Thursday, September 27, 2012

Joy in the Simple Life

 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. (1 Thess. 4:11-12)

Ambition. Usually we think of ambition being the force that drives people to do great things and become "great" people. It drives us to want to "be somebody". In that sense, I've spent much of my life ambitiously hungering to be somebody. To not be invisible. I struggled to find a passion for something that would fuel a fire of ambition in me to reach for and achieve visibility. What I really wanted was to be an artist. To create. To paint. Art was like meditation to me. But, I was told, "fine artists don't earn a living with their art", "you need a vocation that will support you and painting can be your avocation". I believed these "facts" and so started a life of searching for that elusive career that would interest me and make me ambitious to succeed in it. None did and I moved from here to there, collecting degrees along the way and leaving my art far behind. I feel just as invisible now as I ever did. And, just as disconnected from the person I wanted to be -- want to be.

Lesson learned: never let other people define what "success" is for you! Success is more than how much money you make or how popular you are in the society circles.

Makes it your ambition to lead a quiet life...there is nothing better than sitting on the back stoop in the early morning dawn feeding ducks a little bread. Ducks can teach us so much about how to enjoy simple things. A little spilled chicken or rabbit food can make them chatter and wag their tails they are so happy. Getting a little bread can lead to spontaneous moonwalking in circles.

Chickens aren't quiet. They chatter constantly. But, somehow, it's a sound that is comforting, calming. It isn't a sound that grates on the nerves or rev's up the anxiety. 

Tending to the rabbits in the rabbitry will teach one about walking gently, talking softly, and taking one's time. Rabbits don't like noise or suddenness. They don't like ducks under their cages.

The Simple Life. Simply the life that expresses who you are. A life spent reaching for the contentment found in achieving what inspires you. Or...finding a place of accepting the life that took you on a wayward adventure and making peace with it. Simply accept that through God's grace, even the crazy path of misadventure can lead you to a life of peace and contentment if you trust God to do the leading. God's hands can mold you and make you into a beautiful vessel as long as you are pliable. Trust Him to reshape your mess into something... Simply Beautiful.

minding your own business and working with your own hands... I think the scripture is meaning "don't be noisy about your neighbor's going's on" and that is important. Leave your neighbor's business for your neighbor to deal with and hopefully he'll do you the same kindness. Each of us has our own "stuff" to deal with and really, that should be enough! That all said, there is another way to take that mind your own business. To work at something that is your's and that fits the way God made you. Do not try to be someone else. There is only one you and that is who you should be. If I had focused on my own business from the start -- art -- my life would have taken a far different path. Whether it would have lead to fame and fortune I'll never know but I strongly suspect it would have lead to a more contented life. Why? Because it was what I was made to do. I can not go back and there are experiences I have lived that are precious to me. So, I trust God to take my misadventures and mold them into a life of beauty and contentment. (I'm lacking somewhat in patience, though....)

I wish with all my heart that I could spend my days working with my own hands in the soil of my little homestead. Sitting at a computer 40 hours a week making someone else rich is just not satisfying to me. I try to fine a way to get ambitious. I've tried to see how I might move up or over or even create a new position that would use my skills in a way that would be more interesting to me. But, such efforts hit brick walls and I lack the finesse to play the corporate games to make a go of it. So, I remain a cog in the wheel and while I am trying to pry answers out of French publishers on how to order their journals for a university library, I dream. I dream of making my living writing and "farming" this little homestead. I dream of making this place a living painting full of color and life and peacefulness. I dream of again taking up canvas and paintbrush and feeling peace with the doing rather than anxiety and regrets.

and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. The goal of every homesteader -- self-sufficiency. Few will reach complete self-sufficiency but we hope to come reasonably close. Actually, I dream of more than that. I dream of abundance. Abundance to share with those in lack. That is what the early Christians did -- they shared from their abundance with those who had need so that no one lacked for anything. Christians should not be on welfare or other government handouts. Christians should be taking care of their own. We should function within community -- each giving of their particular talents and from their excess. When persecution comes to our towns and cities, will we then remember that we are a body?

Epilogue: This is a very different blog entry than I had intended to write. Not surprisingly, the writing took it's own course and I had to follow to see where it would lead. I had intended to write a happy, funny blog about six silly ducks. Perhaps another day. Perhaps I can snap a picture of Piebald sticking his head around the back porch door to see if I come bearing bread...until then, you will just have to imagine him doing just that. Silly duck.

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