Category Archives: Simplifying Life

Whew! It’s been a BUSY week.

digital scrapbooking, card crafting, scrapbook watercolor digital art, water lily, water lillies, paisley

This "Butterfly Garden" paper pack is available this morning at www.daisiecompany.com.  You can go to the kit by clicking on the picture to the left and a window will pop up that will take you there.

Deb D wrote me a comment this morning that I must be really busy because I’m falling behind in my blogging.  She’s so right!  I spent my week working out a new fabric line for a new license I’m doing.  The line will be available in quilt shops across the nation once it hits the stores in September and will be shown at Quilt Market in October.  The work involved designing the patterns for 9 fabrics and 2 color ways.  I can’t tell you yet what it is, but I’m very pleased with it and with the fabric company’s art direction for it.  I think it’s going to be both very fun and yet elegant and contemporary all together.

When I get a large project like that, everything else in my life seems to grind to a halt and back up.  Can you identify?  So what do I do?  I take on another challenge… you’ve got to wonder sometimes about my sanity, LOL! 

This challenge will ultimately help me though and maybe you too.  I’ve been working with Abigail Scott DESIGN Studio on a new day planner they approached me about.  They’re using my hummingbird art and asked if I would help them design the function of the day planner.  It has really helped me to think about how I work and how I can work better.  I’ve been thinking a lot about working my priorities into each day, not just the urgent tasks that need to be done.  I’m using the first version right now to test its functionality and when we’re comfortable with it, they’ll polish it up and get it into the store.  I think those of you that are overwhelmed and disorganized at times (like me) will enjoy this set.  Having beautiful art to look at makes the task of organizing myself a little more tolerable, LOL!

Last night, my youngest daughter, Jacqui came and chatted with me about feeling overwhelmed and unsure that she’s getting anywhere in her goals on life.  I think that these concerns plague all of us, from the young to the old.  How do I know that what I do today is important, not just urgent?  How do I get everything done that needs to be done and still have time for me?  What would I do if I had "me" time?!  Most of us don’t have a clue!!!

paisley, plaid, large checked, striped digital paper pack, crafting, card making, scrapbookingIn the Day Planner, I’ve set up project planning pages which I’m using for everything from garage/shop clean up to redesigning my framed print line and getting my web site up (the most important project that is still lagging behind)  Using these have helped me to get my thoughts down on paper and filed where I can locate them again.  In a way, it’s taken the load off of my brain because I don’t have to "remember" the information anymore, it’s written down. 

Part of the process is writing down the steps to accomplishing the goal.  I just do a brain dump not worrying about if the steps are in order or not, I can look the list over and tackle the project a step at a time and then check that step off the list.  It’s amazing how doing a few little steps on several nagging projects has made me feel more accomplished and even rested this week.  I was shocked at how little time it actually took once I had written it down and purposed just to do a little. It seems like I’m keeping my life more in balance this way, tackling projects from every area of my life a little at a time.  Usually I tend to go intensely into one area and neglect the rest 🙂

Here’s my thought for the day:  ONE CHOICE AT A TIME… get control of your life one small area at a time.  Don’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow, just determine to make the next choice you make the right choice.  (Audrey Jeanne Roberts)

THE SCRIPTURE OF THE DAY: Ps 65:3-5 When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions.   Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts!  We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple. You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, NIV

The word "sin" is a word picture of missing the mark as an archer shooting at a target.  Most of us are perfectionists at heart, but when we aim at perfection, we all "miss the mark."  It is not possible to achieve here on earth, but the heavenly standard is perfection.  We all sin.  We all are "sinners."  Only Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life.  He doesn’t hold that over our heads, he offers instead to live his perfection out in us.  He gives us the power and the strength to live a more perfect life (never achieving perfection but coming closer and closer to hitting the mark) the more we trust and abide in him.

PRAYER:  Lord, I am overwhelmed at times by how far I am from living the life I imagine I should be.  I try and try to get life under control and only feel all the more overwhelmed at my inability to do so.  Bring me close to you and help me to live my life "in your courts" in your presence, power and through the perfection of Jesus’ life lived in me. 

Remind me of all your blessings, the good things you have done and will continue to work out in me.  You truly do answer my cries for help with awesome deeds of righteousness and you are My God and My Savior!  Jesus, come into my life and begin living your life of perfection out in my humble heart.  AMEN

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Carbonite, A Tremendous Answer For Backing Up Your Graphics, Automatically!!

I have over 1,000 GB of art on my computer.  Backing up that much art is an insane proposition.  Until now, off-site backup services for that amount of storage were just too expensive.  But I have recently discovered a service that is totally reasonable, totally secure and most importantly totally automatic so I can’t forget to do my backups!!!   

I’ve researched it carefully.  They have received high commedations from quite a few sources I trust including "Small Business Computing" and "IT world".   Here’s a great article from the Seattle Times http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2003724588_btsoho28.html that describes its function very well.

