Editor’s Note: Missioner Anna reflects on her transition into intentional, simple living as she prepares to embark on service for the next 2 years with FMS.
This idea of Simple Living within the context of Franciscan Mission Service is actually not simple at all; it’s quite complex, and I am only just beginning to understand its meaning. One thing I can say is: simple living creates a relaxed, slow-paced lifestyle with which I am SO unfamiliar. As a teacher and coach, the phrase “slow-paced” didn’t exist in my vocabulary. In Louisville, I was constantly on the go, moving from one thing to the next. During swim season, I would wake up at 5:45am and my busy day wouldn’t end until 10pm. Amidst the busyness, I would try to find time for my own exercise and self-care, cooking meals, and spending time with family and friends. My schedule was constantly packed to say the least. My sister, Molli, said it best, “You have to put it on the calendar with Anna or else it won’t happen.” That is the truest statement I’ve heard. I would dedicate intentional time for people; however, it had to be put on my calendar in advance so I could carve out the time and commit to it.
Here at the FMS house, Casa San Salvador, my life has started to look much different. This shift from a fast-paced life to a slower one is difficult to embrace, yet I find myself desiring to take it on fully. In Duane Elgin’s book, Voluntary Simplicity, he states, “At the heart of simple life is an emphasis on harmonious and purposeful living.” This simple life gives room for intentional time with the Lord. With intentional time with the Lord comes intentional living out of faith in a harmonious relationship with Him. This time with the Lord is not restrained to 30 minutes in the morning, but rather it spills over into all hours of the day. God makes Himself known throughout the day and in ordinary moments. A harmonious relationship with Christ is consistent, pleasant, and peaceful. My harmonious relationship with Christ has been forming for many years and continues to form even more deeply during this time in Formation where I practice simple living. Being in harmony with the Lord looks like being open and willing to embrace His desire for my life. At this moment, I still do not know where I am being sent as an FMS missioner. I don’t know exactly what my life will look like for the next two years, and that is okay. Having a harmonious relationship with Christ brings me comfort in knowing that He will take care of me. If I am in harmonious accord with the Lord, my life will reflect His will and His desire for me, and that is enough.
This leads me to the second emphasis put on simple life by Duane Elgin, “purposeful living.” Purposeful living can take on many different meanings. Purposeful means being determined, deliberate, and persistent. One could be purposeful in any area of life one chooses. As of now, I choose to be determined, deliberate, and persistent in my relationship with the Lord, myself, and other people. The order of those has meaning… I call to mind that I must love the Lord in order to love myself, and, in turn, I can love other people. However, it can’t happen in any other order.
First, I seek to love the Lord and be in harmony with Him, as mentioned above, and then I focus on being in harmony with myself. By being purposeful in my relationship with myself, I choose to foster my joys and hobbies. I spend more time journaling and drinking coffee, playing guitar, and being outside–all things that had to be fit into my schedule before. Now, these joyful hobbies take precedence over a packed schedule full of exhausted energy spent on other things. This is not to say that my life as a teacher and coach wasn’t fulfilling or enjoyable, because it was. However, it was more crowded with distractions and the busyness of everyday life. Duane also says, “To live more simply is to unburden ourselves—to live more lightly, cleanly.” I have unburdened myself of previous commitments and I am choosing to live more lightly by pursuing simple delights in my daily life.
Living more lightly gives way for the opportunity to focus on myself and the moments that give me life, including moments spent with people around me. I am enjoying building relationships with other people who live in the Casa. There are 14 of us and each brings a unique quality that I have quickly come to love… Megan H makes me laugh; Tom has a calm nature and kind heart; Julia has a voice of reason; Matthew possesses quiet wisdom; Kate is thoughtful; Hannah brings a soothing presence; Marina is relatable; Michael is go-with-the-flow and genuine; Meg has an “up for it” attitude; Ailsa brings a unique perspective and cultural knowledge; Tessa shares experience and wisdom; Annemarie is full of joy and laughter; and Joseph brings spiritual strength and knowledge. Our God-given characteristics mesh together to create a spiritual family that is beautiful and forming. Building relationships with one another can be difficult and rewarding at the same time. We can push each other in this commitment to simple living and in our relationships with Christ.
As I have begun to delve into this idea of simple and purposeful living, I challenge you to do the same. I am in an environment conducive to simple living, and I recognize that you may or may not be there yourself. Either way, look at your life where you are now. What does simple living mean to you and how can you commit to it? In what do you want to be more determined, deliberate, and persistent? How can you begin to be in harmony with the Lord and the people around you? Join me in slowing down to focus on what’s important and meaningful to you. I assure you that “it is a joyful discipline” (Voluntary Simplicity, Northwest Earth Institute).
“Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,
then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” –Philippians 2:1-2
Reflection: In what do you want to be more determined, deliberate, and persistent and how can you begin to be in harmony with the Lord and the people around you?