Written by Liz, alumna MissionCorps member
When I saw the Maggie’s Place Facebook post about the resumption of “Simple September” this year, I both smiled with joy and cringed a little with guilt. Having lived in the houses as a staff member myself, I know that Maggie’s Place already lives a solid commitment to simple living, reliance on donations and solidarity with the poor. The fact that Maggie’s Place feels the need to have a whole month dedicated to diving deeper into the call to simplicity has really made me think about the way I live.
I don’t have kids. I’m gainfully employed and live in a really fun, convenient part of the city of Boston. Basically, I don’t have obligations and I get to do whatever I want, whenever I want. This set-up is not one that forces me to frequently take stock of how I’m using my time, talents, and resources. When reflecting on why I might feel a little guilty, I had to question whether or not I have gotten too comfortable in my security, routine and lifestyle, abandoning the true reliance on divine providence I once lived at Maggie’s Place. So, with this realization and genuine desire to make some necessary changes, I decided to jump in and join along in this year’s “Simple September”.
I lived in the houses before the first official “Simple September” but I’ve heard all about it, followed the blog, and I truly love the concept. For my own Simple September, I decided to commit to the following 5 tenets with the subsequent practical implications:
1) No extra purchases.
- Only grocery shopping or making other purchases for necessities—this has meant a lot of cutting back on morning coffees from DD, packing my lunch every night, no dinners out, no shopping sprees, and turning off amazon.com for awhile.
2) Use what I have already.
- I’ve made an effort to dive into my pantry and get creative with ingredients. I’m also trying to be way more attentive to the perishable foods in my refrigerator and eat those first, so as to stop wasting food at the end of every week. Finally, I’ve tried to be more mindful of recycling items for multiple uses and/or using less disposable products. These are simple things, but things I honestly don’t pay much attention to typically.
3) Turn off noise & make space for God and others.
- This has been a big one for me. Turning off noise. I think the biggest realization for me has been to see how loud the “white noise” in my life can be at times. I’ve tried to turn off the TV, radio, iPod, and be less attached to my cell phone this month in an effort to hear more of what God is saying and to be more attentive to those around me. I’ve really noticed how much I use background noise to quiet my thoughts while walking, exercising, driving, cleaning…even showering…and removing this has forced me to think more, pray more and be more attentive to what is going on in and around me, drawing me closer in my relationships with God and others. I think one of the biggest things I’ve realized from the “turning off” piece of simplifying my month has been this: while I always want to hear God, I am only really good at doing so on my scheduled time for Him. But, by turning off the noise, I’ve realized how often He really is speaking through people, things, books, prayer, etc. and I’ve been more able to readily see His presence and love for me in my daily life. This has brought me the greatest joy.
4) Use my time & resources wisely.
- This coincides with #3, but goes for other forms of distraction as well. I wasn’t going to totally swear off TV, facebook and other forms of entertainment, but\ I have truly tried to lessen these time-suckers from my daily routine. Instead, I’ve tried to replace them with reading good books/articles, communicating with friends in person/over the phone, exercising, cleaning/organizing things I’ve put off for awhile (see #5), going to see the Lord in Adoration more often, etc. I’ve also tried to walk or bike to places in the city instead of driving—which has been made easy by the gorgeous autumn weather—but is not something I would have been apt to do without this commitment to simplicity (saving more $!). All of this has, again, made me realize how much time I waste during the week and how much more I could be doing with the precious time I’ve been given.
5) Give away my excess…and then a little more.
- I’ve made an effort to donate of my time, talent and resources….simple ways of doing this have been to clean out my closets & pantry and donate lots of perfectly good items that I simply don’t need. I’ve also saved a lot of money in my lack of purchasing, and have given to a few charities of choice already. We’ll see where I’ll be at the end of the month!
Overall, I’m only just past halfway through the month and I’m already experiencing the joys and freedom that come with removing the excess noise and waste from my life. I’ve enjoyed the opportunities to really take note of all that God HAS given me and be grateful, with the added challenge of now figuring out how I can be a better steward of these things. I’ve already grown from being more attentive to opportunities to make sacrifices when possible…and these small changes have really given God the time, space and opportunities to fill the gaps and remind me of His providence.
When I was discerning whether or not I would commit to Maggie’s Place several years back, the final decision came after a period in prayer when I was praying over the gospel about the poor widow who gives two coins to the collection (Luke, 21). The Lord praises her for her contribution, and admonishes those who gave a lot, but gave of their excess. I’m reminded of this as I think about the importance of simplifying and giving away. The poor woman, in this case, wins God’s favor. Now, I’m not saying that I need to lose everything in order to be holy, but there is wisdom and freedom in diving in to our resources and turning over what we have to the Lord. This realization got me to sign-on to Maggie’s Place full-time back then, as the staff of Maggie’s Place are living examples of giving everything they have to the women they serve. As this month wears on, my desire to shed myself of excess and really examine what more I can give and do in my current state of life is coming to the forefront. Maybe this was also part of the initial guilt, but it’s turning into curiosity and creativity as I spend more time in prayer and consider ways this could become a reality.
Well, at the start of this whole thing, I didn’t think simplifying my life would be that different, but actually, I’ve come to see how self-reliant I’ve become, and how full my life has been of excess. My joy from committing to this has been both deep and real, but also just plain fun…it has been fun to get creative and think about ways to cut back. And so far, I’ve got a few friends and my roommate all on board as well! High five, Simple September!
Thank you, Maggie’s Place, for continuing to inspire me in my daily life!