I first heard about the service on Rush Limbaugh’s program, and whether or not you agree with his politics, he’s extremely careful in researching any company that will advertise on his show.  After my research I have signed up with the company and I recommend it to my readers if it fits your needs as well.  To make it easy for you, I have installed a link to Carbonite on the right hand side of my blog. 

First here’s just some of the questions I had about this service: 

1.  Is it secure?  They double encrypt your information and have intensive security in place so that no one from their company can have access to the servers without fingerprint verification.

2.  How hard will it be to do and will it slow down my computer while it’s backing up?  I’m in the middle of my first backup.  Quite frankly with as much as I have to store it could take a month to upload, most people will only take a few days.  It took me 10 minutes at the most to get started and I’m leaving my computer on 24/7 to make it go as quickly as possible.  However, if I have to turn it off it will simply pick up where it left off.  If you don’t have that much information, an external hard drive might just be enough, but I recommend you have more than one (they can fail).

3.  Is it affordable?  At $49.95 a year for any amount of information that’s less than $5 per month.  A 500 GB hard drive runs around $120 and can easily fail.  Also,having almost lost my home in the San Diego Wildfires of 2003, I realize the importance of an OFF-SITE-BACKUP!  If your house burns down with your backups in it you’re in trouble. Fire proof safes fail more than they work.   DVDs and CDs do not last forever.  The deteriorate over time, more quickly than first thought.  Hard drives crash.  Computers get fried due to power surges.  There are a lot of threats out there and your graphics kits are expensive.  If you lose them, you can lose a lot of money and face a lot of frustration trying to reacquire what you had.

4.  How easy is it to do a restore or transfer to a new computer?  From reading the tutorials it’s extremely easy especially compared to loading disk after disk after disk on a new computer.

5.  Oops!  I accidentally deleted an entire folder off of my computer, can I get it back?  Have you ever done this?  I have and it was horrid!!!  This back up service keeps your deleted files for 30 days so if you realize you shouldn’t have deleted your file you can retrieve and restore it.  WOW!

6.  Do I have to remember to do a backup?  Nope!  This program works non-stop in the background and once your first backup is done it backs you up continually.  If you’re naturally organized and computer savvy there are a lot of effective ways to do this without a service like Carbonite.  But if you’re not you need to consider the small cost up front versus the huge cost if there’s a failure.

If you are like me and have several hard drives attached to your computer that has too much data to back up to a single source, you know it’s hard to do a full computer backup without buying a very expensive piece of equipment.  Also, a single backup source for a professional in any capacity is dangerous, having your information stored in more than one place in more than one form can make a big difference in a disaster. This type of a service might be overkill for many of you, but can make a lot of sense for people like us.

THE CHRISTMAS STORY: Luke 1:26-38

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, "Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!"

29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 "Don’t be frightened, Mary," the angel told her, "for God has decided to bless you! 31 You will become pregnant and have a son, and you are to name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!"

34 Mary asked the angel, "But how can I have a baby? I am a virgin."

35 The angel replied, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby born to you will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s already in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God."

38 Mary responded, "I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true." And then the angel left. NLT

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Do You Wish You Could Scrapbook, But Have No Time or Space? Digiscrapping May Be Your Answer!

When I used to have to design old-fashioned scrapbook pages to create my framed print line for Cottage Garden Collections, I used to literally pull my hair out at how messy scrapbooking was.  It destroyed my studio, (which leans toward the disaster zone style of order anyway!)  I would be vacuuming up beads and glitter for ever!  Then somewhere about half way through the process, I figured out I could digitally design my kits, then print the separate elements and put together the 3D pages, VOILA… LOOK MOM!  NO MESS!

new kit link

Digital scrapbooking allows you to create totally flat, quick to produce scrapbook pages, or embellish those pages in what's becoming knows a Hybrid scrapbooking — a mix of traditional and digital.

My new product release this morning at DAISIE COMPANY is a quick, two page scrapbook layout that is in PNG format.  For only $2.98, you can purchase these ready-to-go pages.  All you have to do is drop your photographs in and size them, add your journaling and you're done.  The thing I love most about digiscrapping is that I can create a page for one of my daughters (where this layout came from) and give it to her, but once it's created I can now duplicate it for anyone, anytime!  Next Friday there will be two more sets released (see post below this one), one a two page and one a three page (mix and match to produce several combinations of two page spreads).  With these three kits you could do an entire album.  They are 12" pages, but can easily resize to 8" if you prefer that size scrapbook.

Last Christmas, I determined to make scrapbooks for all of the grandparents (because of my first husband's death and my remarriage we have an abundance of grandparents to attend to!)  These gifts were the most appreciated and commented on of any I've ever given over the years.  If you take the time to create one or two layouts a month from now until Christmas, your Christmas can be simple, restful and in actuality very inexpensive considering the pricelessness of the gift you're giving!

If you want to create your own pages with this art, or add embellishments to the pages, the individual pieces, borders, frames and papers are available as two separate art kits, these quick pages are made from "Audrey Jeanne's Blue Hydrangeas 1" and there is a second kit "Audrey Jeanne's Blue Hydrangeas 2" as well.  (Click on the names to go to the kits) Special thanks to atomic cupcake.

