Summer Snapshot: The Discipline of Simplicity

bath photo

Elsie Lee connected with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN) at Urbana15, where she served as part of the liveblogging team. See some of her previous work here, and browse other Summer Snapshots here


Two years ago, my husband and I packed our two-bedroom townhouse into my parents’ garage and flew to the U.K. with two bags each. During our postgraduate studies, we lived in a 300 sq. ft. apartment and shared one three-feet-wide closet for a whole year. Aside from traveling and making friends from around the world, we learned a few unexpected lessons which we are trying to integrate into our lives this summer. Simplicity, while dictated by circumstance overseas, has become one of our core values since returning home.

Just as Jesus told his disciples to travel light and receive the hospitality of the people they are sent to, we learned to rely on God to provide through our neighbours, our classmates and the local church while living as students overseas. For example, we furnished our whole kitchen with dishes left behind by other students. On many occasions, our British classmates drove us to local landmarks and shopping centres (we lived in a small city). Not only that, we also introduced our classmates to the gospel in partnership with the local church’s ongoing work to welcome international students. As we went with nothing and open hands, we gained new relationships and we watched God work and provide. At the end of the year, we sold and gave away everything and returned with, you guessed it, the same two bags each. Extreme downsizing was by no means comfortable, but it was so good for our souls.

Now that we are figuring out life back in Canada (for now), we are consciously thinking about ways to simplify our life to continue challenging our attachments to ‘stuff’ and tendencies towards self-reliance. We moved into an apartment not much bigger than the one we had overseas. We sold and gave away more than half of everything packed into my parents’ garage. Simplicity also extends beyond material goods to the way we use our time and the relationships we invest init is making us think differently about the jobs we take and the activities we do.

Simplicity, simply put, has become the guiding value for us and for me in this season. In the midst of a culture that equates abundance and busyness with success, living simply is a costly and unpopular choice. I embrace this discipline not only to practice trust and interdependence, but also to carve out margins in my life to be with Jesus, to hear his voice in the midst of the clamour and clutter in my soul. With less stuff calling for my attention and fewer demands on my time, I am more free to welcome uncertainty and look to God to lead and provide.

Photo courtesy of condesign at Pixabay.com

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Elsie Lee

Elsie recently graduated with a Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from the University of Bath in the U.K. Her research focused on how English language teachers viewed the importance of teaching intercultural skills in their classrooms. Before her studies, she worked on staff with Inter-Varsity Canada for 6 years. She is fascinated by communication and relationships between people of different languages and cultures. A few favourite things include mentoring Asian women, rock climbing with her husband, and a good cup of coffee.

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