Friday, May 14, 2010

Simplicity: Harder but Simpler

God made man simple; man's complex problems are of his own devising. Ecclesiastes 7:30 JB

On Wednesday, Titi Elsie came by for a visit. As we were sitting and chatting, the way times have changed came up.

We are both fans of tv series like Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons, and the Love Comes Softly Series (I only really like the first three movies in this series. The others are nothing like the books).

They all have several things in common:

Women who made their own bread, whipped up pies like there was no effort involved (I'm sure Hollywood had some hand in that), made the clothes for their families, cared for the little family garden just outside their kitchen door, could help their husband in the fields during times of stress, and then sat with some kind of knitting or sewing project at the end of the night.

Husbands whose work kept them close to home, around the home, and in the home. In fact, just the fact that there were husbands around at all is different from what is portrayed on tv today. Husbands whose first priorities were their God, their family, and their country. The husband was the head, the wife was the neck (or the ultimate ruler as our pastor puts it), and the children respected authority.

The children knew all of their neighbors, as did their parents, and everyone in the area looked out for each other. Children respected adults for the simple fact that they were adults. Doctors were paid with chickens, pies, apples, or a good home cooked meal. Families did not break apart as frequently as they do today.

Life was much simpler. It was harder. But it was simpler.

In the evenings, Brian and I sit down to watch an episode or two of Little House before going to bed (it takes a real man to admit he watches and enjoys Little House!). Brian thinks the world of the Charles Ingalls charater that Michael Landon brought to life. A man who honored God, loved his wife, looked out for his family, did whatever it took to support them, and showed integrity in every situation (Brian, it sounds like you!).

I love Caroline. The woman who was lovely and yet tough enough to withstand the storms that came her way. The wife who always had dinner ready when her husband came home from work (everything made from scratch- no quick helper meals for her) and the laundry done (and she didn't seem to get hot and sweaty while putting it out on the line). The mother who was loving with her daughters and could discipline with firmness and kindness. The homemaker who always had a homemade pie cooling and could do all of her chores with a toddler by her side. The helpmate to her husband who would look for ways to help him make ends meet without making him feel like his own income was inadequate. The friend who always had a freshly baked loaf of bread, pie or cake and time to visit a neighbor who needed a listening ear.

Times have certainly changed. Instead of baking our own bread, we run to the store to pick up a loaf. Instead of making our own clothes, we have countless stores, styles, and options to choose from. Instead of families growing together, they are spread out as we shuttle one child to this practice and the other to that event. Mom stays with this one while Dad watches that one. Instead of neighborhood children gathering to play a game of kick ball or baseball, they are required to be on teams in order to use the fields available. Instead of walking around the corner, we hop in the car. Instead of reaching out to our neighbors, we shrink back because you just can't tell anymore who your neighbors are and what they may be hiding.

Things are easier for us, but certainly not simpler.

Yes, things were a bit harder in the sense of effort and work that had to be put in to achieve the desired result, but they were simpler and I am sure more satisfying. There was not an over abundance of "stuff", and what they had was well cared for because it was all they had.

As I have been asking God for ways to do things simply and working on simplifying things around here, I have found myself being calmer, having an "It's-okay-no-big-deal" attitude, and enjoying my time more. I have loved drying my clothes on the line this week. It is so relaxing standing there, hanging my clothes with the wooden clothespins, talking to God, watching Addie run around or sit on the back porch eating, and then folding in the late afternoon. Although I am thankful for modern conveniences, sometimes taking a step back from them is nice. When the dryer buzzer would go off, I used to feel that I only had 5 to 10 minutes to fold them before the wrinkles were set in and then they would have to be dewrinkled again. Now, I just leave the clothes on the line until I am ready to go out and fold them. The only "buzzer" I need to watch for around here is the summer thunderstorms. Brian asked me if I had to do laundry the other day. I had been able to get so much done so quickly because I wasn't waiting for the dryer to finish before I could start the next load. It took him quite a while to put all of his clothes away and he wanted a break. Poor thing!

As we sit here watching another episode of Little House, I can thank God for the modern (medicine, medical care, appliances, air conditioning, ceiling fans, refrigerators, freezers) but also ask him to help me hold on to the "old fashioned" (faith, morals, values, work ethic, relaxed schedule, amount of quality family time, etc.).

Earlier tonight we had a mixture of the two worlds. Addie and I sat outside together and watched Brian wash his work van. Later, Brian, Addie, and I spent some time playing the Wii (she loved seeing her Wii character on the screen). We did a mixture of games- tennis, bowling, and baseball. Addie got to practice her sharing skills as she passed the controls back and forth to Brian and me. She pretended to bowl as we each took our turns. We each held her as we played the baseball game. We read the new books we picked up from the library today while lying on the living room floor. We sat at the table while she ate/crumbled a chocolate chip cookie. Then the three of us went to her room, prayed, and put her to bed. It was a good mixture of the modern and the old fashioned. A mixture I look forward to enjoying with my family many more times.


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