Happy Scrapping! 

Audrey Jeanne Roberts

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Lighten Your Load

Have you ever noticed that life seems to go a little easier when you have prayed about things before they become a crisis?  Have you noticed that when you first start praying it seems like "All heck breaks loose?"  Have you walked with the Lord long enough to know the truth that prayer changes things… starting with my own heart first?  

Do you worry about your children and whether they will continue to walk faithfully with Him in the years to come?  Do you want to see a family legacy of godliness that will have a powerful role in this world long after you're gone?  Have you ever even had the time or energy to think beyond the battle you're engaged in today, to envision a hundred years from now?  I know, most days getting through today's tough enough! 

About 20 years ago, the Lord taught me a little principle that I have already had the privilege of seeing work out in my life and want to pass on to you.  I believe that it will, over time, hugely begin to lighten your load and increase your fruitfulness for God's kingdom.  That principle is the concept of multiplying your prayers throughout all your generations.

"My prayer is not for them alone, I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message… John 17:20"

When my children were little, in fact before my youngest daughter was born, the Lord taught me to pray according to the above verse.  What do I mean?  He taught me to ask Him that when ever I prayed for my older daughter Jennifer for Him to remember those prayers and apply them to any other children that I might have.  Then one day I realized I should ask Him to apply them to my grandchildren.  Then my vision began to increase and I thought, "My imagination is limited, but His isn't, why don't I ask Him to apply these prayers to anyone who is ever born, married into or adopted into my lineage?" 

Over time, I began to realize that when I prayed for my marriage I could ask him to apply those prayers to my children's marriages yet to come.  When I prayed to find what He had called me to do and the courage to do it, I realized my struggles could become prayers that would affect the lives of those I will never meet on this side of Heaven.  When I prayed for the President God wanted elected this next election, I could ask God to accomplish those prayers in every election, for every President yet to come.  Over time He began to open my vision beyond the immediate needs of my own family into the unknown lives of generations yet to be born.

Now… you need to understand the magnitude of thinking and praying for my descendants a thousand years from now is totally overwhelming, and it staggers my tiny little faith levels!  I'm very limited in my own imagination, but I do have enough faith to pray for my own life and the lives of those around me (hmmmm, I probably have faith the size of a mustard seed) and that's all the faith it takes to change my generations… one prayer at a time.  It's easy to do because it relies on His awesome "Godness," which is so far beyond my tiny imagination.  It relies on His strength and memory, not my own.

When I read the verse above, I realize that I am walking in the power of Jesus' prayer for his disciples two thousand years ago and that prayer is still as active and powerful TODAY as when it was prayed!  It's power will never diminish and it will remain active FOREVER!  I am slowly coming to fully believe in the power of this principle as applied to praying for this day forward in my own life as well.

Over the 20 years I've been praying this way, I've watched my children grow in areas that I had HUGE struggles to grow in… and it just "happens" in their lives because the prayers needed to win the battle have already been prayed.  My children in so many ways are decades ahead of where I was at their ages, and I believe will far exceed my spiriual fruitfulness in their lifetimes.  It's an exciting, empowering thing to see happen before my eyes… yet it is a light burden and an easy yoke because it is based on the power of God's ability to remember and bring to pass the prayers offered up to Him, and not upon my own feeble faithfulness. 

If you don't have children… it doesn't matter.  You can pray for your family around you and your nieces, nephews and the generations yet to come as if they were your own.  "Sing… you who never bore a child…because more are the children of the desolate woiman than of her who has a husband, says the Lord.  Isaiah 54:1"  There are no limits with God.

Lord, this concept is too big for my little faith to grasp, but teach it to me.  Open my eyes to how I can pray today and effect every single tomorrow yet to come, by your power, strength and grace.  Show me how to pray for my children.  Show me what to pray for my family, my marriage and the world around me.  Then Lord, I am asking you to multiply those prayers for all who will be coming in my family line… by birth, by marriage, by adoption or any other means.  Even if I never remember this principle again, I know you will never forget … because you are the all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere-present and most especially all-loving God!  Enlarge my vision.  Expand my understanding of prayer and of you, the God who answers prayer.  At times everything feels too hard for me, but I rest in the fact that nothing is too hard for you"

Audrey Jeanne Roberts

 

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The Joy of Anticipation

Do you remember when you were young and there was a big event on the horizon?  Perhaps it was going to visit your grandparents, taking a vacation by car with your family or it was waiting for FOREVER for Christmas to come.  Do you remember the tummy-turning excitement of anticipation?  Do you remember how that anticipated joy filled your mind and made the wait excruciatingly slow?  Have you felt much anticipation lately, or do you simply turn the page of the calendar to see what obligations you have to fulfill next?

When you were young, your schedule probably wasn't very crowded.  If you're around my age (48), your parents didn't have you enrolled in too many activities like the children of today often are.  I played varsity sports in high school.  In the "olden days" we didn't play a single sport all year around, we played the sport of the season and then went to the next sport or rested.  I also played flute in the band.  Between those two activities and keeping up with my homework that pretty much summed up my life!

