Apr 30, 2007


Back to the books. I always turn to books.

We returned from Disneyland on Saturday night and began falling back into the pace of life today. Sunday was sort of a throw-away day as we unpacked, returned a borrowed car (ours needs repair), and went grocery shopping to refill our empty shelves. A good trip always leaves me contemplating life, the universe, and everything (to borrow from Douglas Adams). So it really is no surprise that I broke into the book collection--that I am having a rough time paring down--to seek some direction.

I love books. I love the look, the feel, the smell. I love the prospect of knowledge as you first open a new one and the deep satisfaction when you finally close a long one. So I looked through the shelves and pulled down a book that has been haunting me for a long time. The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning is scratching an itch. Many of you are probably unaware that until two and a half years ago, I was a youth pastor. I left the pastorate for a number of reasons, but among them was a deeply troubling murmur that the church wasn't anything like Jesus.

Jesus seemed to get dirty a lot. He was in the muck and mire. He loved seemingly unlovable people. He was all about love. From my vantage point, the church seemed to be more about maintaining the staus quo, a pseudo-spiritual country club type atmosphere, an almost elitist organization that kept people out by only letting certain types in. Now, with much reflection, I see that my view was amplified by my own set of issues; but, I still think the church is a few ticks off the mark. This book is helping me to see that my frustrations are not isolated.

The journey that this blog chronicles is a physical and fiscal journey but, it is primarily a spiritual journey (and a spiritual journey regardless of your faith affiliation, if any). We set out to find the truth. The truth is: a.) where you find it and b.) BIG, unmissable. What we are finding over and over again is the truth that this world needs help and our consumerism does nothing to help it...period.

The book recounts a Zen story. For brevity, I will paraphrase:

A monk, being chased by a tiger comes to a cliff. Seeing a rope he slides over the precipice only to find a snarl of sharp rocks at the bottom. He is out of rope to descend, he cannot ascend and face the tiger, and to make matters worse, two mice begin to gnaw at his rope. Just then, he sees a ripe strawberry and eats it with the joyous admonition that it is the best strawberry he has ever had.

Manning goes on to say,
Children do not focus on the tigers of the past or the future but only the strawberry that comes in the here and now.

That struck me, because it is what we have been struggling with lately. We cannot return to our past (consumerism) and the future looks bleak. We have often felt like we are running out of rope. But there re plenty of strawberries to enjoy. This problem is not unique to this journey. It is the same reason I left the church and the same reason that I am always looking to books for answers. I live either in the uncertainty of the future or the regret of the past but, rarely in the present.

I have only begun to mentally explore the ramifications of living in the present but, I imagine that it will be a lot more simple than trying to cover the past or prepare for the future. Jesus lived in the present and taught others to do the same. He didn't have a home that we know of and he rarely had his next meal planned. He often instructed his disciples to trust God for their needs and to focus on more important matters. Maybe the church would be more influential if it helped people now, where they are, rather than focusing on preparing them for the future. Maybe I would be a better and more complete person if I focused on what matters NOW more than what will make a brighter future.

Before I close I hope you understand that I believe there are good people, in many religions and cultures, seeking to better this world. There are many that focus on helping people NOW. There are many groups that make the world better in the same ways Jesus did, by feeding the hungry, healing the sick, forgiving the broken, lifted the fallen. But, there are also many churches that need to take a serious look at who they are following versus who they claim to follow. Like wise, I need to really look at how I can make the world better NOW.

I said earlier, that consumerism never made the world a better place. I really believe that. If we didn't consume so much, there would be less poverty, less waste, less pollution, and more quality time. So by slaying that Dragon--in any small way--I am helping to make the world a better place. My choices NOW change the world NOW and in the future.

NOW I need to go to bed.

Apr 27, 2007

The Happiest Place...

