Simplify Life Inside and Out

Reaching for Happily Ever After

There is nothing quite like getting lost in a good story. I went through a long Victorian literature phase in my reading. I loved the romance of it. Fantasy spilled over into my decorating. Knick knacks, doilies, and antique furniture reminded me of the fairytale life I wanted to live. Actually, I only wanted the happily ever after part of the fairytale. I was happy to skip the “once upon a time there was a dark castle on the moor inhabited by an evil…” part.

The divine author of my life is the original wonderful storyteller. He is in the middle of an intense saga of good versus evil. My little life is part of his much larger story. The story will eventually have the happiest of endings but here in the middle chapters there is struggle and conflict. As in any good story, things look impossibly bleak at times. Having a vivid imagination, when I read I enter the world created by the author. This can rob me of sleep at night. Sometimes I peek at the end of the last chapter (rebelliously breaking the unwritten rule against this), just so I can let it go and come back to the real world. I skim chapters that bore me or offend me. At times I wish I had the power to do the same in real life. I’d skim over conflict and days that are too routine. I’d slow down and savor every word of the chapters that involve mountain cabins or beach cottages. I’d hurry toward the happily ever after at the end. But the author of life doesn’t allow such foolishness. He uses every bit of the story. For his own reasons he won’t let me skim over the less pleasant parts.

Over the years as I gave up the idea that my life could be one continual happily ever after if I did everything right.

Gradually, God has moved some of the things I thought I needed to be OK and threw them away. Like Prince Charming who slashed through the thorny barrier the evil fairy caused to grow around Sleeping Beauty’s castle, God slashes away anything that keeps my heart captive and separates me from his perfect love. He removes relationships I look to for security. Thwarts systems of coping that I think will bring me abundant life. In reality my sinful systems of living subtly keep me locked in anxiety or emotional sleepiness and separate me from knowing intimacy, joy and the peace of loving God as my first love. Ancient saints called this process of loss “purgation” as in purging.

I look around my house and realize that as God has culled away some of the clutter from my soul, some of the clutter has disappeared from my home too. I am no longer trying to recreate a fairytale.


Gift from the Sea


Simplify Life

As she pondered simplicity in her cottage by the beach, Anne Morrow Lindbergh decided to begin by simplifying her outer life hoping that her inner world would follow. She shed clothes and with them vanity, fastidiousness and with it pride, dishonest relationships and with them her mask of insincerity. I don’t know if this worked for her when she reentered her demanding life. It occurs to me that there must have been more to the story behind each of Anne’s sheddings. No one sheds vanity, pride, or insincerity easily. No one sheds them completely unless it is the Holy Spirit doing the work.

Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster says, “The Christian Discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward lifestyle.” For me it seems more like a joint effort. The Holy Spirit does the heavy lifting in my soul, like those professional organizers who come in and help people get rid of clutter,.

The dialogue goes like this: “Hey Beth! This is broken and ugly and you don’t need it. I’m taking it to the dumpster!”

“But I like that! I need that!”

“No you don’t. It’s in the way. It’s going.”

My part in this simplifying process is to surrender and let go of the mess I wrongly treasured. This sounds easy, but it isn’t. My desire to simplify outwardly seems to gradually follow.

How do you simplify your life? Has there been any inward or outward decluttering?

For a much deeper (and more entertaining) read on this topic I highly recommend reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis. If you don’t want to read the whole book, read the part about Eustace’s adventures as a dragon.

For earlier blog posts in this series based on Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea click here or here or here.



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3 Responses to Simplify Life Inside and Out

  1. Katie Sturm July 11, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

    I love this. I am contemplating how I simplify my life. I know that I’m really intentional about not over committing myself. If I have too many invites in a short period of time, I use my standard line,”I’m sorry but I have another commitment that night.” The other commitment is to myself, my sanity, and my peace of mind. When I get too busy, my relationship with The Lord and with everyone else really suffers. I purposely do not fill my days and nights with too many events. (Even good ones!) I spend time alone in prayer, and in exercising. I shut off the television, radio and any other white noise. I cherish the quiet.

    • Beth Ratzlaff July 15, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

      Good suggestions! It sounds to me like you have a good grasp on a simple life. Maintaining the mindset that a commitment to time alone is a legitimate commitment is something I need to learn. The blog this week will be about solitude. You are a step ahead. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here!


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