Do you dread turning over the pages on your calendar or do you have a sense of anticipation and excitement at what's to come?  The answer to that one question can probably tell you more about where you are in leading a balanced or overcrowded life than almost any other.  I'm going to surprise you here and recommend that you add to that schedule before you subtract from it!

Do you have any activities that you really look forward to, think of in advance and enjoy anticipating?  Is there anything you do purely for fun?  Is there any activity that literally gets you through each week when you anticipate it?  It could be something as silly and fun as a Bunco night, or as beneficial as a women's bible study care group.  It could be taking a ceramics class at your local college or an exercise class at your local health club.  If you don't, I'd like to suggest that you find one special activity and invest some time in nurturing your own soul a little each week.  Even the busiest schedule needs to make room for joyful living… not just doing life.

Sometimes simplifying life doesn't just mean getting rid of things or activities, it also means living intentionally and joyfully.  Try adding in something that you enjoy, something that helps to refresh you and give you the energy boost needed to get through the rest of your obligations.  Some of us aren't very good at taking care of "us" because we're too busy taking care of everyone else in our lives, but we'll take care of them best when we are rested, encouraged and refreshed. 

Lord, help me to find some ways to bring joy back into my life.  Your word says that, "The joy of the Lord is my strength."  Perhaps I need to add one or two more joyful things in my life to give me the strength for the rest of my obligations.  Open my eyes to this truth and help me to embrace it.  Show me how to restore my joy and renew my strength.  And most of all Lord show me how to bring back the childish joy of anticipation into my days!  Amen

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Simplifying Life … Are you Juggling too Much?

I wrote this short piece 7 or 8 years ago when I began working on simplifying my life.  Perhaps it will put into words a little of how you feel each day?

The Juggler

I'm a pretty good juggler… not of balls, but of activities.  I'm great at multi-tasking.  I thrive on excitement and the adrenaline rush that making the attempt to juggle six balls at once gives.  Or perhaps I should say, I used to enjoy it.

I found myself trying every method I could think of to get that sixth ball into the air.  I was pretty good up until five.  But that sixth ball didn't just drop to the ground alone, it always took three or four other balls with it.

That's because I had exceeded my limits.

It didn't matter how hard I tried or what order I arranged the balls in.  It didn't matter how I got them going or how slowly I added each one in, at least half of them dropped to the ground when I went past my capability.

I felt guilty all the time.

No matter which balls I had in the air at one time, there were always one or two or three that were laying at my feet on the ground.  My efforts were never enough to master the task and feel successful.

What if I had realized that my limit was five?  Would I have been successful more often, but still tired and worn out?  It takes a lot of concentration and energy to juggle five balls!

What if I had the confidence and boldness to be satisfied with juggling only four balls… one under my achievable maximum?  Would I have felt guilty for doing less than my best?  Less than was possible, or would I have rediscovered that juggling could be fun?

Do you know your limits?

Are you comfortable with the thought that you have limits?  Do you know what your natural limits are and how to work within them?   In reality, all of us have limitations.  We're good at some things and struggle with others.  All of us, even the least creative among us, can dream up more things that we would love to do than we'll ever be capable of accomplishing.

Remember back in the Garden of Eden?  Mankind was created with two special gifts that have since been lost, perfection and eternity.  We still long for perfection.  Watch a two year old child trying to master a new skill, and you'll see his or her innate awareness of perfection and frustration that he or she isn't capable of achieving it!  At the core of almost every human's heart is a hunger to be perfect.  We all long to live a perfect life, to perfectly achieve the tasks that are attempted, and to live in perfect control of our homes or work lives.  Yet, the reality is that not one of us is capable of perfection… excellence yes, perfection no.  Living within our limits means setting excellence as a goal and letting go of unrealistic expectations of perfection.

Time is a finite boundary and limitation for every one of us.  We each are given the same 24 hours per day, 168 hours per week and 8,736 hours per year.   Yet our imaginations are still the same ones God created us with and they have no boundaries!  We can imagine amazing things… but rarely do we have the time to do all we can think of.  In reality, we are creatures of eternity that have been placed within the confines of time.  We can never do all we can think, or hope, or dream of doing.  Time will always be our enemy, because we weren't initially created to live under it's tyrannical rule.  Accepting time's limitations on our lives is a vital part of simplifying those lives.

My goal each day, with the 24 hours that have been entrusted into my care, is to wisely select the tasks I invest that precious time in.  I want my time to yield great fruitfulness for the Lord and for my family.  Because of this, I try to select my activities with eternity in mind, so that what I achieve with time will last beyond time into eternity.  How about you?

Audrey Jeanne Roberts

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Simplify Your Work Spaces, Starting in the Kitchen

Few cooks have the luxury of having too much storage… most of us have too much "stuff" and too few places to stash our "stuff!"  Have you ever paid attention to how much of your time is spent finding what you need to accomplish a task?  Perhaps it's time to spend a day reorganizing your kitchen workspace.  It will be time well spent.

