WHEN LIVING WITH LESS MEANS LIVING MORE

We watched Minimalism on Netflix last night. It was a documentary about living only with the things that you need. It’s about getting rid of life’s excess in order for you to focus on what really matters.

I intended to watch it with Artis, my husband, so I could get rid of all his clutter. It backfired so quick that halfway through it, I was itching to go to my closet and was checking where to donate clothes I no longer need and use, and Artis was dozing off.

We are all trapped in a bubble where we think that buying a certain product can make us happy. There’s nothing wrong with owning material possessions but did you really need to buy two shirts of the same kind in the same color? Sorry, I was asking myself. The answer is no. I didn’t need to but I did. Why? So I could have a back up. Do I still use either shirt now? No, I stopped using them both but they’re still in my closet, taking up space.

I’ve always been proud of how I’m able to control my shopping urges, compared with my mom and my sisters, who seem to be missing the word control from their vocabulary. They might as well open their own boutiques because that’s what all their closets look like. I’m not even exaggerating. I, on the other hand, have always been simple. Okay fine, I’ve always chosen food over clothes but that’s not the point. The point is, as simple as I thought I was, I still have a lot of things that I didn’t really need to buy but somehow, they all found their way here from malls, shops, and online stores. How did that happen?

These things that we take pride in, they take away our focus from what’s really important. That phone on your hand, made you miss a moment with your loved one. The money you spent to buy another white pair of shoes could have gone to your savings for your own place or to a business investment. That extra car adds to the heavy traffic, and carbon monoxide that fills people’s lungs.

What I realized is that, it’s not bad to have any of those things but it can’t be the worst idea in the world to have a pragmatic approach before buying anything. Anytime you feel the compulsion to purchase something, ask yourself, “how will this add value to my life?”

God didn’t say that we shouldn’t have all of these things. Au contraire, He gave us the ability to create wealth. He allowed us to have what we have but we need to be good stewards of everything He entrusts us with.

I’m not sure where to start and how to begin this lifestyle change. I know I’m not going to follow minimalism in every sense of the word but I’ll definitely start being intentional about where my attention, focus, stress, effort, space, time, money, etc. go to. I’ve already wasted so much.

Please pray for strength and willpower for me! I’m starting with my shoes and then my makeup. *Cue Psycho music theme.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:19-21 ESV

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Luke 12:15 ESV

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MY DAD

“Where’s your dad?” Una, my niece, asked me innocently. It was a question I wasn’t prepared to answer. I didn’t know how to explain it to her without tearing up. People ask me where my dad is all the time so I’ve mastered the art of sounding nonchalant about his death, if only to spare the person from feeling embarrassed they asked. I give the same response, I tell them “my dad died when I was 14 because he used to drink a lot (by this time you start to see a look of regret) but it’s okay because I don’t have much to remember him by. My parents separated when I was 1“ (cue look of relief). Telling it that way saves me from going through that awkward silence. However, I couldn’t do that with Una; It’s never easy to lie to a trusting child.

I miss my dad.

I wish I had a camera attached to me when I was a kid so I could put him on replay but all I have are few memories that are slowly fading with time.

(My dad on the left and me sitting on my godfather’s lap)

I remember going to the same cemetery where he was buried, to visit an ex-boyfriend’s grandfather’s grave. I was in college. I didn’t cry when my dad died and I didn’t think about him once until that day. I went to an area where I thought he might be and I started to look for him. I went through all the gravestones and when I couldn’t find him, I broke down and for the first time, I wept for my father. I realized that I no longer have a dad, it sank in 6 years too late. The denial finally ended.

Nobody knew that I was always longing for him. How I felt incomplete. How I regret not staying with him the last time he visited. How I would sometimes push my alcohol limit just to hear “you drink like your dad” from people who knew him, desperate to have that connection.

My life changed when I started to have a relationship with God two years ago. I’ve been a born again Christian since I was 9 years old but it wasn’t until recently when I had the realization that my completeness can be found in Him. To quote my friend, Arra, she said “it was like seeing the world in technicolor for the first time”. I started seeing God in a different light. He wasn’t my personal genie, existing to grant all my wishes; He’s a Father who had been patiently and lovingly waiting for me to have a relationship with Him.

I still miss my dad sometimes but God filled that hole in my heart when I welcomed Him in my life. When He adopted me as His child, I no longer felt despair, exhaustedly trying everything to feel accepted. I have a Father who loves me. I don’t need to constantly prove myself anymore, to compare myself with others because I know that He also has plans for me! I can be secure in any season because I am secure in God’s goodness and His calling for me.

We’re all given this access, through Jesus. When God looks at us, He no longer sees our sins but the finished work of Christ. We know who we are in Him and we know that apart from Him, we are nothing. Is there a greater love than this, that we should be called the children of God?

