April 1, 2014
We’re so grateful that Lissette Cannizzaro has joined our team in helping with social media! She’s done amazing work in a very short period of time. A long time follower of our blog, she was an answer to prayer. She has a strong heart for justice and serving marginalized people around the world, and she’s savvy with social media. It’s been a true blessing for me to get to work with her!
Lissette is making it easier for us to stay connected with you. We hope you’ll join us and help us spread the word! Here’s where you can find us.
Thanks so much!
June 19, 2013
Here’s a snapshot of my day yesterday.
Elizabeth: I can’t find any clean underwear.
Me: Get some out of the dirty clothes and turn it inside out.
Elizabeth: [confused silence]
Me: For real. Get some dirty underwear, turn it inside out, and put it on.
Here is the reality, my friends. Last night, we had chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese and frozen peas for dinner. All of the above resulted from a run to Trader Joes after we finished swim team photos at 6 p.m. Frankly, this is just how we’re rolling right now.
Yes, this is the tension of crunch time.
I knew it was going to be tough. While most of the US is adjusting to the freedom of school getting out, the Simpson household is in a crunch. All our choices. None of it is happening to us. All good things. None the less, it’s stressful. Very unromantic. Not shiny at all. We’re in week two of our homeschooling year. We’re in the midst of soap production for our first whole sale order. And, we’re in the heat of our church’s extreme poverty focus for the summer.
The art is doing all of these things without my family taking a back seat. Without my husband feeling like he is a distant last place to all the other demands in my life. How to do it all and make sure that there is actually milk in the fridge and that dinner will actually appear on the table at the appointed hour?
It’s funny. Not funny as in amusing, but funny as in interesting. When my commitments heat up, my need for boundaries is most acute. My need for my own mental health and for the relational and functional health of my family. In order for my priorities to be to God first and to my marriage second, I have to learn to say no to good things. To things I believe in. As a woman who I respect said, “you have to learn where your no is”. I’m grateful for a church environment that respects and encourages healthy boundaries- even boundaries with church. I’ve been doing a ton of work in this area over the last couple of years, but it’s an area that I have to be vigilant about.
I’m tempted here to give you neat and clear bullet points about how to manage, but the truth is that it would just be talk right now. The truth is that I’m trying to figure out how to do it. The gritty truth is that life isn’t lived in bullet points of how to live in the midst of competing demands. It’s an art, not a science. It has everything to do with following God in a messy imperfect way. It has everything to do with the mish mash of learning to say no. It’s the messy discipleship of being in relationships in ministry. When our issues are coming up in the context of ministry, God’s fingerprints are all over that. I think when our stuff is coming up and being dealt with, God is in the midst of that. Frankly, I think that’s what healthy church looks like. Messy, dirty, relationally smudgy. It’s struggling through the real, daily life in living with Christ, family, church and friends. I’m beyond grateful for all of these things. Beyond grateful to be working with church leadership that would be the last to lay a guilt trip for saying no. But, you know, it’s just messy. I keep waiting to be done. To arrive. But, I don’t think it works that way. I think that instead I keep being reminded of my need for a Savior. I keep needing to be around people who are gracious with me in my bumbling attempts to live in the messy tension of family, God, church and friends. So, yes, I guess my bottom line is that once again, I’m brought around to gratitude. Grateful to have work worth doing. Grateful for my family and friends. Grateful that God keeps reminding me about how much I need Him. I’m grateful that I’m loved by God, family and friends in the midst of my brokenness. Because that brokenness, I think, is just the reality of how things look while we’re here on earth.
March 5, 2013
In a little over a week, Charlie and I will be doing a beans and rice lenten fast with our church. We’ll be doing the Hungry for Change program from Trade as One. For five days, we’ll be eating the type and amount (read: simple and less) of food that 2 billion people eat globally- those living on less than $2 a day. I’m looking forward to doing this fast in community with others at my church- sort of. I say sort of because it was hard when we did it last year. I’m painfully aware of my humanity. My children both groaned when they found out that we would be doing Hungry for Change again. Because they know. When I get hungry, I get grumpy and short-tempered. When I am hungry, I tire easily and am mentally fuzzy. So, why?
- Because scarcity breeds gratitude.
- Because I want to be in touch with the experience of the world’s poor.
- Because I want to hear God.
- Because I want God to change me.
- Because I want to be used by God.
