Sunday, August 19, 2007

Words of Wisdom

This is post number 7 sharing some of my journey from mindless consumerism to a more simpler lifestyle. If you haven't already read the first 6 posts, you may like to do that first:

Post 1: A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step
Post 2: Joe Dominguez
Post 3: Tracking Spending
Post 4: You Cannot Steer a Stationary Ship
Post 5: Living the Dream
Post 6: How Did This Happen?


I remember when I was pregnant with my first baby and the midwife warned us that we would come across a lot of well meaning people, all with different opinions on how best to raise our child. Add to that all the literature out there on what’s best for baby and it’s no wonder many new mum’s feel overwhelmed. This information overload isn’t just limited to parenting though is it? We all have our opinions when it comes to all facets of life – money, wealth, careers, homes, child rearing…..the list goes on. Thousands of “experts” also spout opinions on a range of topics – often contradicting one another and yet spouting their way as the “only” way to go.

So how do you decide who you will listen to? How do to you tell the “true words of wisdom” from those that will lead you down a path you don’t want to go?

I once heard someone suggest that you should look for people who are where you want to go. Find out how they went about getting where they currently are. This was a suggestion in relation to building wealth, but I think it can be applied to all kinds of life situations, including simple living.

I think that’s the great thing about the internet world. It seems to be so much easier to connect with people from all walks of life. No longer are we restricted by geographical location. I know I’ve found places like simpleliving.net and FrugalAussies to be instrumental in my journey toward simple living. Recently I’ve been reading at aussieslivingsimply as well. Another great bunch of people. Then of course there are the many blogs of other people’s journeys (gotta love those blogs!).

Of course, when it comes to simple living, there are plenty of conflicting ideas on what does and does not constitute a “simpler” life.

When my first child was a baby I had quite a startling experience. We were only a few days home from the hospital and my own mother was staying with us at the time. I remember saying to her “oh, I feel really awful all of a sudden”. Her reaction was to go straight to my baby – at that exact instant he choked on some mucus. I think that experience will be forever etched in my mind. As mothers, we have an inbuilt instinct – I think at times we’ve forgotten how to listen to that intuition or we don’t trust it very well.

Since that experience with my newborn baby, I have tuned in a lot more to that intuition. I go a lot by gut feeling in how I parent my children. I’m not saying I get it right all of the time – but mostly my gut instinct serves me well.

I guess you could say I’m following my gut instinct with our move toward a simpler lifestyle as well. When I read about other people’s journeys – there is something that seems to resonate deep within me. It just feels *right*. Perhaps not very scientific – but hey, science often gets things wrong anyway!!! LOL.

There’s another important part of my life that plays a very big part in *who* I listen to and what “words of wisdom” I follow. My spiritual side. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how little I’ve so far said in my blog about my beliefs. Am I trying to hide what I believe? Not at all. Do I worry about what people might think? A little, but perhaps not in the way you might expect. It’s not that I’m worried about what people might think of me so much as my concern as to how they might view God. That somehow, my many imperfections might reflect badly on God.

I’m a Christian. What does that mean exactly? Well, basically it means that I believe Jesus Christ is the son of God and also a part of God. I believe he came to earth as a man and was crucified, died and returned to life. That none of us on our own can ever get close to being “good enough” for God and so our only way to a relationship with him, is through Jesus Christ.

You see Christianity isn’t about being “good enough”, it’s about adoption. Being adopted into God’s family as one of his children. But so often you hear people saying they don’t want to have a bar of the “church” cos they’re a bunch of hypocrites. I know a lot of horrible things have been done in the name of religion (Christianity included but not on its own there) but I feel sad that people blame God for that. Being a Christian doesn't make me any better (or more perfect) than the next person. All it does is make me a child of God and for that I'm extremely grateful. To know that I am unconditionally accepted and loved by the creator of the universe is an awesome feeling. So please don't blame God for my imperfections (or anyone else's for that matter). He's the perfect one, not me.

All that aside, I am a Christian and I do use the bible as my most important sources of wisdom. So I wanted to share a few little “snippets” that I’ve found helpful as part of my journey toward simple living (and a life less caught up in money).