Here's a few simple ideas to help you get jump started:

  1. The more frequently an item is used the closer to the core of your work area it should be stored.  Conversely, the less frequently an item is used, the further to the edges (or ceiling) you should store it.
  2. Take on one drawer at a time or one cabinet at a time.  Done over the span of weeks it can be very easily accomplished.  Look at every item in the drawer.  Why do you have it?  Have you used it?  Is it broken?  Is it dull or less than functional?  Get rid of anything you can truly live without.
  3. Have you used an item in the last year?  Since we cook some specialties only once a year, I generally utilize a 12 month rule (rather than the more common 6 month rule).  In other words, have I used this item in the last year?  Do I intend to use it in the next year?  If not, donate it!
  4. Do you have a pantry?  A good pantry can solve many storage issues, especially of items that you rarely use, but are important to keep.  If you don't have a pantry in your kitchen, can you carve one out of a corner of your garage to organize storage for your rarely used kitchen equipment?  Getting them out of your daily work space yet still easy to access can make your kitchen live much larger.
  5. Banish fussy finishes from the kitchen.  White tile  counters or floors?  Copper bottom pans?  Unless you love extra cleaning chores, purchase items that will be easiest to maintain.  I've had white tile, white linoleum, Mexican saltillo tile and wood floors in my last 4 kitchens.  By far the easiest to maintain was the wood (as long as I kept water off of it) and then the second easiest was the saltillo tile.  A good heavy sealer every couple of years and they were easy to scrub but never looked dirty!  Another example is the cannisters, bread box & counter decor in my new kitchen are all antiqued, textured surfaces.  They look great all the time and require less daily maintenance than the highly polished fussy items they replaced. 
  6. Granite counters really are as great as advertised.  My last kitchen came equipped with granite countertops.  Honestly I wouldn't have spent the money to put them in myself before having them.  They're durable, the mottled surface always looks clean even when it isn't and having no grout lines to clean really is awesome!  Also, install an under the counter mounted sink and you'll cut your sink area cleaning chores in less than half.
  7. How many serving bowls, mixing bowls pans or cookie sheets do you really use?  Do you have odds and ends of old sets that don't stack well to conserve space?  Treat yourself and buy new stackables and donate your old ones. 
  8. Do you waste time looking for the right spatula or whisk in messy drawers?  I use two beautiful matching containers placed on either side of my stove.  I place my wooden or plastic tools in one and metal tools in the other.  They look great, are easy to access and things don't gather dirt in the bottom of the drawer.
  9. Do you really need multiples of the same item or can you get by washing your dishes more frequently?  Sometimes less really is more in that it forces us to clean up as we go and we'll have less mess to deal with in the long run!
  10. Some gadgets really are as good as advertised.  Those spin 'n store stackable containers are wonderful.  We never lose a lid, they're always handy and they store in almost no space at all.
  11. Buy the best you can afford and take care of them… whether it's knives or pans, any money spent on cheap goods is wasted in the long run.  Be careful not to buy the latest fad, look to ease of care for the surfaces and recommendations of other cooks you trust.  Remember, sometimes the most expensive isn't necessarily the best.
  12. Match your equipment to your cooking style.  If you're a gourmet cook who loves trying out every interesting recipe and the harder the better, then splurge on the specialty equipment necessary to accomplish the task.  But if you're a basic cook, most of the specialty items that sound so amazing or "time-saving" end up costing you more time in the storage space and maintenance they require!

More later.  Have a great day!  It's time to start gearing up for spring cleaning!

Audrey Jeanne Roberts

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To Simplify Life… if you Add, you Must Subtract

My husband and I used to participate in a huge crafting circuit on the West Coast called "The Harvest Festivals."  We had a 24' Winnebago Class C motorhome and a 25' trailer that we hauled 5,000 lbs. of equipment and product from city to city for 10 weeks every fall.  That experience taught us some very important truths for leading a simpler life.

Anyone who knows that particular style of motorhome also knows it isn't exactly a storage-rich environment.  Besides the lack of physical space, the weight that could be carried without exceeding the saftey levels was pretty minimal.  We learned to exist with much less and surprisingly to enjoy it much more! 

We started to ask ourselves this question when we would consider a new purchase or adding anything else to the motorhome.  "What am I willing to give up if I add this in?"  The new item had to add more to our life than the old one and we had to let go of something we already treasured in order to have a new treasure.  It's a pretty powerful formula for a simpler life if you can grasp hold of it.

Eliminating "stuff" is pretty easy if you work at it, eliminating activites and obilgations is much harder.  Most of us seem to think our time is or should be endless… we add activity to activity, commitment to commitment and responsibility to responsibility and then wonder why our "chassis breaks down".  We have weight carrying limits too, we just can't find them written down anywhere in our "owner's manual!"

In working on the book this series is leading towards ("Finding Peace… a 31 day journey to simplifying your life,) I did some pretty interesting exercises.  Over the course of several weeks' time I kept a simple log of all my activities and the approximate amount of time they took out of my schedule.  I was staggered at the load I was carrying and began to see why I was always wiped out at the end of the day. 

