An Environment of Beauty and Discipline
Accept the duties which come upon you quietly, and try to fulfil them methodically, one after another. If you attempt to do everything at once, or with confusion, you will only cumber yourself with your own exertions, and by dint of perplexing your mind you will probably be overwhelmed and accomplish nothing.
In all your affairs lean solely on God's Providence, by means of which alone your plans can succeed. Meanwhile, on your part work on in quiet co-operation with Him, and then rest satisfied that if you have trusted entirely to Him you will always obtain such a measure of success as is most profitable for you, whether it seems so or not to your own individual judgment.
Imitate a little child, whom one sees holding tight with one hand to its father, while with the other it gathers strawberries or blackberries from the wayside hedge. Even so, while you gather and use this world's goods with one hand, always let the other be fast in your Heavenly Father's Hand, and look round from time to time to make sure that He is satisfied with what you are doing, at home or abroad. Beware of letting go, under the idea of making or receiving more--if He forsakes you, you will fall to the ground at the first step.
St. Francis de Sales
Take Up & Read:
I can work anywhere; I really can. I learned a crazy writing rhythm when my kids were very little, tapping out what I could while five or six of them played in the same room. I refined that skill over years and years of crowded coffee shop writing while they played soccer. I wrote half a book during the twelve-hour drive to Florida with six children in the car. I can do it.
But I’d prefer not to.
I’d prefer to write in a room that is clean and clear of visual distractions. I’m more creative and more receptive to the Holy Spirit in a room that inspires me with little touches of beauty and the ready resource of good books. Bonus points if the room smells good.
The room doesn’t have to be stripped bare. Actually, paring it down to the bones is detrimental to my purpose and utterly uninspiring. Creativity flourishes in a place of ordered, curated inspiration. Our souls thrive in an environment of both beauty and discipline.
This philosophy isn’t the trendy minimalism. And it isn’t KonMari. It is essentialism at home. If home is the sanctuary of our souls, then what material goods are essential in order to nurture our families there? Minimalism has grown in response to a throwaway culture that urges us to earn more, compete more, buy more, and accumulate more. We are bombarded with messages that the next shiny thing will make us feel better and live happier. Before long, most of us discover that those messages are lies.
Then the pendulum swings towards discarding stuff. And a new idol is born. This idol demands that you have a certain number of linear feet of clear space. It argues that no item can remain that doesn’t spark joy, and that you must speak to every object as you discard it. It fuels itself on the rush of dopamine that comes with unloading several large, green bags that are bursting with previously purchased stuff. There is an addictive high that comes with feeling as if we’ve mastered the objects that threaten to strangle us.
But this is not essentialism either. Essentialism in the sanctuary of home is much more nuanced. We consider our possessions in light of Kingdom. What goes and what stays can be determined by prayerfully considering how we live and who we want to be. It’s not about competing with ourselves (or our neighbors) to see how little we can live with; it’s about discerning what we can’t live without in our mission to be saints. It’s about asking what we need to live most fully as the beloved creatures of a good God who made us in his image to be creative as he is creative.
A lack of clutter will bring focused presence instead of fractured attention; there is no doubt about it. But the thoughtful inclusion of good books, worthy toys, and touches of beauty in a space bring joyful inspiration to that focused presence.
We were created with a purpose. We’re here on this earth to know, love, and serve God. That is our essential mission. God, in his wisdom, gave us the gift of free will and charged us with the responsibility to use it in order to serve our purpose. This is where essentialism at home truly shines. So much of what we accumulate has come to rest in our homes unquestioningly.
Try this: sit in a room and let your eyes stop and rest on every object, every corner and nook. Do the things you find there align with your vision of the life you want to live in that room? Take your time. Let yourself relax into this exercise in every room. Often, you will decide to move items out of the room and out of your life. Sometimes, you will decide to move something into the room. You will curate with an enhanced sense of both order and beauty, with heightened awareness of your freedom to exercise creativity for the good of your soul in the environment where God has placed you. As this exercise becomes your daily habit, you will develop a quiet discipline of careful stewardship.
You can work anywhere. You can create something in almost any setting. But you can also bring intention and feminine genius to a space, determine what is essential for its ultimate purpose, and establish a sanctuary where souls both work and rest brilliantly for the glory of God
To consider over the course of a few quiet sessions with your Bible:
Proverbs 24:3-4 encourages us to truly think about what the precious and pleasant riches in our homes are. Pray for the wisdom to know how to curate a beautiful, practical, nurturing, and inspiring space. Spend some time journaling what you see when you imagine that place.
In the parable of the rich man, Jesus pulls no punches about what it means to be unencumbered as we seek, find, and work in the Kingdom of God. He’s not asking you to eliminate your high chair because it’s holier to sit with your baby on your lap for the next 2,190 meals. He’s asking you to consider what are the essential tools necessary for raising a holy, happy, healthy family for the glory of God. And then, he wants you to let go of what gets in the way. This passage is rich with meaning and begs some of your lectio divina time.
Consider your earthly tent in the light of the heavenly kingdom. What really matters?
Greed can take on many shapes. One woman’s home might be stuffed full of collectibles and it might be obvious that she has an insatiable thirst for more. But someone else’s home might despair under the neglect that comes with the weight of too many outside obligations and too many commitments that pull her from the task of disciplined homemaking. We can be greedy with distractions, too. Where does greed rear its ugly head in your life?
2 Peter 2: 19-22 begins with the promise of freedom and ends with a dog returning to his vomit. Talk about a study in contrasts! Pray through these verses and consider how you can find the freedom to love and serve with wholehearted enthusiasm in your home.