bible reading, prayer, church attendance and involvement, acts of service, Christian books and studies. Occasionally — nature walks, fire gazing, worship music.
  2. family: I work part-time from home (writer/speaker) since having children and have often curtailed my work when my family needed “more” of me. A five-year season of homeschooling, my husband’s burnout from exhaustion, and our daughter’s cancer were times when I scaled way back to accommodate what I thought were higher priorities. Obviously this put a strain on our finances since my husband is not an oil magnate but a minister. We incurred some debt — not for necessities but for extras — and have been following a self-induced program of rapid debt retirement for the past year. It’s exhilarating watching that debt shrink!
  3. satisfying work: honestly, I used to prefer my unpaid job, puttering around the house. In fact, my reward after a speaking engagement was to spend a day cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, gardening, anything that did not involve sitting at a computer or engaging with people. Obviously I am an introvert. My work-for-hire job of public speaking, for many years, was only satisfying when it was over and I was on my way home. But that was because I had to overcome crippling fear and occasional panic attacks on and off stage. Now, thankfully, I can enjoy my work/calling due mainly to persevering with God’s help and learning to follow Him one yes at a time. So I caution you, before you walk away from the right job, think about what it is about the job that’s depleting you. In my case, I didn’t need a job change but a “me” change. Keeping the job forced me to grow and to rely on God and I am so glad I hung in there.
  4. recreation: Online Scrabble, reading for pleasure, being outdoors, grandkids, simple home reno, gardening, traveling with my husband…. All these things–lest we forget BBC shows on Netflix!–replenish me.
  5. Exercise/rest/diet: For most of my adult life I have been disciplined about this. I have found that fatigue makes me feel sick, literally. I hurt all over. So I am motivated to get enough sleep most of the time. Poor diet also makes me sick. I can’t tolerate dairy, gluten or much sugar. So I am motivated to eat foods that make me feel good (if you need a category, I am closest to paleo). And God brought me a fabulous gym partner several years ago who is my secret weapon — she calls me M/W/F at 6 a.m. and I say yes. Almost every time… I attend a later gym class T/TH and supplement with outdoor walks and getting up off the couch to get my own snack (if my husband is away, otherwise, I grow roots and he feeds me)

So that’s Chapter One! If you’re still here, you are really motivated to find a simpler path (or you have too much time on your hands!). Dive in and let me know what depletes your energy, what you do to replenish your energy, and what you think about the quest to find a simpler life.