Archive | simple living

I practice simple living but I still love my stuff

I still love my stuff :: Sarah Bessey

I know it’s not cool to admit that anymore, but here I am. My name is Sarah, and I love my stuff.

Loving our stuff has gone a bit off popularity these days. We’re supposed to be modern minimalists with clean lines. We’re supposed to try experiments, like only having 100 things in our homes. We’re supposed to be enchanted with tiny houses. The KonMari Method has us lugging trash bags of stuff from our homes with glee.

I find these movements inspiring: I see the benefits and the truth of the philosophy behind the purging. We all have too much stuff. We aren’t living simply. We over-spend until we are in debt and distracted.

Over the years, I’ve embraced a simpler way of life. We have done our share of purging, particularly a few years ago when we lived in a small urban space. I love a tidy and clean home, clutter drives me bonkers (with four tinies, this is a losing battle). I devoured The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up along with the rest of the world and I liked it (well, I didn’t quite get into thanking my t-shirts every time I hung them up, but you know what I mean).

As a Christian, I’ve been led to pursue a simpler life because I believe that consumerism is stealing our money, our time, our resources, and even our identities. I practice simple living, and I do my level best to be intentional and thoughtful about justice issues, even in everyday purchases like clothing and food and furniture. I believe in living within our means and in being unreasonably generous.

But I still love my stuff.

Read the rest of this post at The Art of Simple….



Continue Reading · faith, Out of Sorts, simple living · 3

In which I get rid of my mobile phone (and learn a couple of things)

After yet another billing squabble with our mobile phone service provider, my husband asked me what I thought about cancelling my phone contract entirely.

And then I died dead of horror.

Okay, so not quite that bad.

But still. My phone? How will I text? How will I call people? How will I check my email when I’m out for the day? How will I find the closest coffee shop quickly? How will I get where I’m going without Maps? How will I occupy my children in church? Will anyone know I’m occasionally funny if I don’t tweet my wit?

Source: via Sarah on Pinterest


After a week of looking at our finances as well as our dreams for the future, I realised he was right: the phone needed to go. I don’t work in a traditional job, I don’t drive long distances, I really don’t use it much (or so I thought).

So sure, let’s get rid of my mobile. No big deal. I can totally do this. Right?

I’ve now been without mobile phone access for a month or so. And I’ve noticed a few things

Source: via Sarah on Pinterest


I used that phone waaaaaaaay more than I thought I did. I had a hand-me-down first-generation iPhone (yes, the original ones with the round corners and no flash on the camera). I prided myself on “having boundaries” with my phone. And yet, that first week without my phone felt like withdrawal. Painful withdrawal.

I’m safer. British Columbia has a strict Hands-Free driving policy. Police will give you a ticket if you are caught with your phone in your hand while driving. And I was sure that I didn’t check my email or my messages – much – while driving. But  my most common time to want to reach for my phone after we turned off the service? While I was driving. I couldn’t believe it. (I thought I was smarter than that.) Apparently I was checking email at stop lights. I was “quickly glancing” at text messages that bonged in while barreling down the highway at 100 km/h. Once my phone was gone, my attention was more fully on the road. Or on CBC Radio (yes, I’ve got an unreasonable crush on Jian Ghomeshi, so what?)

I’m saving money. Our plan was for $50 a month, yet somehow, I always exceeded that plan to the tune of $70-80. By getting rid of our phone, we’re saving a minimum of $600 a year (but it’s probably more like $960/year). Craziness. We have some dreams about being more intentional, counter-cultural, and generous with our money so we’re doing everything we can to get the house in order as fast as possible. This is a seemingly small step that adds up over the years. I had no idea we were spending that much every month on my ability to check email while driving.

I can still use wireless access. Holla! Who knew, right? When we were close to pulling the plug on our contract, I admitted that the primary reason I love and use my phone is Instagram. I have a terrible camera in my phone but I love taking pictures throughout my day, and I love the Instagram community. I seriously contemplated hanging onto my phone for the purposes of Instagram. But then I realised, I can still use my actual phone with wireless access. It’s a bit limiting, absolutely. It takes the “insta” out of Instagram. But I still take pictures throughout my day, and then, when I’m home and on our wireless, I can upload them and still check out Instagram pics.