Like fitting a too-large wardrobe into the motorhome's 18" hanging space, I realized that everything I was doing wasn't going to be able to be carried forward into the new life I was aiming for.  The first things I eliminated were those tasks that really were optional.  For example, we lived on a 5 acre property of which an acre was landscaped and 4 acres were orange grove.  It was my responsibility to care for the garden and my husband's the grove. 

I don't really love to garden, so much as I love having a beautiful garden.  I realized that my garden was taking 8-10 hours a week of my time and yet was still only being semi-maintained!  Since hiring a gardener wasn't an option financially (but would have been a great solution could I have done so) I realized my expectations needed to be changed.  I looked at how my choices impacted my time commitment.  I chose to mow the 1/2 acre lawn twice a week because I liked the freshly clipped look, I chose to blow the oak leaves off our large brick patio twice a week for the same reason.  Only when I reduced my expectations and allowed myself to look past the leaves until Friday, did I begin to relax in and actually enjoy my garden more.

Here's just a few of the ways I simplified my gardening chores in order to simplify my life:  

  • I eliminated fussy plants that required constant deadheading to bloom. 
  • I removed plants that required too much spraying for pests or pruning to hold their shape. 
  • I eliminated plants that weren't strong enough to grow without a lot of assistance. 
  • I planted things that didn't require staking. 
  • I planned new beds that made use of plants such as calla lilies that bloomed almost all year around but required little or no care. 
  • I took whole areas that I had been working hard to maintain as flower beds and allowed them to simply return to lawn. 

Every decision, large and small, was made with the consideration of how valuable my time was. Would this decision cost me time or save me time?  After a while it became easier and more natural to do.  Next segment I'll talk about how the choices you make inside your home can save you time as well. 

Now, I have to go help my husband with our project day!  We're packing up the rest of my daughter's belongings to store in our container while she's away at college (I won't tell you how long they've been piled up in the entryway, but it is March and school started in September!!!!)

Audrey Jeanne Roberts

 

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Giving Yourself Time to Answer

One of the most common mistakes all of us tend to make when someone asks us to do something, is give an immediate answer.  Our mouths say "Yes" before we consult our hearts or our schedules!  Get in the habit of answering, "Thank you for asking me to do that, let me pray about it and check my schedule.  I'm really blessed that you thought of me.  I'll get back to you tomorrow on my answer."

Waiting a day to say either "Yes" or "No" gives you time to fully think things through and formulate your answer.  If it's really hard for you to say "No," it gives you time to write down your reasons for the answer so you can remember under pressure.  Also, if your answer is "Yes," a thoughtful yes is much more valuable and appreciated than a hasty one.  If you practice this principle, eventually most everyone in your life (except those that are truly dysfunctional!) will begin to understand that you are careful with your time and commitments and will begin to honor that thoughtfulness when you give your answer, regardless of what the answer is.

Most of our resentment at being asked to do things comes from feeling pressured into them.  The reality is that no one can really make you feel pressured even if they are pressuring you!  You have the freedom and the responsibility to guard your schedule so that your health and well-being aren't impaired and that you are able to do the best job possible on the commitments that you do accept.

If you enforce a one day response on every decision you make that isn't life or death, you allow yourself time to remember if there's another conflict or that you had a special plan for that day or….  A lot of ill feelings can be avoided on both sides of the equation if you make your "Yes, yes" and your "no, no" as Christ instructed us to do.  What does that simple phrase mean?  It means if you say 'Yes" do it, and do it with your whole heart.  Do it without resentment or grumbling, but with joy.  If you say "No" mean it.  Be clean, crisp and simple in your commuications.

When you give your answer and the answer is going to be "No," don't be overly apologetic about it.  Be clear and decisive in your own heart and communicate your decision clearly without wavering or weakness.  Some people hear that weakness in your voice and assume with a little more pressure you'll give in. 

Also, you don't have to give long drawn out explanations about why you had to say no.  A short informed answer will suffice if you're convinced it's the right answer and communicate it with confidence.  For instance, if I've been asked to help out on a Saturday luncheon with the decorations, but I made a date already with one of my daughters to spend the day with them.  I will communicate my answer in this fashion, "Oh, I'm sorry, when I checked my calendar for that date yesterday, I realized that I already have a prior obligation.  It sounded like fun, perhaps next time I'll be available."

If it's a long term commitment that you're turning down, it would be appropriate to give a thoughtful reason as to why you are unable or unwilling to take on the task.  For example, "Thank you for asking me to lead the third grade Sunday School.  I've really thought about it and prayed about it.  I'm going to say 'No' to your request as I don't believe that I am the best person for that position and will pray that the Lord bring someone who is truly called to fill it.  I really love teaching at an older level, perhaps college age or so, and would consider stepping out into that area should an opening become available."

Remember crisp, clear & confident the 3 C's of communication! 

Audrey Jeanne Roberts

 

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More on the “Art of Saying No”

I had some great comments and questions that were generated by the last couple of day's discussions.  We have been talking about how to simplify our lives by learning how and when to say "No."  I'll answer one question here and a few more tomorrow. 