So if you were like me, incomplete, existing just to exist, exhausted, constantly thinking that there has to be more to life than this, seek Him out. He has been waiting for you, waiting to complete you.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:7 ESV

“so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Ephesians 3:17-19 ESV

“His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor His pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His steadfast love.”

Psalms 147:10-11 ESV

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!””

Romans 8:15 ESV

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.”

1 John 3:1 ESV

“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in His holy habitation.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭68:5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

ON HUMILITY

I received a call meant for my husband this morning from a Christopher. It was a call informing us that there was an unpaid amount left on the account. My husband had gotten the same call at least thrice this past year and our answer had always been the same, that we have been waiting to get back the check in question before we can issue a new one. The check had an error or erasure that wasn’t accepted by their bank, therefore, it needed to be replaced. We were promised on all those previous calls that the check would be returned but that never happened, and now, this person on the other line, was “telling” me that he was calling from a law office.

I lost it.

Everything I learned from church, from our Victory group, from my devotions, all of them, went flying out the window. I raised my voice and started berating Christopher. He was calm in the beginning and then when he got upset, he called me out.

I knew at that moment, that that was God humbling me. Christopher used a word that was downright unprofessional, it was an insult hurled at me out of anger that I had caused. I changed my tone of voice in shame and he, horrified at what he had said, did the same. I passed the phone to my husband soon after and they amicably ended the conversation.

I prayed to God after my husband left for the day. I asked for forgiveness from the Lord and I felt in my heart that the Holy Spirit was telling me to apologize to Christopher. I didn’t know how to do it. Sure, I had his number but I didn’t know what to say. I was asking “God, can’t I just say sorry to you alone?” I knew what needed to be done but there I was, somewhat bargaining with Him. Thankfully, God is merciful and He always makes a way. A window opened and I received a text message from Christopher while I was praying, containing the information my husband had asked for. I replied with a thanks and an apology. He replied with an apology as well. I was undeserving of that opportunity to make peace but God, being how He is, showed me grace.

It’s not the first time that something like this has happened. I had lost control of my temper before. I notice that situations like this occur when that sense of entitlement or pride kicks in. I forget about humility and I think less of others because of their work, their attitude or what I’ve done for them in the past. Little things, from a government employee talking rudely to me to bigger ones, like somebody intentionally hurting me.

I will never have control of the situations I’ll be in nor will I have control of others’ attitudes, manners, reactions, upbringings, views, opinions, beliefs, etc. but I certainly have control over myself. And God has fully equipped me with His words to make that happen. I thank the Holy Spirit for the constant reminders that I sometimes don’t listen to. I become hardheaded at times so I’m grateful that when I turn to God to confess my sins, I know that He won’t turn me away.

C.S. Lewis said that “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less”. When you feel that somebody is stepping on you or your pride, how do you react? When a security officer thoroughly checks your bag at the mall and you’re in a hurry, do you get annoyed? When your husband forgets a story you had already told more than once, do you get hurt and feel that you aren’t loved? When we focus too much on ourselves, we forget the importance of other people around us. That person who stepped on you or your pride must be going through something you aren’t aware of. That officer must take your safety and security very seriously. Your husband must have been so tired from work securing your future that everything just flew past him when you were talking. And that Christopher in your life, he was only doing his job.

Humble yourself or let God humble you. I read this from a bible app today. I say choose the former than the latter. So much easier to go through!

God gave me a refresher course this morning about humility, self-entitlement, being slow to anger and holding my tongue. What have you learned today?

“And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Matthew 22:39 NIV

“Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.””

Mark 9:35 NIV

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

James 1:19-20 NIV

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Colossians 4:6 NIV

“The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.”

Proverbs 17:27-28 NIV

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:9 NIV

SELF IMAGE

I look at my sister, Lexie, and I tell myself, that’s who I want to be. This is a repeating occurrence in my life. How I idolize her! I may be taller than her but what she lacks in height, she makes up in beauty. She has the most beautiful face paired with the most beautiful heart. She’s gracefully thin, and stylish; she can wear rags and still manage to look good. I was never insecure of her; she has this gift of making me or anybody around her feel special.

It’s different though when I’m left alone with my thoughts. I like what I see in the mirror but the moment I try on a few clothes, I would sometimes suddenly sob uncontrollably causing my husband, Artis, to panic. Nothing fits now. I’ve gained so much weight and some people like reminding me about it. I become the center of jokes and I just pretend to laugh along with them. It gets tiring to explain how I have PCOS and that that affects my weight. It hurts. It depresses me. Some would advise me (unsolicitedly) about going on a diet or working out. They think that I’m just lazy but if you were to work out with me, you’d probably give up halfway through my routine. I work out as much as I can, as hard as I can.