I’m not quite as rude to others. I can’t assuage my boredom at appointments. I can’t decided I’d rather be on Twitter than talking whomever is in the room. I can’t scroll through my phone in church. I can’t hold my phone like a shield at home group.

I feel less accessible. It might come across as a negative but, on the contrary, this is one of the greatest wins for me. Now, when I’m out, I’m out.  It takes away the sense of urgency for my online life. Email has to wait. Responding to comments has to wait. Tweeting has to wait. I have no idea what is happening on Twitter or in my comment sections for huge chunks of my day, and that is a great gift to enjoy.

It’s inconvenient. Totally and gloriously inconvenient. The first day I got rid of my phone, I had made plans to go to the theatre with my sister (Les Miserables, you know it). I waited and waited and waited in the theatre lobby but she never appeared. Normally, I would have texted her in two seconds. But now I waited. I went on a hunt for a pay phone  which was practically an adventure. After I found one, I deposited my quarter, dialled the number and promptly heard the operator instruct me to deposit another $3.60. I hung up. I didn’t need to talk to her that badly. Pay phones have gone up since the last time I used one, which was likely when I was 13 and calling my mother for a ride from the mall after trying on inappropriate and cheap club wear at Le Chateau. I went into the theatre, sat on the edge, and kept an eye out for her. She showed up five minutes after the movie started, apologetic and worried. She had gone to the wrong theatre by mistake, she couldn’t call me, we were both so sorry and relieved. That entire situation would not have happened if I had my phone. But on the flip side, I have become more careful about plans in advance and less prone to being late or cancelling. Without a phone, I have to honour the plans I make with people. Instead of being able to text with an “oops, I’m running late!” pseudo-apology excuse as I was prone for my lack of value on their time, I have to get my bum in gear and get there on time.

I’m both more present and more private in my moments. There isn’t another option than the present moment. I can’t decide to check out on the conversation at hand if I’m bored. I don’t get to “quickly check” my phone while at the playground. I’m looking around the world more, my head is up, my eyes are open. I noticed my surroundings, the people, my tinies, my life again. I’m listening a bit better. I haven’t had to say “I’m sorry, I missed that – what did you say?” quite as often. I actually live the moment instead of Instagramming the moment. I can’t post a status or a tweet from everywhere I am, the temptation to take a picture of my food has disappeared (and everyone said hallelujah) and I have restored a measure of privacy and secrecy I’d forgotten to appreciate or notice. It’s nice to disappear. I like my secrets. Not having a phone has restored some balance, beauty, and perspective to my life.


One of my favourites, Heather of the EO, is launching a new podcast called Power Down with a couple of her friends. It’s about finding the balance in online writing/social media life with our creativity and our time. Check it out.



Continue Reading · consumerism, moments, simple living · 70

In which I radically stay put

When I was younger, I thought I’d like to move east. I went to university in the United States, but I still looked at the admissions requirements for Queens, for McGill, for the big Canadian schools. And then, when I thought about my life after school, about how writers must live, how a writer must create, the places where writers go, I thought of New York City walk-ups, of Montreal cobblestones and the longed-for perfecting of my French accent, I thought of London flats, of Paris lofts, I thought of big cities, and crowded streets, old architecture, late nights, I thought of moving back east.

I never did any of those things. Now, all of these years later, I’ve never even visited most of those places.

There is something addictive about change, about moving. We made several significant moves when I was a kid, back in the days before Facebook, before email, before kids were allowed to use the phone for long-distance phone calls. When you moved, in those days, you moved, you were gone, perhaps for a few years there might be Christmas cards with the awkwardly cheerful family newsletters, but unless you were family, we lost touch with you.

And I liked it. I liked reinventing myself, even at 12, I liked being able to start over as the person I knew I was becoming, instead of having to plod along as the person that I wasn’t yet. And when I moved to the States for university, at 18, I shook the dust of Calgary from my feet, I never looked back. And again and again and again, I remained the new girl, the new-in-town one, the expert box-packer, the one without a past that could be verified or known except by my own admissions, always certain I’d be happier somewhere else. My solution for discomfort: let’s move.