"This is awesome, AJ! But………how do you incorporate what you CAN do with what you MUST do to survive if you are not one of the fortunate ones who can make a living doing what you do best?  Ann C"

Making deep changes in life isn't something that happens easily or over night. Ann is addressing the difference of dealing with today's reality, vs reaching the ideal that I would like to someday work towards.   It is important to recognize without paying the bills, life doesn't happen very comfortably!  So it's not insignificant to maintain "what is" while working towards "what could be someday." 

To begin transitioning to "some day," you might take an inventory of your gifts, interests and skills.  What do you do where time just flies by?  What activity leaves you more emotionally energized at the end of the day (even though you might be physically tired)?  Can that translate into a career?  What schooling or experience would it require?  Have you even researched what kind of fields your gifts would fit into?  If your passion won't work into a career or you wouldn't want it to, how could you incorporate using those gifts in an activity that you enjoy either as a hobby or even as an outreach or ministry? 

While many of us know what marketable skills, degrees or experience we have, very few of us have taken the time to identify our spiritual or relational gifts.  It is these gifts that provide the sustaining motivation to continue doing a job for a lifetime.  Do you like to organize things, people or activities?  Do you like to identify a need and create a program that fulfills that need, without your having to run the program?  Do you like to run the programs that someone else has created and prepared for ease of use?  Do you love to teach?  Do you enjoy being behind the scenes and serving by doing the chores no one else wants to do? 

Let me use the person who loves to teach as an example.  She may not necessarily want to be a schoolteacher, but  loves to teach others any skill that she's learned herself.  If you love creating crafts, would you also enjoy teaching others how to do them?  Would you enjoy teaching children computer skills after school?  Perhaps you would love to teach older adults how to get on the internet, so they are less isolated and depressed.  You may wish to do these activities as a voluteer outreach through your church or local community center, or you may even find that you have the desire to make it a part time business!  

Do you see how many ways you could take the areas you excel in and use them to bring joy to yourself while benefitting others?  If you identified these areas in your life, do you think you could find a way to embrace and utilize them in the midst of your current, less-than-ideal-job to make it more fulfilling and fruitful?  When you know who you were created to be it becomes quite easy to take any ordinary task and transform it into one with great meaning and eternal value.

I will bring this back around to the topic we're discussing and ask you a rather pertinent and personal question.  How can you say "yes" to any new activities you've discovered fit with your spiritual, emotional or skill gifts that God gave you, if you can't learn to say "No" to the demands you've allowed others to inappropriately make on your time?  When you say "No" for this reason, isn't a selfish act, it's an act of selflessness, in that you will serve others and God more effectively if you do it in the activities you were created to do!

Audrey Jeanne Roberts 

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Simplifying Strategy #2 One Ball of Yarn at a Time!

My "Nanny" (my maternal grandmother that we lived with growing up) was an amazingly creative woman.  She knit, crocheted, embroidered, tatted, grew her own fruits and vegetables and cannned them just for starters.  One of the things I remember most about her was that she always had a yarn basket at her feet and it was always a mess!  When it was as its worst, she would grow increasing frustrated as she tried unsuccessfully to separate a skein of floss from a ball of crochet thread that had wrapped itself around a ball of angora yarn.  In her frustration, she would only succeed in tying the mess into even greater knots.  About that time I would hear her muttering under her breath, "Where's my scissors, I'm going to cut this mess apart and start over."  That's when I would volunteer to help her untangle the basket.

For some strange reason I loved untangling her balls of yarn.  I would rewind the worst of the wayward ones, put the embroidery floss back in its pocket, the knitting needles and crochet hooks in another pocket and organize her balls of yarn by color, so it looked pretty and was ready for her to create from once again.  In doing this task many times over the years, I discovered a key principle that has stayed with me throughout life.  

If I went after the most tangled balls in the mess, it only made things worse.  But if I would find the balls of yarn that were the least entangled and gently remove them from the rest, it became a doable task.  The first few balls could sometimes take a long time to untangle, but inevitably there would come what I came to think of as the magic turning point.  That was the place where things would suddenly get very loose, separate and the task would begin to progress very quickly.

Does your life feel like that basket of yarn?  It's a tangled mess and you want to change everything about it RIGHT NOW!  You don't know where to even begin to start untangling to get it reorganized.  Don't take on every out-of-control area of your life at once.  Pick one thing at a time.  Make the changes you need to in that one area.  Do it thoroughly and consistently.  Do it until the task is completed, you're able to maintain the change in your life and then pray about what you need to take on next. 

More importantly, pray before you even begin to try to make the changes.  If you're like me, you know you just don't have the power to change yourself anyway.  None of us can succeed if we try in our own strength.  For some of you praying is as natural as breathing, for others it's a something you've never really done before.  If you're in the later category, it's not something you have to do in a certain way, it's merely having a conversation with God.  James 1:5 says "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."  He loves to answer these kinds of prayers!

