I started this series because I’ve had so many conversations with people who are trying desperately to find ways to simplify their lives. We are not the first humans to feel “stuffocated” as one famous minimalist says.
Confucius said, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
Plato said, “Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity.”
Leonardo Da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Lao Tzu said, “I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”
Henry David Thoreau said, “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, esteemed author and wife of Charles Lindbergh, said, “What a circus act we women perform every day of our lives. Look at us. We run a tightrope daily, balancing a pile of books on the head. Baby carriage, parasol, kitchen chair, still under control. Steady now! This is not the life of simplicity but the life of multiplicity that the wise men warn us of.”
I include these words to point out that this idea of making a life that focuses on less rather than more is not new, and I would argue that within each of us is an innate yearning to live more simply.
In exploring what that means for me personally, I learned that the word “simple” comes from the Latin “simplus” which made its way into Old French and then Middle English. The first meaning of the word referred to medicine, especially the kind rendered from one plant. That strikes me as important to this conversation because in walking the road to a better life, I’ve found that having fewer things has actually been a process of healing from the inside out.
When I walk around my house these days, I’m tidying less and enjoying more. I’m less frustrated with the clutter that accumulates with daily living and more thankful for the literal and mental space I’m not devoting to things. Instead, I am free to live an intentional life—I’m spending more time with my family; I’m writing without the distraction of all the things I “should” be doing; I’m more focused on my work at Somebody’s Mama; and perhaps most importantly, our family is turning a dream into reality.
One of our biggest motivations for minimizing our physical space is our long-time desire to become foster parents. For several years we have talked, prayed, weighed the pros and cons, and worked to discern the best timing to bring more children into our home. Minimalism is directly tied to our ability to do this because we have created a better, welcoming, loving space for kids who need a soft place to land.
On Thursday, we have our final meeting with our case worker. Our paperwork is finished. The beds are in place. The electrical outlets are covered. And we have a stack of diapers in every size.
Preparing to foster has been an interesting exercise to say the least—we want to have the necessities, but it’s hard to know what that means. We’ve specified that we’ll take children ages four and under, with the caveat of six and under if it will keep a sibling group together.
We’ve spent the last few weekends putting together and moving furniture. My mom has been secretly buying clothes for months (imagine my shock when I was at her house a couple of weeks ago, and she started pulling out tiny leggings and dresses…she’s a teensy bit excited).
I asked my Facebook friends if anyone had a crib mattress they’d want to part with, and not only did someone give us one, but another friend ordered one on Amazon and had it delivered. She noted—if you end up getting one for free, send it back and use the credit for something else you need. I can’t even talk about this kind of generosity without losing it.
For those living closest to us, this is no surprise, as we’ve been actively engaged in pursuing foster care for over a year, but some of you may be going…wait, what? How did I miss this? That’s understandable seeing as how I share pretty much ALL THE THINGS on social media.
I’ve held back in sharing about this for a couple of reasons. First, privacy and anonymity are crucial in certain foster care cases, so I’ve been practicing not being an oversharer (y’all, this is HARD). Secondly, I can’t handle this reaction: I could never do that. And unfortunately, that’s the one that I get the most when I share about our decision.
It’s not unlike the I don’t know how you do it reaction I used to get when my husband was deployed all the time. I didn’t know what to say. It was uncomfortable because like…this is my life—that’s how I do it. And to this new foster-related reaction, I kind of want to say, “Yeah, you could, but you don’t want to.” AND THAT’S FINE. It’s not something everyone needs to do."
We, however, want to—feel called to even—and it’s not something that we look at as a huge difficult thing that only special people with superhero strength can do. It is, for us, a vocation which Frederick Buechner defines as “the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s great need.”
Look—I’m a really good mom. Scott is a really good dad. Will and Ben are really good brothers. Our family’s deep gladness is in each other, and we’re ready to share that gladness with kids who need joy in their lives. It’s that simple.
Clearly, this won’t be the last time I write about foster care. There will be many, many, many words. For now, I’d ask all of you to join us in prayer and meditation as we move toward expanding our home. We need all the support our village can give.
In the meantime, take some time to ponder what dream is waiting for you on the other side of your stuff. Now, go get it.