© 2008 by Janice Byrd

Janice Byrd of McKinney: Aiming for simplicity

In our land of choices, my goal is to let my values guide my decisions
Tuesday, January 22, 2007

I’ve been contemplating ways to simplify my life. There’s a lot to read on the subject—everything from practical time-saving tips to advice on becoming a hermit. Magazines, seminars, and organizational gurus abound, but if there’s one thing I’ve observed, it is that the “simple life” can look very different for each person.

The simple life is not an easy lifestyle to maintain or even to define. First, you have to know yourself and what you really want. It means admitting that at any given time you can’t have or do it all, and then saying “no” to some good things. It takes self discipline and going counter to our culture. Americans expect to have it all, and then some.

The United States is a land of choices, but having choices and making choices are two different things. I’m old enough to remember the coffee commercial that touted its brand for those connoisseurs who had “discriminating taste.” Discriminating is a word that has fallen out of favor these days, but it basically means distinguishing or using good judgment to differentiate between choices. I don’t like limiting myself, but the fact is that by choosing one thing, I have eliminated another.

As a Christian I have a biblical value system that should guide my decisions and help me distinguish the best from the good, the bad, and everything in between. But, it’s so easy to buy into the American culture of business, multi-tasking, and speed. I like to think that I’m frugal when more likely, I’m just hoarding. What I call ambitious is sometimes coveting, and my diligence is often motivated by greed.

Simplicity is one of the Christian disciplines, but what is that going to look like in my life? Here are my resolutions for the coming year, and with God’s help, my life will be less stressful, less complicated, healthier, and more fulfilled no matter what happens.

  • I’m going to try to enjoy “things” without owning them, which means more window shopping and frequent trips to the library, museums, parks and other beautiful places, even if I have to travel vicariously. I’m going to give away some of my favorite “things.” (Maybe I’ll take a picture of them before I do.)
  • I need to have a more grateful attitude. What I possess including my resources, talents and time are gifts from God. (Deuteronomy 8:17-18a) “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”
  • I’ll become more of a “single-tasker.” Conversations (even on the phone) will get my undivided attention. I just read a recent report which showed that focusing on one thing at a time would improve one’s memory, and that will definitely save me time and prevent stress.

The older I get the more I value my time, but my friends and family would say that time has always been my most guarded asset. I don’t like anyone telling me what to do with my time. “Time is money” has been my maxim, but scheduling every minute of the day has prevented me from negotiating the unexpected, whether it is a surprise visit, a crisis, or a special mission from God.

Someone once said that life should not be measured in the number of breaths we take, but in the moments that take our breath away. I’m hoping to live simply breathless.

Janice Byrd of McKinney is library director of the First Baptist Church of McKinney, a book performer and a Voices of Collin County volunteer columnist. Her e-mail address is Janice@JaniceByrd.com.

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