I’m sitting at my desk, looking out at the mountains, and thinking about speaking to more than 100 Mennonite women this Friday night at the Amigo Centre, a place I know well, not too far from Sturgis, Michigan.

The subject is Recovering Simplicity, a topic that Mennonites have grappled with for a long time and wrote many books about in the 1970s and 80s, most notably Doris Janzen Longacre’s Living More with Less.

Simplicity has never been more relevant, more necessary, in a cluttered, materialist, violent, and unpredictable world.

Grandparents may have a special role to play in challenging themselves and helping younger generations to rediscover the More With Less theme.

My last post for Not Quite Amish website was a start in my thinking in that direction. I invite you to read it here.

This photo from the post elicited more comments than the words did.

Grandma Shirley with baby Owen, 2011

We grandparents are living in the Autumn season of our lives. We see Winter ahead, and we know that we can’t take anything with us beyond that season.

We are ready to simplify. We are ready to go back to living in the Now, like we did as children.

We are ready to let go. Almost. In fits and starts.

We know that if we give our gifts to grandchildren now, those gifts will bless not only them, but ourselves and our friends.

Owen and Julia, August, 2014

When I look at these faces, and think about all the other children in the world, I think about a loving God who cares for us all and has given us ENOUGH.

I am once again inspired to find new ways to live More with Less.

Can you name one way to simplify? Let’s help each other cut down on clutter and focus on what matters most! Please share a thought below.

Shirley Showalter

18 Comments

  1. Elfrieda Schroeder on October 8, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    Simplifying is such a necessary part of life as we get older. Your post reminded me of something I read in our newspaper recently that I do NOT want to simplify. A Manitoba-raised pro football player has made a business of selling pre-filled communion cups to Christian churches. The cups are filled by machine and have two compartments, with grape juice on the bottom and an unleavened wafer on top. “If you’re a church that takes communion, we have a product that simplifies your communion needs” advertises the company. I find that disturbing!

    • shirleyhs on October 8, 2014 at 2:15 pm

      Wow, Elfrieda, who would have thought of such a business?? Sounds like they hope to feed the 5,000 all over again.

      Thanks for a smile today. But also a frown.

      Some things are just absurd.

      What I love about comments is that people bring all kinds of recent experiences to a little essay like this one. Thanks for starting us off!

  2. Marian Beaman on October 8, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Our grandson Patrick now sometimes prefers excursions to “things” for birthday and Christmas. Last week his parents took him to the Space Center for his 11th birthday. He knows he has plenty of things and apparently values more the memories that experiences bring. I have to ask “Who is teaching whom here?” Come to think of it, we did take him on mystery trips . . . .

    As you know, we are going through Mother’s things right now. She pared down in recent years, giving away the piano, some china, lots of “stuff.” Yet, much remains, a great incentive for me to return home and simplify. I’m with the poet Amitav: “To simplify / it takes a lot of effort.”

    These posts are stored wealth for Owen and Julia. I’m sure Kate knows her children will experience the same.

    • shirleyhs on October 8, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      To simplify it takes a lot of effort indeed. I feel like we are at the beginning, not the end, of the journey. We hope some day to continue grandparenting adventures if we are blessed with more children to love. In the meantime, we will continue focusing on gifts of time and making things and stories and songs.

      Blessings on you and your family as you sort, remember, give, and perhaps sell the items that your mother at some point in her life treasured and/or used. Even a few rooms can hold a lot of individual items, which means a lot of individual memories also.

  3. Jerry Waxler on October 9, 2014 at 11:19 am

    That picture of you with a tiny baby is like a Zen Koan, or the yin-yang symbol. From the beginning to the end in one glance. When I look back on my life, the whole thing feels like a blink of an eye. But when I look at the little baby, life stretches ahead in an endless mystery. Taken together, the two encompass it all.

    Jerry

    • shirleyhs on October 9, 2014 at 10:05 pm

      What a beautiful thought, Jerry. Being a memoirist brings out the philosopher in you. Thank you for the inspiring thought. Like all koans, this one will remain in my mind and heart.

  4. Laurie Buchanan on October 9, 2014 at 11:41 am

    Shirley –

    Oh my goodness, I absolutely love the photographs that you shared. They’re simply precious!

    You’ve got to know that this post resonates to the very core of my being. On the “About” page on my blog, one of the descriptors says, “A minimalist by intent, I live a beautiful life with fewer things—simple, yet full.”

    You requested simplifying suggestions from your readers. One of my favorites is at the beginning of each season (winter, spring, summer, fall) I hang the hangers in my closet backwards over the rod. Each time I wear something and put it back, I return the hanger the correct way (forward over the rod). At the end of the season, anything that hasn’t been worn (hanger still backwards on the rod) gets donated.

    Most people wear a small percentage of their wardrobe. The rest of it stays untouched in their closets.

    • shirleyhs on October 9, 2014 at 10:08 pm

      I love when you share your secrets, Laurie. That clothes hanger one is great. My daughter Kate said she wants to share it at the “Clothes Swap” she and her friends do several times a year. And I will share it with the 100+ women who attend the retreat this weekend.