- Because I want to understand fasting better than I do.
In closing, I want to share one of the results of our fast last year. Gratitude. The fast last year sowed deep gratitude in my heart. While gratitude is wonderful, I’m praying that my gratitude will push toward change this year. I’m praying that my feeling of gratitude won’t stop with just being a word and a feeling- but that God would use my gratitude to push toward justice and change. But, gratitude is a start. Here is my gratitude chart from last year. I would love to hear from you if you’ve fasted in the past. Did it change you in any way? I’d love to know.
February 26, 2013
For the past few years, I’ve chosen three words on which I want to focus. I’ve had some trouble narrowing and choosing my words this year. There’s so much that I want to do and be. Areas where I want to leave space. Areas where I want to grow and change. Areas where I want to work a bit harder or focus a bit more intensely. Having to choose just three words was more difficult this year than it has been in previous years. We’ll see how it goes. But, this year, I’m choosing margin, simplicity and community.
Margin was one of my goals last year. While I did ok with it, I feel like I need to focus on it again this year.
I want to continue to protect my sleep. I’m working through a soft tissue shoulder injury from swimming. I need to protect my time in order to do my exercises daily. In the end, I want to be back in the pool and working out with my masters group. While I’m hoping to be able to do all four strokes again, I may have to kiss butterfly goodbye. Exercise is an investment in my mental wellbeing and future health. Whether it’s walking or swimming, I need to be moving at least five days a week.
I want to invest in my relationships with Charlie and my children foremost, then in extended family and friends. In order to do that, I need to not let my iPhone or computer suck my time away. Charlie and I need regular dates in order to sow into our marriage.
I want to continue to save money and to live frugally. Gotta love Dave Ramsey. In 2013, we want to move forward in his plan to financial freedom.
I want to give my spiritual growth time and energy. I want to spend regular time reading the Bible and praying. I want to make myself accountable to other women in my faith community.
If you follow my blog, you already know that we’ve been clearing out our house. I’m loving the way our space feels. I want to continue to pursue simplicity in our environment at home. For us, this means not owning too much stuff. It also means maintaining what we do own so that our home runs smoothly. We’re pursuing a rhythm of cleaning our house so that we stay on top of it and don’t get overwhelmed by it. We’re pursuing a rhythm of giving each of the children 15-20 minutes of our time each week dedicated to keeping their rooms de-cluttered and picked up. We’re pursuing simple food. Simple isn’t always easy. The article on junk food from the New York Times last week reminded me how much I want our family to eat fresh, whole foods. As you know, this takes time and effort. I want to spend time and money here so that the way we eat matches with what we value. Over the last few years, we’ve lost sight of pursuing fresh, whole, healthy food as we’ve been getting our company started. Time to get back on the horse.
Frankly, I stink at community. It’s always seemed elusive to me. I want to be good at it. I want to pursue it. I have friends who are great at it and who talk about it a lot. But, I’m not good at it, and I want to be. So, I want to sow into community this year. Charlie and I are great with sitting at home and reading a book in our spare time. Having two strong introverts leading our household makes it easy to just stay at home. Which works just fine until it’s not fine. Until we’re lonely. Until we don’t have the support system that we need to live the lives we want to live. So, this year, I’m not going to focus on getting community. I’m going to focus on being the community I want. I want to be the lady who takes people dinner when they’re having a hard time. I want to regularly have people in our home for meals. I want to have kids playing at our house. Even if the noise bothers me. I want to sow community in my faith community. So, I’m looking for opportunities. I want to be ready to say yes when I see an opportunity to sow community. It completely goes against my introversion, but I want to change in this area, and I’m ready to lean into my discomfort and my desire to just go read a book.
What about you? What are you working on in 2013?
January 1, 2013
For the past couple of years, I’ve chosen three words to center my goals for the year. I sat down this afternoon to reflect on how I did with my 2012 words. Here are my reflections:
- Not having a TV serves our family.
- Read for pleasure most evenings.
- Spiritual margin- spent time reading Proverbs and the gospels most mornings.
- Physical margin- swam regularly. Got 6-8 hours of sleep most nights.
- Keeping apps off my iphone serves me. They are a time suck. I knew they had to go when I snapped at my children when they interrupted me. Worst offenders for me: Pinterest, Twitter and TED.
- Financial- cut expenses drastically.
