Alison Treat | Elusive Serenity
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Elusive Serenity

Elusive Serenity

Some of you may remember my whole love-affair with single-tasking earlier this year. That was a great idea, wasn’t it? Well, obviously, I’ve gotten a little side-tracked. Allow me to explain . . .

I still love the idea of single-tasking. Really, I do. I feel a little prick to my conscience whenever I (unnecessarily) multi-task. I am continuing to work towards a more simple life. I want less clutter, less “stuff”, fewer activities keeping us bound to the clock and packing our calendar. Rewind a couple of months to Easter morning. I found a lovely little volume in my Easter Basket—yes, I still get an Easter Basket, but that is another story entirely. Please, let’s stay on topic. This book was called Organized Simplicity and it was written by one of my favorite bloggers, Tsh Oxenreider of Simple Mom. Now, this post is in no way meant to be a negative reflection on Tsh’s book. I think her book is wonderful. It’s well worth having and every woman should own a copy. I found a lot of helpful information in her book. This post is simply a tale of my own demise—perhaps my own inadequacy if you think about it. You’ll see what I mean.

I dove into Organized Simplicity with high expectations—of myself. The book provides a plan for organizing your whole home and family—your entire life so that you can live more simply, more fully. I was going to DO this. We would come up with a family purpose statement. Then I would go through every room in my house and purge, purge, purge. I would have a yard sale and make a lot of money. I would use that money to finance a missions trip—maybe to Joplin, MO to help with disaster relief. This was my grand plan. I was determined to make it work.

Until life got in the way. You see, I have two little people depending on me for everything, every waking moment of every day. If you’ve read this blog much, you feel like I’m repeating myself. (I am.) I go to great lengths to steal a few hours twice a week for writing, but other than that, if I get up early enough I have an hour in the morning, maybe, to sit down with my journal and my Bible. Afternoon Naptime affords me a little peace and quiet to check my email, make a phone call, and straighten the house. But that doesn’t last long. (The naptime or the straightened house.) By the time the kids are settled in their beds at night, Todd and I might have time for a grown-up conversation, while we clean up the kitchen from dinner. Yes, I know that’s not single-tasking! Maybe it’s acceptable multi-tasking?

For a while, I was in this mode—I have to organize the house! I have to get everything simplified! We have to figure out the purpose of our family! Now, to be fair, during this time, we (mostly Todd) cleaned, organized, and purged the garage and I did the same to the laundry room—two areas of our home which desperately needed attention. But one day I realized I was way too overwhelmed. My driven-ness to simplify was the very thing keeping me from enjoying each moment. And hadn’t my original desire for simplicity sprung from the idea that it would help me enjoy the moment?

Simple living had become way too complicated!

For me, simple living has much more to do with a state of mind. I was missing holding my grumpy baby after naptime because I wanted our life to be simpler. A simple way of life in my mind is realizing it doesn’t really matter if the house is perfectly organized. What matters is that I hold my grumpy baby for as long as he needs me. Now, that’s not to say our house is in a shambles. Sometimes it is, but for the most part things run pretty smoothly around here. I’ve come to the realization that, on my own, I truly cannot keep the house as clean as I think it ought to be—unless I sever my friendships and cut off all outside activities. I don’t know about you, but I’m not called to that! I’ve also come to the realization that it’s okay that I have unworn clothing in my closet. Some day, when I feel like it and I have the time, I will purge. And someone in need will benefit on that day. It’s not today, but that doesn’t make today any less sweet. There’s a freedom in recognizing that it’s all right not to be perfect. Accepting grace in this means I can have joy each day, even if we have extra stuff in the house. And if I have some extra time one day soon, maybe I’ll organize some of my cupboards, because I want to. Not because I have to get rid of every superfluous item we own in order to live up to someone else’s standard of simplicity.

I feel like I need to add a disclaimer again. Tsh would never want somebody to live up to someone else’s standard—least of all her own. So this really has nothing to do with her book. It was brought on by my own perfectionistic personality. I can be all or nothing. I thought I had to follow Tsh’s entire plan in order to achieve simplicity. Now I’m doing what works for me and learning to be okay with good enough.

And the missions trip for disaster relief? I know you’ve been wondering what happened to that idea. I still want to do it. Perhaps we do need to pare down our schedule if it’s too hard to find time for things like that. It may be in the not-too-distant future, and it may be funded partly by frequent flyer miles, rather than a yard sale. I’ll keep you posted.

Last year, on my annual retreat with my writing group, we stayed at a lovely farm where I discovered a copy of the Serenity Prayer I had never seen before. I’d always heard the beginning, but this was the full version. I’ll end today with the words of Reinhold Niebuhr in the original version of this beautiful prayer and one I’ve come to love better than the simplified version I used to know. Sometimes simplifying things isn’t the answer, is it? Or perhaps, we find greater simplicity when we accept the complicated, lovely mess we are.
The Full Original Copy of the Serenity Prayer

by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

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