      You have so much wisdom. And it’s so concentrated. Thank you for sharing so generously.

  5. Susan Neufeldt on October 9, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Shirley, I think a lot about simplifying. As you know, we moved from a house to a condo several years ago, and that helped us clear out a lot of unused things, including my grandmother’s silver tea service which we no longer used. My daughter didn’t want it; their lifestyle is already simpler. Books no longer read we sent to the Planned Parenthood book sale, and I try to give away a book each time I get a new one. (Buying all books on Kindle means not supporting our local bookstore, and we want them in business forever.) Unused clothes, particularly very fancy ones, went to the Assistance League or to our church for resale. If I do get new clothes, I pass along something else. We are slowly eliminating many of the magazines that we don’t need to receive each month or week. While we keep the New Yorker, for instance, we eliminated The Week. Don’t need fashion magazines anymore, nor Oprah which is all about improving yourself–I am only interested in spiritual growth now. I’m trying to limit the assignments I take on for our church, and I will be off our Board next July. Oh, and Christmas cards: I’ve stopped sending them to people I wouldn’t visit if I were in their town. But it’s a slow process. . .

  6. shirleyhs on October 9, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    Susan, you are gracefully and graciously paring back your life to its essence. I’m so glad that I can envision the space you now call home as I read these words. Thanks for taking time to leave a comment. It would have been simple to just read, but you chose to share examples of your “slow process” and now others can benefit from them. I love that you have decided that spiritual growth is your abiding interest. I foresee that the last season of life will be your best.

  7. Elaine Mansfield on October 15, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    Beautiful. My heart fills looking at all the serene faces and love. I already lead what some would call a simple life, but I live in a too large home for one (not too large when family visits) and on too much land (my sons love the land and one hopes to keep it). My plan in the next few years is to go through my home in preparation for whatever comes next. I don’t know when I’ll leave this home, but time to prepare the way for what will come. And for now, I simplify by focusing all energy on supporting my baby book. Grandchildren look more cuddly, but that’s not up to me.
    Thanks for a lovely gift on a dark afternoon,
    Elaine

  8. shirleyhs on October 15, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    Ha. Baby book. At first I thought you were talking about a literal book about a baby. You can tell where my Grandma head was! But, of course you meant your wonderful new book Leaning into Love. Books truly are babies. I remember revisiting that metaphor just before and after my book was “born.” It works!

    Your plan for how to deal with a “too big” house beloved of your children sounds very wise, Elaine. You are preparing to let go and let live at the same time. The path will become clear in time.

  9. Carrie Ann Lahain on February 18, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    I have been actively simplifying my life since 1993. What amazes me is how the process is never finished. I let go and let go to a point and then the clinging starts. Sometimes it’s a jarring motion…life gets scary and I grab for stuff or activities as if my very existence depends upon them. More often it’s a slow slide into complication. I’m in a new shedding period right now. Maybe I’ve finally learned that security and contentment cannot be stored up for a rainy day. They can only be experienced, enjoyed, and released. My prayer is that I can truly shift my vision from one of lack and scarcity to one of “enoughness.”

    • Shirley Showalter on March 7, 2016 at 10:09 am

      Carrie, I’m not sure when you posted this message, but I just found it this morning. I love these words, and they are a good reminder to me today. Just back from a long and complicated trip (full of joy and amazement, but not much quiet and contemplation), I sink into this red chair and bask in your words: “I’m in a new shedding period right now. Maybe I’ve finally learned that security and contentment cannot be stored up for a rainy day. They can only be experienced, enjoyed, and released. My prayer is that I can truly shift my vision from one of lack and scarcity to one of “enoughness.””

  10. Marylin Warner on February 22, 2016 at 12:47 am

    Oh, Shirley, I love the 12 Months Old picture of Owen, but I couldn’t get any of the post that goes with it, and I wanted to see the picture of love he made of you.
    So I did my best to search, and I found this lovely, touching picture of you holding him as a tiny baby. 🙂

    • Shirley Showalter on March 7, 2016 at 10:06 am

      I am moved that you worked so hard to find this picture. Thank you. I’m hoping to be back to blogging as usual this Wednesday. Just returned from three weeks of being in a new city every few days.

      I am slowly returning to my lovely daily rhythms. Thanks for being there.

  11. Judy Sargent on March 20, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    Shirley, I am a member of a book club at Landis Homes. We meet monthly on the fourth Tuesday morning at 10:30 – in the community room of your mother’s building! BLUSH is on our 2016 reading list and we’re wondering if, perchance, you might be planning to visit your mother some fine fourth Tuesday. It would be such a thrill to have you join us. It is presently scheduled for July, but we could move BLUSH, as needed. Any hope for May, June, July, August, September, October or November?

    • Shirley Showalter on March 21, 2016 at 10:37 am

      Thanks, Judy. I will respond directly to your email. Hope that June or September can work.

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