I love the writings of King Solomon. He was well known in his day for being the wisest and wealthiest King alive. I think to this day his reputation still stands. One of the great things about having decluttered our lives of all our activities during my recovery from my breakdown was having the extra time to read my bible (once I regained the ability to read and process words).

Here’s one passage that really stood out to me, written by King Solomon:

“So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 2:17-19

I think a couple of things really stood out to me about this. The reminder that one day we leave this earth and we don’t take anything with us when we go. We can work and work and work to build wealth – to what end? Another that really hit me was that often we use the “for our children” excuse when it comes to building wealth. I think it’s a normal parental reaction to want to provide for our children. But are they really going to thank us if we spend a lot of our time while they are young toiling away, building wealth for them that they may or may not want? That they may or may not appreciate or use wisely? Is it better then to give them the gift of our time. To build a relationship with them and teach them about what is truly important in life?

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t set anything aside either for our own future or our children’s. I guess what it really comes down to is having a balanced view about ALL the things that are important. Rather than getting too focused on a tomorrow that no-one knows what will bring.

Here’s a quote from Jesus himself:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and dust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” Matthew 6: 19-21

I’ve been thinking about rising interest rates and stock market declines over the past few days. We think freedom comes from having money. Money makes us feel secure. In my limited experience, having money and/or investments doesn’t bring any security at all. In fact, we found it just added stress to our lives – what to do with the excess money? Where is the best place to put it? When should we sell the shares we have? Can we pick the right moment? It can “feel” great to have a little more than you’re used to having. But it can also be an added responsibility.

We decided last year to sell our investment property and some shares that we had in order to pay out some debt. What a freeing feeling that has been, especially in light of the interest rate hikes and share market fluctuations. We can just continue on in our own little corner of the world and remain a little more “oblivious” to all of that. I think it’s the drawcard simple living has for many people – to get out of that whole rat race and back to the basics of food and clothing etc.

I’m not saying any of these things are actually bad. I do think though that chasing them at any cost can cause an imbalance in life.

Here’s a couple more quotes from the bible that have really touched me recently:

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” 1 Timothy 6:6-8

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” 1 Timothy 6: 17 & 18.

I know at times I’ve been guilty of thinking “when I have more money I will help….”. It brings me back to the “how much is enough?” “Just a little bit more” scenario. By world standards, we are already rich. We have so much MORE than our basic needs met here while people the world over are struggling to get 1 meal a day. I need to constantly challenge my thinking and remind myself how much we have and how much more we could be giving. The interesting thing about giving is that the more you give, the more you realize you truly have and the more blessed you feel. At least that has been my experience so far.

Part way through last year, DH and I decided to put the photo’s of our sponsored children and our sponsored rickshaws on our family room wall. We struggled with this for a while as there is also a passage in the bible that talks about keeping it a secret when you give money. But we needed to share these people with ourselves. They are a wonderful reminder of how happy people can be on such truly tiny amounts. And a wonderful reminder to us of how much we really do have.

This post isn’t meant to come across as “preachy” so if it does, I apologise. I just wanted to share with you a snippet of the things that influence me and the way I make decisions about where I feel we’re meant to be heading in life. When it comes to both money and simple living, I don’t believe there is a “one size fits all” approach. I also don't believe that there is a "one way forever" when it comes to how we view financial matters. We're making the choices now that we believe are right for us NOW. What choices will be right for us in the future... well we'll have to work that out in the future. :-)

We're almost "caught up" to the present time in my reflections on our journey toward simpler living so far. I think there will be just 1 more post to go. Mind you, when I started I didn't expect there to be as many posts as I have written so far. So we'll see. LOL.

Next Instalment: 2007 - Our Timetable Brought Forward

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Firstly, love the look of your site and secondly, I'm green with envy over the million-dollar view from your back door!
Really enjoyed reading this - God's word always puts things in to the right perspective doesn't it? I need constant reminders of this though, so thankyou.
Madly Saving

Ali said...

your post certainly isn't preachy :) You've written about what's important to you and how you make decisions. As you mentioned ~ everyone needs to do what's right for themselves and what they believe.

I go on "gut instinct" alot!!

Lisa said...

Intuition is something I think we all tune into once we are mothers. It is an important lesson and one we should always remember.