This winter has been hard. I know friends and family who are going through rougher times, but this one has just been long. I grew up in small town where everyone knows each other. I don’t live there anymore, but I’m still close with people there. My recent hard times mostly started in December when there was a tragic accident that took 5 people from my hometown, three of them being in my family. I won’t go into details, but its just been one of those things that stays with you. You find yourself thinking about it and about those left behind to deal with the loss. In addition to that in February, I lost someone who, again, being from a small town though he wasn’t “blood” to me, he was certainly a part of my family. In fact, my kids called him “Grandpa Bob.” Also, there has been news of disease in my extended family and add in the more than normal sickness that the kids and I have had, and you just get hard times.
So many moments I find myself thinking, “I just want everyone to be well.” But you and I both know that while we may have some times when everything is going smoothly, it is just the nature of this world that people get sick, tragedies happen, jobs can be miserable, kids struggle, marriages fail and the list goes on.
I cling to the hope that this is not all there is. I also look for ways to find joy and peace here and now. Through this season I have come to a new appreciation for living more simply. I’ve seen beauty in fleeting moments of tender care between two people and deep wisdom and grace in a seemingly ordinary task.
One of the benefits often talked about in regards to minimalism or simple living is that when we reduce our possessions we have less to manage. More freedom from our stuff. More focus on the people and things that matter.
I’ve heard it described this way; if your house is on fire what do you grab? Your people. Simple as that. Your people are what matter. If your people are sick, housework is put on hold. If your people are hurting, you go to them.
So if your people are what matter, why the effort to simplify our home and possessions? Because when the hard times come, things at home can quickly get out of control, adding to the already stressful situation going on. Simplifying can minimize the chaos.
Before simplifying our home, I can remember when one event could take weeks to recover from. For example, the stomach virus hits and goes through several members of the family. There’s the laundry, the cleaning, etc. I used to feel out of sorts for days.
Since simplifying, have I had days to catch up? You bet. But those times are no where near as daunting as they used to be and its not because I’m super organized or a great housekeeper. Its because we got rid of excess items that we didn’t need or even use. When you let go of the excess, you will have less to manage and that can be such a relief in hard times.
So as we live in those hard times, how else can we be purposeful and intentional?
1. Have grace for yourself and for others. I’m not calling it hard times for no reason. There’s not only disruption to our “normal,” but there’s often emotions to deal with as well. Being patient and tender can go a long way.
2. Notice the beauty in the small things. Even in the difficult things of this life, there can be such bravery, strength, and love. Look for them, see them, think about them and remember them. Call them to mind when the going gets tough.
3. Focus on the moment. There were times when I knew what I needed to do, but less important things or seemingly urgent things would pull at my attention. Sometimes I think I wanted the distraction and there is time for “rest” but there are also times when we decide what really needs our attention and we choose to give it. Perfect example: dishes to wash or hold the sick child. You hold the sick child.
4. Practice Gratitude. Life can literally change in a second. Practicing gratitude can help us live well and find joy in the good times and bad.
5. Ask for help. One thing a lot of us can do better is asking for help. It lets others into our lives. It gives them joy to help. We don’t have to be strong and have it all together all of the time.
And friend, can I just say, if you’re going through hard times and/or dealing with depression and anxiety, please consider listening to this conference my church recently hosted on the topic. The reach of depression and anxiety in our culture is all encompassing. There is not one of us whose life hasn’t been affected either directly or by knowing and loving someone who is experiencing or has experienced one or both.
Lastly, I think its important for us all to know, we’re not alone. We all live through things that we wish we didn’t have to. Let’s love our people and let them love us.