Of course I didn’t move to New York or Montreal. How could I breathe there? The older I get, the less appeal these places have for me, I long only for where I am right now. I can’t imagine breathing well in the east, I need the place where I am, I need these mountains, I need the ocean now, I need the cold lake water, I need rocky shores. How could I write a single sentence without the silhouette of a pine tree in the setting sun? The years go by and I become more and more aware of my pioneer lineage, I understand the pull west better, I feel suffocated without a bit of a space, without an early morning walk beside the yarrow patch, I need the north, and I need the west in a way that veers towards the mystical, which is just fine to a Holy Spirit adoring tongue talker like me. The pull of it all is somewhere under my skin, and I am always drawn to the open air.

Maybe this need for space, for the western edges, is why I don’t like the rules and restrictions of most modern religion, why I kick back against labels and boxes and demarcations, the wind feels too good on my face for that business of churching.

My husband is a gardener and a farmer, a hard worker, by his family roots. He is the homesteader to my pioneer, now we’re on the edge of the continent together, and the roots are going down here in the thin rocky soil for us both. He dreams not of big cities and moving boxes and sexy locations around the world, he dreams of homesteads, of now-grown-tinies coming home to him in his big garden, of roots deeper than a desert mesquite (has anyone yet preached a sermon on the metaphor of how deserts have the plants with the deepest roots?).

The scrabbling nervousness, the claustrophobic feeling of being known, that I am so familiar with, the urge to pack and move and start over and over and over, rises up now and then for me, still. I want to sell the house, and move somewhere else, anywhere else. But I’m alone in that need, and, to be honest, I wonder if I have somehow been running away, if I have been using moving and going as a cover for my fears of staying put, my fears of being known.

When Brian was in seminary, we were introduced to the phrase “theology of place” – meaning that our faith, our Christianity, our life on The Way, is embodied in the neighbourhood and the community where we live. It means that we believe we are called to the place where we are living, and then we shop, we live, we move, we eat, with an incarnational awareness, an embodiment of Christ in the neighbourhood like we’re here, in this place, in this moment, on purpose. We don’t live out the hope of the incarnation in a pod, or a ghetto of other Christians, we live out the hope of glory, the Christ-in-us reality, in a real place, with real people, and it’s not always sexy to stay put, is it?

I feel drawn to the phrase, the theology of place, because it was so different than most of what we had been taught in the Evangelical Hero Complex. We were always taught to forsake all for the Gospel and GO. No one ever mentioned the holy work of staying once in a while. No one really talked about how the places where we live matter to our spiritual formation, how we are shaped by our communities, by the act of roots, our geography, by our families, by our neighbourhoods, by the complex web of connections and history that emerge by staying.

And this place is shaping me, absolutely, the grey and rainy winters, the fields of berries and corn instead of the wheat of my childhood, the mountains, the rivers. I’m shaped by this place, as Luci Shaw wrote about poets, the slender antennae of awareness is always combing the world, and I am shaped by the people here, by their stories, by our becoming-shared histories, what I pick up here matters for my work, my voice, my faith, my family, perhaps it’s not so prideful in this context, to say that it matters for the world.

The radical act of staying is shaping me. We’ve been in this town for nearly three years now. And only just now do I feel the community, only just now do I go to the store and see friends, do I gather at church meetings and services and anticipate conversations with friends, only now am I seeing the holy work of showing up, of praying out loud for real friends in real life. Only now am I living my faith out, in a real way, as an embodiment of the Gospel in a real place in a real context with real people.

In western Canada, we joke around that we rag-tag Christians can play Six Degrees of Separation in two degrees or less; we either know you or we know someone who knows you. Now there is no escaping from your past or from your present, from your parents, you work out your salvation in the context of people that know you.

Staying put, being known, engaging in life with people just as imperfect and weird as me, is changing me to be more like the Jesus I love so wildly. It’s a different kind of fearless, the fearless of no masks, of being known, the fearlessness of engaging in community slow and steady and whole-hearted, the fearless of hard conversations that only come after two years of surface conversations.

The theology of the place is as much about art and life as it is about spirituality and the real unsexy daily work of living, as anything else. As I get older, I am drawn more and more to the simplicity of the teachings of Jesus, the daily examples of Galilee that peppered his teaching, how everything from catching fish to baking bread as a sign and a foretaste of the ways of Christ and his Kingdom.

I like that. I like to think that everything from the gathering of the berries to the raising of my tinies to the feeding of the hungry to the advocating for my local community’s needs is a sacrament, and a foretaste, that we embody the Gospel by our roots, too, by our transforming love, by our unhurried community development, by our friendships, by our casseroles, and our wanderings.

