And Then One Day, We Decided To Change Our Lives…
We were living in a great neighborhood, in a nice home in one of the most family-friendly cities in America. Our kids had coveted spots in the area’s best charter school and were progressing. I was lucky enough to be a full-time mom and have a little creative business on the side. My husband Jeff, was providing well, working from home as a software engineer.
Picture perfect, right? So, why did I feel that every part of our lives was so rushed? Why did I feel so disconnected from myself and my family? Why did I have a nagging feeling that this was not where we should be? That our family needed something different, something more? I concluded that we needed to make a change. Something that if fulfilled, would make a positive difference for ALL of us.
Our Journey to an Intentional, Creative Life
After a lot of thought, prayer, blood (okay, maybe not blood..), sweat (mostly Jeff’s), and tears (mostly mine), we traded our big house in the suburbs for a smaller house on an acre and a half of beautiful (muddy) land. We traded our spot at the charter school for a comfy spot on the couch at home – our textbooks for living books, our over-scheduled lives for nature walks and read-alouds. We began our journey to a purposeful, creative and truly intentional life.
Simplifying Isn’t Always Simple
A simpler, more intentional life is, of course, the ultimate goal for all of us. But, when it comes down to it, simplifying can be anything but simple! This new life has stretched me to limits I had no idea I could reach. It has required so much dedication. I’m learning skills that need to constantly be practiced and fine-tuned. It has required going against the grain, being misunderstood and judged. I’ve had to trust myself and God, and have had to gain the courage to do what might not always be easy or convenient (understatement).
What We Have Gained
But, all of the stretching and all of the sacrifice has given us so much fulfillment. I don’t pretend to say that we have “arrived”. I know there is still so much to learn and that mistakes will be made…daily. But the changes we have seen in our kids and in our marriage have been real. We know each other better. We are, in a very natural way, establishing a rich family culture built on so many shared experiences. Our kids are great friends (not without the typical sibling annoyances).
I think the biggest thing is that WE HAVE TIME. Time to read and play together. Time to do art! Time to sit for hours and discover the wonders of nature. Time to listen to all of the Chronicles of Narnia (that’s on my brain right now…such a great version here).
My kids know my weaknesses and I know theirs. We get to repent and work on them in a safe place together. I get to see them when they are at their best and learn how to help them when they are at their worst. I get to teach them how to read…so challenging…but man alive, I get to teach my kids to read! I can tailor their education to them. Every day I get to watch them learn and grow and know that I am learning and growing with them.
I Don’t Have Two Lives
Our intent in simplifying our lives was to live in a way that celebrated our family’s gifts and passions. Instead of a desperate attempt to check off all of the boxes, we wanted to craft a life that was open and in tune with what God had in store for us. In her book A Photographer’s Life, Annie Leibovitz wrote: “I don’t have two lives. This is one life, and the personal pictures and the assignment work are all part of it.” I love that. Since making this change, I realize how often I was trying to compartmentalize myself (and my kids). I wanted to us to fit in. To be what I thought everyone else wanted us to be.
It’s a trap I still fall into often, but, this bumpy road of intention has taught me that I am one person and this is my one life. I can be the same person at home, church and in my community and that person doesn’t have to be perfect. I have gifts I can share and I have a purpose. I can’t please everyone, and at the end of the day, I don’t have to answer to anyone but me, my family, and God.
So that is our story so far. We are still on the journey. Still trying to keep ourselves open and available to do what we feel called to do. Who knows what that will look like in future years. For now, I’m trying to remember to soak up all of the beauty of this life we, with the help of God, are creating. When I look back, I will probably have a few regrets, but I’ll know I did my best to live a full life with the ones I love the most.
I believe the words “Simple Life” mean something different for each of us. What does it mean to you?