There are days when I don’t want to leave the house, when I just want to hide myself in fear of seeing someone I know, for fear of being judged. I would constantly cry to God and ask why. Why me? Why this?

I always compare myself to my sisters and often come up short but I never minded that. In fact, I stand a little bit taller when I tell people about them. Our eldest sister, Nina, is the most successful amongst us three. I’ve always been proud of her and happy for her. It never bothered me that I can only afford a simple lifestyle, that’s just how I am. It only hurts when my mom, more often than not, values her opinion over mine. And although I know it’s never her intention, I would feel like I’m not as smart.

Worrying about how others think of me is something I’ve always battled. Before I had a relationship with God, those whys I had been asking were always left unanswered. Had I opened the Bible, I would have found out that that wasn’t the case. Things are so much different now. When I would cry out to Him, I am constantly reminded of how He knew me even before I was formed in my mother’s womb. When I would feel like I’m the least lovable person in the world, I would remember that nothing and no one can separate me from the love of God. When I feel alone and misunderstood, God reminds me that He hears me when I call out to Him. And when I feel plain, ordinary, average, God tells me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made!

How I see myself shouldn’t be the reflection of how others see me, my self-confidence shouldn’t be based on how I look nor should it be based on my achievements. It should only be based on Christ’s love for me and what that love did for me on the cross. For me. Christ died FOR ME because He loves ME. I’m crying whilst writing this because I’m again reminded of how God sees me. That while I sometimes choose to belittle myself, the Creator of heaven and earth, knows me by name. He even knows the number of hairs on my head!

So for those having the same bouts of self-loathing, did you know that Jesus died for you, too?

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;

‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭1:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:38-39‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Know that the Lord has set apart His faithful servant for Himself; the Lord hears when I call to Him.

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭4:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭139:13-14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭12:6-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

‭‭John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

MAKING TIME

Every morning, my husband, Artis, would sit by my side of the bed for a few minutes of conversation before leaving for work. The first thing that you have to know about me is that I am not a morning person. I had tried countless of times to start my day early but I had learnt to give up fighting a losing battle. I prepare his breakfast and snacks the night before, unless he tells me that he’ll have cereal instead or that he’ll eat out. My husband has always been very understanding of this so he would feel guilty waking me up for a morning kiss before heading out the door. It took a lot of convincing to assure him that of all the people God had created in this world, he alone holds the permit to disturb me from my slumber.

I don’t know when it all changed, when the kisses by our bedroom door turned into conversations on our bed. I remember the first few times my husband woke me up to talk about random things. It’s hilarious thinking about it but it must have been very frustrating for him to keep waking me up every second to continue discussing his thoughts on God, work, us, amongst other things. I would snore faster than he could utter his second word. I would hear him calling out to me in my dreams, only to realize that I had fallen asleep again and he was just waking me up, again. He never once got upset with me. Can you imagine if the situation was reversed? My husband, always teaching me patience without him realizing it.

I treasure all our morning talks. They start my day with my love tank full. They give me the joy of knowing that I learn something new every morning about the person dearest to my heart. They give me a glimpse of how God is changing my husband every single day. I go to bed every night excited about waking up. I never told Artis about all these so imagine my surprise when I recently learned the reason for those conversations.

The first thing you have to know about Artis is that he’s a morning person. He wakes up at 4:30 for no reason. Please don’t ask me how or why, I’ve been asking the same for years now. It starts the same every morning, he would try to go back to sleep and if he couldn’t, which is what usually happens, he would go to the living room. When his mind gets a little more awake, he would start with his devotions. He told me that with all those hours to spare after he prays, he would start dreading to go to work because he would miss me. That’s why he would wake me up.

I was washing the dishes when he casually told me this. I wanted to drop everything and give him the tightest hug I could muster, instead, I stayed calm and just immersed myself in the moment.

All these years, I had been asking God to change my husband. He would always be tired from work and I would always pray that God would refresh him so he would have the strength to spend time with me. I would get disappointed when that doesn’t happen and I would resent Artis for not exerting enough effort when I waited for him the whole day. The situation had been reversed, many times. He had been making time. I just failed to see that and I just failed to be as gracious and as understanding as my husband had been.

Thank You, Lord, for this new lesson. Thank You for showing me through love how self-centered I had been and for gently reminding me to stop being selfish. Thank You for giving me a husband who loves spending time with me as much as I love spending time with him. Thank You for giving me a partner who shares with me every detail of his life. Thank You for teaching me to be gracious, understanding, patient, kind, gentle, loving, faithful and good. I have a long way to go but I’m grateful that Your mercies are new every morning and that You’re continuously training me to be the person You created me to be.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Galatians‬ ‭5:22-23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

‭‭Lamentations‬ ‭3:22-23‬ ‭ESV‬‬