...on Earth; that's what they say. As many of you know, it has been a season of doubt and frustration; so, we took off for a long weekend in Disneyland.
First of all, thanks. It has been so good to recieve the support of our friends and fellow sojourners. I am a bit underwelmed at the male response, however...I mean, aren't there any guys reading this stuff? Come on men, step up! Okay, off my soap box. Anyway, a long drive and some time on another plane of reality has slowed the wheels a bit and helped us to see how far we've come.
We are in the world of bigger, better, more, faster; but, we seem to be walking a little slower and more purposeful then the others. Okay, before that is taken to be pompous and self-aggrandizing, I simply mean that the glitter of this place seems to WOW a little less than it used to. I notice it especially in our kids. We were here a year ago, on a family (extended) reunion--so to speak-- and it was terrible. We had a great time on the rides and made some great memories, but our kids went batty asking for every trinket, doll, hat, toy, and treat available...and let me remind you, there are thousands.
This year, Wyatt saved his money--we also gave him a little extra--and managed to find one small thing, below his budget that he wanted. Violet didn't ask for a thing until we asked her if she would like to get something, she also chose wisely. Carolyn and I managed to only buy the CD of a street musician that performed an amazing set of children's' blues. Check out his site (www.fattback.com) and you'll understand why...or you'll need to get out more ;)).
We spent quite a bit on the hotel and the park tickets, the food is exorbitantly expensive, but, I think it has been worth it. We are connecting to the kids here like we haven't in a while. I'm beginning to realize how tough this journey has been on them. Not because they needed to change all that much (after all they mostly follow our cues), but, because Carolyn and I have. We have spent a lot of time worrying, and strategizing...okay fine obsessing about simplifying when, in reality, we were completely missing the point. Thanks to all who reminded us of this.
We are on a journey, there is no destination. It should be an adventure; like Pirates of the Caribbean, or Peter Pan. Sometimes, it is going to feel like the Tea Cups, or Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. But, at the end of the day, each day, I want to crash into bed laughing and telling exhausted stories of the magic I experienced, the things I noticed for the first time, the things that are worth living for. I want to pass out and dream dreams that pale in comparison to the days I have had. I want my children to see me as they do here, in "The Happiest Place on Earth." I want them to know that I wasn't forcing them to live with less; but, to live more, with less holding them back from a wild and adventurous life.
It amazes me how quickly simplicity became another addiction, something to obtain and own. As we have said before, the rabbit hole goes a lot deeper than we thought, but, the crux of the matter is this...we have been bred to consume. Even when pursuing intangible things, we go after them like we can hold and own them.
Anyway, it's late, I'm the only one still awake and we are going into the park early tomorrow for one more day. I'm going to make it magical and--hold me to this--I'm going to bring the magic home and remember to find it everyday until it becomes a habit.

Apr 24, 2007

Are we losing it?

We might be.

Lately this blog seems to be more about our failures at simplicity than any progress or success.

Perhaps we need to let go of our ideal of simplicity that we have seen on other peoples sites or at other peoples homes, and find our own path.

Does that make sense?

I hope I'm not just justifying amendments we've made to our pact. It's so hard for us to know what is healthy and what is insane. I think we both come from homes that were imbalanced when it came to spending and material wealth.

Like we've said so many times...this rabbit hole goes deeper than we've thought. We've both struggled with depression over all this. I get a serious sense of failure most days.

Well, hang in there with us. Watch us lose it.

Apr 19, 2007

Sort of Sideways

April has been a particularly tough month for me. Works sucks. I love the company I work for and I enjoy what I do--most of the time--but, lately it's a struggle to even walk in the office door. I'm struggling with balance. I feel like someone is rocking the world and I've had one too many drinks. The sky doesn't even seem to stand still anymore. Everything is moving and I'm...well...out of control.
I guess that's what this is really about. I feel like I have completely lost the rhythm of simplicity.
While this has been a tough month; in many respects, it has been blessed as well. I'm playing music again. Really playing. I'm back beyond the, "oh yeah, I remember the guitar," stage and I'm beginning to feel the music flow through me. It has been more than a decade since I really felt that, it's refreshing. This weekend there is a Native American Drum and Flute gathering in our area. I'm excited to go and check it out. I have played the flute for some time and I'm looking forward to more exposure. Carolyn--I love her for this--is forcing me (really she won't give me a choice) to take an extra seminar. It will be interesting to get some real instruction on such a unique instrument.
So, life is slipping a little sideways right now, but maybe that is just how the song goes. Maybe this is the bridge before the best verse, I like to think so.

