Then, I read Falling Free by Shannan Martin about how they had left their life of abundance for a life that was based on much less but gave them so much more (my description here). I was challenged. I was awe-struck. And that little voice that was telling me that I did not care about 'more' got louder. It was not telling me to sell the house and move somewhere else. It was telling me that maybe I could find "more" in my life by dealing with a lot less.
Various things over the last two months have sung this song. Reminders that stuff is not what makes anyone happy. Sermons reminding of caring for the least of these. A Bible study of Proverbs that warns about accepting wealth and status quo without balancing it with the wisdom of God. By the middle of November I knew what my word for 2017 was to be, and it was daunting. It was........
Now before you get concerned, it does not mean leaving the house or the life that God has clearly blessed us with at this time. It is about depending more on Him and less on stuff or others. As always, I find it difficult to articulate what the word for the year resounds in my heart. I just know that it is echoing in deep places where God wants to work. But some of what I hope to see in 2017 is this:
*Less accumulation of paper and materials that are not needed. In some cases, this is my continuing efforts to digitalize some things and let go of the paper. Last year it was all of my university notebooks (most just shredded, some digitalized before shredding). This year it is the early portfolios from homeschooling, a box of my mother's papers that I have not wanted to deal with, and a last box of pictures (from my high school days) that need to be sorted and digitialize anything worth keeping. One of my realizations is that we move too much stuff that is just sitting in boxes. If it is not important enough to get out of the boxes when we move, maybe I don't need it. If it is the memory it evokes, that can be pictured and carried on a disk. God will call us to move again someday, and I want less stuff to carry with me when he calls.
*Less time spent worrying what others think of the life I am called to live. Yes, that is as self-centered as it sounds. I spend way too much time worrying how others will accept my choices to home educate, to not have a car, to wear what I wear, to set the limits I set for my kids. The truth is, most people truly don't care. And if they do care, I think it is their issue not mine. I know that I do not spend anytime criticizing my friends who do things differently than I do. It is their life and their calling, not mine. So why do I give so much thought-space to what others think? I want to give this less thought space.
*Less time doing things that do not build me up. I discovered long ago that there are certain television programs that are not good for me to watch as they will invade my dreams and take away rest. I have been realizing that there is more to this concept for me than I have given credence. There are shows (mostly reality-type shows) that only serve to make me feel dissatisfied with what I have. There are shows that, although I have tried to overlook it, the language bothers me to the extent that it makes me restless. There are things that others can watch for a "mindless past time" that are anything but mindless to me. Thus, I have been cutting those things out of my life. I want that to continue. This is also true of reading. I enjoy reading a wide array of genres and authors, but I am beginning to recognize that there are some I just need to walk away and leave on the nightstand or in the library. Ironically, I also have more books on my to-be-read list that are tough subjects, even subjects that I don't agree with the subject matter, that remind me that we live in a fallen world and that I need to be showing that world Jesus. So it is not avoiding things that make me think, but avoiding things that make me think of only myself and not look out to others.
*Less voiced negativity and more thankfulness need to be in my daily conversations. One of my friends posted something recently about no longer apologising for some things but instead voicing gratitude (e.g. not "I'm sorry I was late," but "thank you for waiting, it means a lot to me"). That made me think that often I choose to voice the negative rather than look for a way to be grateful. I'm going to try to be less verbal with negative this year. Maybe that will help my teens who have their mother's fluency in sarcasm to also be less negative.
*Less half-hearted rituals and more focus on what God is saying. It is so easy to tick the box of a quiet time, a prayer time, leading a study or helping with a ministry. It is more difficult to use those activities to truly connect with God and focus on the changes that need to be made. I want the latter not the former.
*Less unhealthy things entering my life. Whether it is junk food or junk TV or toxic people, I want to be more diligent to let in healthy and exclude the unhealthy.
*Less holding on to people. This has never been an issue for me, since we have been the ones leaving so much. I've always had to hold people loosely. But we have been here for long enough that I begin to think in terms of "I don't know what I'd do without (___)." That shows the depths of some relationships. But it also has the focus on the person, not on God. This year, our church will plant a new church and about 100 people will go to the plant. We are not going, at this point. We feel as a family that there is more we can offer at Central than we can offer to the plant. But, some dear friends are going. And that makes me sad. I am also excited for them. In the bittersweet, I find that I am in a place that I need to hold people lightly trusting God to move them, and me, where we all can best serve. I need to celebrate and enjoy every moment I have with people, but not feel so dependent that it leaves trust out of the picture.
So, there it is. My word for 2017: less. My girls have announced that it is not as exciting as last year's word. They are dubious of some of the things that I see the need to focus. But I know that God has places he wants to clean out. I know that there are things I need to let go of in order to hold onto him more. I'm willing to take that risk. We'll see where it has led me in 365 days. Let's go.