It Really Is Simple

“Why do I have to make everything so complicated?” I asked myself as I was trying to figure out the details of my son’s birthday party. My son’s birthday falls two weeks after Thanksgiving (a holiday we host every year) and two weeks before Christmas (a holiday we were hosting for my husband’s side this particular year). The holiday season is hard enough on all of us, but to host three large gatherings every two weeks during the most hectic time of the year, I was feeling overwhelmed and burnt out.

For months I had been hearing a voice inside saying “it really is simple” and for the life of me I could not figure out what this voice was referring to. Over and over again I would find myself lying in bed at night, walking on the treadmill at the gym or standing in the shower and this voice would pop up speaking simplicity into my soul. I decided one night to really give it to God and ask what on earth I was supposed to do with this message.

The next two weeks I spent a lot of time praying about what specifically I needed to simplify. One look around my house told me I had WAY too much stuff (especially after just having a December birthday party and celebrating five, yes five, family Christmases)! But I knew there was more I was being called to simplify.

2018 was an exciting year for our family, we welcomed our nephew into our home while my sister was deployed to Iraq, and we also welcomed a new baby in the fall. There was a lot of change and, while it was all positive, the impact it had on our family life and my sanity (if we’re being honest) wasn’t always cheerful. With three kids under the age of three I recognized very quickly that my parenting style was best described as “survival mode” and my relationship with my husband was, at best, lukewarm. It’s not that we weren’t a team or no longer in love, but we were running on fumes most days and hadn’t spent much time investing in our marriage. These were all areas I knew I needed to spend time nurturing but if I thought I felt overwhelmed in the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, trying to determine how I was going to work on every area of my life and home was starting to feel like too much.

Yet the voice persisted, “it really is simple”.

The first Sunday of the new year I was sitting in church and our sermon that weekend focused on a marriage that works. Our pastor asked us, speaking of our marriages, “are you enduring or are you enjoying?” and I recognized that this question is applicable in every aspect of my life.

Am I enduring parenthood or am I enjoying parenthood?

Am I enduring a cluttered house or am I enjoying this space as a place where love and joy can flourish?

Am I enduring feeling sluggish and tired or am I enjoying this body as a temple where the Holy Spirit dwells?

Am I enduring my life on earth as a Christian or am I enjoying the rich and full relationship God has called me to with him, through Jesus Christ.

That weekend I resolved that in order to simplify my life in the areas I was being called to, I first needed to start with my relationship with God, another relationship that I felt was lacking. All throughout the Bible, when the Israelites or Christians were struggling, the same message was given: “return to me.”

Lamentations 3:40 tells us “let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.”

God isn’t asking me to be the perfect Christian, the perfect wife, the perfect mother, sister, friend, etc. God is asking me to turn back to Him; to start with him and to watch how he can help everything else to unfold. He’s reminding me (over and over again in his word) that he loved me SO much, he gave up everything for a relationship with me and in turn, he’s asking me, very simply, to love God FIRST and then to love others. He’s asking me to put HIM before the birthday party details, before the laundry list of things I think I need to be doing, before the “stuff” and before my unrealistic expectations of other people (especially my poor husband).

See, what I found was that the more I let things clutter my space and my mind, the more out of control and complicated things become. By ridding myself of the things that are taking up unnecessary space in my home, heart and mind, by handing them over to the one who has it already figured out (see Jeremiah 29:11), I can spend more time focusing on being who he called me to be.

So, while I’m not one for resolutions I am working on simplicity, or actually- just making things less complicated. I’m working on turning my home from a vessel of items to a place where my marriage and children can flourish, where guests feel welcomed and loved. I’m working on making parenting less complicated (which actually starts with bored kids – maybe a topic for another post?) and taking time each day to enjoy the gift of being loved, so very loved, by God. I’ve got little notes all over my house with three simple words: “return to me”, as a way to continually turn my thoughts in every situation back to Christ.

To think that God has found a way to use a couple of post-it notes to help me take captive my thoughts is nothing short of incredible. While not always easy, it really is simple.

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2 Steps to a Simple Summer

When you live in a state like Wisconsin, where it is winter a good portion of the year... okay pretty much mostly winter all of the time, it can be hard not to come to the sweet, sweet summer months with guns-a-blazing. 

"Let's do all the things!"

says every well-intentioned mother on the planet. 

But then summer hits. I'm almost never organized enough to get anywhere on time. Somehow, the house is a disaster on the daily, even though I thought we were playing outside (because, THE SUN IS SHINING PEOPLE!). My visions of children building ornate sand castles get stomped. The joy of summer seems to get sucked right out of me like a one of those ridiculous straws that I can never get cleaned. 

I am trying a new plan this summer. A new mantra if you will. Well the mantra isn't new but it is a new one for me... you get the idea here. 

Keep it simple (stupid). 

 You can leave the stupid part out because shhhh we don't even say that word in this house! 

This is my last summer before my oldest child starts Kindergarten. <insert a mom's ugly cry here> She will be in school all day, every day. I want to enjoy this summer for the simplicity that it is. From here on out there will be practices, groups, clubs and what not. And that's okay. But for me, right now, this year, I need simple. 

So here's my plan. I have no idea if it will work. I have no idea if I will stick with it. But hey! I'm sharing it anyway.

  1. Share the work. We all clean for around 15 minutes per day. Many hands make light the load. Even if the hands are small and distracted, it's still better than me doing nothing at all. We set a timer and get to work for 15 minutes and then we're done! I follow a cleaning schedule usually which helps overall to the general house cleanliness. 
  2. Plan simple. This is tough for me. My daughter is one that enjoys doing things--but cannot be scheduled all the time. My son could be running 24-7 and still have enough energy to do more. My other son still naps twice a day. With all these different needs I am planning to make our days reasonable. Let's go to the zoo.... for 1-2 hours only. Let's go to the pool... for just a little bit. I don't *have* to pack lunch. I don't *have* to miss nap time. Filter in a few day long adventures here and there (when we are all feeling good and rested) and it shouldn't feel like we are missing out on anything. 

So that is kind of it. 

Simple, right? Only two things to remember.

I love being outside and enjoying God's beautiful seasons with my children. I don't love the mom I become when I'm overwhelmed with housework with cranky kids hanging on my hip. I want our summer to be about sand and sunshine, parks and pools, watermelon and strawberries. So I'm hoping my new simple mantra will help me out.

I hope that you fellow mothers out there can find your groove this summer as well. It doesn't have to be The Best Summer Ever. It doesn't have to be Instagram or Facebook approved. It just has to be what works for you and your little creatures. And, also, you have to be okay with that. 

So I tip my (sun)hat to you. I hope you and I can share a relaxed laugh together. Soak up some rays. Thank God together for these beautiful days to make the mundane and the memorable memories with our littles. 

Happy simple summer friends.