Apr 16, 2007

Yikes...off the wagon in everyway

I think the photo shows I'm a mess again. Everytime I think I get this place cleaned up I say "I'll never let it get bad again."

But here we go. Bad. Again.

I got rid of so much stuff- I feel like we cant get rid of much more but I still cant seem to get this place to a point where I can keep it tidy. I am so frustrated. I feel like theres just no place for anything to go!!!

I'm losing it!!!

No wisdom here...just madness. I'll hopefully give you an update when I get control of this place.

Apr 15, 2007

Spring Cleaning

It has been one of those years; one where everything seems different. The fall was short and sporadically dispersed between cold wintery days. The winter was only in days, there were no weeks that felt like a solid season. Now, in Georgetown, we are waiting to see if it is really spring. We have a saying here, "It isn't spring until it's snowed on the dogwoods." Every year the dogwoods bloom days before the last snow. Well, they've bloomed...but no snow. This week, it even rained a cold rain, but, no snow. The mountains in the distance are marvelously devoid of the deep white that usually fills the rivers by now and we are left wondering what else will be different this year.
The rhythms of life seem off right now. I wonder how to recapture them, or is this another unnamed season in an unknown land as we journey toward simplicity. It is at times like this that I am convinced there is another world; an unseen yet wholly involved reality swimming quietly beneath the mundane. I can feel is watery flow moving the rocks I thought I had placed securely. Like a river bed in the spring rains, everything inside me is moving, shifting, unsettled and changing beneath the surface of life.
I feel completeley helpless to shape my future; restless as this other-wordly flow moves and places all things anew. I can only hope that when all has been moved and sifted that the bedrock of my life will be left clean and de-cluttered. That the action under me is purifying me in some way. I hope that the water is washing my soul and scouring the polluted past in preparation for a brighter future.

Apr 10, 2007


"Maybe this is an aside to the whole simplifying thing, but I love to write. Then again, I think that decluttering our lives leads to decluttered minds and souls. So maybe it's not an aside, just a bit of a rabbit trail." -from my Journal.
I've been on a bit of a writing frenzy latley. I'm working on a screenplay for a contest deadline in June. This is the first time I have decided to undertake the writing process for anything other than entertainment. It's a bit odd, but, I have noticed that my muse seems less hindered as of late. In fact, the oddest combinations of stories and journal entries have begun to meld into a single unified story. One that is beginning to take shape on the page. Finally.
As I reflect on this, I am beginning to notice a new feeling. It's as if some part of my heart has been unlocked. I find myself seperated from the soul noise that has been so deafening over the past few years. I'm starting to feel, think, and write differently than before. Something has changed. My only guess, this journey.
Before we began this process, I wasn't truly convinced that it would make any tangible difference--except maybe in our bank statement--but, it has. I know, from speaking with many of you and from reading the comments here, that others are experiencing the very same things. I wish more people would give simplifying a try. I wish more people would take a chance as consuming less and find that the process yields freedoms one never expected. It's time for this world to change a little.

Apr 8, 2007


WE DID IT! 40 days of living without. Sure the things we chose seem a bit trite, but, they were significant to our lives in deeper ways.