Not so well:
- Physical- need to drink more water.
- Even without the apps, the iphone is a time suck for me. It eats up my white space. I think I need to change this when my contract is over in December.
- Newly on Twitter- I need to keep an eye on this.
- Even after all the decluttering we’ve done, it still feels like we have too much stuff- which leads to time spent cleaning and organizing. Clutter is also a visual distraction.
I’m not so sure that this was a great goal. Focus on what? Focus needs something else to define it.
- Homeschool- the kids both progressed academically. We’re engaging consistently with our homeschool community. Homeschool hikes on Thursdays are a highlight of our week.
- Mom- I’m connecting well with my (not so) little ones. Good progress toward making what’s important to them important to me.
- Launched our Fair Trade company.
- Engaged with Extreme Poverty group at church, which was truly soul satisfying. It’s where I’m supposed to be.
Not so well:
- As happens with so many families in our season of life, mine and Charlie’s marriage took a back seat to life’s demands. We were together before we had children. We were together before we started a company. We’ll be together long after the children fly the nest. Other than our relationships with God, our marriage is truly the bedrock of our home. Neglecting it is foolish. I want to invest in us being close when we’re both hobbling around on walkers. I want our marriage to thrive. In 2013, regular dating must be a priority.
What about you? How did your year go? Greatest rewards? Anything you would have done differently?
August 27, 2012
Charlie and I did a 5-day rice and beans fast as a part of our observance of lent, and I wanted to share about that experience with you. We did the Hungry for Change program through Trade as One. My motivation is not to let you know how pious I am. Rather, Charlie and I both benefitted greatly from this experience, and I want to share that with you.
For five days, we ate oatmeal in the morning. For lunch and dinner, we had rice and beans. We had a pound each of rice, beans and oatmeal for five days. We had tea in the morning, then water the rest of the day. As best as we could, we were trying to live on the amount of calories that people living on less than $2 a day live on. No extra fat. So, no butter on our oatmeal. We did use a small amount of honey. We also enjoyed sauces on our beans and rice. Around the world, people make condiments to go with their rice and beans. We enjoyed pico de gallo, and I also made a tomato curry sauce.
Why did we do this? There is a long tradition of fasting being a tool in the Christian faith for people to hear God. We definitely wanted in on this. We want to partner with the poor in our business. We were hoping to understand a bit more about the experience of living on fewer calories. We also wanted to express solidarity with the poor.
What did we gain?
– Gnawing hunger. Notice that the bowl above has nothing left in it. We ate every bean and every grain of rice that we had coming to us. I was very tired and didn’t work out. Charlie still exercised every day. As well as feeling tired, he also felt weak. We were both mentally fuzzy. What was sobering to me was that most of the world’s poor make their living through physical labor. I think of people working in brick kilns or in mines. I can’t imagine living on this amount of calories and having a physically demanding job.
– Sober gratitude. During the five days that we did this, our kids ate normally. Our cupboards were full. Words can’t express the level of gratitude that I felt (and still feel) that my children don’t know hunger. I’m beyond grateful that I don’t have to worry about clean water or sanitation for my little ones. We don’t walk for miles to a muddy water source- we don’t even walk to a safe well in our village. Rather, I go into my kitchen and turn on the tap. The fast sowed such gratitude in my heart that I tore off a huge piece of butcher paper and made a long list of all those things for which I’m grateful.
– Clarity. The hunger brought us to our core. It shook off the things that are meaningless. I have to say that I underestimated how hungry we would be. I wasn’t prepared for it. I also had no idea that it would bring us back to what’s most important.
The bottom line was that the experience was so powerful for us that we’re planning to do it a couple of times a year. The feeling of hunger has faded. I’ve taken down my gratitude poster. I’m not as mindful of the blessing of a contentedly fully belly. So, we’re ready to go again. Ready to sow seeds of gratitude and clarity. Have any of you tried this? I would love to hear about your experience.
July 27, 2012
I heard about Open Arms this morning through my friend, Kelly. Open Arms provides employment for refugee women by repurposing used t-shirts to make super cute skirts and scarfs. Makes total sense both environmentally and morally. I love their product, and I love their sustainable business model. Love the idea of a company serving the world while working domestically. Love the fact that they’re providing a great product for their customers while providing dignified employment to women who have been living in the margins. I would encourage you to check our their website. Clothing with a conscience.