Lord, my life feels like that basket of yarn.  I don't even know where to start or which one to untangle first.  I probably don't even realize how tangled up it all is, I just know it isn't working.  Please show me a little at a time what I can do to restore sanity and function to my daily life.  Show me the extra burdens I'm bearing that you haven't asked me to.  Show me the commitments I've made that are for good causes but aren't good for my family life and even my relationship with you.  Show me the tasks in my life that can be let go because they won't matter in twenty years and those that are important to daily life and can't be let go.

Then Lord, change the attitude of my heart about doing those that I simply must do, help me to do them cheerfully rather than with resentment.  Help me to see the tasks that really don't have any lasting value and find a way to eliminate them or simplify them so that they take less and less of my precious time with my family.

I don't even know where to begin… but you do, I turn over this crazy mess of a basket of yarn to you and thank you in advance for starting to clean it up and organize it so that I can once again find joy and effectiveness in the life you've given me to live,  Amen!

Audrey Jeanne Roberts

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Simplicity… One of my Goals in Life

I have been working on a book for 6 or 7 years about peace through simplicity, tentatively titled "Finding Peace… a 31 day journey to simplifying your life."  It's been an interesting journey from a life of utter chaos and stress, to a life that has plenty of external stress (deadlines, deadlines, deadlines!) and yet very little internal stress or chaos. 

Those of you who have come to know me, might guess that my life is anything but simple — and you'd be right.  Simplicity as a concept can be fairly easy to grasp, but as something I can actually do… it's a lot harder to implement.  Hmmm, do you think that might be why I'm still working on the book 7 years later…?  

I don't want to "preach" something that I haven't been doing!  But in reality my life is much simpler today than when I began.  I've learned that no matter what I think, I'm not super woman!  I do have limits and I've learned to stay within those limits or perhaps live even a little below them.  I've started building in down time to my schedule for those urgent requests, sicknesses or any other unexpected crisis' that inevitably hit my life.

The first principle I learned about simplicity is that siimple doesn't necessarily equal easy.  When I began to simplify my life, it was less a matter of throwing out extra things from my closet (a simple task) and more of throwing out extra, non-meaningful tasks out of my life (a difficult task to say the least).  It was about evaluating what is even eligible to be removed from my life… no, I'm sorry teenagers can't be left out at the curbside for the goodwill to pickup!

Here's the criteria I began to use in analyzing what I wanted to accomplish.  I wanted each day of my life to have a lasting meaning and purpose.  I wanted my work to be enjoyable and meaningful.  Even though I have the privilege of working at my passion, trust me it is still work.  I wanted each day of my life to be of eternal value to the Lord and His kingdom.  I wanted to have joyful memories left at the end of each day rather than have them blow by me with nothing more than a completed check list to show for them.  I wanted to end each day knowing those I love a little bit better and THEM knowing I loved them a little bit more as well. 

I wanted to do things that I HAD to do with a better attitude of heart, eliminate the things I DIDN'T HAVE to do a little bit at a time, and ADD INTO my schedule things that brought me joy and pleasure, even if it were only for a few minutes in each day.  Big goals, big tasks… where was I going to begin?

I'm going to start sharing that journey with you a little bit each day.  This will be in addition to my other posts on art, gardening, quilting, crafting etc.  It's going to be a little hard to figure out how to break up such a huge topic into doable daily segments, but I'm going to give it a try!  Please feel free to email me with any issues that come to mind as you read, especially any issues you might be struggling with and would like to have addressed.  This blog will be most effective when it is a dialog between all of our hearts.

STRATEGY #1 A TWO LETTER WORD THAT CAN BRING INSTANT RELIEF

I learned a two letter word that stopped overcommitment in its tracks like Raid stops bugs… "NO!"  I don't think that my mouth even knew how to form the word.  "It will only take me a minute, I might as well say yes," was my natural thought process when I was asked to do something.  Too often I found my mouth saying "Yes" while my heart was screaming, "No!!!!"  Then I would simmer with frustration and resentment while I did the task with a less than joyful heart.  Slowly, I learned that "NO" could be a perfectly acceptable answer to a question, and I was the only one that could really make me feel guilty about saying it.   

When I began my journey to find peace in my life, I wanted RESULTS NOW!!!  I was at wit's end and was so anxious for the change that it seemed terriby,horribly, painfully slow to start.  That was because I had become so overcommitted it was impossible to do all that was required of me, let alone do it well.  

I chose to end my commitments slowly, because I was determined to do it with honor, so that I didn't let anyone down in the process.  It tooks months for the first tiny changes to happen, then one by one I removed old commitments and actually resisted adding new ones in their place.  A word of warning here, some people will not take kindly to your new strategy.  The ones that are most incapable of saying "No" themselves, also know how to lean pretty hard on anyone easily guilt manipulated into saying "Yes."  Knowing it's the right thing to do for your life, your family, your peace and to serve the Lord more effectively, will give you the strength to follow through.

I'll leave you with a thought that haunted me when I was struggling to gain control over my schedule.  It would come to my mind often, "If I can't learn to say 'No' to man, will I put myself into a position where it's likely I'll be saying 'No' to God instead?" 

Audrey Jeanne Roberts  

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