Matt: I gave up Coke (see Shadows) for Lent. I wish that I could tell you it was easy and that I'm amazed I ever drank it before, but I can't. I decided to break my fast this morning and have a coke or 6. I did miss them, but the experiment wasn't a loss. I learned something about myself, I don't NEED soda, I CAN live without it. I also found out that my soda drinking does have significant effects on my body, to the order of 12 pounds in 40 days (with no other changes) so, while I am not abandoning it totally...I'm making a new resolution, 1 a week. That way I can still enjoy the things I like about it, while being responsible with my health.

Carolyn: I gave up sweets. Ok, well not sugar strictly but cakes, cookies, doughnuts, scones, candy. I was allowed ice cream and pure dark chocolate- two things I don't usually crave-but, would get me out of a dive if needed. I am a comfort eater. I do it to the point where I've wondered if I should seek help-so I felt it would be a good thing for me to depend on God for this time. The funny thing was, without the possiblilty of a gorge-fest, I often forgot to eat dessert and really had very few times where it was even a temptation. Amazing. And like Matt, I lost about 8 pounds. I think I will keep my lenten thing up as well with the once a week crazy baked good party if needed. After eating 3 cookies, 1 Reese's Egg, and some Ice cream today...I feel a little sick.

Through the process of reflection, we both realized that we do truly have all we need through the grace of God. This time of reflection was really proof to us that traditions do have important lessons to teach us. They help us to schedule change into our lives and see if the changes actually make a worthwhile difference. It is one of the ways our faith can help us in real life. It puts flesh on the spiritual and helps us to see the God that cares about the little things in our daily life that echo the bigger things in our souls.

Apr 7, 2007

Happy Easter

Well, we just wanted to say Happy Easter to all. And what better way than showing off the faces of our offspring.

This was last Saturday at a community Easter Egg hunt. I was busy painting faces, Matt was "lucky" enough to be in charge of these characters.

We'll be posting about our aventures in giving up things for Lent in the coming week....I'm sure you're all on the edge of your seats!!!!

Ok, so seriously: Have a blessed Easter.

Apr 5, 2007

No Wallet Week

In the seemingly endless pursuit of simplicity, I'm giving up this fat beast-at least for a week. In fact, I'm going to make it a psuedo holiday, No Wallet Week. Who's with me?
Okay, the truth is, I have been strugging this week to keep this sucker in my pants-please, the wallet:))I've found a dozen ways to sneak in a meal, coffee, a doughnut, whatever this week, so I'm leaving it home. I'll take out my ID and my insurance card, but the rest is on time out! I'm leaving it home where it can't tempt me during the day. I'm not even brining my ATM card. If I need money for something, I'm going to do it the old fashioned way and plan.
Yeah, take that wallet. I'm not putting up with your, "oh look at me, I have enough credit cards in here for you to splurge a little," crap! You can just stay home and bark at someone who cares.
Okay, I gota go to the bank and get a $20. But seriously, I think that leaving my wallet home this week will take away a little temptation and lighten the load. Who knows maybe I'll like life without it better. It's worth a try.

Apr 2, 2007

Feeling Normal

So, I realized this morning that I was having a normal day- as far as normal adults go. Someone could drop by and I wouldn't be mortified. My laundry is a little on the heavy side, but over all- my while house is in order.

This is mainly due to yesterdays birthday party for my son. We went buck wild cleaning up since his friends know no boundaries when it comes to our house. The go upstairs, they go into the shed, they go into closets.

Then, after the party, instead of crashing and being super lazy, I actually did the dishes and picked up everything. Weird.

Now, will I keep it up? I hope so. If only for the sake that it is Spring Break and I want friends to be able to come over and have it be, well, hospitable.

I have good friends- in fact, one blessed me this week by bringing me flowers. Not just a few in a plastic bag, but a barrel full(as seen in the picture!).

I got to thinking that maybe there's something about me that prevent me from feeling I deserve to live in a clean house or something. Maybe. That sound like some fancy psycho-analytical stuff.

Maybe if I deserve the flowers, I deserve the clean house too. Oh, I guess I should catch up on dishes....off I go.