I used to live the Gospel beautifully in my own head, I thought about it all the time. But the radical act of staying put, the theology of place, is teaching me, the over-thinker, that thinking isn’t the same thing as doing, my intentions and beliefs and pontificating about community matters not one iota if I am not engaged in living out the reality of it.

I can believe a lot of things, I have been convinced of many a good and theological thing in my life (and a few that weren’t so good), but if that belief or thought, however correct or properly foot-nooted, isn’t being lived out in the context of my real-walking-around-life right now, well, so what?


Continue Reading · brian, church, community, faith, fearless, friends, jesus, journey, missional, missional living, moving, simple living, social justice, work · 51

In which we start small, we start with Sabbath

It is permissible.

Of course, it is.

You can work two very important jobs, you can blog, tweet, manage social media for several organizations until you think in 140 character sound-bites. You can even write book proposals, sign contracts, do it all. You can volunteer at church programs, and sign the tinies up for soccer practice two nights a week, handle drop-offs-and-pick-ups. You can clean your house, make beds every day, and cook three meals a day, and you can try to stay on top of the laundry. You can exhaust yourself on an elliptical training machine while listening to sermons on podcast. You can purchase eco-yarn to make handknit baby sweaters for all the new babies of your friends. You can meet friends and family three nights a week, and attend a home group, too.

You can go go go go go go and you can do do do do do and you can tell yourself things like “Good things come to those who hustle” and you can pride yourself on your work ethic.

You can mutli-task like a mama octopus, and you can rise early after going to bed (too) late. You can pull down deep to your prairie-kid work ethic, top it off with some good old Protestant fear of idle hands, a side of the evangelical hero complex. You can fill your life with “should” and “ought to” and “must” and make colour-coded lists, download a few iPhone apps for productivity. You can put your tinies to bed, saying “no” to their requests for another story, another song, another snuggle, because, darling, can’t you see? Mama has so much work to do.

And then, like most women, you can berate yourself for all the things you want to do and don’t do, all the things you think that Good Christian Women do. You can think about exercise and losing weight, about Bible studies, and helping orphans and widows, about money, about the whole hurting world. You can spend your emotional energy  on all the ways you don’t measure up, sure, I’m doing this, but it’s not enough, it’s never enough, I’m never enough. You can look around at other women, other women you admire in real life or online or in bookstores or on TV, and think, well, look at her! I don’t know how she does it! I must work harder, I must do more.

Its permissible. (But it is not beneficial.)

Deep breath now. Exhale. Go on.

If you are waiting for permission, here it is:  you are allowed to step off that crazy-making highway.

Read the rest over at SheLoves Magazine.



Continue Reading · abundant life, faith, SheLoves, simple living, women, work · 2

In which I am at home here and there




We went to the playground on a Saturday afternoon. When we do things like this, just our little clan, Joe and Anne call it “The Five Family” and their radiance, their joy, at being together, all of us, shines bright in the grey days. Something right is happening here.

Evelynn shoved wood chips in her mouth, toddled through the playground equipment, Joe and Anne swung from the bars. I went back to the minivan to change Evelynn’s diaper on the floor which was not easy to do, I pushed my tinies on the swings, higher! higher! higher! and I watched Brian hold our littlest girl in his arms, effortlessly gentle and manly and gorgeous, and then I wanted another baby, more babies, lots of babies. I wanted to adopt entire orphanages of babies, just so they could have a chance to be in his arms, to know that they were held and loved like this, he’s a good home for me.

The mountains were shrouded in grey mist, the day was cool and open, the grass was damp and kelly green, I’m home here. Today, I woke up and read about my friends in Burundi, and I saw the pictures of babies in their mother’s arms, and I missed these strong women, standing tall, proud, with their identity cards in hand, I knew those smiles somehow. I wanted to be there, I missed these women like I knew them, some part of my soul must know them, I’d like to go over and listen for a while, maybe dance a bit, learn something.

I’m home here in the north, in the west, I know, I like being somewhere cold and open and a bit wild, but I’m home there, too, in Bubanza somehow.

Maybe I’m home everywhere I see God at work.


Linked up with Heather of the EO for Just Write.


Continue Reading · abundant life, brian, family, simple living, social justice · 10